Picture books are friends that mark special moments in childhood. Some are so extraordinary that their message remains long after the pages have been turned and the book has been closed. How many children have traveled with Max “through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are?”
In 2006, before I had any picture books of my own, I sat in the front row next to a silver-haired, kind gentleman at a children’s book writer’s conference. We talked for some time as we waited for Marc Brown, author of the Arthur series, to present the keynote. I told the gentleman how Marc Brown was such a special part of my family’s life. The previous year, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. My family and I evacuated to Houston, Texas and left our books behind. My oldest daughter was then 15 and my youngest daughter was 5 years old. The first book I bought to begin our book collection anew was Wild About Books by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Marc Brown. With tears in my eyes, I told the gentleman how I wanted to thank Marc Brown. The gentleman, misty-eyed and holding my hands, said, “You just did.” He rose as the emcee introduced Marc Brown to the thunderous applause of over 1,000 people. I was stunned and riveted to the podium as he spoke eloquently of his mission to empower children to read. That moment touched me deeply and I understood the power of the picture book.
In October of 2010, the New York Times published an article about the rise of chapter books and the demise of picture books. Those of us who had a passion for picture books were outraged. The venerable picture book most certainly had value. There was a lot of chatter about what to do to elevate the perception of the picture book, as if such a time-honored childhood tradition needed “elevating.” In September of 2011, I decided to take action. I created Picture Book Month and enlisted the help of author and illustrator friends in the kidlit world to join me in the crusade to celebrate picture books during the month of November.
It worked. People banded together. A logo, branding, and a website was created in less than a month. “Picture Book Month Champions,” luminaries in the world of children’s books, submitted essays on the importance of picture books. Each day that November, a new essay was posted. Picture Book Month began on 11-1-11 and the word spread. The movement went viral and in mid-November 2011, Picture Book Month was even featured on the Oprah Life Lift blog. All around the world, people were celebrating picture books during the month of November.
It is one year later and we have come full circle. We are revving up to celebrate our friend, the Picture Book. Across the nation and in places like Australia, India, South Africa, and the Philippines, teachers and librarians will host story times. Moms, dads, and grandparents will read bedtime stories. Children in schools across the globe will pick up and read picture books. It is because people like you have the courage to believe in the power of literacy and the importance of picture books as a stepping stone in early childhood education. Because of you, Picture Books are once again giggling, cheering, comforting, loving, and laughing in the little hands that hold them.
November is Picture Book Month. Read * Share * Celebrate!
About Dianne de Las Casas
Dianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author, storyteller, and founder of Picture Book Month, who tours internationally presenting author visit/storytelling programs, educator/librarian training, and workshops. Her performances, dubbed “revved-up storytelling” are full of energetic audience participation. The author of twenty books, her children’s titles include The Cajun Cornbread Boy, Madame Poulet & Monsieur Roach, Mama’s Bayou, The Gigantic Sweet Potato, There’s a Dragon in the Library, The House That Witchy Built, Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate, Dinosaur Mardi Gras, Beware, Beware of the Big Bad Bear, and The Little “Read” Hen. Visit her website at diannedelascasas.com. Visit Picture Book Month at picturebookmonth.com.