Picture Books Aren’t Just for Preschoolers

I have a confession. Way before we had children, I had a collection of yard sale and thrift store picture books. In fact, I used the excuse that we would have kids someday and would use them then. But let’s be honest, they were for me.

Picture Books are Not Just for Preschoolers

I am one of those people who never grew out of picture books. In fact, I am a firm believer that the C.S. Lewis quote,

A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.

can be applied to picture books using the inverse; a good children’s picture book can be enjoyed by adults.

Of course, picture books are a natural place for any homeschooler with young children to start, but I just never stopped. When we visit the library, I can still be found in the children’s picture book section hunting and searching for those hidden treasures. I did this a lot for our 31 Days of Picture Books series. We had such fun with that one!

When I told my husband what I would be writing tonight, my 10-year-old pipes up, “Picture books? I love picture books!” I guess I have successfully passed on the love.

We tend to think of picture books when we have littles running around. They keep their attention better, or they’re short, or they are funny, or they teach a good lesson are just some of our reasons for reading picture books to young children. However, we sometimes forget that older children and adults can benefit from picture books for these same reasons.

Picture Books Aren't Just for Preschoolers Reading

Why you should be using picture books in your homeschool

Here’s why I still use picture books in our homeschool along with some suggestions for you to start with.

Picture books are short. I love reading to my children about all different sorts of things. We love exploring many topics at once, so picture books are the perfect way for us to learn a little bit about a subject in a meaningful way.

They are also a great addition to any larger resource. Because they often take less than 15 minutes to read they fit oh’ so nicely into Morning Time. We recently read Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost in Morning Time as an extension of our poetry memorization.

A good picture book can pack a power punch for any subject. An excellent picture book will take a difficult concept and present it in an understandable and enjoyable way. Adding books such as Theodoric’s Rainbow to a science lesson about light adds context to an abstract idea.

I especially love picture books for history. After reading Voices of Ancient Egypt together, we had a much better sense of Ancient Egypt society than any textbook could give. Using picture books for history can be a gentle way to introduce especially grim topics such as 9/11 and WWII. The Little Chapel That StoodFireboat, Fish for Jimmyand Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto are a few examples.

 Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Theodoric’s Rainbow Voices of Ancient Egypt The Little Chapel that Stood Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey (Picture Puffin Books) Fish for Jimmy: Inspired by One Family’s Experience in a Japanese American Internment Camp Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto

Picture books are relatable and living. While technical picture books with plenty of diagrams of the human body, trees, animals, or electrical circuits have their place, the picture books I am talking about are those with beautiful language that make relating to a subject happen naturally.

Because picture books are shorter than their living historical fiction or living science chapter book counterparts, your children will gain an understanding of the subject’s essence quicker. Words are chosen carefully to allow for concise and meaningful communication of ideas and emotion.

Picture books are cross-curricular. This is perhaps one of my favorite things about picture books. One book can cover science, history, math, poetry, nature study, music appreciation — ok, maybe I am getting a bit carried away, but you get the idea. Picture books are perfect for bringing subjects together.

Just about any subject can be paired with history through a simple picture book. Music appreciation? Art? Science? Math? Geography?

What about pairing other subjects together? Poetry and nature study are often easily found together. We especially LOVE these books by Joyce Sidman. Or how about mythology and science? Many folk legends and tales speak about natural phenomena that were not easily explained until the modern age.

Picture books have pictures. The greatest benefit of picture books are the pictures! Seeing the story on a page gives a whole new dimension to the details of a subject. For those of us who simply cannot imagine in our minds a scene from a story, or what a medieval weapon might have looked like, picture books are a life saver!

Think about how much better you remember someone’s name when you see a picture of them. Picture book biographies are one of my favorite ways to introduce new historical figures.

Think how much easier it is to understand a math concept when someone draws a picture for you, or better yet makes up a story to help you remember the unfamiliar vocabulary involved. Math picture books are a favorite in this house for just those reasons.

Picture books are fun! If for no other reason, consider adding picture books back into your homeschool because they are fun. Trust me. My older children still gather around when I open a picture book for my preschooler. In fact, my husband has been known to sneak around the back of the couch to listen as well. It’s like magic.

The best picture books are for everyone.

Do you use picture books in your homeschool? What are your reasons?

 Mozart: The Wonder Child: A Puppet Play in Three Acts The Magical Garden of Claude Monet (Anholt’s Artists Books for Children) The Fossil Girl What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras? The Coast Mappers Paddle-to-the-Sea (Sandpiper Books) Minn of the Mississippi Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold (Junior Library Guild Selection) Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow Abraham Lincoln, 75th Anniversary Edition Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi (A Math Adventure)





  • Andrea Kirk says:

    So glad you wrote this, Jessica, because I hadn’t realized how much I took it for granted that picture books are the best kind of books but you convinced me to use them for teaching instead of only enjoyment. And you’ve introduced me to several more treasures I’d never seen before. Library, here we come!

    • Jessica Lawton says:

      That is the great thing about picture books! You are enjoying while you are learning!

  • Sarah H says:

    I love this! We definitely share these feelings in our homeschool! Holling C. Holling is one of our favorite authors right now! Going to check out some of these other recommendations!

  • Maria says:

    Good picture books are also an excellent means to introduce or cultivate foreign languages.

    • Jessica Lawton says:

      That is an excellent point! We do have a few picture books in French. I will have to pull them out more! Do you have any that you like to use?

  • Mariana says:

    This is lovely! My husband also collected picture books before we had kids (I actually thought that was weird when I met him, but now I totally appreciate his initiative!) How to you go about creating a nice, living, good quality, picture boo library without breaking the bank? I’m homeschooling my first student and budget is tight! Thanks!

    • Jessica Lawton says:

      I love thrift stores, yard sales, and library book sales. Also, we have a 2nd and Charles where I can take the books I don’t want and exchange them for books I do. Good luck and be patient! In the meantime your library can be a great resource.

  • Krystal says:

    I have a bunch of picture books to look into, and that makes me so excited! I agree with you completely – a person can never outgrow a good picture book. I was so sad when I overheard a child in my 8 year old’s co-op class say they were reading “baby books,” when I knew they were reading quality children’s picture books. I hope I pass that love onto my children as well. I do have one question – I simply must know what that book is in the first picture laying open – the one with the beavers. Could you share the title and author?
    Thank you so much for all the recommendations!

    • Jessica Lawton says:

      Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman. We LOVE her books! The link can be found above. The front cover has a fox on it.

  • I just wrote about the impact a picture book made on our family:

    We just read the Garden of Claude Monet and planning on going to visit it in July! So exciting!

    • Jessica Lawton says:

      Wow! That is exciting! I have to admit I am a bit jealous! Thanks for the picture book recommendation. That one looks interesting too!

  • Cindy says:

    I totally agree and I love that C.S. Lewis quote! I am a huge fan of children’s literature – especially well done picture books. Thanks for the gorgeous book suggestions. I will be adding them to our already overindulgent reading list 😉

    • Jessica Lawton says:

      Overindulgent is the only way to be with good books! And chocolate… good books and chocolate!

  • Marilyn says:

    Thanks for the info concerning picture books.

  • Jessica says:

    Oh would you share the title of the book with the beavers? Thank you!

    • Jessica Lawton says:

      Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman. We love all of her nature related books. They are poetry with information on the animals on the side. They are also beautifully illustrated!

  • Suzanne says:

    I enjoyed the one on Pygthagoras with my child. Shocking that I had to learn the Pythagorian Theorum in high school with no explanation on what its practical use is! Girls especially want to know WHY they are learning something in math and why it works. Here are a few of my other favorites:


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