Picture Books Library

What is Picture Book?

The phrase "picture book" is commonly used to describe a book, most often written for children, in which the content, whether a story, an alphabet, or a nursery rhyme, to name just a few possibilities, is conveyed through the use of words and pictures in combination or through pictures alone. A picture book differs from an illustrated book in that the pictures it contains form an essential part of the structure of the book. Illustrations are supplements to a work that can stand on its own. Due to physical factors in the bookbinding process, picture books are conventionally 32 pages long.

Picture books, thus defined, are a relatively new form of book, originating in the early twentieth century. Wanda Gag is widely considered to be a major innovator in the development of picture books. The formula for illustrated books had been to show text on the left page and pictures on the right page, side-by-side, without combining them. In Millions of Cats, Gag mixed up the order of the pages of pictures and text, combined pictures and text and stretched pictures onto more than one page. Her ideas paved the way for modern authors/illustrators like Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss, and Eric Carle.

Type of Picture Books

Board Books/Toy Books

Board books are meant for the youngest readers. Board books have cardboard pages to withstand wear and tear from little fingers and mouths. These books usually feature more interactive elements like cloth, pop up and plastic. As they are for babies words are less important and it’s more about the way they are played with or read by adults. They often feature a lot of actions and noises the adult does as reading them.

Age: Birth - 2 years

Examples: Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli, Wemberly's Ice-cream Star by Kevin Henkes, What's On My Head by Margaret Miller.

Concept Books/Toddler Books

Concept books introduce children to a theme such as the alphabet, counting, colors or shapes. They sometimes tell a story or can be as simple as “A is for Apple.” There are more complex concept books like the "Miss Bindergarten" series where each sentence uses a letter of the alphabet to tell a story about being in Kindergarten.

They have more of an emphasis on words than the toy books however images are still the main attention as this audience cannot read yet. They average around 300 words and often are board books with interactive elements.

Age: suggested for ages 2 to 8 years

Examples: Freight Train by Donald Crews, Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban, Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert

Early Picture Books

These books are more about an entertaining story. They feature both words and pictures and average around 1000 words. They are usually paper pages with either a hard cover or paperback.

They have more of an emphasis on words than the toy books however images are still the main attention as this audience cannot read yet. They average around 300 words and often are board books with interactive elements.

Age: suggested for ages 4 to 6 years

Examples: Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Easy Readers

Easy Reader books are also known as Beginning Readers or Early Readers. They use a limited vocabulary and are structured as chapter books. Text blocks are bigger and the images included function more as illustrations than as essential elements in the story. Some representative Easy Reader imprints are I Can Read, Ready to Read, and Easy-to-Read.

These are the next step up from the previous books they have a higher word count up to 2000 words. They are written so the child can read them all by themselves. They have simple language and usually are told through action and dialog. They still feature illustrations on every page.

Age: 4 to 8 years and novice readers

Examples: The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel, There Is a Bird on Your Head by Mo Willems


Non-fiction picture books introduce children to new subjects in a simple way.

Age: 3 to 12 years

Examples: A Million Dots by Andrew Clements, Bring on the Birds by Susan Stockdale, Wangari's Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter


The stories are told completely by the pictures. Making up stories to go with the pictures is a perfect pre-literacy activity.

Age: 2 to 12 years

Examples: The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, Flotsam by David Wiesner, Do You Want To Be My Friend? by Eric Carle.

How do picture books help a child read?

The experience of reading with a child creates a bond. Sharing a story hones a child's social skills and demonstrates the value the adult places on stories and reading. Research shows that children should be involved in the process of reading a book. The person reading to them should allow the child to talk about things in the book by asking the child questions and helping them to describe what they see. The website for the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, has good suggestions on how to involve your child while reading picture books with them.

Reading picture books with a child develops a number of the crucial building blocks of literacy.

  • Phonological Awareness – The ability to hear and use the smaller sounds in words (Phonics)
  • Vocabulary – Knowing the names of things
  • Print Awareness – Knowing how to handle a book, follow text on page and notice the words all around them.
  • Narrative Skills - The ability to tell their own stories.
  • Letter Knowledge – Knowing the difference between the letters by their shape, name and sounds.

Choosing a Picture Book


Parents, caregivers, and teachers have a wide variety of books to choose from for young children. By sharing different kinds of books with children, they can enjoy different kinds of reading experiences. Some books help children build confidence as they join in with a repeated rhyme. Others jump-start the imagination with tales about talking animals or a grandmother who flies. Books about familiar objects, people, and events are reassuring to young children, while books with unfamiliar topics can excite them about new ideas and places.

A child is more likely to become a reader if he reads (or has read to him) books that address his passions and concerns. Ask a librarian to help you find something thematically appropriate.

Reading Level

As children begin to read on their own, caregivers can use knowledge about their reading levels to help choose materials for them that will yield the most satisfaction. A book that has more white space, larger type, fewer words and fewer sentences per page is more appropriate for novice readers. As readers become more skilled, they can navigate denser text blocks.

The five-finger rule is a quick way to learn your child's reading level. Have them follow these steps:

  • Pick a page and have the child read the whole page.
  • Have the child hold out a finger every time they see a word that they do not know or cannot pronounce.

A. No fingers raised - the book is probably not challenging enough BUT, please note:  Children often get great comfort and satisfaction from being able to read an entire "easy" book by themselves.  

B. If the child has 5  fingers raised – the book is probably too difficult and is likely to cause frustration.

C. Somewhere in the middle (1-4 fingers) is usually the best choice. The goal is exposure to new words.

Finally, make sure the child can understand what she reads. "Reading" the words without comprehension of the sentences  is of no benefit.


  • http://www.prattlibrary.org/locations/children/index.aspx?id=4116
  • http://childrensbookcreation.blogspot.com/2011/04/different-types-of-picture-books.html