Why Arent All Books Illustrated?

Do you have a favorite picture book with beautiful illustrations? Every year, the Association for Library Service to Children gives the Caldecott Medal “to the artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States during the preceding year. The award is given to the artist…regardless of whether they are the author of the text.” On June 14, 1938, the first Caldecott Medal was awarded to Dorothy Lathrop for her book, Animals of the Bible.

Unlike other book awards, the Caldecott Medal recognizes the excellence of a book’s illustrations. The Caldecott Medal is one of the most prestigious awards for children’s books worldwide.

It was named in honor of Randolph Caldecott, a famous illustrator from England in the 19th century. René Paul Chambellan designed the bronze medal in 1937, and it has been awarded every year since then.

Your local library probably has many of the famous Caldecott Medal winners from recent years. If you’re interested in reading some of these award-winning books, check out Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, Locomotive, or This Is Not My Hat.

Every year, there are also many other books recognized as Caldecott “honor books.” These books were nominated for the award, but did not win the Caldecott Medal. These “honor books” are considered some of the best picture books published each year.

Only a few artists have won the Caldecott Medal more than once. Five artists have won two Caldecott Medals, while only Marcia Brown and David Wiesner have won three medals each.

Most children start learning to read with basic picture books. Beautiful and colorful illustrations can engage children in reading in ways that text-only chapter books cannot. Experts also believe that picture books can help children develop critical thinking skills, as they analyze the pictures and the text and make connections between them.

Most adults can recall their favorite picture books from their childhood. There is something special about certain stories that capture our attention. Beautiful illustrations can bring the worlds created by the words on the pages to life.

However, as children grow older, the books they read become longer and the pictures disappear. When children transition to chapter books, the only pictures they find are usually on the front and back covers.

But why is that the case? Why can’t all the books we read have illustrations? The answer likely lies in the cost of producing books with illustrations.

Picture books tend to have shorter stories because creating illustrations is time-consuming and expensive. Talented artists need to be hired to create the illustrations for books. As the stories get longer, more illustrations are required, which increases the costs.

Another factor is that older children (and adults) can imagine the worlds in the stories they read better. Younger children greatly benefit from illustrations since their understanding and experience of the world are not as developed. The illustrations help them visually comprehend the story in the book.

Unfortunately, there is a decrease in the production of picture books nowadays compared to the past. Experts speculate that this shift might be influenced, to some extent, by parents who are encouraging their young children to abandon picture books in favor of more advanced chapter books. However, teachers and literacy experts argue that picture books play a crucial role in children’s reading development and should not be dismissed. It is unnecessary for parents to rush their children’s progress, as picture books hold a special place in their learning journey. Instead, take the time today to pick up a favorite picture book and share it with friends and family.

If you want to explore further, here are some activities to try with a friend or family member:

1. Go on a field trip to your local library with an adult companion. Browse through the collection of children’s picture books and choose a few to take home. Enjoy reading the stories and pay attention to the illustrations. How do they enhance the narrative?

2. Are you interested in illustrating a story? Start with a small and simple project to get the hang of it. Ask a friend or family member to create a story for you to illustrate. Alternatively, you can find stories in newspapers, magazines, or books. Once you have a story, let your imagination run wild and draw, color, or paint pictures to accompany it. There are no strict rules, so be creative!

3. For a fun change, come up with a story and draw a picture that represents or tells the story. After finishing your artwork, show it to a friend or family member and ask them to tell you the story they see in the picture. How close can they get to the actual story?


– http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/08/us/08picture.html

– http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/aboutcaldecott/aboutcaldecott.cfm

– http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/caldecottwinners/caldecottmedal


1. Why don’t all books have pictures?

Not all books have pictures because the use of visuals depends on the intended audience and purpose of the book. Many books, especially novels or academic texts, are primarily focused on conveying information or telling a story through words. Pictures may not be necessary or relevant in these cases, as the text itself is meant to evoke imagery in the reader’s mind. Furthermore, adding pictures to every book would significantly increase production costs and may not be feasible for publishers.

2. Are there any benefits to having books without pictures?

Yes, there are several benefits to having books without pictures. Firstly, text-only books allow readers to develop their imagination and visualization skills by creating mental images based solely on the written descriptions. This can enhance the reader’s engagement and immersion in the story. Additionally, books without pictures encourage readers to focus more on the language, writing style, and narrative structure, fostering critical thinking and analytical skills. Lastly, picture-less books are often more portable and lightweight, making them easier to carry and read in various settings.

3. Are there any genres that commonly include pictures in books?

Yes, there are several genres that commonly include pictures in books. Children’s books, for example, often incorporate illustrations to enhance the storytelling and captivate young readers. Picture books, pop-up books, and coloring books are specifically designed to include visuals as an integral part of the reading experience. Additionally, graphic novels and comics heavily rely on illustrations to convey the story, character expressions, and action sequences. These genres utilize pictures as a means of complementing or even replacing the text to engage readers visually.

4. Do pictures in books distract from the text?

Whether pictures in books distract from the text depends on the reader’s preferences and the intended purpose of the book. For some readers, visuals can enhance the reading experience by providing additional context, aiding comprehension, or adding aesthetic appeal. However, others may find pictures distracting, especially if they prefer to imagine the scenes and characters based solely on the written descriptions. Ultimately, the use of pictures should align with the author’s vision and the target audience’s preferences to ensure a balanced and effective reading experience.

5. Can pictures in books help improve literacy?

Yes, pictures in books can help improve literacy, especially for young or struggling readers. Visuals can provide context clues, facilitate understanding of complex concepts, and spark interest in reading. In children’s books, illustrations can help pre-readers associate words with images, aiding in the development of vocabulary and reading comprehension skills. Additionally, pictures can make reading more enjoyable and engaging, encouraging reluctant readers to spend more time with books. However, it is important to note that pictures should not replace the development of reading skills but rather complement the textual content to create a well-rounded reading experience.

6. Are there any downsides to including pictures in books?

There can be some downsides to including pictures in books. Firstly, the cost of producing books with pictures is generally higher due to the additional design, printing, and licensing expenses. This may limit the availability and affordability of picture-rich books, potentially reducing access to diverse reading materials. Secondly, pictures can sometimes limit the reader’s imagination and interpretation of the text, as they provide a visual representation that may influence the reader’s perception. Lastly, including pictures in books may limit the target audience, as some readers prefer text-only books or may have visual impairments that make pictures inaccessible.

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