Pictures in books expand a child’s imagination, authors say

Panellists at Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival explore the visual world of books

Sharjah: Pictures in books facilitate learning among young children by igniting their curiosity and imagination, authors and illustrators at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival said.

The visual world of books and their teachings were explored during a panel discussion entitled ‘Pictures that Teach Us’ during the second day of the 11-day festival on Thursday.

Emirati poet Shaikha Al Mutairi spoke of the different facets images in books have. “Some people believe pictures are just colours on paper but they can be a memory or a poem,” she said. “We actually taste and enjoy the vision of that picture. This taste comes from colour, passion, smell, and that picture sums up many things in our life.”

According to Safwan Leqah, children’s book illustrator from Morocco, when we hold a book in our hands, we have two scripts — the story and the picture itself. “Pictures are what make the child,” he said. “Maybe children only see the pictures at first, they look deep into them, then read the text.”

He explained that a book without pictures would not be as successful, as the child would not be able to hold it himself and be his own storyteller. He will benefit more with illustrations because they will expand his imagination. Images are quite important, even if they’re simple drawings,” Leqah said.

“Young children, even babies and toddlers of two to three years of age, comprehend a lot of things, from my own experience.”

He said drawings and paintings used to characterise animals and insects were more successful for books. With his wall paintings, he uses global stories, such as Alice in Wonderland or Snow White. Meanwhile Kate Messner, an American author of children’s books, spoke of her experience living on a lake by the Adirondack Mountains — an area filled with rainbows over the water and eagles that fly by. “I’m always the person who comes running to everyone in the neighbourhood if there’s something interesting to see in nature,” she said. “Writing is my way of doing that for everybody, and for children to look at these wondrous things that are part of our natural world.”

When she writes a story, she said, she imagines what the illustrator might be able to draw or paint. Upon completion, her manuscript is sent to the illustrator, making it their job to do, imagine and create that visual world. “It’s a fascinating process to be a writer that works with an illustrator,” she concluded.

The festival’s events span several programmes, under the main themes of Kids Activities, Cultural Programmes, Cultural Café, Kids’ Creative Café, Social Media Café and Cookery Corner. SCRF 2018 also features a series of international theatrical performances like ‘Tuta and Monkey Cheetah’, and the ‘Island of Kids’ in an area that combines education, fun and entertainment to highlight the values of honesty to young visitors.

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