Inviting Imagination: Storytelling and Illustrations

Children are natural storytellers. They love to spin tales birthed in the purity of their imaginations not yet as tainted by harsh realities. Stories also draw children into new worlds. Storytelling draws adults in as well. Why else would we bing watch shows on Netflix like The Office or Doctor Who? We connect and relate to stories on a deep level. We compose them to preserve history and memories. Even throughout scripture, God uses stories to teach and preserve. Jesus’ utilizes parables to impart the wisdom and truths of heaven. Maybe God wrote storytelling into our DNA.

As a result, some children are constantly rambling off stories, trying to draw you into their world. Others fill notebooks with stories birthed in their imaginations or rooted in their dreams. (Fascinated by exploration and travel, I used to compose stories based in far off places or strange cultures.) Many kids lean over art pads for hours with crayons, Sharpies, colored pencils, or markers to bring the stories and worlds within their imaginations to life.

Now there is a relatively new genre of picture books based around visual stories. These books either have only introductory text or no text at all. But their beautiful illustrations captivate children and take them on a creative journey. 

I love this new genre because it invites children into the creative process. Children can verbally narrate the story or compose a story to go along with their interpretation of the pictures. If they love art, these books may spark ideas for them to create illustration-based stories.

Even as adults, the best stories invite us to participate in their creation. When we read fiction, the authors provide vivid descriptions. But as the story plays out in the movie theater of our minds, we fill in the gaps. Each one of us brings our life experiences and personal filters and preferences to the story. It is why people’s reactions to books made into movies are often negative–the movie depicts the book differently than they directed it in their mind. Two people’s interpretation and internalization of the same book can be drastically different.

Quality art invites us into the process of creation. Admiring art in a museum may inspire a poem or musical score. Listening to a symphony may arouse a memory, an emotion, a story, or simply carry us away to a new world or realm. Art is not about forcing an ideal on someone, but rather inviting them into the creative process with you.

If you are planning ahead for your school year either as a teacher or homeschooling parent, or if you are simply trying to build up your child’s library of books, consider bringing in art-based stories. They invite the narration of your child’s own imaginative interpretation. A few of my favorites in this genre that I have found thus far are Alexandra Day’s Carl’s Afternoon in the Park affiliate link), Ingrid and Dieter Schubert’s The Umbrella, Aaron Becker’s JourneyQuest, and Return, and David Wiesner’s Caldecott-winning Tuesday.

For more inspirations and ideas, check out my college friend, Renee Roush’s class narrating Journey:

What favorites would you add to this list? What about The Invention of Hugo Cabret? I have not read it, but from what I understand, it blends different genres with its unique approach to storytelling. 

***Amazon Affiliate links are no cost or obligation to you. But if you do buy through them it helps us out–so thank you in advance!***