When illustrating for children

There is one constant when regarding children’s books and world famous fairy tales: Illustrations. They are most certainly the reason why children enjoy reading/looking at this special type of literature and even remember some of those stories for the rest of their lives. In contrast to earlier decades, when it was practically impossible to reproduce illustrations for the usage in books, illustrations are an essential part of child literature nowadays. 

The reason for this is that children, obviously, are attracted by pictures and colours, rather than sole text. Moreover, the story becomes more understandable, relatable and intriguing for them if there are visuals that support the text. This is how illustrations support the process of learning how to read as well as comprehending social standards. By the aid of visualised stories, children start to understand certain situations and the main character’s reactions to it and therefore, build a basis for socialisation. This is why,  illustrations play an essential role in the education of children.

When putting oneself into the shoes of an illustrator, there are many aspects that influence the final children’s book or fairy tale and most importantly, its impact on its young recipients. First of all, there are many different styles. When recalling fairy tales of earlier times, one can indicate that established fairy tales use a rather realistic approach, and in the case of “Struwwelpeter” also slightly vicious. On the contrary, children’s books of today seem to be illustrated in a rather softer, more joyful and colourful way. What is most interesting here, is why and how this development has taken place and introduces the following question: Which illustration style is the most beneficial one from the perspective of the recipient?

Another aspect of uncertainty is examining the actual impact of illustrations. How can an illustrator make sure that the visuals are easily understandable and they attract the children’s attention? In what way can an illustrator convey important learnings to children to prepare them for later life situations and social questions?

When including pre-school children, one must be prepared for the fact that they haven’t learned how to read yet. This introduces the question of gapless story transfer. In what extent should illustrations be able to convey the message? In the case of someone reading out loud to the child, how can illustrations best support the process, even if children get easily distracted and stop listening?

In the course of this research project, I aim to identify answers to the questions mentioned above.


Amelia Book Company (2018): Why Are Children’s Books Illustrations Important For Young Readers [online] https://ameliabookcompany.com/childrens-books-illustrations/ [12.11.2019]

Brookshire, Jamye B./Scharff, Lauren F.V./Moses, Laurie E. (2002): The Influence of Illustrations on Children’s Book Preferences and Comprehension, in: Reading Psychology Vol 23(4), 323-339 [online] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/240238648_The_influence_of_illustrations_on_children’s_book_preferences_and_comprehension [12.11.2019]

Maaillustrations (2016): The Role Of Illustration in Children’s Book [online] https://www.maaillustrations.com/blog/article/the-role-of-illustration-in-childrens-book/ [12.11.2019]

Völkel, Alexander (2009): Illustrationen machten Grimms Märchen erst populär [online] https://www.wr.de/staedte/dortmund/illustrationen-machten-grimms-maerchen-erst-populaer-id638515.html [12.11.2019]