Mo Willems

About Mo Willems

Mo Willems is the author and/or illustrator of over forty picture books for children. His article is adapted from the 2011 Zena Sutherland Lecture, which he delivered on May 6, 2011, at the Chicago Public Library.

Why Books? — The Zena Sutherland Lecture

Mo Willems

It is an honor to have been asked to talk about books while they still exist. (Spoiler alert: next year’s Sutherland lecturer will be a downloadable app.)

And that, my friends, is the key to my current two-word existential dilemma: “Why books?”

In the past it was enough to say that if you get a book into a kid’s hands, you’re creating a “lifelong reader.” But why does that matter? Do we really want “lifelong readers”? Shouldn’t they at least get to take occasional bathroom breaks? Why is this extraneous question here in the middle of these other ones? And, what does reading do that makes it so special?