Dyslexia, Literacy

Spotlight Series: Jerry Pinkney, Illustrator and Writer

October is Learning Disabilities and Dyslexia Awareness Month. This month at Lexplore, we will spotlight some authors and illustrators who have learning issues and share some favorite books for kids who struggle with reading. 

In elementary school, Jerry Pinkney faced challenges in both reading and spelling.  He was unaware of learning disabilities or dyslexia at an early age. He knew that he was struggling but didn’t want others to know.

Jerry always liked to draw.  It made him feel whole and calm. Drawing became his learning tool, allowing him to take in information in a different way. Rather than pointing to his deficits, those around him (especially his mother) encouraged him to strive to do better and to use his artistic gift to stay motivated. This positive reinforcement affected his desire to continue learning. 

He has illustrated over 100 books since 1964, including picture booksnonfiction titles and novels. Pinkney’s works address diverse themes and are usually done in watercolors. His long list of awards and honors includes the Caldecott Medal, The Golden Kite Award, The Coretta Scott King Award and the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. Two of his most notable works are John Henry (1994) and The Lion and the Mouse (2009).

Research has always been an important part of his process.  He felt that it was critical to learn as much as possible about a subject so that he could live the experience and have a true vision of the people and places that he would be illustrating.

At age 70+, Mr. Pinkney is still a challenged reader.  It’s part of who he is, but not a negative trait.  He owns it!  He believes that adults need to reinforce the message that slow learners can still enjoy reading. The key is to seek out interesting subjects that promote joy and growth.

In addition to his award-winning career as an author and illustrator spanning 6 decades, Jerry Pinkney has taught at the college level at University of Delaware, The Pratt Institute and University of Buffalo.