The illustration is never as good as the imagination. We’ve all seen a picture, photo, play, or film that illustrates a prized work of literature and been quite disappointed in the actual portrayal of the scene or the character. Our God-given imagination far outplays the human ability to portray it. I think this is one reason faith is such an important part of reading the Scripture. Each of us has his own desire for what is perfect and precious. A former pastor of mine used to tell of his dreams of Heaven which included massive fields of strawberries. We’ve all pictured our mansion in glory in our imaginations. Mine has a huge veranda covered with gorgeous flowers that never fade, wilt, or die. And there’s no Georgia red clay in the soil!

But my original premise that the imagination is far better than any illustration is my point. Readers in younger grades have oodles of pictures on every page, but when they arrive at the upper grades, the reading includes few illustrations. I think there may be some overkill in the younger readers rather than a lack of edutainment (my word, not in Webster’s) in the upper level reading. I’m not opposed to pictures or photos. I actually think history books ought to contain more actual photos, maps, etc., for the sake of factual portrayal. However, when reading, especially fiction, the imagination is the best! Think about a favorite book of yours and what kind of images you conjured as you read the descriptive passages. Did you later see pictures or a play about that book and experience some disillusion over the scenes? You probably did. I’ll never forget being captivated by a commercial about romance with a handsome prince (I thought I had married the only one!). My mind immediately created a million images. Then the representation appeared on the screen: a horribly unkempt male with the curb appeal of a hairy frog. It was a margarine commercial! I’ll never be able to buy that brand, but every time I need a good example of something disgusting, I refer to the “Butter Boy.” I’ll keep the Prince I have, thank you.

Keep the imagination alive and active, rather than providing your students every image. Let your students read a passage of the Bible and then illustrate it themselves by drawing a picture of what they imagine. After they finish, ask them if they were able to draw a picture that was as good as what they imagined. Compare pictures throughout the class in order to see how varied our minds can be. Describe a passage of a book with words and then try to draw what your mind envisions. Let’s make more use of imagination.