Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Picture Books and Literacy Celebrations In The Spotlight!

Several posts ago, I talked about using picture books as a powerful way to promote content learning and grow background knowledge. Today, I revisit the world of picture books with a few great new titles AND tips for using picture books in a different way to grow both the background knowledge, vocabulary and oral language of both students AND families. But first, a few thanks to my new friends from SE IRA (after these few paragraphs, you'll find the topic at hand):

I recently presented at the SE Regional Conference of the International Reading Association.Thanks to all my new friends in Louisiana for a great time. You were wonderful hosts! also met a couple of new friends I'd like to quickly share with you before going on to our topic:

I made some great new pals like Nile Stanley and Brett Dillingham, authors of Performance Literacy Through Storytelling, Nile and Brett told terrific tales and poems during the Poetry event one evening. Nile was spunky and joined music and poetry for a delightful experience and I have to say that Brett is a mesmerizing and illustrative storyteller, all at the same time.

I also met Hester Bass, the author of The Secret World of Arthur Anderson. If you don't know about this interesting artist, you'll want to explore a copy of this new book and you can find out even more about him through a website on his museum.

Now, back to our topic: While at the IRA conference, over 50 teachers and literacy advocates sat down with me to address a new use for picture books and I'm sharing a few additional resources here for both those who attended my session AND those who couldn't make it to the conference. 

Think about traditional picture walking and then let's tweak it a little. Great teachers do that with effective strategies all the time, to make it work for their students and families. Picture walking can be a wonderful tool for engaging families and students reluctant to spend time with books, beyond that pre-reading strategy of scanning the pictures before you read the text. Here are a few tips for using picture books to engage those for whom traditional literacy approaches may not be appropriate or comfortable, that is

Modeling is important. Simply show them how to look first at the outside of the book and  talk about what the story inside might be like.

Then take them inside, beginning with the first page and again just talk about what you see in the pictures. Don't worry about the text (if you've chosen wisely books that are colorful, have a strong storyline supported by the pictures, it will be easy).  Ask the child what he sees, it may be different.

Lastly, after the pictures have been viewed from every page, talk about the story as a whole. What happened? What was interesting? Who were the characters, those who were a part of the story? Would you do the same thing they did?

Taking the concept of exploring a book from an "academic lesson" to a positive experience with their child is the focus. Continue to encourage and coach; even let parents (or students) try it with one another so they get the idea. Give the parent "playing the role of the child" permission to act just like a child in their responses.

Wordless books and nearly wordless books (temporarily remove the intimidation of text and concentrate on engaging the family or student in telling a story from the pictures).  Here are a few to try with many different ages of children and many different families:

Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins
Do You Want to Be My Friend?  By Eric Carle (Harcourt, 1995)
First Snow by Emily Arnold McCully (Harper Row, 1985)
Free Fall by David Wiesner (Harper Trophey, 1991)
Hector Protector by Maurice Sendak
How to Build A Snowman by Scholastic and Jo Moon
Hug by Jez Alborough
I Can't Sleep by Phillippe Dupasquier, U.S. edition: Orchard, 1990
I Like Black and White by Barbara Jean Hicks, Tiger Tails, 2005
Lights Out by Arthur Geisert
My Friend Gorilla by Atsuko Morozumi, Farrar, Straus and Giroux:  London, 1997
Oops by Arthur Geisert, Houghton Mifflin, 2006
Pancakes for Breakfast by Toni DePaola (Voyager, 1990)
School Bus by Donald Crews (Harper Trophy, 1993)
Sidewalk Circus by Paul Fleischmann
Ten Minutes Til Bedtime by Peggy Rathmann
The Red Book by Barbara Lehman
The Secret of Love by Sarah Burg
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs (Dragonfly Books, 1986)
Truck by Donald Crews
Tuesday by David Wiesner
Yes! By Jez Alborough
You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Weitzman
You’re A Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day

I'd love to hear how your experiments with these ideas work in your classroom and with your families!  Please post and share with others through your comments!


  1. It's great to hear that someone else is out there spreading the awesomeness of picture books, as well as their many uses.

    Thanks also for the links to some new resources and authors.

  2. Hi Cathy. I'd like to connect with you on linkedIn. How did you know about me.
    Rob Bernstein

  3. Welcome and thanks to Erik and Rob. I don't post as often as I'd like but I'm working it in. Hope you are following!