Tag Archives: Ryan T. Higgins

7 Reasons To Use More Picture Books

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-8-47-01-amIt’s National Picture Book Month!  For some teachers it is a reason to dust off or to check out picture books that they don’t normally use in their classrooms anymore. They take this opportunity to celebrate picture books in an almost nostalgic way.  But it is my hope that for those teachers (and parents) that focusing on picture books this month will remind them how valuable they are in our literacy toolkit.  I’ll share 7 reasons why I think they should be a regular staple in our classrooms-I know there are more and I’d love to hear yours!

#1 Picture Books Teach Visual Literacyscreen-shot-2016-11-02-at-9-34-24-am

We live and work in a visual world. Children need to learn how to navigate the images as well as the words in their environment. Picture books allow them to ‘read’ visual images and infer meaning that cannot be done with words alone. Often the words and images in picture books have contrasting meanings/messages. Children can learn to interpret information through multiple lenses and synthesize their thinking in much more complex ways than with only one mode of information.

#2 Picture Books Expand Vocabulary

Picture books are shorter than chapter books. The author must tell the story with “screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-9-36-23-aman economy of words” and so the word choice is often much more precise and exact in order to create a rich story with fewer words. Picture book authors choose words to encourage visualization – those words in conjunction with the illustrations build vocabulary more deeply than pulling meaning from words alone. With chapter books new vocabulary must be gleaned from context clues from surrounding sentences. This is often difficult and not always a reliable way to build an accurate understanding of unfamiliar words. The visual images from picture books add another layer of support for comprehending what is read and building understandings for new words and concepts.

#3 Picture Books Teach Us About the World

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-9-41-38-amPicture books often deal with topics that are relevant and age appropriate. They deal with children’s fears, they make sense of our complex world in developmentally appropriate ways, and they teach a wide variety of topics with focus and clarity. Reading chapter books requires a much longer time commitment than reading picture books. In the time a student reads one chapter book, they could have read multiple picture books, exposing them to a greater variety of ideas, concepts, perspectives, genres and information. Children have a greater wealth of knowledge and understanding about their world when they have broader exposure to information about it.

#4 Picture Books Make Great Mentor Texts

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-9-44-10-amPicture books more closely resemble the type of writing that younger authors (K-6) produce. Children can look to picture books for ideas, frameworks, layouts, and word choices that authors use and imitate the author’s craft much more readily. They can construct stories with solid beginnings, middles and ends because they can immerse themselves in many examples from their favorite authors, often in a single sitting. Children can relate to the topics because picture book authors target their ideas for this age group’s interests, experiences and understanding.

#5 Picture Books Encourage Complex Thinking

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-9-45-24-amPicture books actually require a great deal of higher order thinking skills from young readers. Because they are often shorter, they require a great deal of: inferring (reading between the lines), synthesizing prior knowledge (making connections to their own lives), and predicting (using what they know to predict what will happen). They often have unexpected endings which challenge the reader’s thinking. They require a synthesis of visual and written information to comprehend the story completely. Because students can read more picture books in the same time frame as a chapter books, students are exposed to many more opportunities to use a variety of strategies.

#6 Picture Books Are an Art Form

Screen Shot 2016-11-02 at 9.47.55 AM.pngLook at the wide variety of media and approaches illustrators use in their picture books and you can begin to appreciate the enormous resource that picture books can provide for teaching about art.  Students can “unpack” the style, the intentional choices, the interpretation, the visual elements, and the choice of media used to create the images.  For some students this may be the only constant exposure to art that they have in their lives.  We can do a lot with picture books to help them appreciate the importance of art and the contribution it makes in our lives.

#7 Picture Books Are Pleasurable!

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-9-49-08-amLet’s face it…the #1 motivator for engaging in an activity is often pleasure.  Picture books can be a lot of fun for readers because they are very often humorous, but they can also be fun because they offer readers success.  It is FUN to feel like an accomplished reader-it brings pride and joy to so many students.  It is also very satisfying to read an entire story in one sitting-there is a completeness that is gratifying. Because their message is so “compact” we can experience a range of emotions in a short time and often end up with feelings of joy, relief, or determination.  We can experience the gamut of our humanness in a small package, and sharing that experience with others is part of what makes us human.

So as we celebrate National Picture Book Month, I encourage you to think purposefully about how you might incorporate more picture books into your K-12 classrooms. (Yes, high school is a great place for picture books, too!) I’d love to hear how/why you use picture books in your classrooms.  Post to twitter using #PictureBooksBecause and share your thinking!

What’s On My Book Radar?

This month I’ll focus my radar on picture books!  I can’t think of a better pair of books to start with than these two by Ryan T. Higgins! Ryan is not only talented, he happens to be one of the nicest author/illustrators you could ever meet. His Bruce stories are fantastic!

Bruce is a bear that liked to keep to himself.  Some might even call him grumpy. But when he finds himself the unlikely mother of a gaggle of goslings, his world is turned upside down.  I have read this book from kindergarten to fifth grade with so much success.  Kids can predict, infer, make connections, discuss theme and simply enjoy a well told and beautifully illustrated story (with both of these).  If you haven’t checked out the Bruce books I encouraged you to get to your favorite bookseller ASAP!

Mesmerizing Magic Made My Day

#SOL16 Day 2Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 5.11.16 PM

My slice today is actually several similar slices. You see, it’s Read Across America Day and I have the perfect excuse for doing one of my favorite things in the world: reading aloud to kids.  I found myself invited (or self-invited) into classrooms from kindergarten to sixth grade with books that were both Seussical and non. I’m not sure who enjoyed these read alouds more, but it was a rush!

Wolfie The Bunny

I began with my kindergarten friends. When I introduced a book  as, “one of my very favorite books from a very fun author”, they peppered me with “What is it? What is it?” As I held it up they cried, “He’s not a bunny! He’s a wolf!”  I answered, “I know!  That’s what Dot is trying to tell her family! Let’s see what happens!” They wrapped their blankets around their jammie-clad legs and snuggled up on their pillows while I brought Wolfie to life for them. They sat captivated, their emotions conveyed by an emerging smile or widening eyes. Not a peep except for the invitations for audience participation.

I paused on the last page, letting the message and finality of the story sink in.  And of course, what is the first thing out of most kindergartners mouths after a story?  “Read it again!” I promised I would be back to read this and others, and when I asked them “What would you like to tell Ame Dyckman about her story?” almost all said, “She should write another one!” They wanted Wolfie at Christmas, Wolfie in Summer, Wolfie at  Halloween …basically a Wolfie for all seasons!

In room after room, I experienced such a similar audience captivation. I loved creating voices for characters, and pausing to let images and ideas saturate their minds. And all the while, I doubt that a motion sensor would have been triggered by these stilled listeners.  Between pages, I would look out at their faces and see them transfixed, frozen mid-scene. This is like magic I thought, no…like hypnosis!

I can’t show you the faces (I need to protect their privacy) but I bet you can transpose the sweet countenances of your own cherubs onto these heads. It is the look of enchantment, and the only charm needed was a wonderful book.

So thank you, to Ame Dykman (Wolfie the Bunny), Theodore Geisel (The Lorax), Ryan T. Higgins (Mother Bruce) and Matt De La Pena (Last Stop on Market Street) for sharing your charms.  You helped me mesmerize our students in magical ways and made these slices of my day so memorable!

The Stories All Around Us

Casey and Bailey visit Santa long ago.

The recent holidays were a time for traditions and memories for me.  When I pulled out ornaments and photos from attic boxes I found mini-time capsules. They immediately transported me to stories from my previous holidays. I found myself flooded with memories and images of “Christmas pasts”.

When my parents traveled from the Midwest to visit, we shared stories from their past Christmases-when I was a child, or when they were. This lead to further stories about their lives and experiences.  It was wonderful.

By the ‘miracle’ of social media, my family reconnected with a childhood neighbor who posted pictures and videos of my siblings and I.  Believe it or not, I had never seen a video of myself as a child. (My own children will never be able to say that!) These photographs evoked so many memories, so many stories.

I’m the cute one with the lollipop!

I realized that someday these stories will disappear forever if I don’t capture them somehow.  I realized there are so many stories my parents have yet to share with me, and we don’t have forever to do that!  The importance of story really hit home. The awareness that stories are all around us became abundantly clear.

One way I decided to collect some of these stories was through the national Story Corp Project. Their mission: “to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives.” This was perfect! I downloaded the Story Corp App from iTunes and decided to interview my father on the day after he turned 76.  I kept the interview short (though interviews can be recorded up to 45 minutes) and only asked him a few questions. It was such an amazing experience as he told me things I never knew about him and would never have known.

Now I want to uncover even more stories.  More from my father, my mother, my husband, my children. Stories from the teachers I work with.  Stories from friends and family.  Stories that might never be told.  Now don’t get me wrong…I don’t want to suddenly become an archivist, I just want to become more aware and appreciative of the stories that are all around me. I want to listen more.  I want to learn more.  And if by chance some of those stories make it to paper, all the better!

Stories are all around us. What stories could you discover or uncover around you?

What’s On My Book Radar?

25745002Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins is a fantastic new picture book.  When Bruce the bear tries to fry up some eggs he collected, he gets a lot more than he bargained for-parenthood! The beautiful illustrations and tenderly humorous story make this a picture book I highly recommend!

17878931Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard is a YA novel that at first I wasn’t going to read.  I mean how many dystopian kingdoms can hold your interest?  But I kept seeing it recommended so I thought, “Why not?”  Well…it’s terrific!  I love a story with twists and turns and a plot that keeps me guessing. Victoria Aveyard can sure weave an intriguing chavalric tale with a modern twist. Toss in a strong heroine and I’m hooked! If you like YA, check this out!

Happy Reading!