Picture Book Month

I love picture books! Having spent the last eight years as an elementary school librarian, they were my jam! They were my go to whenever I wanted to make a connection, enhance curriculum or spark powerful conversations. However, even in a K-4 building, I could sense the pull of chapter books. Kids wanted to read ‘grown up books.’ For this reason, I thought it was ever more important to celebrate the power of picture books. We participated in International Picture Book Month, and one year we even read every single picture book in our collection! Therefore, when I moved to our 5-6 building, I knew that somehow we were going to find a way to celebrate.

This might sound like a no-brainer to you. Or, it might sound a bit ‘pie in the sky.’ ‘Sure, picture books are important, but how are you going to get teachers to give up valuable class time to engage with picture books?’ It’s a legitimate question and honestly, one that made me lose some sleep. I decided to see what authors had to say about it.

A picture book does exactly what a novel does that takes six hundred pages and picture books do it in 32 or 48 pages…Picture books absolutely encapsulate incidents and the telling in rich language. Besides that, I think the illustration adds another element of richness to this.

-Patricia Polacco

I had been working with a fantastic sixth grade language arts/social studies teacher on a project in which she pairs up picture books with non-fiction texts to introduce various world cultures. She used the description by Rudine Simms Bishop as books as ‘windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors,’ in the title of the unit and it got me thinking about how I might be able to connect this on a larger scale to our whole population.

Children need to see themselves reflected, but books can also be windows. And so, you can look through and see other worlds and see how they match up or don’t match up to your own. But the sliding glass door allows you to enter that world as well.

-Rudine Simms Bishop

I decided to piggyback on the unit by my colleague and use books as windows and mirrors as our theme. After some consultation with colleagues I shared my plans to celebrate picture book month (three weeks due to the holiday) with the staff. (I’ll be writing a separate post with resources and reflections after each week.)

Week one: Books as Windows and Mirrors. I invited four ‘mystery readers’ to read powerful picture books. I took their audio and created read along versions of each of the books. After listening, students will reflect on how the particular book was either a mirror or a window book for them.

Week two: Author’s Purpose. I collected a ton of picture books that explore author’s purpose (to persuade, inform or entertain). After reading a selection, students will complete reflect and give evidence for the author’s purpose.

Week three: Book Tasting. I’ve gathered a huge assortment of picture books and will be dividing them up into three courses. At each course, students will enjoy selections that will either reflect or invite them to view another culture.

Each Monday, I’ll be sharing a short video and an article with my staff highlighting the benefits and power of picture books. I’ve collected the resources on a Wakelet you can explore HERE.

I’m excited, nervous and hopeful. This will be a totally new experience for our library and I hope the students and staff will embrace the opportunity. I hope to write a reflection after each week.

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