The sounds of smooth jazz filled the air as students cued up outside the Resource Center.. It was our first book tasting of the year.
I greeted them at the door festooned with my chef hat and apron and a very corny French accent. “Velcome to ze book cafe, I am your host, Monsieur Burleson. I have prepared for you some of the very best books. Please come in and find a seat at one of our finest tables.”
At this point, many kids were totally amused and a bit put off, but I continued, dropping the French accent, to explain that we would be sampling some of the best books of the year and a few classics sprinkled in for flavor. Many of the books I chose also tied into our SEL focus. If you would like to look at the book list I used for this activity, you can access it HERE. I shared the placemat with them and explained that they would be exploring the large stack of books on the table and rating and making notes about why they rated the books the way they did. I used a simple timer with peaceful music to mark our rotations and set the kids off to enjoy their feast. We did a couple of ten-minute rotations and then shared with partners at our table.
You know your ‘tasting’ is a success when students ask to check out picture books so that they can finish reading them! I thoroughly enjoyed sitting and reading beside students and having conversations about books. This was a playful and fitting way to end our picture book month activities.
Week two’s objective was to explore author’s purpose with students through picture books. I began by connecting author’s purpose to work that I knew students had done previously in their writer’s notebooks. We talked about how writing changes depending on the purpose and the audience. I then read a powerful new picture book Lubna and Pebble.
In this book, Lubna, a refugee child from a nondescript war torn country arrives on a beach and finds a pebble which becomes her best friend. The soft, dark illustrations set a tone of somber contemplation that begin and end with full page spread of the face of a child. Lubna shares her pebble as a way to give friendship and peace to a new immigrant. The cycle of kindness is a central theme of this rich and powerful book.
I shared this book with the students as an example of pure entertainment as the author’s purpose. I intentionally did not choose a humorous book because I wanted to show students that entertainment can be more than humor. They were fully engrossed as I read this book aloud to them.
After reading, we viewed this graphic I created in google drawings. We talked about the book and cited several pieces of evidence of the author’s purpose.
Next, the students, in teams of three, chose from a stack of books at their tables. I explained to them that the books they were choosing from would have the author’s purpose of persuade or inform. They would choose one, read it and give three pieces of evidence as to the author’s purpose.
We wrapped up the lesson by sharing out our titles and our evidence for the author’s purpose. Students and teachers enjoyed the process. I enjoyed the conversations students were having trying to justify their thinking!
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.
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.