Why Picture Books Are Important by Greg Pizzoli

by Dianne on November 30, 2017


Why Are Picture Books Important by Greg Pizzoli

Why are picture books important? I’m not sure.

I’m not trained in early childhood anything, and I don’t know much about reading levels or how the brain of a toddler interprets texts and images. But they are important. I know that for sure.

While I’m not trained in any of the above, I’ve written and illustrated a few picture books and have had the opportunity to read them with thousands of kids. My first book was made because, more than anything, I just wanted to make a book. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve made books. I loved them as a kid, I loved drawing, and I thought as jobs go, picture book maker was about as good as it gets. That was my ultimate goal, really, to just have a book made.

In the subsequent years, I’ve made a bunch of other books, and my goal is always different with each one. It’s no longer about just “making a book” or (gasp) “getting a book published” – although that is often a source of worry – it’s about engaging kids with a book that respects them, that appreciates their own lives and experiences, and that makes a space for them to be absorbed into a world different from their own lives, which will in turn, make their own worlds bigger and more interesting places to live.

I might not have all the tools, or the know-how – but if I can help to create a space for moments of laughter, joy, sorrow – whether using a burping crocodile, or a sledgehammer-wielding owl, or even a con-artist on the run– stories that engage, pictures that demand a second-look, and words that beg to be read aloud could open up the world of books and reading to a kid who might need an escape.

So my new goal when making books, is to help create those moments of laughter, joy, sorrow, wonder, and contemplation, as all good picture books do. And that feels important.



About Greg Pizzoli

Greg Pizzoli is an author, illustrator and screen printer from Philadelphia.

His first picture book, The Watermelon Seed, was published by Disney*Hyperion Books and was the 2014 recipient of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. In 2015, his nonfiction picture book Tricky Vic was selected by the New York Times as one of the Ten Best Illustrated Books of the Year. In 2017, he won a Geisel Honor award for the picture book, Good Night Owl.

Greg’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Communication Arts, 3×3 Magazine and he’s won two Portfolio Honor Awards from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

After college, Greg spent two years as a full-time volunteer in AmeriCORPS from 2005-2006. In 2009, he received his MFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he taught part-time for seven years. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, artist Kay Healy, their dog, and two cats.

Literacy Activity
November 30 – Christmas

“Picture books build empathy which is an important tool in navigating through society.”(from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Make Christmas cards to give away for family and friends! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum.

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Why Picture Books Are Important by Emma Otheguy

by Dianne on November 28, 2017


Why Picture Books Are Imporatnt by Emma Otheguy

My parents like to complain that when I was a child, I was always hiding behind thick bangs and a book, using the book to shield myself from the world. I love that picture books are large enough to hide a child, to protect them from everything outside and take them to inner worlds known only to them. At the same time, I know as a writer, an aunt, and a teacher that picture books are meant to be shared. Picture books fit across two laps, and their size projects to a classroom as much as it hides a reader.

That’s the essence of a picture book to me: the brokering of the inner and the outer. Picture books tell adults about children’s secret lives, and they bring the universe to children’s libraries and classrooms. Picture books display always two pages at once, and in that two-page spread, there’s space for two readers, and in many cases, for two languages. There’s space to hold bilingualism and everything it entails: two generations, and the stories one can share with the next.

Picture books are first friends and great teachers—two of the things that have been most precious in my own life, and two things I hope grace the lives of every kid today.


About Emma Otheguy
Emma Otheguy is a children’s book author and a historian of Spain and colonial Latin America. Her picture book debut, Martí’s Song for Freedom, has received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly. She is a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, and her short story “Fairies in Town” was awarded a Magazine Merit Honor by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Otheguy lives with her husband in New York City.

Literacy Activity
November 28 – Freedom

“Picture books place a human face to historical, political, environmental, and cultural events.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

What are the symbols of freedom? What does it mean? Assign students to compile symbols of freedom from different sources. It can be a picture, a real object, even a person’s true to life account. Put these on display with each object or photo and story a note or annotation. Create a freedom wall where students write their definition of what freedom.

Suggested reading
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Summer
by Deborah Wiles
Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood
Freedom School, Yes! by Amy Littlesugar

Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum.

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Why Picture Books Are Important by Colby Sharp

by Dianne on November 27, 2017


Why Picture Books Are Important by Colby Sharp

I am writing this post on my way home from spending the last few days with my fifth grade students at camp. These last three days have been the only days our entire school year that we haven’t shared at least one picture book together. As much fun as we have had at camp, I have really missed gathering with them on the carpet to read aloud a picture book.

Here are 12 reasons why I think picture books are important.

Little kids love them
Big kids love them
Adults love them
They make us laugh
They make us cry
They make us think
They help us understand the world
They help us understand each other
They stay with us
They are fun to book talk
They are fun to give as gifts
They smell good

I am really looking forward to having my students back in class tomorrow. We’ll begin our day reading the picture book Most People by Michael Leannah and Jennifer E. Morris. I’m sure we’ll have an important conversation after we read it, and I know that some of my students will carry that book in their hearts forever. I can’t wait!

About Colby Sharp
Colby Sharp is a fifth grade teacher in Parma, MIchigan. He is the co-founder of Nerdy Book Club and Nerd Camp Michigan. He co-hosts The Yarn podcast with his friend Travis Jonker. His first book, The Creativity Project comes out March 13, 2018.

Literacy Activity
November 27 – Reading and Writing

“Picture books prompt a variety of creative writing assignments.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Set up a reading and writing center in your classroom where paper, pen, crayons and staples, glue, scissors and magazines are readily available. Allot a free reading and writing time for students to create their own stories, real or imagined. Since Makerspaces are the trend these days, coordinate with the librarian in setting up a Book Making Makerspaces where in students can go to create books.

Suggested reading
Desperate Dog Writes Again
by Eileen Christelow
Kindergarten Diary by Antoinette Portis
Lost Boy: The Story of the Man Who Created Peter Pan by Jane Yolen

Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum.

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Why Picture Books Are Important by Edna Cabcabin Moran

The Power of Picture Books
(And Why They Are Important)

When I was a teenage aunty, I read Maurice Sendak’s iconic picture book Where The Wild Things Are to my young nephew. I marveled as images sprang from the pages as I read Sendak’s words aloud. I was transported from the comfy living room sofa to the rollicking, rumpus world of Max and the wild things. I was hooked on picture books from that day forward.

Being the daughter of a chef, I liken picture books to literary food in which we have collectively create and partake in an assortment of flavors—storybooks, board books, fiction, and nonfiction, fairytales, folktales, tall-tales, humorous, biographical, as well as, wordless, concept, and series books. We luxuriate in their physicality—the look and feel of their covers, the scent of glue from their bindings, and the splashes of color and delicious visuals rendered on their pages. The musicality of the words and the power and heart of the story are ingredients that whet our appetites.

We are treated to the flavor of emotions, transporting us out of everyday reality to somewhere special. Picture books give us a break from algorithm-tracking and from screens and devices. Whether we?re age 4 or 104, whether we’re alone or sharing with others, picture books satisfy our hunger for stories and help nurture our imaginations.


About Edna Cabcabin Moran
I’m an author/illustrator in Northern CA. My picture books include THE SLEEPING GIANT: A Tale From Kaua’i, CAN YOU CATCH A COQUI FROG? by Vera Arita and Patrick Landeza?s DANNY?S HAWAIIAN JOURNEY. I’m a contributing poet in the middle-grade anthology, AN EYEBALL IN MY GARDEN And Other Spine-Tingling Poems. I’ve a new book, HONU & MOA, that comes out in 2018.
Besides writing and painting, I love design, printmaking, dancing hula with Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu, hiking and traveling with my family.

Website
www.kidlitedna.com

Literacy Activity
Novemnber 26 – Turtles

“Picture books help visualize what they are reading and make sense of the content which is a big component in spatial learning and problem solving.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Before reading a picture book about turtles, create a word web about them by asking students what they know about turtles. Introduce the book’s cover and get predictions from students about what the story is going to be. As you read along, go back to their predictions and validate the ones that match with the story. After reading aloud, list down new things or insights that students learned about turtles.

Suggested reading
Little Sea Turtle: Finger Puppet Book by Chronicle Books
Turtle, Turtle Watch Out! by April Pulley Sayre
One Tiny Turtle: Read and Wonder by Nicola Davis

Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum.

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Why Picture Books Are Important by Gina Perry

by Dianne on November 25, 2017


Why Picture Books Are Important by Gina Perry

Simply put, picture books bring us together. Whether we are in classroom circles, on library floors, in rocking chairs, or tucked into bed. We are together. For much of our lives, reading is solitary. And I do love the solace of turning pages and losing myself to another world. However, this beautiful window of time exists in a child’s life where we enter the picture book world together. Our brains and hearts and bodies are together in something that you can literally put your finger on. We create a shared experience that is safe, and fun, and warm. We create choices for children, letting them pull whatever book they want from a shelf. We build pride and confidence in children, when they notice little details in the illustrations that we often miss. We share our silliness with children, when we put forth our best monster voice and shout, “Boo!”, “Bleeerrrggh!” and sometimes, “Burp!”. We connect with our children, when we put the book down and talk about how it made each of us feel. So open a picture book. Find one or many children. Get close, and begin. Together.



About Gina Perry

Once upon a time, I played with little metal cars in my rock-filled driveway. I listened to old-time mystery radio theater in my room and built yarn canopies between trees. I could never serve the volleyball in gym class but I could draw dragons that leapt off the page.

After 13 years of wearing plaid uniforms I went to art school. I graduated from Syracuse University, worked as a compositor in animation, and as an art director creating products for the scrapbooking market. My children inspire me every single day to be creative and do my best.

Today I write and illustrate books from my New Hampshire home, where trees are the tallest obstacles to the sea. I still like yarn, and table tennis is my (only) game.

Represented for books by Teresa Kietlinski at Bookmark Literary

Literacy Activity
November 25 – Cities

“Picture books provide excellent scenarios for word problems, using a plot line and characters that students know and relate to.”(from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Compare and contrast life in the city and in the country. What are present in the city that are not in the country. Ask students to put themselves in the shoes of the character of the picture book who lives in the city and the country. Have them write their own story of living in the city or in the country.

Suggested reading
The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
Weslandia by Paul Fleishman
Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato
The Promise by Nicola Davies

Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum.

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Why Picture Books Are Important by Arthur Levine

by Dianne on November 23, 2017


Why Picture Books Are Important by Arthur Levine
Having been posed the question “Why are picture books important?” I find myself stumped. Not because I can’t think of a way to answer the question, but because I can think of so MANY ways to answer the question. So here are just two:

The Picture Book is a unique art form: picture books (and their older cousin Graphic Novels) are the only forms of published storytelling that give equal narrative weight to the text and the art. The difference is that picture books are read to, and embraced by children who are often too young to read themselves. So with picture books there is an aural component to consider in the text – how do the words SOUND to a child? What is their rhythm, what are their textures? How does the length of the text affect how long the (adult) reader stays on the page, while the child reader explores the illustration? How does it affect the pacing of the book? (Illustrations contribute equally to pacing – by varying layouts to include small spots, single page illustrations, and double-page spreads all of which are “read” at different paces.) How does the prompt to turn the page affect things like COMIC timing, suspense, surprise? The best picture books take all these things (and more – this is supposed to be a “short” essay!) into consideration as the book develops.

Picture books have two distinct artistic media that come together to make the ultimate work – art and text. That the overall tone of a picture book is affected enormously (overwhelmingly) by the choice of artist is so obvious as to seem unnecessary to mention. But the choices one has to make as the editor are perhaps broader than most readers realize. Do you choose an artist with a style that is a perfect parallel to the style of the text – a “sweet” artist for a sweet text, for example? Or do you go with an artist whose style works somewhat in tension with the text. “Irreverent” with sweet? What aspects of the story do you want the art, with its nonverbal storytelling powers, to bring out and highlight? These decisions and choices make the editor’s (and often the art director’s) roles uniquely creative in the process of picture book development.

But is that why picture books are “important?” Every art form can probably make a claim to importance on its own merits. Picture books can claim additional importance because of who reads them. Now, again, this is supposed to be a short essay, and picture books contribute SO MUCH to the children who read them (literacy of all forms, information, entertainment, an opportunity to bond with the adult reader, and a thousand more.) But I’m going to talk (briefly) about the one that matters most to me and that’s the emotional connection that picture books make to their very young readers. I do think all books serve to lessen the existential loneliness we all feel by showing us characters who feel as we do, and who face the crises WE’VE faced in similar or exaggerated circumstances.

Picture book readers, however, are only beginning to experience and comprehend their own feelings and the process can be overwhelming. Love? Jealousy? Anger? Isolation? Fear? Excitement? We adults have had those feelings, and we’ve probably had lots of conversations with friends, relatives, and therapists about them. But a picture book that gets to the ROOT of these primal emotions? That might give the young reader a crucial first sense that they are not ALONE in their feelings. And it might provide a precious opportunity to either commune with the character who’s sharing those feelings or experiences, or to talk them over with the sympathetic adult who is sharing the story in that moment.

This is why for me picture books are not just important; they’re essential.


About Arthur Levine
Arthur A. Levine Books launched in 1997, is celebrating 20 years as a literary imprint of Scholastic Inc. This imprint introduced North American audiences to the work of great picture book writers and artists such as Dan Santat, Deborah Bruss, Nicholas John Frith, Andy Rash, and Ana Juan. About thirty percent of the books the imprint publishes are fully-illustrated, working with a group of artists that include the incomparable Shaun Tan and Kate Beaton, well-known masters such as Richard Egielski, David Small, and Komako Sakai, and talented illustrators at the start of their careers such as Tony Piedra, Caroline Hadilaksono and Jean Kim. Arthur is also an author whose most recent book is WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING, illustrated by Katie Kath.

Literacy Activity
November 23 – Grandparents

“Picture books prompt a variety of creative writing assignments.”(from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Have a Grandparents Day at school or in the library. Give them the opportunity to tell their childhood stories. Record the stories in a podcast and build an oral history collection. Be sure to ask permission from them before the actual recording.

Suggested reading
Infinity and Me written
by Kate Gosford, illustrations by Gabi Swiatkowska
Joone by Emily Kate Moon
Now One Foot, Now the Other by Tomie dePaola
Grandama’s Gloves by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Julia Denos
Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say

Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum.

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Why Picture Books Are Important by John Couret

by Dianne on November 22, 2017


Why Picture Books Are Important by John Couret

I met Dianne on our first date.

At the time, I was completely blind due to an accident I had several months prior. We met at a local Cuban restaurant and immediately hit it off. After lunch she asked me if I would accompany her to the bookstore. She had already mentioned that she was a children’s book author but I had no idea what I was in for.

When we arrived at the store, she led me to the children’s section. It was there that she pulled out her book, “The Little Read Hen.” She then began to sing “not I said the dog, not I said the cat, not I said the pig and that was that.”

For the following two years, Dianne opened her world to me. She not only taught me how to write, she taught me how to better live. There were many school shows and trips along the way. There were many lessons learned in those two years, not least of which was how to love. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss Dianne. I hear her voice each time I read her stories. I still thank her in my prayers.


About John Couret

John Couret is the CEO of Write Hook Media. He is an author, a motivational speaker, “The Success Coach of Champions,” an actor, an entrepreneur, and the radio show host of “Breaking Barriers” on community radio station WHIV 102.3FM in New Orleans. He has acted in feature films as well as on television. His new personal growth book, Breaking Barriers: How to Knock Out Adversity and Live Life as a Champion releases in Summer 2016. His followers look forward to his daily quotes, which are posted to his social media platforms. His weekly motivational blog posts every Monday and he hosts a weekly video series on YouTube called “Championship Minute,” which features a 60 second motivational message every Wednesday.

Raised in Brooklyn, New York, Mr. Couret lived his childhood as a troubled youth, making poor choices and traveling down a self-destructive path. He left New York in his early twenties, renouncing the power and temptations that a life of crime offered. He moved to Florida and, during one of the lowest moments in his life, spent a year living homeless on the streets, eating out of garbage cans.

Mr. Couret’s indomitable spirit prevailed and he eventually landed on his feet, creating a successful career in the auto industry. Recently, he had an accident that left him legally blind. Through the healing process, Mr. Couret learned that although he lost his sight, he did not lose his vision. Now, his attention has shifted to empowering youth and people with his personal message of being “constructive, not destructive,” and living a life of integrity, purpose, and passion.

Literacy Activity
November 22 – Creativity

“Picture books teach the universality of many experiences.”(from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Ask students to place themselves in a difficult situation like forgetting one’s lunch money or riding the wrong train. Thinking of solutions to solve a problem is creative thinking. Look at the events in a picture book which you read aloud that shows ways to be creative. Emphasize how characters creatively solve problems. Challenge students what they could do or would do in difficult situations.

Suggested reading
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Something Extraordinary by Ben Clanton
Froodle by Antoinette Portis
Meanwhile by Jules Feiffer
What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada

Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum.

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Why Picture Books Are Important by Peter McCleery

by Dianne on November 21, 2017


Why Picture Books Are Important by Peter McCleery

Confession: I never really cared much about picture books. In fact, I took a 30-year hiatus from reading them. Not to say I had anything against them, they just weren’t something I paid attention to. I was one of those grown-ups without kids who had NO IDEA there were so many fantastic picture books. They weren’t on my radar. Sure, I read them when I as kid. I remember Sendak and Seuss, and I loved Babar books. But then, like so many, at a certain age I stopped. And it wasn’t until I had my own kids and started reading to them did I discover just how amazing they are.

About 7 or 8 years ago, after my first son was born, I went to the library and grabbed some random children’s books to read to him. I assumed they were all going to be cute stories about bunnies and ducks. But in that stack was a fellow I’d never heard of. Goes by the name of Mo Willems. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?

Yeah.

My mind was blown. I rushed back to the library. I then discovered Scieska, Mac Barnett, Adam Rex and many others.

I quickly learned that picture books are as important and engaging and funny and sweet and sad and smart as anything being created in the world. They surprised me in the best possible way.

And that’s why I think picture books are important. Because they are full of surprises and possibilities. Whether it’s a fresh story idea, a new format, innovative art techniques, or inventive language, every time you crack open a picture book you never know what you’re going to get.

Unlike chapter books and novels (even illustrated ones), picture books have more tools at their disposal. More ways to engage. Can’t find the right words for that idea? Fine. Let’s do it visually. Need to control the pacing? Select just the right words. Wanna get meta? Let’s do it.

You can have a picture book with no words. You can have a picture book with no pictures. It can contain an elaborate fairytale or simply an alphabet.
As a reader, how awesome is that?

Every book is a surprise. What will the art be like? Will I like the story?
Every page turn is an adventure. What happens next? What new joke awaits?
You can have pages full of words followed by an entire spread devoted to one glorious image. You can read them to a full assembly of kids or sit quietly by yourself.

That’s the magic of picture books. They are limitless in their ideas and execution and the way they can engage an audience.

Even the books we’ve read a hundred times and know by heart can surprise us. Read a classic to someone who has never seen it before and delight in their reaction. Often, it’s not the reaction you expect. Meanwhile, there are creators in their studios and offices RIGHT NOW coming up with amazing ideas to surprise us.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see what they have in store for us. I have a lot of catching up to do.


About Peter McCleery
Peter McCleery is the author of the hilarious Bob and Joss series of children’s books, Bob and Joss Get Lost! and Bob and Joss Take a Hike! (coming in Jan. 2018). He lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Oregon where he occasionally gets lost. His favorite things include kids (and adults) who laugh. He’s also written for Highlights magazine and for grown-ups on the McSweeney’s humor website. You can find him at www.petermccleery.com, on Twitter: @pmccleery and on Facebook: @petermccleeryauthor

“Although fiction, picture books provide fantastical elements, these stories provide wonderful springboards for conversation on facts vs. fiction and can spark the desire for further reserarch.”(from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Literacy Activity
November 21 – Imagination

Ask students how using one’s imagination can help solve problems. From finding the way when one is lost to innovating a technological gadget, discuss the infinite possibilities that can occur when imagination is applied in big and small ways. Start a Let’s-Find-Out activity by idnetifying modern innovators that changed how we live today.

Suggested reading
Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran
Stephanie’s Ponytail by Robert Munsch
Weslandia by Paul Fleischman
Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg
Sector 7 by David Wiesner

Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum.

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Why Picture Books Are Important by Gaia Cornwall

by Dianne on November 20, 2017


Why Picture Books Are Important by Gaia Cornwall

Picture books are important for so many reasons, but one I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is how picture books can help adults talk about race with their kids.

I think a lot of us grew up with the idea of “being color blind.” And even though now we know that concept isn’t realistic or helpful, –but is, in fact, quite detrimental, I think a lot of us struggle to get this conversation started. –A continuous conversation that grows and develops as your child does.

Story time can be a simple way to begin. According to studies, children start categorizing skin color, (along with many other things,) by two. So this is a great time to start talking to kids about race in an open and positive way. When reading picture books to kids, we can talk to them about the differences and similarities we see.

Here are some ideas to get started:
• Read lots of books with protagonists of color in them. Note: not just historical accounts, but books about kids doing everyday/ “picture book” things.

• Point how the characters look the same or different from your child “Hey, she has curly hair just like your’s, but what color is her’s?…What color is her skin? Does it look the same as your’s? You’re right, she looks like [cousin/friend/character] __!”

• Discuss how other things–eg likes and dislikes, family structure, etc– are the same or different from your child. “He looks just like you and he has two cats, too!”

• Talk about how the characters are strong/smart/brave/funny (ie model positive language when talking about characters who are non-white.)

• In books with no people of color, point out that they are missing. “…I don’t see any kids that look like our cousins/friends/characters like in ___ book…”

• Read books written by people of color and then talk about the author/illustrator

Remember, the problem is not noticing or pointing differences out, its assigning value to them. By pointing these things out in simple, positive ways during story time, we’re giving kids a framework to talk about differences and similarities, and to celebrate and appreciate them instead of assigning negative value to one.

As parents and educators, we can lay a foundation of tools now through picture books that kids can use in the future to push back against bias.


About Gaia Cornwall

Gaia Cornwall loves making patterns for surface design, illustrating for children, and writing picture books. Her images can be seen in magazines, online, in logos, on various products, and even in a couple movies. “Jabari Jumps”, her debut picture book, explores dealing with fear and defining bravery. From Candlewick Press, it has been featured in People Magazine, the New York Times, is an Amazon Best [Children’s] Book of the Year, and recently was the Rhode Island selection for the National Book Festival. You can see more of her work at www.GaiaCornwall.com.

Literacy Activity
November 20 – Courage

“Visuals in the illustrations build skills for determining meaning through content.”(from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

While reading aloud, pause at parts of the book where the illustrations show, the theme of the story, especially if it is an abstract concept like courage. Look for images, colors and visual cues that tell and describe the theme or the concept of the story.

Suggested reading
Sheila Rae the Brave by Kevin Henkes
Daredevil Duck by Charlie Adler
Brave Irene by William Steig
The Fun Book of Scary Stuff by Emily Jenkins
The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen

Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum.

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Why Picture Books Are Important by Javaka Steptoe

by Dianne on November 19, 2017


Why Picture Books Are Important by Javaka Steptoe

Children’s books have always been a part of my life. As a child, I remember my father taking the time to read to my sister and I, as well read to the children in the neighborhood we lived in. My father wrote and illustrated children’s books. He was inspired to create them because as a child he didn’t see himself in the children’s books his mother purchased for him and his siblings. Being that my father created children’s books, I actually grew up literally seeing myself, my family, friends and neighborhood in books. In retrospect, I think about how powerful of an experience that was and what it taught me about my value and place in the world. At best, the value of children’s books for me lies in the ability for them to bring the world to a child and explain its parts and complexity in 32 pages with beauty, joy, and intergenerational bonding. At worst, they can be used as emissaries of oppression and outdated thinking. So it is important that the books we create reflect a progression of thinking, leading towards love, kindness and inclusion. It is also important that the companies creating books cultivate a culture reflective of that ideal. I am very hopeful about the direction of children’s books and literature more broadly and would warn the industry against complacency. Please keep fighting the good fight and let us all create a more beautiful world. I am very proud to be a “Picture Book Month Champion” and look forward to CONTRIBUTING TO A MORE BEAUTIFUL WORLD BY creating and sharing my art and experiences through books.


About Javaka Steptoe

Before becoming an award-winning artist, Javaka Steptoe served as a model and was the inspiration behind much of the artwork created by his esteemed father, the late John Steptoe.?
Javaka Steptoe’s debut picture book, In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers (Lee & Low Books, ), earned him a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, in addition to a nomination for Outstanding Children’s Literature Work at the 1998 NAACP Image Awards. Since that time, Steptoe has illustrated and/or written more than a dozen books for youth readers, collaborating with some of the top names in the business—Walter Dean Myers, Nikki Grimes, Karen English. This past January, Steptoe won the 2017 Caldecott Medal for his picture book biography Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (Little, Brown), more than thirty years after his father won two Caldecott Honors. The book won many other honors, too, including the 2017 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, and multiple starred reviews.

Javaka Steptoe travels extensively reading and conducting workshops at schools, libraries, museums, and conferences across the country and internationally.

Literacy Activity
November 19 – Artists and Painters

“The technological debate about traditional vs. digital picture books and whether technology always means progress is a great topic for the classroom.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Author and illustrator visits introduce students to the work and the job that creators of books experience. Make this a regular event in your classroom or school library. If the author or illustrator is unavailable for a face to face visit or appearance, try using technology. A webinar or Skype video conferencing is just as exciting!

Suggested reading
Touch the Art: Brush Mona Lisa’s Hair by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo
Babar’s Museum of Art by Laurent de Brunhoff
Georgia’s Bones by Jen Bryant
Ella’s Trip to the Museum by Ellaine Clayton
Matthew’s Dream by Leo Lionni

Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum.

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