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?


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.


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.


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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Why Picture Books Are Important by Ruth Sanderson

by Dianne on November 18, 2017

Why Picture Books Important by Ruth Sanderson

Reading books with a young child deepens the parent/child bond in a shared routine, often at a special time each day, and this very act can build the foundation for a lifelong love of reading. Picture books contribute to visual literacy as well as early literacy, as conversations about the pictures in a book teach young children how to “read” pictures, ask and answer questions about the pictures and how they relate to the story.

Picture books can be windows into other worlds and other cultures. Picture books can entertain, surprise, and delight young listener/viewers. They inspire a child’s own imagination. A certain book might instill a deep sense of wonder in a child, and expand the child’s known horizons. Other books are mirrors of the child’s own experiences, and the child can relate to the struggle of the character in the story and see how that child solved his/her own problem.

Stories entertain, of course, but also help a child begin to navigate the dangerous waters of our human existence—our frailties, fears, and failures. Fairy tales are especially helpful in this task, as the villains are not real-life scary, but fairy-tale scary. The hero or heroine face impossible tasks, yet persevere, and prevail. One of my favorite books growing up was a Little Golden Book illustrated by Gustaf Tenngren —The Golden Goose. I went on to devour the complete illustrated Grimm’s Fairy Tale collection that belonged to my father. I am sure my early exposure to fairy tales and fairy tale illustrations led to my lifelong love of the genre. Longer picture book stories, both non-fiction and fiction (such as fairy tales), present more complex worlds and ideas, continue to enchant and inform older children, and contribute to visual literacy at a more sophisticated level.

About Ruth Sanderson

Ruth Sanderson’s children’s book career spans 40 years, with over 85 books for children, including illustrated fairy tale retellings such as The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Cinderella, Goldilocks, and Papa Gatto. Her illustrated version of The Golden Key, a Victorian fairy tale by George MacDonald, features over forty scratchboard illustrations. A Castle Full of Cats is her first humorous book in rhyme. Ruth is the co-director of the MFA in Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating offered during summer terms at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. She lives the rest of the year with her family in Massachusetts. Her website is www.ruthsanderson.com.

Literacy Activity
November 18 – Cats

“Literature takes us to places where we cannot go when inside a classroom, and additionally, through the use of illustrations and photographs picture books can show us places we are unable to go to ourseleves.” from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Play a game of Fact and Fiction. Read out loud fictional and factual information about cats. If the statement is fiction, students stay where they are. If it is factual, they step forward until all statements are given. Students who reach the finish line are the winners of the game.

Suggested reading
My Cat Jack by Patricia Casey
Max the Brave by Ed Vere
Gracie, the Lighthouse Cat by Ruth Brown
Keith the Cat with the Magic Hat by Sue Hendra
The Beckoning Cat by Koko Nishizuka and illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger

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 Bethany Hegedus

Picture books delight. They entertain. Reading a picture book, both the art and the words, is like a trip to an art exhibit or getting to attend a fabulous play, without ever leaving the library or the comfort of the couch. But these days, picture books also inspire. They showcase personalities who resisted, who persisted, who have not been featured in American history books before—or if they have made their way into textbooks and history classrooms—have not been portrayed in a fully rounded way.

The picture book biography is a form I didn’t have as a child. Maybe there were some in the 1970s and early 80s when I was in elementary school, but they were mostly fact sheets with photographs, and not the gorgeous art of Evan Turk, Erin McGuire, Christian Robinson, or Vanessa Newton. The factual aspect of nonfiction is important, but as I’m a children’s picture book biographer, what calls to me is capturing someone’s life, full of achievements and setbacks, full of stumbles and triumphs, and having that say to a child reader of today… “How will I shape the world? How does my life —right now—as a child—going to shape the rest of my days? And not only how can I make a difference, but how will I?”

Today’s readers need inspiration. They are hungry for stories of real people overcoming any and all odds. They want to read stories of survival where they can see themselves, and the challenges they are currently facing, challenges our country is currently facing, and know we will come out on the other side. Changed. Stronger. Still resisting. Still persisting.
Picture book biographies are conversation starters. What I write is nowhere near as important as what the child readers share with me when I am lucky enough to be in their presence. When I am blessed enough to get to listen to the continuing conversation–that all started in the pages of a picture book. 

About Bethany Hegedus
Bethany Hegedus’ books include the award-winning  Grandfather Gandhi and the newly released Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story, both co-written with Arun Gandhi, grandson to the Mahatma and illustrated by Evan Turk as well as the forthcoming Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird (Jan 2018).  The Grandfather Gandhi books join Bethany’s novels Truth with a Capital T and Between us Baxters in gracefully handling race, class and diversity issues.  A graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults, Bethany is prior editor of the literary journal Hunger Mountain. Bethany is the Owner and Creative Director of The Writing Barn, a writing retreat, workshop and event space in Austin, Texas. A former educator, Bethany speaks and teaches across the country.

Literacy Activity
November 17 – Family

“The very nature of reading a picture book invites conversations and questions that support students developing understanding of language and the world around them.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Ask students to collect family photos that show them when they were still babies until the present time. Create a family book with the photos as guide in telling their family story.

Suggested reading
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole
Emma’s Story by Deborah Hodge and illustrated by Song Nan Zhang
Here Comes Hortense! by Heather Hartt-Sussman and illustrated by Georgia Graham
A Chair for My Mother or Un Sillón Para Mi Mamá by Vera B. Williams
Families by Ann Morris

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.


Why Picture Books Are Important by Marcie Colleen

by Dianne on November 16, 2017

Why Picture Books Are Important by Marcie Colleen

A Picture Book is a Love Triangle.

A picture book provides the perfect trifecta of literary love between the child, the reader, and the book. It’s a connector. A meeting place.

Let me explain.

The child, perched on a lap or snuggling up under an arm for story time, watches and listens as favorite characters’ adventure across the pages. Each page turn holds excitement and suspense. Will Curious George deliver the newspapers in time? Where will Peter go on this snowy day? Will Frances eat the soft-boiled egg, or will she get her favorite bread and jam again?

The adult reader experiences the joy of being the lap in the equation, playing with character voices, vocal dynamics, and pacing. Each page contains a scene within a drama, ripe for performance, such as a begging pigeon who just wants to get behind the wheel or an old lady whispering “hush.”

And, lastly, the book, like the cherry atop a yummy dessert. The reason for the pause in a busy day, the connector between two loved ones, the last send-off before a goodnight kiss.

I have many childhood memories of story times with loved ones. As a nanny and as an aunt, I have known the literal warmth of sharing a book with a little. And now, as a picture book author, my book is providing the meeting place, the giggles, the memories someone else will cherish.

I guess you can say, it’s come full circle.

About Marcie Colleen
In previous chapters Marcie Colleen has been a teacher, an actress, and a nanny, but now she spends her days writing children’s books! She is the author of The Super Happy Party Bears chapter book series with Macmillan/Imprint and Love, Triangle, her debut picture book. She lives with her husband and their mischievous sock monkey in San Diego, California. Visit her at www.thisismarciecolleen.com or find her on Twitter: @MarcieColleen1.

Picture book illustrations serve as wonderful models of how shapes are used to create pictures.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Literacy Activity
November 16 – Shapes

Using different shapes that are cut out of varied kinds of paper, ask students to create their own “shapes people”. Imagine them as characters for a story. Have students describe each character’s hobbies and personalities. Pair students and create a dialogue or conversation between the shapes people.

Suggested reading
The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns
Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh
So Many Circles, So Many Squares by Tana Hoban
Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert
Flip-a Shape: Go! by SAMi

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.


Why Picture Books Are Important by Lori Richmond

by Dianne on November 15, 2017

Why Picture Books Are Important by Lori Richmond

Picture books are a young child’s first introduction to a wide range of styles in art and stories. Through picture books, children learn that there is no right or wrong way, but, rather, many different ways visuals and words can be interpreted to make stories. An elephant may be rendered with incredible realism in one book, and stylized in bold color and line art in another. An inanimate fruit or vegetable in one book may suddenly have arms, legs, and feelings in another. Words can rhyme, or not rhyme, and some stories don’t even need words at all. Children learn to let go of how things are “supposed” to be, and open their minds to an infinite range of possibilities.

I am fortunate to be raising my own children in New York City, where we have access to art museums and cultural institutions just a subway ride away. For children who live in areas without such access, picture books bring art museums to them. Pages in a picture book are like art displayed on a gallery wall—but this gallery, the child’s own gallery, is in their bedroom, on their laps, in their hands… ready to be delighted in and explored.

Perhaps the most rewarding thing about being an author-illustrator is seeing a child inspired to create their own work because of something they saw, heard, or felt in a book. This month, I hope that creativity is ignited in children everywhere as they wander and explore their favorite stories!

About Lori Richmond
Lori Richmond is a corporate creative director turned picture book maker. She is the author-illustrator of Pax and Blue, which was called a “sprightly debut” by The New York Times and selected for exhibition in the Society of Illustrators ‘Original Art’ show. She is also the author-illustrator of Bunny’s Staycation (coming soon), and the illustrator of several other picture books. Before her career in children’s publishing, Lori was a sought-after expert on all things baby and parenting as a contributing editor to leading pregnancy and parenting brand, The Bump. She has appeared on Today, Good Morning America, CNN, and more. Lori lives with her husband and two sons in Brooklyn, NY.

Literacy Activity
November 15 – Birds

“Picture books offer a narrative and humanization to several scientific concepts.”(from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

After reading a picture book about birds, go to the community park or the city garden. Do a nature walk with your students or your own kids. Talk about the things they see, hear, smell and feel. Observe and describe the sky, the weather and people’s activities in the park. When you and the class or your kids are back at school or at home, write down the experiences you all have had. Use complete sentences in writing the experience of a day at the park or garden.

Suggested reading
Little Green by Keith Baker
About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill and John Sill
Two Blue Jays by Anne Rockwell and Megan Halsey
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Riki’s Birdhouse by Monica Wellington

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.


Why Picture Books Are Important by Laura Krauss Melmed

In reflecting on why picture books are important I began to think of all the ways in which they have mattered to me and the life of my family. It all started when I was very young. Both my parents were great readers and books were a given in our household. While my father told great bedtime stories my mother and I shared a different special bond – that of delighting in picture books together. The seed planted then blossomed into a lifetime passion.

We owned a large library of Little Golden Books, small cardboard-bound books priced to be affordable to families of modest means like my own, sold in supermarket and drugstores. In these books, gifted authors and illustrators like Margaret Wise Brown, Garth Williams, Eloise Wilkin, and Tibor Gergely (whose name I loved!) drew me into simple stories of adventure or everyday family life. Regular visits to the public library resulted in hauling home a stash of larger format picture books whose words I listened to raptly while poring over the illustrations. My all-time favorite was Madeline because this feisty little girl who danced to her own drummer was someone I wanted to be. Recently asked to name a favorite from her childhood, my grown daughter picked Madeline for exactly the same reason!

As a graduate student in Early Childhood Education, I learned the importance and uses of quality literature in an early learning environment. New to me were books by Maurice Sendak, Charlotte Zolotow, Ezra Jack Keats and others that helped children to explore their own emotions and feel included in ways that hadn’t been put forth in picture books before. Sharing a book with a classroom full of enthusiastic kids is different from cuddling up with a book and your own child, but it is equally gratifying in its way (and something I continue to do as a visiting author and literacy tutor).

Flash forward a bunch of years to my husband and I as the parents of three young children. Now I could reproduce the warmth and wonder of parent and child sharing a read-aloud. My older son loved Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, the Carrot Seed, and anything about trucks, while my younger son asked to hear The Very Hungry Caterpillar almost every night. Now, looking back on why from the perspective of a grownup (and psychologist), he said: “Through its story and wonderful collage art, it gave vivid expression to feelings I was learning to manage myself, like joy, hunger, desire, illness (the caterpillar’s tummy ache) and the anticipation/anxiety of growing up into an adult… I remember always being surprised…by the caterpillar’s beautiful transformation into a butterfly. I can still hear my parents’ voices reading it to me.”

As a picture book author, it’s my hope that the words I write, which then take form in a book co-created with a supremely talented illustrator like Jing Jing Tsong, Henri Sorensen, or Frané Lessac, will provide meaning and joy to a child in this way. Such is the power of picture books, and why they are so important.

About Laura Krauss Melmed

Laura Krauss Melmed is the author of twenty fiction and nonfiction picture books for children, including the New York Times bestsellers, The Rainbabies and I Love You as Much. Her books have garnered many awards, including the ALA Notable Award; National Jewish Book Award; American Booksellers Association Pick of the Lists; Bologna International Book Fair Graphics Award: Best Book; CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book; Parent’s Choice Award; Oppenheim Gold Award; Publisher’s Weekly Flying Start; Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Master List; Best Book Working Mother Magazine; Best Book, Child Magazine; and Best Book, Denver Post. She holds an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education, and has been a kindergarten teacher. She is a past president of the Children’s Book Guild.

Laura’s work often explores the bond between parent and child. In her most recent book, Before We Met, sumptuously illustrated by Jing Jing Song, an expectant mommy tells of her hopes and dreams while waiting for her child to be born. Forthcoming in 2018 is Daddy, Me and the Magic Hour, in which a little boy and his father explore the delights of a summer twilight walk. Laura loves connecting with students and teachers face-to-face through school visits and writing workshops. She tutors with Reading Partners, a national organization committed to helping children find the key to literacy.

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

Literacy Activity
November 14 – Fathers

Father’s Day is months away but it is never too late nor too early to celebrate them. Think of the many awesome ways fathers are and can be. Have the class create a My Dad is Awesome list. From this list, guide students to make an appreciation card for their dads to bring home.

Suggested reading
Dad School by Rebecca Van Slyke
Beard In a Box by Bill Cotter
A Brave Bear by Sean Taylor
I’ll Never Let You Go by Smriti Prasadam-Halls
Rex by Simon James

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.


Why Picture Books Are Important by Donna Janell Bowman

As I was thinking about why picture books are important, I was tempted to reach for the studies that prove how reading picture books to a child plants the seed for lifelong reading, nurtures a sense of empathy and appreciation for otherness, and offers bite-sized views of the world. Or how picture books are an introduction to the symbiotic art of words and pictures. Or how picture books are read-aloud magic that can spark imaginations and conversations. Then a memory of my kids’ voices flashed through my mind: “Read it again, Mommy. Again and again.”

For both of my sons—ten years apart in age— I began reading to them while they were in utero, then every single day until they were old enough to read to me. I miss those days in the rocking chair or squished so closely into a twin bed that we seemed to share one pulse—heartbeats forever etched in time.

Like many parents, I have memento boxes for each of my kids that I hope they enjoy unpacking when they have their own families. Each is stuffed with their cutest childhood creations, locks of hair, scribbly writings, keepsakes. And something else, too—their favorite picture books. Interesting, that!
Surely, my reasons for hanging on to these stories (that even I had memorized) are selfishly nostalgic, right? Other than a few recordings of us reading together, time has likely blurred my kids’ memories of our nightly reading rituals. Or, maybe not. Recently, I helped my macho teenager update his bedroom, including culling his bookshelves. As the “Keep” stack dwindled and the “Give” stack grew, we came to a once-beloved, now worn picture book tucked into the very back of his shelf as if reaching back in time.

“Keep,” he said.

I suppose that sums it up, doesn’t it? Picture books never really leave us.

About Donna Janell Bowman
Donna Janell Bowman is the author of many books for young readers, including the award-winning picture book biography STEP RIGHT UP: HOW DOC AND JIM KEY TAUGHT THE WORLD ABOUT KINDNESS (Lee and Low, October 2016). Two additional picture book biographies are forthcoming: EN GARDE! ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S DUELING WORDS (Peachtree, spring 2018), and KING OF THE TIGHTROPE: THE GREAT BLONDIN (Peachtree, spring 2019). Donna has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and enjoys mentoring and teaching writers of all ages. She lives near Austin, Texas and is represented by Erin Murphy—Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Literacy Activity
November 13 – Kindness

“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)

As a class create a collage about kindness. Use the available art materials and as varied as possible: markers, crayons, colored pens and pencils, different kinds of paper, magazine and newspaper cutouts, felt cloth, clay and even recycled materials.

Suggested reading
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson and Fumi Kosaka
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
The Three Questions by Jon J Muth
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

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 Laura Rennert

by Dianne on November 12, 2017

Why Picture Books Are Important by Laura Rennert

I can trace my life in picture books.

From childhood; to reading to my little sister and brother; to a picture book I brought to college; to a German picture book that moved me even as I stumbled over the words; to a picture book that buoyed me in times of great sorrow; to sharing a beloved picture book with my own daughter and seeing her delight; to discovering the picture book I sold as an agent clasped in the hands of a child; to seeing a tousled boy dinosaur-roar with me as I read a picture book I had written; so many picture books.

Where the Wild Things Are; Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse; Owl Moon; Your Alien; Always Remember; Jorinda und Joringle; If I had a Little Dream; Olivia; Skippy Jon Jones; Strictly No Elephants …

Picture books awaken the imagination. They encourage our capacity for empathy. They lay down the building blocks not just for reading, but for parsing our experience – for creating stories that give life meaning. They invite curiosity and active engagement with the world. They begin to give us an emotional vocabulary for understanding the many facets of the self, at the same time that they evoke a shared experience and help us understand that we are not alone.

Picture books are a child’s first experience of the joys of reading and art – so fundamental to the way we as humans are wired and a part of the way we come to an understanding of who we are.

It feels to me that they are more important than ever. In our increasingly busy modern life, they are a precious social transaction. One of the most essential gifts of the picture book is the way it creates an intimate, active bond between listener and reader.

To me, picture books are a moment, a journey, a promise.

A life in words and pictures.

About Laura Rennert
Laura Rennert has been with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency since 1998. She specializes in all categories of children’s books, from picture books to YA, as well as literary-commercial fiction, thrillers, and psychological suspense/horror on the adult side. 

Laura’s work as an agent is enhanced by her familiarity with what it’s like on the author’s side of the table. She’s the author of a picture book, BUYING, TRAINING, AND CARING FOR YOUR DINOSAUR (Knopf/PRH), illustrated by Marc Brown, creator of Arthur; and of an illustrated chapter book, ROYAL PRINCESS ACADEMY: DRAGON DREAMS, illustrated by Melanie Florian (Dial/PRH). ?

Literacy Activity
November 12 – Books

“Picture books are wonderful tools for teaching story, key ideas, and details,
because of their simple linear plot lines and setting, with a highly few developed characters.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Make books! Team up students in pairs. One writes the story while the other illustrates. They can also begin by brainstorming ideas to write about and plan together for the book project. Provide steps and guides in the writing process and in the creation of the book. Handouts and worksheets can help as well as Learning Centers: brainstorming center, writing center (draft, feedback, revision and editing), publishing center. Have the book creators read their books aloud. Collect the student made books and add them up in your classroom library. After one academic year, consider donating the books to the school library.

Suggested readings
How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnette, illustrated by Adam Rex
I Am A Story by Dan Yaccarino
This Is My Book! by Mark Pett (and no one else)
Parsley Rabbit’s Book about Books by Frances Watts and David Legge
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

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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