Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Picture books are for everyone - sharing and celebrating with all readers

Picture books have a wonderful way of drawing children into their stories. Children of all ages love listening to stories read aloud, looking at pictures, reading picture books themselves or with their parents. Some parents might think that kids grow out of picture books, but I really see 13 and 14 year olds loving picture books as much as 6 and 7 year olds.

“Picture books are the connective tissue between a parent and a child. …you stop everything, snuggle up on the couch or the floor and share a story.” – John Rocco, 2012 Caldecott Honor Winner, from his Picture Book Month essay

This month marks the 2nd annual Picture Book Month. Cosponsored by many national literacy organizations, this celebration has caught the imagination of schools, libraries, booksellers, and book lovers across the globe as they come together to celebrate the print picture book. Read more about how librarians across the country are celebrating in this School Library Journal article.

At our school, we are taking time to focus on reading picture books with our older readers in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade. So often by the time kids become proficient readers around 3rd grade, they feel that they've moved beyond picture books. But there are powerful, moving picture books just right for these older students.

We are reading the California Young Reader Medal nominees for picture books for older readers with our 3rd graders They are having fun participating in an election where their vote counts. So far, they have loved reading Marissa Moss's Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero and Brian Dennis's Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle. We're talking about what makes a good picture book for older readers - not just illustrations, but how the illustrations and book design add to the story, creating movement, emotion and interest. We've talked about character development and story tension - all elements they're looking for in good stories, no matter the length.

We are focusing on Jacqueline Woodson's amazing picture books with our 4th and 5th graders. My students are completely drawn into her stories, appreciating the language, character development and emotions. I'm also really appreciating how many elements of the Common Core State Standards can be incorporated into these discussions.

For example, when we read Visiting Day, students were able to practice referring to specific details in the text and illustrations as they inferred that Maya's father was in prison (a fact the text does not explicitly state). Because of their spare language, picture books often require readers to infer meaning. We practice these skills with a meaningful picture book as a group, and then we can talk about them in reading workshop conferences one on one with students as they apply these skills to longer books they're reading.

What picture books do you like to read with your children? Do you find that your older children still enjoy reading picture books? How has their taste changed as they have gotten older?

I'm looking forward to visiting the Picture Book Month website throughout the month of November. Each day will feature a new essay by a range of amazing authors, illustrators and librarians. As founder Dianne de Las Casas said, “Not only are picture books alive and well, they are thriving. Picture books are not just an early childhood step to literacy, they are little pieces of emotion and childhood wrapped in a beautiful, page-turning package. November is Picture Book Month. Read * Share * Celebrate!”

The books shared here are from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. Thanks for making the case for using picture books with older readers. I am passionate about this subject and will be speaking at the Literacy For All Conference on this subject next week....and I might just use "Because of their spare language, picture books often require readers to infer meaning."
    Continue spreading the good word about picture books!

  2. I remember being in the 2nd grade and the teacher was attempting to get me to advance to upper level reader books. I was very resistant and did not want to read those upper level reader-books because they had no pictures. The beginning level books had lots of pictures, which I seemed to like. I recall her using peer pressure telling me most of the class were on the "red" and "purple" books and I was still on the "yellow" one. I liked the beginning books of the particular reading program that the elementary school had. I stalled the entire year, only to advance when I moved to the 3rd grade. I still have fond memories of those books.