Sharing Our Love of Picture Books by Katherine Sokolowski
It was this photo that started it. Nine weeks ago I looked up from a reading conference with a student and saw this, took the photo, and posted it to Facebook and Instagram.
It really wouldn’t be an unusual sight in my classroom of fifth graders. When we have independent work time, kids read and write what they would like. At any given time you might see some students writing a blog, others working on a presentation, some reading from their independent books, some talking to each other about their reading, and many kids reading picture books. I pop around, child to child, and talk to them about their reading and writing. It is one of my favorite parts of the day.
This photo, however, inspired Jennifer Shettel to contact me. Jennifer is an Associate Professor at a university in Pennsylvania. She wanted me to share with her class of students – students who are studying to become teachers – the power of picture books. She asked if I could share how my students interact with these texts and what their feelings are about this format. Since her class meets during the day, I figured I’d have the “experts” talk to these college kids, my students.
We began by brainstorming what my students like about picture books in the format of a chart. I teach three classes of fifth graders a day, but this way all three classes would get to have a “say” in what we shared. Here is what the kids came up with:
And then we began our Skype. I started by sharing some picture books I have read to my fifth graders this year and explained what concept I used the book to teach. These are the books we shared:
The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake – to discuss where we get ideas for stories and the problems with censorship.
A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins – to talk about how parts of a book work together as a whole. We also used this book to write a literary essay.
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig – to teach reflection of our character and how we need to think of others.
More Parts by Ted Arnold – to teach idioms.
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall – to teach about how we label others and how we tend to be happier when we are just ourselves.
The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman – to teach story elements and begin a discussion on what it means to be brave.
My Teacher is a Monster. No I’m Not! by Peter Brown – to teach connection.
After sharing these titles and feeling confident that Jennifer’s students saw the education value of picture books, I turned the Skype over to my students. Now it was up to them to teach the emotional value of picture books – why are they so important to these kids? Here were the ten reasons they shared:
Our Top Ten Reasons We Love Picture Books
- Picture books are amazing because they bring us laughter and make us remember when we were younger.
- Picture books are amazing because they help us to be creative.
- Picture books are amazing because they give us a break and a chance to relax from reading chapter books.
- Picture books are amazing because they are entertaining and don’t have as many rules to follow as chapter books.
- Picture books are amazing because they allow all of us to feel the joy of reading.
- Picture books are amazing because they teach us. Just because they are short doesn’t mean they can’t teach us a lesson.
- Picture books are amazing because they help us learn lessons through them and then we can turn and apply them to our own reading.
- Picture books are amazing because they open up the whole world to us in a short text that we can gather around and share together.
- Picture books have no age limits. (This one is supposed to be said with enthusiasm.)
By the time they were done, I was pretty moved and proud of my students. We ended the visit with a question and answer session – my students asking these big kids what they’ve read, Jennifer’s students asking mine what they felt was important in a teacher. It was powerful.
As the students left the carpet and moved off to read and write, I smiled. So many pockets of the room held several students, circled around a picture book in one student’s lap, others pointing out a favorite illustration, a favorite phrase. These “big kids” of mine know what many adults have forgotten; picture books are for everyone. They make reading fun. They are the perfect text for any situation.
In our classroom you will find students reading a wide variety of formats on any given day: novels, poetry, narrative non-fiction, informational texts, graphic novels, novels in verse, web comics, magazines, and picture books. All reading has value just as all of my readers have value. I’m so glad they got to share their opinions and their story with Jennifer’s class, and now, with you.
Katherine Sokolowski has taught for fifteen years and currently teaches fifth grade in Monticello, Illinois. She is passionate about reading both in her classroom and also with her two sons. You can find her online at http://readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com/ and on Twitter as @katsok.