I’m thrilled, as part of Picture Book Month, to host Educational Consultant, Marcie Colleen. Marcie is not only a teacher but also a picture book writer who so understands the importance of picture books in the education and lives of kids.
Today, she stopped by to answer a few of my most pressing picture book questions.
1. What would you say to a parent who insists that his/her young child is too old or too advanced a reader for picture books?
Ah, yes. We are so focused these days on reading levels and the like. Of course, some parent might have objections. However, the Common Core State Standards stress reading a variety of text across many genres, while also analyzing the audience the book was written for and who authored the book. So, when you look at it that way, students can become very savvy readers when studying varying texts with a similar theme.
For example, when I taught 7th grade English Language Arts, we read The Diary of Anne Frank and had an entire curriculum about the Holocaust. I also introduced Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches to the class which has a strong theme of prejudice and discrimination. We not only discussed the plot and issues of The Sneetches, but analyzed Dr. Seuss’ inspiration for the story, as well as his intended audience and approach to such a topic, looping it back to The Diary of Anne Frank and other texts about anti-Semitism.
That’s a long-winded answer, but our students should be introduced to the written word across many genres to inform their skills are readers. Newspapers, magazines, internet blogs, encyclopedias, interviews, diaries, letters, fiction novels, etc. And yes, picture books.
2. What would you say to a young child who says that he/she is too old or too advanced a reader for picture books?
Great question. A child who is in 1st or 3rd grade fights so hard to be older. They might perceive these books as babyish. Also, adults are sometimes guilty of trying to push kids when it comes to reading level.
When confronted with this issue, I like to empower the student. Tell them you understand that these books might seem too young for them, but you want them to look at the book in a different way. Is there anything they find/see/hear in the book that a baby wouldn’t? Maybe start with the illustrations. Maybe one word that might be difficult. Find a jumping off point that is intriguing for an older kid.
Good stories have layers. I challenge them to be a detective and find the “older kid layers” in every picture book.
I used picture books a lot when I taught high school many years ago. It was a tough inner-city school. And yes, in the beginning of the year, when I would stand at the front of the room holding a picture book students would complain. “Man, that’s for babies!” Laughter would erupt. That’s when I would play a little game with them. I would open up the book and read the first page or two as engagingly as possible. And then pretend to have a realization that the book was too babyish and suddenly shut the book. I’d say, “You know what, you are right. This is for babies. Open your text books.” Complaints would ring out—different complaints this time. “No, Miss! Keep reading!” After a few moments of letting them beg, I would start again. And you could hear a pin drop.
After a while, my classes had grown to appreciate picture books and this game was no longer needed. The students loved hearing stories that they read as kids, or that they had read to their younger siblings. They loved feeling a tad superior to the text, knowing that they would be able to comprehend it because it was for younger students. And they loved analyzing it.
But the best part was that for those precious moments that I read aloud, even the most difficult, tough-acting students became 4 again.
3. With a full curriculum, an extra-long work day and the ever-present cloud of standardized testing, how/why would you convince a busy teacher to incorporate more fiction picture books into her class plan?
All of the elements of good story writing/telling are within a picture book. A reader can be introduced to full characters, intriguing plot and conflict and an engaging world within only a few shorts minutes. Therefore, picture books offer the beauty of story in smaller, more manageable pieces.
Picture books can serve as springboards for further instruction and research. And they also build listening skills and oral comprehension, as the story is read aloud.
And sometimes this happens….
“Hey, Miss! I was reading this story to my little brother last night and it so has to do with discrimination. I mean, how the rabbit is treated by the other rabbits. It’s crazy! I think we should talk about it in class.”
The student handed me the book and I asked him to read to the class. He did. And then we incorporated it into our curriculum. Now that’s education. That’s building a lifelong reader and learner.
So, I would challenge the teacher to pick one picture book to start. Use the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide for ideas on how to incorporate it into the existing curriculum. If it is successful, choose another picture book for the next unit.
4. What are a few fun and simple learning activities parents can incorporate into their at-home, picture book read aloud time?
Discussion. Instead of just reading the text on the page, guide the children through the story. Ask questions along the way. (Why do you think the character did that? How is he/she feeling? What do you think they will do next? Do you think that is a good idea? What would you do?)
Look for details in the illustrations. Using your five senses, how does it smell/sound/taste/feel/look in this world? Read the body language/facial expressions of the characters. How do they feel? How can you tell?
Through this kind of reading, parents will help develop their children’s comprehension and analytical skills for text and art.
5. What is your all-time, favorite and fun learning activity base on a fiction picture book?
As a writer, I love activities that allow for exploration of internal thoughts, “offstage” action and change of point of view. As an actress/director, I love activities that bring the world to life and get students up on their feet, playing within the story. But it’s is really hard to pick one activity. So I am going to cheat and tell your readers to check out the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide which includes many activities for ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies classrooms. Also, check out the samples from my other Teacher’s Guides at www.thisismarciecolleen.com.
Read more about picture books in education in all of Marcie’s Blog Tour Interviews:
Thurs Nov 7
Mon Nov 11
Wed Nov 13
Wed Nov 20
Mon Nov 25
Wed Dec 4
And for an added treat, check out her interview on Rosanne Kurstedt’s blog!
Thanks for stopping by, Marcie.
Finally, if you’d like to see all the fun ways you can use my books in the classroom or for activities you can try at home, please check out my FREE Teacher’s Guides which are linked to learning standards. They’re all right here!!