Monday, November 14, 2011

Picture Book Month

The whole month of November has been dedicated to celebrating picture books! Did you know? If not, that's ok - Picture Book Month is a brand new international initiative to designate November as picture book month and encourage people to celebrate literacy through picture books! This initiative was founded by a group of writers and illustrators, including Diane de Las Casas and Katie Davis, who believe that "in this digital age where people are predicting the coming death of print books, picture books (the print kind) need love. And the world needs picture books. There’s nothing like the physical page turn of a beautifully crafted picture book." with daily posts by some really impressive authors and/or illustrators of this art form.

The rhythm and tones, the delight and humor, the imagery and beauty that can be found in children's books are just a few reasons why I have found picture books to be integral tools I can use to bring language alive for my students. Whether teaching rhyming in Kindergarten or use of metaphors to make a story more interesting in 4th & 5th grade, I have found an abundance of quality children's literature out there to support my instruction.

When I moved from the kindergarten classroom to my current position as a fourth/fifth grade teacher, I knew that I didn't want to leave picture books behind. There would be opportunities to use picture books in powerful ways across my teaching day. Vacca & Vacca state in Content Area Reading:Literacy and Learning Across the Curriculum that a picture book "has the potential to act as a magnifying glass that enlarges and enhances the reader's personal interactions with a subject" ( 2005, p. 161). So true! They are a quick and convenient way to help older students activate their prior knowledge. There is a new focus on picture books that deliver difficult content in simple language. Contemporary picture books explore issues such as homelessness, war, drugs, death, violence, racism, and divorce. Using picture books as mentor texts for student writing is another way I have found to use them, as they contain vivid language and a variety of text structures. The beauty of using picture books in the upper grades (and I believe in middle and high school too) is that they can be read aloud in a few minutes and provide students with information connected to the concept or skill being introduced. They can be used for increasing fluency and expanding students' vocabularies. Picture books can be used to help differentiate instruction and make learning more fun and interactive for students of all ages. Really the possibilities are endless!

Visit the Picture Book Month website to read fantastic essays about the importance of picture books written by an amazing group of authors & illustrators.  You can also follow the posts on Twitter by following the hashtag #picturebookmonth.

A fun conversation starter in our building this month has been this bulletin board of our staff members favorite picture books! Thanks to my friend @mrschureads for the idea~