I believe that the correct picture book can address and illuminate all manner of educational learning standards and goals. The language arts may be the most obvious connection for the study of picture books by mature readers, yet the appropriate picture book may also easily direct studies of math, science, history, social studies and geography as well.
How can you find the right picture book? Here are some suggestions:
- Select books based on the strength of their artistic style. In my art-room era, I selected picture books with strong graphics and design as well as those with vivid color, all of which lent themselves to study and interpretation by my students. The dramatic simplicity of Gerald McDermott’s art was always a hit with my upper elementary students.
- Search for picture books with a possibility of launching student discussion and creating writing exercises.
- Select picture books with an eye toward suitability/universality of subject matter comparing good vs. evil, right vs. wrong. These would make excellent source material to consider issues of bullying and diversity.
I’ll never forget the teacher who purchased my picture book, You’re Wonderful, for her eighth grade class. When I raised my eyebrow at the suitability of a picture book for mature junior high students, she quickly responded, “There is no shelf-life for issues of self-esteem. If ever there was a message I want my tween-agers to hear it is the text of your book.”
She went on to explain to me how in her role as math teacher she would have her students examine the geometry in my quilted illustrations. She shared scads of exciting projects that were unfurling in her mind as we shared possibilities. That’s when I realized the power of an enthusiastic teacher. There is potential everywhere.
Whether you infuse your week with the work of household names such as Patricia Polacco and Jane Yolen or reach for the work of Lynn Cherry, Paul Goble, Margaret Hodges, Jerdine Nolen, Joyce Carol Thomas or the lesser known Debbie Clement, you have the opportunity to infuse your ‘academic’ subjects with the Arts. Weaving together lessons to engage all learning styles and intelligence strengths will be certain to fortify the fabric of your classroom.