I feel like a broken record lately. Always replying with the same answer as if I cannot think of anything else to say. Yet it is not because my brain is broken or because I do not know enough about teaching English. The truth is that when most people ask me how to teach something in reading or writing, my answer continues to be, “Have you tried a picture book?”
Picture books have become the foundation of the 7th grade English classroom that I am a part of. They are the ice breakers that provide us with the sense of belonging, the sense of community, the sense of wonder that should always surround books and literacy.
They are the life lines I give to students when their day is on the wrong track or they simply need a break.
They are the tool I use to teach close reading, to work through Notice and Note. They are our mentor texts for writing, for how to capture fickle audience and keep their attention while still going deep. They are the springboard into longer texts, the spark that gets us going.
They are the texts I reach for when I do intervention, allowing a child to not fear the text we will discuss so we can focus on the skills we need to work on. They are the texts that surround us when our brains are overwhelmed and we need to just take a moment to get into the groove of learning.
When a child speaks limited English, we reach for wordless books where they can practice inferring without being stumped by the language they are learning.
When a child does not understand what it means to analyze, we reach for familiar texts so we can get to the heart of the story.
Picture books disarm.
Picture books charm.
Picture books teach students that they can be successful readers with meaningful texts. That they can write serious pieces in short bursts. That there is no such thing as too old for a book. That the skills they need to develop can be found within the pages of something that looks like it is just for little kids but clearly is for all.
So when you enter our classroom you will see them beckoning to be read, to be shared, to be contemplated and to be used. You will feel the pull of the books as they call to you, begging you to be read. And so we do, and we grow, and we laugh, and we share these stories that mirror our own or bring us into a new world.
So why picture books? Because they have made the single biggest difference in the life of this teacher. Because my students no longer fear reading, nor can they hate it nearly as much. Because without them I would be constantly scrambling for a short text that we could read in our limited time together and still leave time for discussion.
Who would have thought that all of these things could be taught through the pages of a picture book?
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.