being a teacher

Great Picture Books to Teach Advice and Theme (Words of the Wiser from Notice and Note)

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I am continuing with my updates of the picture book lists I made several years ago to accompany the teaching of a variety of reading skills. This time, the focus is on Words of the Wiser or that moment when a character, often older and/or wiser, gives the main character sage advice. This advice directly speaks to the theme, the conflicts of the story, as well as character changes.

When I first started out teaching this skill, I was inspired by the language of  Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst.  This book provided my students with the foundation for deeper reading conversations and a common language as we developed our thoughts and discussion skills.

I have updated four other lists so far. Here are my updated lists for Symbols (Again and again), Internal Conflict (Tough Questions),  Character Change (Contrast & Contradictions), and for Flashbacks (Memory Moments).

So if you need to teach this critical reading skill, why not start with a picture book as a mentor text. Then you can offer up other picture books for students to see if they can discover it and then discuss the meaning.

Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina and illustrated by Angela Dominguez – Abuela advises Mia on the importance of communication, patience, and love while learning English.

The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros and illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte: Grandpa tells James that memories are like balloons that he carries with him.

The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang and illustrated by Khoa Lee – The grandmother advises her granddaughter on the importance of family, memories, and finding beauty in everyday objects.

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita – Aidan’s mother advises him to be patient and loving towards his new sibling, and embrace his own identity and expression.

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld The rabbit advises Taylor to listen and be there for others when they are sad.

A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker – The old man advises Sascha to let go of her grief and see the beauty in the world.

The Couch Potato by Jory John and Pete Oswald – The wise old avocado encourages the couch potato to get up and try new things.

The Good Egg by Jory John and Pete Oswald – The wise old owl tells the good egg that it’s important to take care of yourself before taking care of others.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead- The animals remind Amos of the importance of kindness and taking care of others.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o and illustrated by Vashti Harrison – Sulwe’s mother advises her to see her inner beauty.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui- The father advises his son on the importance of hard work and sacrifice, and shares memories of his homeland.

Freedom Soup by Tami Charles and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara – The grandmother advises her granddaughter on the history and cultural significance of their Haitian soup recipe.

Drawn Together by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat- The grandfather advises his grandson to use art to bridge their language and cultural barriers.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Jen Hill- The teacher advises her student to always choose kindness towards others.

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora – Omu’s neighbors advise her to share her delicious stew with the community.

Jabari Jumps” by Gaia Cornwall – Jabari’s father advises him to conquer his fears with courage and determination.

A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated Noah Z. Jones – Ruben’s mother advises him to be grateful for what he has and to save up for a new bike.

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad and illustrated by Hatem Aly – Asiya’s mother advises her to be proud of her hijab.

Let the Children March” by Monica Clark-Robinson and illustrated by Frank Morrison – The parents advise their children to stand up for what is right.

The Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson – CJ’s grandmother advises him to see the beauty in the world around him.

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero and illustrated by Zeke Peña – Daisy’s father advises her to remember her roots as they ride through their neighborhood.

The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by John Parra – Ethel’s father advises her to use her voice to speak up for what is right.

Titles shared previously:

What Are your Words?  A Book About Pronouns by Katherine Locke and illustrated by Anne Passchier.  Ari’s uncle Lior gives some great advice when it comes to choosing his pronouns.

The Boy and the Giant by David Litchfield 

Grandpa gives Billy good advice when he professes he is scared of the giant.

Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls 

The aha moment is mixed in with words of the wiser from Emmanuel’s mother and is embedded into the story.  This is a good book to use when it may not be as obvious.

Great wisdom from the mother bat to the baby as he prepares to take off into the night in Ari Berk and Loren Long’s Nightsong.

Who says giraffes can’t dance?  Thankfully some wisdom is given in Giraffe’s Can’t Dance by Giles Andrede

Because what we know first will always help us in our lives, I love What You Know First by Patricia MacLachlan.

I have had a Peter H. Reynolds book on every list so far, I am pretty sure you can teach all 6 signposts using his books.  The North Star will always be one of my favorites. The Dot is another great one.

Ish also by Peter H. Reynolds also has great wisdom.

Many of Patricia Polacco’s books can be used for words of the wiser, here I chose Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece.

Zero by Kathryn Otoshi is a picture book that can be used for many things, teaching words of the wiser is definitely one of them.

When the students wonder when they will finally get tall, this is a great book to pull out You’ll Grow Soon, Alex by Andrea Shavick and Russell Ayto has great wisdom.

Our Gracie Aunt by Jacqueline Woodson is the book I am using with my students to teach the strategy.  It is a beautiful story that will start discussion in our classroom for sure.  Each Kindness also by Woodson is another amazing example.  In fact, many of her books can be used for this strategy.

I love stories about following your dreams and Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen fits the mold.

The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock is a beautiful reminder to follow your dreams.

I know there are so many more out there, please leave your favorites in the comments.

PS: Are you looking for coaching, in-person support, or virtual presentations? I am available and would love to support your work. Whereas I am physically located in Denmark now, I can travel if needed. In fact, I was just in North America in February 2023 and plan on bouncing back and forth.  If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help. For a lot more posts, resources, live and recorded professional development, please join my Patreon community where most of my sharing takes place these days.

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