Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Picture Books Aren't Just For Little Kids Anymore

Although we traditionally think of picture books as the books for young children (and there certainly are a lot that fall into that category like Jon Scieszka's great Trucktown series or Jane Yolen's Good Night Little Bunny), there are also terrific picture books for older children.

Patricia Polacco's January's Sparrow is a good example of a picture book actually written for older readers (content wise).  This is not one you'd want to read with a preschool child.   Likewise, Brothers by Yin has a complex enough story to appeal to those who might traditionally be expected to read a chapter book.  Try When Jessie Came Across The Sea by Amy Hest, a story of immigration. 

I like removing those artificial barriers in reading.  We choose to read short and long books, complex and simple, as adults.  Why shouldn't we allow our children and young adults the same luxury?  Often the illustrations in these books are almost photographic or at least professional level art which adds to their appeal.  A few of my librarian friends have been wise enough to go so far as to rename their "easy" section.  They now call it the "everyone" section.


The American Library Association provides us with 10 reasons to use picture books with children of all ages.  I love what Anthony Browne, Children's Laureate 2009-2011 says,

Picture books are for everybody at any age, not books to be left behind as we grow older.  The best ones leave a tantalizing gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the reader's imagination, adding so much to the excitement of reading a book.

Literacy Connections, one of my favorite "noncommercial" literacy sites also shares insight into the effective use of picture books with struggling or challenged readers of all ages.


If any of you are in Huntsville, AL, or nearby, I hope you have purchased a ticket to the Children's Services and Youth Services breakfast, being sponsored as part of the AL Library Association Conference tomorrow morning at 8:00AM at the Von Braun Center.  Ginger Rue, children's author, will be joining me on the platform and you'll get two speakers within that two-hour window (plus a great breakfast).  Check with registration to see if there are any spots left!

In future blogs, I'll be sharing a few tidbits.

Using Picture Books with Adult Learners

Picture books can even be used effectively, if chosen with care, in adult literacy classes.   The fact that there are not so many words on each page can lessen the intimidation.  Even wordless or nearly wordless picture books can offer a bridge to book awareness for those who cannot read a word of English.  Books like Patricia Polacco's Thank You, Mr. Falker (did you know she struggled with reading?) and Maria Bradby's More Than Anything Else (a story of Booker T. Washington), can help struggling readers understand that they are not alone and that there is hope for them to become a reader too.  By visiting my website, you can also learn about a workshop (7th one listed) which teaches educators, librarians, or adult literacy instructors the details of an adaptation of traditional "picture walking" to build book awareness with ESOL/SLL families. 

Recommended Reading

Why not put picture books on your recommendation channel, whether you are a media specialist, a youth or children's librarian or even a librarian working in the adult collection?  Share these titles with your outreach staff so that they can keep them in mind for bookmobiles and adult literacy services in your community.

You can even find a picture book for every day of the school year, along with ideas for using picture books with elementary, middle and high school students, in my annotated list (in ebook form) entitled Powerful Picture Books:  180 Ideas for Promoting Content Learning. I also wrote an article for on the subject which you can access through this link.  Feel free to share this with your teacher friends as it specifically has some hints for them for instructional purposes.

One of my favorite picture books from the collection listed in Powerful Picture Books has to be The Book of Rhythms by Langston Hughes (did you know he wrote a picture books?)

In informally polling librarians about what they need from a blog, I understand there are a lot of book review blogs out there so I won't go there except to mention titles.  However, on one of those sites I did find an article entitled Fight Picture Book Burnout that I thought might be helpful.  Keep those suggestions about what YOU need coming and I'll address as many of those as I can in future posts.  Remember that I'm posting for children and young adult librarians here since my company, TLA, Inc., focuses on children's and family literacy.

What are your favorite picture books that fall in these "older readers" or "everyone" categories?  I'd love to have you share in comments here so we can all expand our lists.

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