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M A G I C O F P I C T U R E B O O K S BUILDING BLOCKS FOR LITERACY. Program Design for Children Sya VanGeest.

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Program Design for Children

Sya VanGeest


“Educators today, … agree that all students benefit from opportunities to read and respond to a wide variety of literature. Yes, contrary to popular belief, older students can and do learn from picture books!”

(Forte & Schurr 1995)

n u r t u r e a r e a d e r nurture a sapling

The child growing up in an environment brimming with books, magazines, and newspapers,

- seeing and hearing a parent read,

- owning a library card

- that child will have far higher scores than will the child raised in a print vacuum.

Dr. G. Kylene Beers

promote reading for fun
Promote Reading for Fun

If we teach children how to read, but none of them want to, have we done our job?Steven Layne. Life’s Literacy Lessons(IRA2001)

the power of reading
The Power of Reading

Those who don’t read

have no advantage over those who can’t” Mark Twain

If we encounter a man of rare intellect,

we should ask him what books he reads. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Once you learn to read

You will be forever free .

Frederick Douglas. Abolitionist Leader. (ALA poster)

Literature is my Utopia.

Helen Keller

what makes a great picture book
Tells a good story

It’s accurate in time & place

Shapes real characters

It is engaging

Touches the heart

Stimulates thought

It’s appropriate for audience

It’s fun

Stirs the imagination

Pictures enrich the text

Energized by strong words

Explores eternal verities

It is inviting

It’s free from errors

Uses language rich in metaphor and description

Tells a dual story – in text and pictures

Whatmakesagreatpicturebook ?
how do we get children to read
How Do We Get Children To Read?

The literacy “platforms” are really pretty funny when you think about it. If there were one best way, don’t you think we would have found it by now?

Steven L. LayneLife’s Literacy Lessons(IRA2001)

u se p icture b ooks t o
  • Introduce a lesson / unit
  • Teach content
  • Teach reading & writing strategies/skills
  • Study point-of-view, bias
  • Explore a theme
  • Shape for ear: storytelling
  • Compliment your subject
  • Stimulate critical thinking
  • Conclude a lesson / unit
  • As model for product
  • . . . .

Picture books speak to the heart!!!!

types of readers dr g kylene beers
Types of Readers, Dr. G. Kylene Beers

What type of reader are you?

TheAvid Reader

The Dormant Reader

The Unmotivated Reader

The Uncommitted Reader

The Unskilled Reader

School Library Journal (Jan / Feb 1996)


Using Picture Books as “Mental Sets” for lessons

“A successful introduction to a lesson , which establishes a positive mental set, makes it far easier to sustain learning as the lesson unfolds.” (Kyriacou 1998)



  • A Good Mental Set Should . . .
  • Link to past learning/ prior knowledge
  • Actively involve students
  • Relate to lesson objective

Example: Lesson about children’s rights - Students, in pairs, come up with two rights they feel all children should have. - Read A Carpet Boy’s Gift by Pegi Deitz Shea. - Discuss which of the brainstormed rights Nadeem and Amina did not have. Is this fair?


Using Picture Books to Explicitly Teach Reading Comprehension Strategies


*making connections

Text to World

Text to Text

Text to Self



  • Making Inferences
  • Visualization


  • writing prompts
  • literary devices
  • punctuation
  • main ideas
  • sequencing of ideas
  • elements of fiction






  • Writing a Persuasive Piece
character ed guidance
Character Ed - Guidance

Asking the Big questions of Life

  • Do real men cry?
  • How do we honour personality traits?
  • What do we do with our anger / disappointment?
  • How do we deal with our fears?
  • What is courage?

Cross Curricular

  • biographies




  • Storytelling: Picture Books to Shape for the Ear

Cross Curricular

  • points of view and bias

The Power and Beauty of Picture Books As a Genre for Student Writing:

Addresses all strands of Language Arts:

Reading, Writing, Oral Communication & Media Studies

Follow a step-by-step process

See “Analyzing and Creating Picture Books”

(Power Point and other support material)

a s tep by s tep p rocess
  • Divided into sixparts
    • Record due dates for each part.
    • Assess and evaluate each part

FIRST: Analyzequalities of goodpicture books

SECOND: Planproposalfor your own creation

THIRD: Writefirst draftof your story

FOURTH: Constructstoryboard

FIFTH: Createfinalgood copy

SIXTH: Presentto a children’s audience

building a collection
Building a Collection

Read and studymany picture books

  • Consider award-winning books
    • Blue Spruce Award
    • Caldecott
    • Governor General’s Award
    • First Choice
  • Examine their characteristic and qualities
  • What is great about these books?
    • The wonder of the story?
    • The beauty of the words?
    • The power of the art?
    • The enticement of the packaging?
b lue s pruce

2008 (winner determined by children - spring 2008 from nominated list)

2007 Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt.

2006 The Boy who Loved Bananas by Andrej Krystoforski

2005 Drumheller Dinosaur Dance by Robert Heidbreder. Illus by Bill Slavin and Esperança Melo

2004 Stanley's Party. Linda Bailey. Illus by Bill Slavin

2003 Z is for Zamboni. Matt Napier. Illustrated by Melanie Rose.

2002 When Pigs Fly. Valerie Coulman and illustrated by Roge.


  • Blue Spruce Award™ Archive: Annual Award Winners and Award Nominees
  • BEST BETS, an annual list of Canadian literature
  • Canada's major national literary awards
  • Canadian Children's Literature: Award-Winning Books

Works Cited

Forte, Imogene and Sandra Schurr. Using Favourite PictureBooks to Stimulate Discussion and Encourage Critical Thinking. Nashville: Incentive Publications, 1995.

Kurstedt, Rosanne and Maria Koutras. Teaching Writing With Picture Books as Models. Toronto: Scholastic, 2000.

Kyriacou, Chris. Essential Teaching Skills, 2nd Ed. United Kingdom: Nelson Thornes, 1998.OLA.


Polette, Nancy J. and Joan Ebbesmeyer. Literature Lures: UsingPicture Books to Motivate Middle School Readers. London: Teacher Ideas, 2002.


Additional Resources Posted on

OLA’s Super Conference Website 2008

  • Analyzing and Creating Picture Books - .ppt
  • Student Picture Book Assignment
  • Picture Books to Shape for Telling - .ppt
  • Selected Picture book bibliographies by topic
contact us

Contact Us

There is a no frigate like a book

To take us lands away,

Nor any coursers like a page

Of prancing poetry.

This traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of toll;

How frugal is the chariot

That bears a human soul!Emily Dickinson