It’s Picture Book Month! Today we have a special guest, Marcie Collen. I met her via the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge. She is a former teacher and totally gets what picture books should/should not be to engage children. She is currently the Education Consultant for Picture Book Month and has created an excellent teacher’s guide called Why Picture Books Belong in the Classroom. I highly recommend reading it and passing it along to others.
Enjoy the interview!
Q1. What type of picture books do you recommend for use in classrooms where English is second language?
Picture books are actually a wonderful tool for the ESL classroom or foreign language classroom because the illustrations aid in comprehension. Look for books that have vivid illustrations and minimal text. And building visual literacy does not end there. When a picture book includes a word that kids might be unfamiliar with, I always ask them to look at the illustration in addition to the textual context to help determine the meaning.
Q2. How can 3rd to 5th grade teachers use picture books in the classroom?
When choosing picture books for the 3rd to 5th grade classroom, teachers should look for themes and issues within the book that fit into their curriculum. Although picture books are considered suitable for younger grades, many are layered with meaning and universal truths for all ages.
Additionally, picture books can serve as “mentor texts” for teaching writing. With concise plot lines, fully developed characters, intriguing conflict and satisfying resolutions, picture books are complete stories in compact form. For further information about mentor text, see Marcie Atkin’s website.
Do you have any favorites or book recommendations for this age range?
THE CATS OF KRASINSKI SQUARE by Karen Hesse or THE OTHER SIDE by Jacqueline Woodson.
Q3. As writers we understand story is the most important. But what additional value-add items can a writer put in making it more appealing for use in a KG & 1st grade classroom?
Tell your story. Do not worry about adding elements that will make your story classroom-applicable. A good teacher will be able to pull educational value out of your book. A School and Library Promotions Department at your publishing house will be able to market your book to schools. A good Teacher’s Guide can provide teachers with validation to introduce your book to their classroom. However, all of that comes after your book is written. Focus on being the best writer you can be. Let the teachers teach.
Q4. What types of books are most appealing for pre-school classrooms?
Books that are highly visual, low word count, and even silly are very popular in the preschool classroom. But do not be deceived by the simple nature of these books. A whole unit can be developed around The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and focusing on Science and Nutrition.
Q5. Books for toddlers are highly visual and low on wordcount. Any tips for writers who do not illustrate that are trying to write for this age range?
Yes, publishers are asking for low word count, meaning less than 500 and sometimes closer to 300 words. But even with younger children, do not underestimate the value of story. Learn the tricks of the trade for strong word choice. Study other picture books for this age group. Do a search on Amazon by age level. Visit your local library and talk to the librarian about what toddlers are reading. Spend time with toddlers. Connect with your inner toddler. Remember what it is like when you were a toddler. And then write your story. Ann Whitford Paul’s Writing Picture Books is a great resource for anyone interested in writing for this age group.
Learn more about writing and using picture books in the classroom at other blog tour stops!
In previous chapters Marcie Colleen has been a teacher and a theatre educator, but now she splits her days between chasing the Picture Book Writer dream and chasing toddlers on the playground as a nanny. Both are equally glamorous! Her blog, The Write Routine and her Teacher’s Guides, can be found at www.thisismarciecolleen.com. She lives with her fiancé and their mischievous sock monkey in Brooklyn, NYC.