I love to use picture books to teach theme. To be perfectly honest, I love to use picture books for teaching EVERY reading skill. They are often the foundation of what I do when teaching theme for my students. They are memorable, easy to digest in one sitting, funny, easily accessible, and suitable for all reading levels.
They are short.
I absolutely love to read novels to my kids. I love how I can weave so many reading skills into a novel. I love how we can do so many other side activities with our novel. And I also love to be able to let my kids just relax and enjoy a good book. The problem? They take so. stinkin’. long. With picture books, they are short, sweet, and to the point. You can crank out several in a week. You can give your students multiple opportunities to practice a particular reading skill.
I think a healthy balance of novels, picture books, and reading passages are critical for allowing students to be able to generalize skills throughout many aspects of reading comprehension.
They are funny.
Maybe it’s just MY personal reading style, but I love the humor that is inside so many great picture books. Creepy Carrots? My 5th graders loved it. The Book with No Pictures. They loved it! Bedhead. It was easy to relate to and absolutely hilarious.
So many of our kids can be engaged with just a little bit of humor.
They are memorable.
I don’t care who you are, you probably have a favorite picture book. You probably have some books that you remember. Maybe it was the first picture book that you remember reading by yourself. Maybe it was a series of picture books that you always loved. Maybe you remember a book that one of your favorite teachers loved, and therefore, you loved it too. Whatever the reason, there has to be a picture book that you remember.
They appeal to many reading abilities.
If a picture book is well chosen, it will appeal to many reading abilities. I am 31 years old and still love a great picture book. My lowest level students, who are identified for special education services, they love a good picture book. Your gifted student in class will also enjoy a well written picture book.
Since I am usually using the book to teach a skill, I am reading the text aloud. You don’t have to be the highest reader in the class to follow the comprehension skill. By reading it aloud, I am removing the barrier for many of my students.
They are easily accessible.
Between my personal collection, the public library, my school’s library, teacher friends, and Amazon, I can always find a picture book to fit my needs. Since I have young kids at home, we often take a library trip each Monday. I grab usually 10-12 books that I think might work for next week’s skill. When I take them home to read them, I am often able to weed out several books that just don’t fit what I am wanting.
If I have one that I really love and I can’t think about not being able to use or remember it the following year, I order it on Amazon.
Also, a simple and helpful tip that I got from a friend of mine years ago–Create a Google Sheet with all of the picture books that you own and use for teaching reading, writing, or other skills. Then, you can sort it by different reading skills when you are looking for something. I also love to use this when I’m at a conference, garage sale, or book store. I know if I already own it.
For ideas on picture books to use to teach theme, take a look at my blog post 12 Mentor Texts Your Students Will Love for Teaching Theme.