While I’m a far cry from a Newbery, once a year, I’ve gotten into the habit of writing a picture book for my nephew Knox. My goal is to keep the eight-year-old excited about reading, because what little boy doesn’t want to read a book about himself?

For the purposes of this article about using picture books in instruction, I invite you to listen as I read aloud to you The Great PunkaKnox.

When I was in school, my teacher would have read the book out loud and asked us questions to test our comprehension, such as:

Q) Who did Knox live with? A) His aunt and uncle. Q) What color was Knox’s pumpkin? A) Green. Q) What animal visited Knox’s pumpkin? A) A fox.

A slightly more sophisticated question might be:

Q) Who is the narrator of the book? A) The pumpkin.

In “old school” school, teachers would pass along information; students would listen, memorize, and regurgitate. Fast-forward (yes, a 1980’s VCR reference is highly appropriate) a few decades, and students today have answers to every question in the world with a click or a swipe. Content and information are readily available to everyone; therefore, standing at the front of the classroom and sharing information is no longer an effective form of instruction.

Yet, books have never been a more important delivery tool.

In a recent webinar, Using Books as Mentor Texts, teacher and author Adrienne Gear shared, “The books are my teaching partners to get to deep thinking. You don’t have to be a proficient reader to be a proficient thinker.”

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