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Picture books tell a story using text and illustrations. Most of us have beautiful childhood memories of reading picture books with our parents, grandparents, and teachers. Although people associate picture books with young children, they can be an effective learning medium for high schoolers as well.
The illustrations in a picture book provide a visual learning experience to students. High schoolers usually have to study a lot of “only text” formats. Using picture books in class can bring a change to the routine, which students will appreciate and enjoy.
As a teacher, you can build a picture books collection to use in class. Your school librarian can be of great help in suggesting to you books that older kids will enjoy. A quick question to your students can also give you an idea of which books they would love to read.
What’s up with picture books?
A study was conducted in two Canadian schools to discover the value of using picture books in secondary classrooms. Sixty-seven secondary students who participated in this study supported the use of picture books in class.
Picture books can benefit teachers and learners when used on regular school days. They can serve as simple conversation starters before discussing complex topics. Another study concludes that teachers using picture books can observe better student engagement and concept understanding. Picture books also help build classroom community and improve the bond between teachers and students.
Besides providing the pleasure of reading and reigniting interest, picture books can be helpful for ELA, ELL, teaching a foreign language, or meeting the social-emotional needs of students.
Picture Books for High School Students
1. The Good Egg
It is a popular picture book written by Jory John and illustrated by Pete Oswald. The story is about a good egg who is always kind and courteous, and does the right things, even though he is surrounded by a few rotten eggs in the carton. But one day, he starts to crack due to the pressure of always being nice. The book reflects the importance of self-care and maintaining a balance in life. It also reminds the readers to accept their loved ones even if they are not as good as you expect them to be.
Matt de la Pena brings “Love” to his audience. It is a #1 New York Times Best Seller. This picture book celebrates the bond of love, which people experience throughout their lives. The text is soothing to the mind, and the illustrations are beautiful. The book can be read in the class before a creative writing session to show how text and illustrations can create meaning when used together. Or, students and teachers can read it together to share how they have experienced this universal bond in their lives.
3. A Kids Book About Failure
It is a perfect book for social-emotional learning. Dr. Laymon Hicks talks about failures in life and the feelings associated with them. The book sends this message to its readers that failures are a part of life, and there is always a chance of failure when trying something new. But that must not stop people from trying, as the growth and experiences are all worth it, even if there is a chance of failure. The book is a good choice to read after teaching a challenging lesson to students.
4. Poetry for Young People
These are a series of books to bring the works of famous poets as interesting picture books. Each book is illustrated by a different illustrator and curated by another editor. The books also have an introduction to the poet. Teachers can discuss the poet and ask them to research more about them. After they share the information they have gathered, the teacher can read the poem aloud to the students and talk about poetic devices.
5. Friends for Freedom
The book is about the friendship between Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Author Suzanne Slade and illustrator Nicole Tadgell have culminated this captivating story revolving around the two historical figures. The book is a good choice for building background knowledge before digging deep into the lives of these personalities. It spurs interest in students’ minds and makes them look forward to more information.
6. Pop’s Bridge
This is a fiction book written by author Eve Bunting. Although Pop’s Bridge was originally published in 2006, it is still a reader’s favorite. It is a story that takes you through what goes on in the minds of two little children as their fathers head to work at the construction site of the marvelous Golden Gate Bridge. Read this picture book in class and discuss the theme. Later, ask the students what they think about the characters and their points of view.
7. Malala’s Magic Pencil
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani education activist and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Malala’s Magic Pencil is a picture book written by Malala herself with illustrations by Kerascoet. It talks about her childhood wish of having a magic pencil to help her solve problems. As she grew, her dreams changed, and she understood that to bring a change, she should work for it. The book can spark a discussion about her character and values, and serve as a perfect introduction to Malala’s autobiography.
8. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
This children’s book is authored by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith. The story is a parody of the popular story of The Three Little Pigs. Here, the big bad wolf tells his version of the story to his readers. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs can help teachers discuss perspectives in class. It is a great example of how a story can turn out to be completely different simply by changing the point of view.
9. B is for Breathe
Author Melissa Boyd is a clinical psychologist, and she has written this book to teach kids different ways to deal with frustrating emotions. Though it is a children’s book, teachers can use it to remind high school students how simple techniques can help them deal with unpleasant emotions. Teachers can read this book to students when they seem stressed out with all the activities they do.
10. What Do You Do With An Idea?
Written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom, What Do You Do with an Idea is the most popular book in the series. The book is a nice read for young children, but high school students can appreciate the true message behind it. The book is about a child who tries to think about what he can do with an idea. Reading this book in class can help high schoolers derive inspiration to work on an idea and turn it into something fruitful. Teachers can have a chat about various ideas kids might have in their minds.
Ways to Use Picture Books in High School Classrooms
There are several ways in which teachers can use picture books in a high school classroom. Read on to know how you can incorporate these powerful tools to engage your students and deliver effective lessons.
- Use picture books as a hook to build interest in a particular topic.
- Help students learn about differences in author writing styles, like the differences in tone, diction, use of syntax, etc.
- Read aloud hilarious picture books to introduce your students to elements of comedy.
- Use picture books to help students gather background knowledge before diving into complex texts.
- Introduce students to diverse cultures and different perspectives.
- Teach poetic techniques and terminology by reading out a picture book.
- Discuss how authors use different words to create a mood in the minds of a reader.
- Read aloud or let a student read a book to the class to improve their reading or listening skills.
- Use them as a tool to teach specific writing skills.
- Use a story with multiple versions to help students understand variations in point of view.
The joy of reading picture books is not restricted to little children. A good picture book can make a lesson interesting and fun! As more educators realize the potential benefits of picture books for enhancing the learning experience of high school students, many are coming forward to reintroduce them in their classes.
So, bring in a collection of picture books from your school’s library or your local public library, arrange them neatly on a bookshelf, and let your students access them when needed. You will probably find some of them reading their old favorites during break and talking about their beautiful childhood memories.