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The Reading Coach

Targeting National
And State Standards
With Picture Books


Childrens picture books can be used effectively to teach many of the core standards. No matter which grade you teach, magically woven stories by creative authors are key to motivating learners.

Teaching about story elements? Try:

  • Understanding Non-Fiction Text Features
    (A Grade 2 Language Standard)

    Use picture books such as those from the Colors series from Capstone Press to introduce text features of nonfiction or expository text. These picture books are very simple with wording for the main text written at a very simple level. They include sidebars with more information and more complex text, an index, a glossary and a table of contents plus additional resource lists.

    After introducing the features, play a lets see who can find it fast game with your class. Give them a key word or concept and let them use the text features to find the answer to such questions as:
    * How would you pronounce the word bitter (write it on the board)
    * Where do I find information on clouds?
    * What about an art activity on mixing colors?
    Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods That Make My Day, by Jamie Lee Curtis (characterization)
  • Covered Wagons, Bumpy Roads, by Kay Verla (setting)
  • Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon (plot)

Teaching writing? Try:

  • A Bad Case of the Stripes, by David Shannon (strong word choice)
  • The Day Gogo Went to Vote, by Elinor Sisulu (personal narrative)
  • Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak (story organization)

Teaching genres of literature? Try:

  • When Jesse Came Across the Sea, by Amy Hest (historical fiction)
  • My Great Aunt Arizona, by Gloria Houston, (poetry)
  • The Three Little Pigs, by Paul Galzone, and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, by Jon Scieska (fairytales)
  • My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing up with the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., by Christine King Farras (biography)

The beautiful illustrations and limited text in picture books allow both student and teacher to concentrate on language, message and appeal.

Picture books also can be used as group read-alouds for pleasure (Poof!, By John OBrien), and to support learning in content areas. For cultural studies, read various versions of the Cinderella tale from different countries. Note differences in culture and similarities in story. A list of versions of this well-known story can be found at Cinderella Stories.

To introduce complex content area issues such as civil rights (Goin Someplace Special, by Patricia McKissick) or science (Fireworks, by Vicki Cobb).

Explore the potential in your favorite picture books. You can reinforce rhyming, sentence structure, parts of speech, prediction, and questioning. I guarantee any standard you pull, theres a picture book tailor-made to teach it!

More Resources

Online Resources
* Resources for Teaching With Picture Books From ReadWriteThink
* Teaching the Five Themes of Geography in Picture Books
* Teaching English with Picture Books: Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

* Powerful Picture Books: 180 Ideas for Promoting Content Learning

Print Resources
* Using Picture Books to Teach in the Middle School, by Iris McClellan Tiedt (International Reading Association, 2000)
* Teaching Writing with Picture Book Models Grades 4-8, by Roseanne Jurstedt (Scholastic, 2000)
* The Power of Picture Books in Teaching Math and Science, by Lynn Columba, Cathy Kim and Alden Moe (Holcolm Hathaway Publishers 2005)
* The Underground Railroad for Kids: From Slavery to Freedom in 21 Activities, by Mary Kay Carson (Chicago Review Press, 2005)

About the Author

Known as the "Literacy Ambassador," Cathy Puett Miller has a library science degree from Florida State University. Her writing appears in such print publications as Atlanta Our Kids, Omaha Family, and Georgia Journal of Reading, and online at Literacy Connections,,Education World, Family Network, and BabyZone. Cathy also is the author of the new eBook, Powerful Picture Books: 180 Ideas for Promoting Content Learning, an annotated resource for librarians and teachers (K-12). Be sure to visit Cathy's Web site at Click to read a complete bio.