Kiddosphere: Never Too Old for Picture Books: Celebrating Picture Book Month!
Although I understand that parents, grandparents and other family members and friends can’t wait to share their beloved novels from childhood (I can’t wait until I can share “Charlotte’s Web” and many, many other chapter books with my three-year-old niece when she is older), don’t be too quick to cast away picture books past the kindergarten stage. There are many hilarious, poignant and gorgeous picture books that preschoolers and kindergarten students would not enjoy and/or understand because the vocabulary in these sophisticated picture books is more advanced than the words you would find in beginning chapter books (and certainly beginning readers, which have controlled vocabulary).
In honor of Picture Book Month, I decided to focus on my favorite books for the elementary school age crowd. These are the titles that I recommend to patrons who have been asked to be a guest reader in their child’s/grandchild’s classroom, or the ones I bring when I have been asked to participate in a family literacy event, read to a class, or have a Scout troop or class visit.
One of the best things about picture books for elementary school students is that there are so many that are HILARIOUS. Want to have an awesome guest reader experience? Bring one (or two, or three!) of these books.
So, you bring The Book With No Pictures to a classroom, and many of them (excitedly) tell you that they’ve read the book. NO PROBLEM. They will love hearing it again. I make a small modification on one page (changing “kid” to “kids”), but other than that, this is a perfect read aloud for a K-3 classroom.
Want a fabulous Super Bowl themed read aloud? (Of course, due to copyright issues, the phrase Super Bowl is never uttered) Buffalo Wings is for you. Rooster gets wind of the fact that Buffalo Wings is *the* snack to have for the Big Game. Naturally, he thinks that a buffalo is involved….until he and the other chickens discover the truth. (The illustration for this scene is hysterical.) This requires some knowledge of what buffalo wings are in order to get the humor.
I remember reading Miss Nelson is Missing when I was a child, so I love using it with school or Scout groups. Miss Nelson’s clever “lesson” for her misbehaving class begs for an over the top presentation, so don’t be shy when reading this aloud!
Jon Agee is a master of quirky humor picture books for elementary school students. Nothing is my favorite. It is a tale of how a wealthy woman’s insistence on buying “nothing” starts a crazy outrageously funny series of events; it’s also a pointed take on how silly fads can take off so quickly.
Need a STEM-related read aloud? The Secret Science Project That (Almost) Ate the School should be one of your first picks. Elementary school students will be all too familiar with the drama and unpredictability of a science project, which makes this wacky tale doubly hilarious.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs was published 29 years ago, so the first generation of children who loved this fractured fairy tale will soon introduce it to their students or children. Want to introduce the concept of “perspective” or the “other side of the story”? Read this take on the 3 Little Pigs story, told from the Wolf’s perspective.
I love reading folktales to elementary school students. My favorite folktales are funny, lively and have a clear lesson imprinted in the story without being too obvious or patronizing.
Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock is a folktale classic; it’s a classroom favorite, so students may be familiar with it if you choose it for a read aloud (no matter, for most love rereading and being read their favorites). Anansi is a familiar trickster character in West African folklore, appearing as either a spider or a man. He often finds outsmarted at the end, but continues on to get into more trouble. This has a lot of animal voices, so some prep is required (you shouldn’t do a read aloud without pre-reading the material, anyway!).
Cooperation. It’s a necessary thing to learn, but can be difficult to put into concept. Head, Body, Legs: A Story From Liberia is a pointed and riotous explanation of the importance of compromise and working together, as each body part realizes that they work best when they work together.
Jewish folktales are noted for their poignancy and humor, both of which are apparent in It Could Always be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale. A poor man blessed with many children consults his rabbi for advice, as he is unable to bear the crowded and noisy conditions anymore. When the rabbi advises him to bring in his farm animals one by one, he is incredulous, but follows his advice. Naturally, the situation goes from bad to worse….until the rabbi’s final advice makes the man realize his good fortune.
I’ve read The Rumor: A Jataka Tale From India to many school/Scout groups over the years. Before we begin, we have a little chat about what rumors and gossip are and what they can do. This story of a high-strung hare who mistakenly whips the other forest animals into a frenzy over the world ending can spark interesting discussions at the end of the story. If story pairings are your thing, consider reading this with the similar Chicken Little/Henny Penny, which has a very different ending!
Next week, I’ll share my favorite Thanksgiving (ish) stories; after that, we’ll wrap up Picture Book Month with some outstanding books that feature everyday kids, historical fiction and books to “linger over.”
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library