Are You Using Picture Books in Your Junior Classroom? You should!

I may have a slight obsession with picture books. Perhaps this is the reason that these form the basis of my language arts program.

Perhaps you think about picture books as being for younger students.

While most are, and perhaps even these are the books that line the bookshelves of your own kid’s rooms.

There are so many picture books out there that talk about tough issues, but in accessible ways for students age 9-12.

teacher reading to students, class, read aloud

Why Picture Books

Well first I want to share with you my goals for my literacy program and perhaps this will help you to see why using picture books as the basis for my literacy program is more important than novels.

  1. To make sure my students are reflected in the books that we read.  Equity and diversity are important messages to share in the classroom.
  2. Use texts that represent many different voices, styles, and genres
  3. Have texts that focus on social justice issues, and bring the outside world into my classroom
  4. To explore the past, the present, and think into the future.
  5. To build in social-emotional learning, problem-solving, and a growth mindset.

So with these goals in mind…why picture books?

Picture books allow me more opportunities to explore all of these various options.  They allow me to talk about different topics such as race, privilege, equity, lived experiences, kindness, empathy, courage, respect, and many more.  Yet despite these topics being deep and complex, the amazing authors and illustrators of picture books share these lessons inside accessible stories for big kids.

Through these books, students can explore many parts of the world each week.  The kind of variety that I am able to use in my classroom simply isn’t comparable to novels. (I still read novels they are just not the focus of my instruction)

Teaching With Picture Books

For me, books are not just about reading they are also about teaching.

Everything I do within my weeks’ worth of lessons is related to the different picture books I use.

  • Oral comprehension is rooted in learning how to use our comprehension strategies that develop while listening to a variety of stories each and every week.
  • Shared reading texts are often non-fiction articles related to the themes and topics related to the book.
  • Grammar and spelling lessons are straight from the pages of these books in mentor paragraphs and new vocabulary words.
  • Writing prompts are inspired by the books and relate to the various forms of writing for the grade.
  • Our guided reading text is another story that shares the same theme or topic as our picture book of the week.

Picture books are the roots that all other aspects of the learning can be built around.

It allows me to make everything we do in a language match – it was what I was looking for and what I knew a language program should look like.

To learn more about how I put my literacy program together check out my blog here!

Books with clock on wooden background

Book Lists

As part of my Ignited Literacy – Comprehensive Literacy Program.  I have compiled books for 3/4, 4/5 and 5/6 levels. I have included both picture book suggestions as well as novels that relate to these each month To grab this list click here


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