It's here! Today is our third annual picture book event: August 10 for 10. If you love picture books, you'll love this event which I'm excited to be hosting with Mandy Robek. For weeks we've all been wrestling with the 10 picture books we just can't live without in our worlds. You'll find picture books for your classroom, your library, and your bookshelves at home in this year's collection of posts. If you'd like to have your blog linked to the conversation, just comment with the link for your picture book list here or at Enjoy and Embrace Learning. You can also mention us in a link on Twitter using the event hashtag #pb10for10. If you don't have a blog, but would like to join, there are lots of ways to participate.
My 2012 Choices
The first year of this event, Mandy and I had been talking about books we couldn't live without in our classroom. We decided it would be fun to see the shelves of other educators and decided to start this blogging event. That year I chose THE 10 picture books I could not live without in my classroom. The following year, 2011, I decided to share ten picture book authors I could not live without. (Yes, that allowed me to sneak in a few extra books.)
This year, I have decided to share ten picture books we use as mentor texts for our writer's workshop. In our classroom we write every day. We learn how to work as writers from one another and the authors who fill the shelves of our classroom. These authors teach us about sharing our stories. By example, they help us learn how to make our writing interesting, use crafting techniques to make our message powerful, and much much more.
Mentor Texts for Young Writers
Here are ten of my favorite mentor texts for teaching writing. Of course, this is today's list and tomorrow's might be quite different. These are ten titles I like for young writers.
I Don't Want a Cool Cat by Emma Dodd. First of all, I am always a little partial to authors who illustrate their own books. In this book, the character shares all the kinds of cats she doesn't want before telling us about the perfect cat for her. The first graders in my classroom write and illustrate their own stories so it is fun to be able to share authors/illustrators that do the same. This picture book is perfect for the beginning of the year when students are just getting comfortable writing. The patterned text helps young writers to discover ways to dig deeper into a topic, use a repetitive sentence structure to share a message, and create a strong ending. Her illustrations are also appealing to young writers as the characters are central to the page. Emma Dodd's illustrations help to demonstrate how you can use shape to characters and other important parts of a story.
Guess What? by Mem Fox, and illustrated by Vivienne Goodman, is another patterned text that can be used as a mentor for young writers. I like to use this one particularly because of the way Mem Fox uses a question to give details about the character. Young writers can envision ways a similar structure could be considered for other topics. In this book, Mem Fox uses a question, followed by the word "Guess," and then a response on the following page. This repetitive pattern keeps kids turning the page to find out more. Mem Fox has many books I like to use for mentors including: Never Say Boo to a Good, Tough Boris, and Harriet You'll Drive Me Wild. Mem has a way of playing with language and creating rhythms of words to capture the attention of young readers.
In My Yellow Shirt written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Hideko Takahashi is another favorite. This picture book also has a "list-like" pattern, but it is wrapped in the story of a boy who gets a yellow shirt for his birthday. His friends think a yellow shirt is a boring gift, but he explains all of the things he can pretend when he is in his yellow shirt. The yellow shirt turns out to be the perfect birthday gift. This book can be used to demonstrate a variety of crafting techniques. I think it is perfect for talking about beginnings, endings, and building the middle of our stories with details. I find this to be a good book for talking about word choice as well.
Hope Is an Open Heart by Lauren Thompson. There are a lot of things I like about this book as a mentor text. This story takes a look at the word hope and shares all the different things hope can be. It is a great way to explore a word's meaning deeply. Words often carry layers of meaning we don't often take time to consider. Again, the repetitive text is an easy way for beginning writers to structure their thinking. This book uses real photographs from around the world to illustrate the author's point. Using photographs is a way for students to plan stories and a way to support writers who might have a hard time illustrating their thinking.
If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian with photographs from Barbara Hirsch Lember. The first time I read this book I loved its way with words. I was delightfully surprised by how much my first graders loved it too. Apparently, first graders think a lot more about rocks than I had realized. This book sends the reader out on a journey to discover rocks: the way they look, the way they feel, and the many things you can do with each different kind of rock. You could easily use this structure to write about a collection of similar ideas: flowers, cats, pets, sports, etc.. This book would be perfect for writing more about the details of an object. It is also a book that may be helpful in learning to look at things closely as a writer --- or a scientist. My students were inspired to write poetry after discussing the crafting techniques of this author.
White Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Michael Foreman. This book is better for study later in the school year when writers have more crafting techniques under control and when they've learned to pull apart a story to see what can be learned from the work of the author. I consider this book to be useful in teaching students about literary nonfiction. This book shares a story of a boy and his grandfather who build a nest in hopes that a barn owl will live within it. The author shares information about barn owls as she weaves the story of the boy and his grandfather in their quest to attract an owl. Each illustration has a small caption with barn owl information carefully placed. This book is perfect for discussing the way authors weave a story and information together for readers.
Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino. Writers write about things that are important to them. This is one of my favorite stories for teaching young writer's about personal narrative. The author shares a story of how he and his son have breakfast together every Friday. It's a special day he looks forward to each week. Young writers easily consider special places they go or special times they spend with important people in their lives. The author's note allows students to take a peek inside the thinking and planning of this author.
The Leaving Morning by Angela Johnson and illustrated by David Soman (author of Ladybug Girl books). Angela Johnson is one of my favorite authors. I enjoy the variety of ways she is able to craft a story. This book is one of my favorites as it helps us discuss the many reasons we write. Authors capture moments in their lives that are significant. They write to remember, to get through hard times, and to celebrate their lives. This book is an example of writing about a time that was hard. In this story, a young boy shares his goodbyes as he leaves his apartment to move to a new home. Young writers have many significant stories to tell, and this book helps to start the conversations that lead to discovering new stories.
The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster, and illustrated by Chris Raschka, is another mentor text I use often in my classroom. Students always enjoy the story of the visit to grandpa and grandma's house. The story works well for demonstrating the significance of things in our lives that remind us of places or people. It helps illustrate the way we can shape stories from these memories. Juster uses the hello-goodbye window as a lens from which to share his visits with his grandpa and grandma. I like this book for talking about cracking open stories to tell more so our readers really understand how we feel about a topic. Raschka's unique illustrations are useful in discussing the work of illustrators to tell a story with pictures.
Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes. Kevin Henkes is another author that just had to make this list of writing mentors. I use many of his books to demonstrate the ways authors craft stories for others. Henkes use of repeating phrases, and his careful selection of words, helps make his point clear to his reader and keeps his story pulled tightly together around kitten's search for milk. Henkes' decision to use black and white illustrations to tell his story is an interesting discussion to have with young writers.
What ten books do you recommend for my classroom? Please leave a comment below or add a link to your post.