I enjoyed this recent article from School Library Journal about teachers using picture books with middle and high-school students to support English language learners, as companions to the classics, and to create a community of readers. I've always thought (biased as I may be!) that picture books are also a great way to support social emotional skill building for older students. Older students can be asked to read and consider the emotional themes of a picture book and share why they think the themes are important for small children to explore. By framing the conversation this way, a "corny" or "uncool" (aka tough and vulnerable) topic may perhaps be more openly explored by older students. The students, in being asked to reflect on their childhood, or to consider the current needs of younger siblings or students, are sent the message that they are maturing people whose life experiences and opinions are valued and respected.
It was, of course, a thirteen year old who made me think about this for the first time. My very first interview as a (thrilled) new author, was conducted by two smart and curious thirteen year old students at City&Country School. Student journalist, Carley W. wrote,
"although Caron's publisher said the book would be best for children from ages 4 through 8, I think this book relates to people of any age. We can all benefit from the moral of the story. It's best to confront your blues, spend time with them and most likely you will come out with clarity and a more rosey out-look."
The two journalists talked about why it would be good for their class to talk about the emotional themes in the book and the process of being a picture book writer. It had never occurred to me to offer a school visit about picture books to middle school classes. I had assumed these students would have Grown Out of picture books, but I certainly haven't and maybe it's silly to assume that I'm just a weirdo. After all, picture books are written really for two readers; ideally, there is something for both a child and an adult to enjoy and explore within the pages. So,why not teenagers and middle schoolers too? There are reading rules we perpetuate as adults simply because they've always been there, which is why of course it took thirteen year old reporters to make me wonder why do we pigeonhole picture books?
So, what do you think? Are picture books a useful tool for older students? What picture book would you use in a classroom with older students? Were there any picture books you kept secretly reading once you were no longer a "little kid?"
(P.S. If you click the photo you can find a couple videos of savvy reporters checking out Stuck with the Blooz and interviewing an awkward author)