I remember sitting curled up in my bed reading Riding the Tiger, a picture book by Eve Bunting. I put the book down after my first read, pondering what this book was all about. There is a boy and a tiger, and the span of the story made me feel like there was some sort of power struggle. I read it a second time and began to notice the illustrations. The tiger grew bigger, and the boy became smaller. The eyes of the tiger were piercing. What was this book really about? After a fourth read I realized the story was about gang violence. I began thinking about West Side Story with the Jets vs. the Sharks and Romeo and Juliet with their two families. A picture book really made me think deeply, and there is extreme value in that. This story will be used during a lesson on feeling powerless and what we can do to change that.
Picture books sometimes get lost as children grow up. I often hear picture books are for babies or why do I need to read this? I think picture books are full of hidden gems. Life lessons crawl out from the pages, prompting discussions about sharing, kindness, empathy, respect, etc. Students can think about theme, plot, and characterization through picture books. Illustrations can be used as evidence to support higher-level thinking. They also help students practice fluency skills. So I encourage you all to curl up with a great picture book. This year the Newbery medal went to LastStop of Market Street. It was shocking to many that a writing award went to a picture book. It takes an ordinary day and makes it extraordinary for readers. It also asks us with being rich really means? TheTable Where Rich People Sit is another great read to help kids understand how we are all rich. We get to see the sunset, the moon shine, and laugh with our family. Model that it is okay to read these no matter how old you are. According to a NewYork Times article Alexandra Kennedy (2014) states, “Our role, as parents, teachers and librarians, is to select the right book at the right time — to carefully walk that delicate line between protecting a child’s innocence and providing a greater awareness of our increasingly complicated world and the values we hold most dear.”