BLOGS  >  FEBRUARY 16, 2022

Picture Books as Teaching Partners


Watch Adrienne Gear's webinar “Using Picture Books as Mentor Texts." She shares some of her favorite “Gear Picks” picture books and practical ways to integrate them to support reading, writing, and thinking across curriculum. 

On the first day of my Language Arts methodology course for my Bachelor of Education degree at the University of British Columbia over two decades ago, the professor entered the small lecture room, walked up to the podium, and began reading aloud the picture book When I Was Young in the Mountains. I sat, riveted, as he filled the room and my heart with Cynthia Rylant’s beautiful words. That experience profoundly impacted me as a teacher, more than anything else I learned in teacher training. 

Anyone who knows me personally knows how much I love books. I don’t feel just a small affinity for them; I’m talking heart-racing, book-sniffing, fingers trembling love that knows no bounds. Anyone who knows me professionally knows how children’s literature is woven into all aspects of my teaching practice. I don’t remember a time when I began a reading or writing lesson without a picture book in my hand. Picture books are my teaching partners and are woven through the fabric of almost every lesson I teach. I am on a continual quest to find the perfect book for that strategy, that lesson, that topic.  
Along with a picture book anchoring my lessons, the benefit goes far beyond the actual lesson. I begin my school year with books that help me build a positive class community: I read books about names and invite students to share their name stories; I read books about families and culture and invite students to talk about their own; I read books about grief when a student in my class experiences a loss; I read books about mindfulness as we begin our daily mindfulness rituals. 

Picture books have become the undeniable link to my students. Books have an almost magical way of inviting connections, conversations, and deep thinking better than any other teaching tool out there. These conversations are seldom about what happened in the story, but more likely to be about what is happening in our lives: conversations about our families, our feelings, our friendships, our fears; about bullies, basketballs, worries, and dreams. Flashy YouTube videos and interactive gamification smart boards aside, you will never go wrong with a picture book in your hand.    

There is a misconception that picture books are intended to be used in primary classrooms and that once students move into the middle grades, they should be reading novels and textbooks. For those of us who know picture books, we know that there is no “too old” age for picture books. For every picture book for younger students, an equal number contain sophisticated themes, language, and content that far surpass the level of understanding of a six- or seven-year-old (i.e., books by David Wiesner, Shaun Tan, Chris Van Allsburg).  

Five Reasons Why Picture Books Are an Essential Part of My Literacy Instruction:

1. They’re short, so I can cover a lot of ground in a single lesson.
2. They introduce complex concepts in an accessible, child-friendly way.
3. They help to create a class community and a feeling of belonging.
4. They provide every child with an access point into a story.
5. They invite readers to think, connect, feel, and discuss.   

I have written seven professional books for elementary teachers in literacy over the past 15 years. You can find them hereEach book comes complete with my recommended “Gear Picks” books for lessons. It could be a picture book for practicing inferring from my Reading Power book, a mentor text from an author who is a master at creating sensory details from Powerful Writing Structures, or a picture book to support SEL from my Powerful Understanding book. There is a book for everything!  

Adrienne Gear has been a teacher with the Vancouver School Board for over 25 years. She provides professional workshops, demonstration lessons, and leadership sessions to schools and districts throughout the province, country, and internationally. She has worked as a classroom teacher, teacher librarian, and district Literacy Mentor. Adrienne is the author of seven books: Reading Power – Revised and Expanded (Pembroke, 2015), Nonfiction Reading Power (Pembroke, 2008), Writing Power (Pembroke, 2011), Nonfiction Writing Power (Pembroke, 2014), Powerful Readers for Secondary Students (2016), and her latest books Powerful Writing Structures (2020) and Powerful Poetry (Pembroke, 2021) Her books have been translated into French, Swedish, Danish, and Chinese. Find all of Adrienne's books here.
Follow Adrienne on Instagram or Facebook: @readingpowergear, or on Twitter: @AdrienneGear. 

Recent Blog Entries

Shannon Miller's Tips to Creating a Collection in Destiny Discover

November 29, 2023

Here is a collection of the 2023 Best Books lists, friends. Find the link to this collection and learn how to create one too.I love this time of year when all of the Best Books lists are announced.  I always...
Read more

Literacy on Fire

November 28, 2023

“So I can burn them,” was my sixteen-year-old daughter’s response to why there were two copies of The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (1984) sitting on the kitchen table. My first instinct as a literacy lover was pure indignation....
Read more

Enjoy free access to Spring 2024 digital galleys!

November 27, 2023

Follett has partnered with Penguin Young Readers Group and NetGalley* to provide digital access to forthcoming titles through May 15. Get early access to readers’ favorite genres – like historical fiction, poetry, narrative nonfiction, and social issues. Preorder NowSummer at SqueeBy...
Read more

How Asset Management Can Reduce Costs, Boost Efficiency, and Simplify Contract Management: Solving Common Problems Throughout the Whole School

November 27, 2023

The Biggest Asks in Your District: Are These Familiar?To better understand how to support educators, we asked this question: “What are the biggest asks in your district?”The three most common responses were: To reduce costsTo increase efficiency with tools my district...
Read more

Making Students Jump Out of Seats for Books

November 22, 2023

“Ooh! I know this!” Jaxon* cheered as he jumped out of his seat with his hand raised while simultaneously sharing his answer. While I could have criticized him for not waiting to be called on, how could I discourage a...
Read more

Welcome, Follett Destiny Users!

November 16, 2023

Your school or district recently adopted Follett Destiny®. Now what? Well, the first thing to know is that Follett Destiny is more than software.It’s a community and a commitment to ensuring every student has the resources they need to succeed academically....
Read more

More Blog Entries