It’s Picture Book Month!!
For the entire month of November we get to officially celebrate the often underrated art of combining words with illustrations to create a magical dynamic that impacts readers in a way no other medium can. The picture book, unlike any other form of literature, invites readers to analyze, not just the words in the story, but also the images on the page. With their shorter prose and beautiful images, picture books are often the first taste of the world of books that young people get. They gently introduce difficult topics, speak complex truths simply, and bring to life worlds and characters we could never imagine.
Yes, picture books are fantastic for kids and -- let’s admit it -- we all have at least one favorite picture book sitting on our shelves that we like to page through every now and then. I know I do, and I’m not alone.
Picture book author/illustrator Molly Idle writes,
“Picture books are a mirror. A magic mirror. For picture books can show us, not only reflections of ourselves, but reflections of other people and places too. They can show us reflections of the past, the present and the future. Reflections of the possible and the impossible. The real, and the imagined…And in all of those reflections, we see ourselves.”
(Check out the Picture Book Month Website to read even more quotes from your favorite authors on why they believe picture books are important!)
Sadly, picture books are often brushed aside as “beginner books”. Many people believe that a child still reading picture books after the age of 8 must be stunted in some way. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Picture books are fantastic tools for introducing difficult or complex topics, encouraging reluctant readers, building analytical skills in readers of all ages, and growing observational skills, in addition to just being fun! Thankfully, thanks to recent studies, more and more people are beginning to realize the incredible value packed into the pages of the picture book. Author Debbie Ridpath Ohi wrote an excellent blog post that discusses this value and the many benefits of picture books in greater depth over on her site, inkygirl.com.
Another frequently overlooked detail about picture books is the incredible amount of collaboration that goes into their creation. Occasionally a brilliant author/illustrator/marketer appears on the scene, but this is rare. Typically, there is an author, illustrator, and publisher working together to make a story come to life. Pictures and text must work seamlessly to capture the most important essence of the page, revealing the depth of character and the tone of the story. Every line and every color is carefully chosen to ensure the message is communicated properly. Once completed, a marketer must identify the proper audience and find ways to connect that audience with the books that they enjoy.
It is teamwork, from beginning to end.
The idea of a lone author madly typing away in solitude cannot exist in this situation.
This collaborative quality, combined with the inherent power for teaching inside each picture book, makes this genre a fantastic instrument for integrating bullying prevention into the classroom (For more great ideas on integrating bullying prevention into other areas of the classroom, check out last month’s blog).
Not only do they offer an easy gateway into the discussion of a difficult topic and leave room for expansion, their collaborative nature provides an opportunity to discuss the value of teamwork and the bringing together of different talents to meet a common goal. Here is a simple project integrating bullying prevention education that you can do with your students of all ages using picture books:
An added bonus is that this project will open the door for students to talk to students about bullying. While they may not want to listen to what an adult has to say, they may be more open to the messages of their peers. Books are fun and nonthreatening and often bring together groups and individuals that would not typically meet. As Reddit user “Coolstoryreddit” stated:
“Seeing someone read a book you love is seeing a book recommend a person”
Picture books are more than just books. They are more than starter literature. They are examples of the magic that can happen when people work together using their unique gifts to achieve a common goal. This Picture Book Month, grab a picture book off the shelf and capture some of that magic for yourself!
What picture book do you still have on your shelf? What lesson did you learn from a picture book that you still remember today? Share in the comments!
It is now November, which means that Halloween, along with its candy, costumes, and masks, is officially over.
But when the candy is eaten and the costumes exchanged for pajamas, do the masks really come off?
Yes, the physical ones, the ones we can see, come off, but what about the ones we can’t see? The smiles and the toughness that hide pain and fear? Sadly, these masks do not go away when Halloween is over. Instead, they are worn on the faces of children throughout the school year as they deal with bullying, troubles at home, and other difficult issues...
While children can typically identify when someone is angry or upset, they may find it difficult to understand that the emotion one is displaying may not be the emotion one is feeling and may in fact be the result of a different emotion. Victims of bullying often fake smiles, and bullies themselves wear masks of toughness to cover their pain and confusion. Helping our children understand this is a big step towards ending bullying. When kids grasp that problems have roots and that there may be more to a person or situation than meets the eye, then they are in a better position to begin identifying and working through those issues and understanding their peers.
Because this is such a vital lesson, the earlier it is taught, the better. To help children learn that sometimes one emotion or attitude is hiding another, we have created a fun mask-making craft! This craft has been designed to go along with the reading of the picture book This is A. Blob, by L.A. Kefalos, however, it can be modified to fit with your current lesson. This is A. Blob follows a sticky, purple blob named A. Blob, that wreaks havoc on the playground with its bullying ways. As the story progresses, readers learn there may be more to A. Blob than first meets the eye. Not only does the book show bullying from the perspective of both bully and victim, it was written specifically for younger children, making it a perfect intro to the topic of bullying and emotional masks. To read a longer review, check out our previous blog, In a New Light.
Let’s get started!
I chose fairly basic materials so that this craft could be easily mastered by young children, but feel free to adapt to your tastes and the needs of your classroom!
The kids won’t be making their masks until later, but this lesson calls for yours to be made at the beginning, so I’ll go ahead and insert instructions here:
First, read This is A. Blob out loud to the class. Discuss what it means to be a bully and why they think A. Blob is a bully. Encourage the students to connect A. Blob and its story to real-life people and situations.
Introduce the idea of emotional masks to the children. Bring out the mask with A. Blob on it. Hold up the side with the angry face and have the students describe you: what are you feeling? What assumptions might be made about your personality? Then flip the mask around and ask the same question. Remind the students that both faces are part of the same mask and the same character.
Next, explain how we all sometimes wear emotional masks because we are too afraid or hurt to show our real emotions. Explain how we must be careful not to judge a book by its cover, or a face by its mask.
To illustrate further, have the students make their own masks. On one side, show an emotion such as a smile or anger and on the other side, show the emotion that is being masked. Have students show their masks to the class and explain why they chose these emotions and these masks. Talk about what situations might cause a person to use an emotional mask. To help drive these ideas home, have the students do some role play.
This is the basic outline of the craft and lesson. The wonderful thing about this craft is that it can take so many different directions and can be used with just about any age. The masks can be as simple or as complex as you would like, the role playing can span one day or multiple days, and the masks themselves can be utilized as a tool to help students sort through their emotions and the emotions of others throughout the school year.
If you try this out in your classroom, share pictures of your masks and let us know how you used them in your lesson!
About Laughing Leopard Press
Hello! We are Laughing Leopard Press, an independent book publisher from Akron, Ohio. At Laughing Leopard Press, we’re interested in publishing works that contribute to our understanding of this wonderful world. Through this blog, we hope to add to that understanding with commentary on life, literature, and a few things in between. We hope you enjoy the blog and take some time to talk with us in the comments or on our social media sites. Happy reading!
This is A. Blob by L. A Kefalos. $14.95
$1.00 is donated to charity for each book sold on this site--half to St. Jude's and the other half to PetFix Northeast Ohio.