Close Reading of Picture Books

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”
―     Oscar Wilde

I am often inspired by the creativity and ingenuity of my children.  My nine-year-old’s repurposing of the ‘treasures’ at our farm is quite something. He and his Papa had taken the frame from an old auger, attached a platform and an old chair seat, and created a ‘harness racing’-style contraption that he was eager to pull behind the quad.  Apparently, he and it have already been hauled around behind the tractor and scraper!

This is our auger for moving grain into/from bins.  Note the frame.

This is our auger for moving grain into/from bins. Note the frame.

That's my son, sitting on his invention (far right of picture).  And he rode on that??

That’s my son, sitting on his invention (far right of picture). And he rode on that??

Safety aside (I don’t always agree with the activities my boys engage in at the farm, so I often don’t get told about them), his ‘new’ invention worked and he was over-joyed.  His creative mind turned something old and once valuable into something new and innovative again (in his mind, at the very least).  This inspired me to connect the latest reading I have been doing with some of the old favourites in my tickle trunk.

I have just finished reading Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst (Heinemann, 2013).  I picked up this text at the annual Saskatchewan Reading Council conference this spring, and I’m glad I made the time to read it this summer.

Notice and Note helps teachers to

  • examine the new emphasis on text-dependent questions, rigor, text complexity, and what it means to be literate in the 21st century

  • identify 6 signposts that help readers understand and respond to character development, conflict, point of view, and theme

  • provide 6 text-dependent anchor questions that help readers take note and read more closely

  • offer 6 Notice and Note model lessons, including text selections and teaching tools, that help you introduce each signpost to your students.

(from )

@KyleneBeers and @BobProbst offer great examples of model lessons and text selections from what they identified as the twenty-five most commonly taught novels in grades 4 – 10 (Notice and Note, 4-5).  They made a point of emphasizing that we should “Teach Each Signpost Lesson with a Text That Illustrates the Targeted Signpost”.  In fact, they mention that teachers “may enjoy teaching with picture storybooks” (87).

This is when everything clicked for me.

I took a closer read of some of my ‘old favourite’ mentor texts with eyes alert for, not searching for, significant moments that were signposts. (111)  And I discovered the signposts were there!

I believe that these texts could be used as anchor lessons for the signposts or as mini-lessons that reinforce them.  And since in “Part Three: The Lessons We Teach” the authors note that “Should you decide that some of our language works for you, please feel free to use it” (112), I am going to name some of my old favourites (picture books) and the lessons in which I think they could be used.

  • Millions of Cats by Wanda Ga’g (Scholastic, 1928) is a great example of Again and Again and an Aha Moment.
  • Ish by Peter Reynolds (Candlewick, 2004) includes Contrasts and Contradictions as well as Words of the Wiser (who happens to be the younger sister!).
  • The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale retold by Angela Elwell Hunt (Lion Publishing, 1989) illustrates Contrasts and Contradictions and Aha Moments.
  • From Slave Ship to Freedom Road by Julius Lester with paintings by Rod Brown (Puffin Books, 1998) is an intense example of Tough Questions.
  • Listen, Buddy by Helen Lester (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995) is a good example of Again and Again.
  • The Song Within My Heart by David Bouchard with paintings by Allen Sapp (Raincoast Books, 2002) seems dedicated to Words of the Wiser, but also can be used for Again and Again.
  • The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy (Peachtree Publishers, 2000) may be used for Memory Moment and Aha Moment.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1957) is a great character story that lends itself to noticing Again and Again, Contrast and Contradict, that Aha Moment, and Tough Question (Poor Grinch!  “‘How could it be so…?'”)

What are your ‘old favourite’ picture books?  How can we read them even more closely, and what will we notice and note?

Turning the old and useful into something new and exciting!

Turning the old and useful into something new and exciting!


6 thoughts on “Close Reading of Picture Books

  1. Robin,
    Because Kylene’s previous work was with upper grades, I had not even thought of re-visiting picture books for the strategies. What a nice example of rich language in a shorter text that could then lead to re-examination of the texts that students are currently reading!

    Thanks for making me think!

    • Thanks, Fran! If you make any further discoveries of N & N picture books, please let me know. Maybe I’ll make a Google doc list that everyone can share? Guess I better figure out how to do that.

      Thanks for making ME think!

      • I believe that @JennyMae has a list of N and N strategies for The One and Only Ivan. I haven’t explored whether anyone is posting anything like that on the N & N facebook page. You might also check with @azajacks and @shannonclark as they had that fantastic NNN chat in June with Kylene and Bob!

      • Have you been able to do this- would love some picture book ideas!

  2. Hi Robin!
    I just read your reflection and love the picture book connections! I am also impressed with your technology use!! I am eager to learn from you!! Great job!

  3. Pingback: Learning Past June | Close Reading of Picture Books, Part Deux!

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