Picture Books for Interpretive Discussion

I have previously written on how art integration through open ended picture books such as Here Comes Ingo is a valuable tool in meeting National Core Art Standards (Creating, Performing/Producing/Presenting, Responding, Connecting) in the classroom and I feel particularly encouraged by the fact that despite the uncertainty of data-driven school performances, high stakes testing and the precariousness of educational law, various organizations such as the outstanding Center for Teaching Through Children's Books continue to promote "excellence in teaching with quality literature for children and adolescents” by choosing books based both on their literary appeal and (also) the practical use in the classroom. It is especially important to understand how a book can transition from a simple "story" or a timely "message" into a full blown teachable moment encouraging young readers to experience a direct sense of agency in dealing with the book content. This is how the seeds of growth mindset and playful engagement are planted organically thus enabling children to expand their cache of intellectual, emotional and cultural knowledge using age appropriate concepts. Picture books, increasingly popular even among older and/or sophisticated readers, have proven to be especially apt at presenting children with rewarding opportunities for interpretative discussions. Case in point, The Picture Book Review published a nuanced review of Here Comes Ingo emphasising precisely this: "What’s also unique about this book is that I’m usually the one helming the storyline with wordless picture books, but with Here Comes Ingo my children are in charge — and it is amazing to watch my kids tell me the story. They genuinely enjoy and have a great time explaining to me what and how and why — and it is never the same experience twice...". In other words, by allowing children to take ownership of the story via painting, drawing, writing directly ON the page, Here Comes Ingo gifts them with the unique opportunity to become storytellers in their own right instead of simply probbing the book pages for clues on the author's intentions. And this sense of creative freedom can be used in myriad ways to further hone readers' aka students' ability to engage with literature in a way that feels meaningful to them and relevant to their worldview while simultaneously expanding their understanding of it. Nevertheless, using books to promote deep engagement with the content and promote tolerance and open mindness in the classroom is easier said than done. In this respect, the Center for Teaching through Children's Books is a particularly helpful resource when it comes to nurturing a community of children's literature educators, scholars, teachers and librarians committed to consider picture books (among other literary genre) as a core resource for learning about the world. Via graduate courses that include Successful Inquiry-Based Discussions: Exploration and Practice, Picture Books for Interpretive Discussion, Creating Curriculum Units for Interpretive Reading, Writing, and Discussion participants engage in learning and practicing a variety of approaches in using picture books to develop critical thinking skills, and return to the classroom with ideas of picture books—and prepared discussion materials—for use in their own curricula.

  • The Center for Teaching through Children's Books is dedicated to excellence in teaching with quality literature for children and adolescents. It exemplifies the connection between reading, literature, and librarians in the lives of children. Each year, the Center hosts several exhibits, as well as children's literature authors, illustrators and scholars. The Center also provides workshops and presentations where educators and book creators participate in professional development by engaging with the exhibits.
  • Here Comes Ingo is a uniquely open ended picture book created by Odeta Xheka, a Brooklyn artist and busy mom in a quest to connect people with art in truly meaningful and enriching ways starting from early childhood. You can find more about her work at Odeta Xheka Visuals.