Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Finding Picture Book Paradise

Where Did I Go Over Summer Break? Picture Book Paradise 

During the school year, I devour middle grade novels so I'm armed with suggestions of what new books to read next. It's not a bad plan, but sometimes I get annoyed with myself for rushing through a book I should have savored. Don't get me wrong, there are many times page-turners keep me up waaay too late, and I soak in every last detail, but, there are also times I turn the pages too quickly. Usually this happens when a book friend gives me a new recommendation and I can't wait to dive into it, or, one of my holds becomes available at the library. Book gluttony. 

However, I have a different approach when it comes to picture books. I refuse to move through them quickly. I've tried, but rushing never gives me a chance to fall in love. Enter Summer Break. This is when I overload on picture books. During the first reading, I like to be in a quiet room free of time constraint or distractions. I love to sit and take in every part of the new book--the dust jacket, the cover beneath, the description of how it was illustrated, the layout of the words on the pages. I love totally being immersed in it. I read it quietly to myself, then I love to read it aloud. When I read a picture book aloud, I am transported to my high school theater's stage where I'm performing a monologue that has totally captivated the audience. They laugh at all the right parts, encouraging me to be more expressive with my voice, to exaggerate my facial expressions. They are silent during the dramatic moments so I pause even longer at the end of suspenseful sentences. We go through the experience together, and at the end, the applause is deafening. 

Ok, to be completely honest, I've actually never been in a play, but when I read to children, I do feel like I'm on stage. And I think read alouds should make us feel that way. I want to be so wrapped up in the book that the reader can't help but be caught up in it, too. 

When I have a new group of children, I start with books that are sure-fire hits, ones that I know will cause fits of laughter. Not all of my new students will be used to hearing books read aloud, nor will they trust that I will choose interesting titles, so I work on building their trust. I try to show them that when I open a book, they are in for a treat. I want them to see how enthralled I am by the story so they can't help but be fascinated with it, too. I want my students to join me in Picture Book Paradise.
These (and the above Shh! We Have a Plan) have worked really well as read-alouds for my young students: