Holly Valentine | July 2021

C.A.T.C.H. a Spark!

Who doesn’t love picture books? There are limitless possibilities to use them for. From themes, to artist studies, to learning both writing and artistic techniques, and of course content area topics as well. This month is all about picture books! They are not just for small children, if you think out of the box. Pair older students with younger students and allow the texts to be teaching models and mentor texts, encouraging conversation, collaboration, community and of course, creativity. 

The Little Blue Cottage

Think back on your summers as a child. We all have cherished family traditions and memories, very often it was a place you went to every summer. Did you ever think about how that place felt about and cherished you? This is one of the most heartwarming stories you can imagine, in the tradition of The Little House or Roxaboxen or Miss Rumphius. As much as we long for summer, and time to relax, the little blue cottage longs for her family even more over the long cold winters. When children grow up and disappear, it feel even harder. Spark amazing conversations about family and traditions with this one. It would also be a great starter story at the beginning of the school year as students reflect on their summer. 

Blue Floats Away

On first glance, this appears to be a story about lighthouses, water and perhaps summer with its unified color palette. When you read it, you realize that it’s so much more. This delightful tale tells the story of Little Blue, an iceberg who is literally split away from his parents and undergoes quite the transformation. What transformation? He goes through the entire water cycle, teaching us as he goes in a way that young students will remember, while also teaching us about the importance of being open to new experiences and ideas, never knowing what they might bring you. 

Lift

Graphic novels are all the rage, and this one is a perfect introduction to the style of them for young readers. Along with teaching the importance of layouts and storyboarding, telling stories through pictures, it is also a story of gaining independence and the importance of family even with sibling rivalry. Throw in the use of both literal and figurative language (think about all the ways to use the title word, “lift”), and you have a perfect book to do more than just read to children. They will be making inferences and connections to text, all while developing critical thinking skills along the way. 

Perfect Square

What does perfect mean? Is there such a thing? If you are looking for something fun to do with children at home this summer, or when you start back in school with the youngest of learners, this is the book for you! All you need is lots of colored paper to see all the things you can do with a simple square. This book will engage from the very beginning as they explore techniques for working with paper, including cutting, punching, shredding, tearing, wrinkling and more. Along with learning developmental skills and trying out simple everyday tools, readers will connect to math and geometry in a playful way. 

Flashlight

We love summer and all it brings with it. Adventures and fireflies, staying up late and exploring.  Sometimes as adults, we lose our sense of wonder and imagination. This book reminds us of the joy it can bring. A completely wordless story, readers will explore light and shadow as the look through the beam of a flashlight with the unique illustrations. There are so many things to look at it in this book and narrow in on. The more you read it, the more you will notice! 

The Boy Who Grew a Forest

A winner of multiple different awards, this true story will ring home for students because it shows that even if you’re little, you can make a difference, along with the idea that all it take is one person and one idea. Students will consider natural themes as weak, such as the effects of erosion and deforestation when a young boy’s homeland is threatened. He simply decides to start planting trees. This true story is heartwarming, and will have students asking what simple task they can do to make a difference. 

DOWNLOAD ALL SIX

We all rejuvenate in summer. Do it by escaping into a picture book with a child, reminding yourself about the wonder and power of imagination. Use powerful stories to spark powerful conversations! 

Don’t be left in the dark – check out the previously published CATCH a Spark series!

About the Author

Jaime Patterson is the Executive Director of Creative Affairs for The Institute for Arts Integration & STEAM. As the Executive Director of Creative Affairs, Jaime enjoys cultivating community in the membership community, creating resources, and researching and writing for a new upcoming project. She is a lifelong supporter of the arts and is passionate about supporting educators in their pathway to teaching and learning through arts integration. Jaime resides in Hanover, Pennsylvania with her husband, Josh, and their three children, Aidan, Lila and Gwyneth.