Reflective Renewal

finding meaning and inspiration in children's literature

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Pairing Caldecotts with Writing Lessons

January 27th, 2010 by christine · 1 Comment · Creativity, children's books

caldecottAs a child, I remember visiting the library and seeing the silver emblem stickers on certain picture books that had been awarded Caldecott medals.  Honestly, although I markedly noticed the Caldecott stickers, I never gave the awards much thought.  I just loved the books.  As teachers, though, we all anxiously await the announcement of the Caldecott winners each January.  In the months previous, we also love to speculate about who might win and why.  When I am teaching children’s literature courses at the college level, I love to start off the spring semester by showing all of the winners and runners-up during class so that we may all debate about who won and why, and who may have been deservedly left out.  In previous years, those Caldecott discussions have been some of our liveliest!

For those of you who are newer to children’s literature, the Caldecott award has been given out by the American Library Association (ALA) since 1938.  According to the ALA’s website: “The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.”  The awards committee generally selects one Medal Winner and then sometimes a few Honor Books.

lionThe 2010 Caldecott Medal Winner is The Lion & the Mouse, illustrated and written by Jerry Pinkney.  It is a wordless picture book version of the classic Aesop Fable.  Since I love Aesop’s Fables, and I also happen to be one of Jerry Pinkney’s biggest fans, this year’s winner is certainly no disappointment for me.  Pinkney consistently illustrates in a luscious way, always using vibrant colors and somehow conveying rich texture through illustration as though it were fabric. 

There is no denying that children simply adore picture books with animals as the main characters.  As an educator, I can also personally attest to the fact that children learn lessons in more earnest ways when the main characters happen to be animals.  Children can somehow summon more empathy and understanding for animal characters than for humans.  Since this classic fable reminds us of the importance of the underdog and the power and enchantment of unlikely friendships, the possibilities of using this book are countless.  Whether you are nestled up at home flipping through this book’s gorgeous pages, or holding it up in a classroom using it for specific teaching purposes, no one will be disappointed. 

In particular, I would recommend this book for writing lessons.  Let’s face it—we all need inspiration to write. Writing can be an extremely daunting process.  I have had continued success using wordless picture books as springboards for inspiring writing lessons.  Children of all ages love to narrate the story as they look at the illustrations.  Assist students in keeping track of their wonderful ideas, so that they can later add details and voice to their re-creations of the story.  Using wordless picture books has never failed me, and if I were you, I would be anxious to try out Pinkney’s new winner. 

Some other of my favorite wordless picture books that I recommend are:

Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola     Pancakes

The Red Book by Barbara Lehman

Flotsam by David Wiesner

To all of you out there reading:

Please share with us your favorite wordless picture books.  Have you ever had success in using wordless picture books with your students, especially with writing projects?  We’d love to read about all of your ideas!  What Caldecott-winning picture books have touched your hearts over the years? 

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Elizabeth // Jul 26, 2010 at 1:40 AM

    I love reading Abraham Lincoln because of the delightful and simple drawings. I appreciate that the book isn’t overly simplified but instead acknowledges that children do understand a lot more than they are credited for. As a kid I remember reading this book and idolizing Lincoln for going places even though he was born in a log cabin.

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