Be a Picture Book Critiquer

Picture Book

Our library’s summer reading program requires that elementary students read for ten hours or forty books to win the Level One prize (they have to read even more for the next prize). That’s a lot of books for my youngest to finish on his own, so we alternate between easy readers that he reads himself and picture books that I read to him. Although we’ve been reading some of our old favorites, I’ve also been trying to find picture books we’ve never read before. Maybe it’s because he’s older, but this year, as we read them, we’ve begun critiquing them as well.

The first thing you notice with a picture book is the cover, so if the cover illustrations are eye-catching and fun, the book starts out with a positive “score.” Then we take a minute to look at the illustrations; my son and I have done a lot of art projects together, and I like to see if he can guess what medium the illustrator used. (Sometimes it’s easy to tell; sometimes it’s written on one of the front pages near the copyright.)

Then we jump into the story, always with high expectations. We read through it, but if something doesn’t quite work, one of us will point it out. For example, in one book we read, the page was supposed to show a boy and a giant, but the boy looked almost as big as the giant. My son caught that one. Sometimes the illustrations don’t match the text at all, but sometimes the illustrations are fantastic and fun. We point those out, too.

When the story’s over, we talk about it as a whole. Was it a good ending to the story? If not, what would have made a better ending? Should we add it to our favorites list? When we talk about the books, I try to be careful not to interject my opinions too much – I want my young reader to form some of his own.

Last week, we read about twenty picture books, and after collaborating together on our critiques, found there were only two of them that we really liked. But that’s okay. We’re enjoying reading together, and he’s definitely developing some critical thinking skills. And those few we really do like? We’ve been reading them again…and again…and again!

Photo by mrsdkrebs

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