Hears a Who. These books can lead to discussions arising from questions such as: What is a citizen? What is a community? What is a citizen’s responsibility to their community? (See Libresco, Balantic and Kipling 2011). Look at Last Stop on Market Street by de la Pena also.

Visual art

Picturebooks that deal with the subject of art include: Althés’ I am an Artist; Yates’ Dog Loves Drawing; Ish and The Dot by Reynolds. I particularly like A is for Art: an abstract alphabet by Stephen T Johnson; The First Drawing by Gerstein; Henri’s Scissors by Winter, and The Day the Crayons Quit by Jeffers. Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Leoni, and Mayhew’s Katie series are very useful for discussing colour as is My Many Coloured Days by Dr Seuss. Art and Max by Wiesner presents a quirky and philosophical look at art that could lead to some illuminating insights. The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane could provide children with a link between RE, Art and History Picturebooks are also a rich and valuable resources for ‘looking and responding to art’. Children quickly recognise the style of artists such as Anthony Browne, Mo Willems, Eric Carle, David McKee, Satoshi Kitamura or PJ Lynch. They could discuss how they think the artist created the pictures and what medium/colours were used.


Begin with Stinson and Petricic’s The Man with the Violin. Based on a true incident, it has the added advantage of having lots of internet links both to the incident itself and to Joshua Bell. This book allows us to engage in very philosophical thinking and discussion about the transformative power of music and the perception we have of what counts as ‘good’ music and ‘good’ musicians. For young children, picturebooks that link with the music curriculum could include: Moss and Priceman’s Zin, Zin Zin a Violin; Lach’s Can You Hear it? (which links art and music); Flannery and Stamper’s In the Hall of the Mountain King; Raschka’s Charlie Parker Played Be Bop, and Quentin Blake’s classic Mister Magnolia. Other books deal with music more covertly: Posy Simmonds’ Fred is a story about a lazy cat (now deceased) who had been leading a double life as Famous Fred - the Elvis of the Cat-World.

As well as reading books about music you can try turning books into musical performances. My pupils and I turned several of Julia Donaldson’s books into ‘songs’ particularly the chorus parts of stories like George The Smartest Giant in Town and The Gruffalo. Rosen and Oxenbury’s We’re all Going on a Bear Hunt just begs for an accompanying ‘soundtrack’ as does Rosen and Reynold’s There’s a Bear in a Cave. Books such as Smallman and Pedlar’s Don’t Wake the Bear! and Mo Willems’ That is Not a Good Idea, and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus lend themselves to choral work. We might encourage discussion on why some books lend themselves to a musical interpretation more than others. This might highlight the idea of rhythm, rhyme, repetitive choruses, the onomatopoeic elements etc.


With very little expertise a teacher could use virtually all picturebooks as opportunities for drama. The elements of drama such as hot-seating, conscience alley, freeze-framing and thought-tracking, narration and so on, can all be employed to enhance comprehension but again, just as in music above, a caveat prevails: I would encourage teachers to discuss why certain books or scenes or characters or events are suited to dramatic interpretation.

Finally – a caveat

The primary purpose of my CT&BT approach (Roche 2010) is to encourage classroom talk and critical thinking. I would caution about finishing a classroom discussion and immediately asking the class to do a task based on the book. This turns an authentic dialogic experience into what children perceive as teacher-focused ‘work’ and they may eventually stop engaging wholeheartedly in the discussion if they know that, following it, there will be some kind of ‘regular school task’.

[Note: some of the material here is adapted from Chapter 7 of Mary Roche’s book Developing Children’s Critical Thinking through Picturebooks (Roche 2015) and is used with publisher’s permission]

References Evans, M., Kelley, J., Sikora, J. and Treiman, D (2010) ‘Family scholarly culture and educational success: books and schooling in 27 nations’. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 28 (2010) 171-197. Hurst, C. (nd) Children’s Literature. Online, available http:// Accessed 6 June 2017 Libresco, A.S., Balantic, J. and Kipling, J.C. (2011) Every Book is a Social Studies Book. Libraries Unlimited: Santa Barbara, CA. New Yorker (2015) Can Reading Make You Happier? Article by Ceridwen Dovey available online: cultural-comment/can-reading-make-you-happier accessed June 15th 2017 Pringle, R. and Lamme, L. (2005) Picture storybooks and science learning, Reading Horizons, (46)1 Roche, M. (2010) Critical Thinking and Book Talk: using picturebooks to promote discussion and critical thinking in the classroom. Reading News (Conference Ed). Literacy Association of Ireland: Dublin Roche, M. (2015) Developing Children Critical Thinking through Picturebooks. Oxon: Routledge Rosen, M. (2012) Blogspot Wed 4 Jan 2012. Online, available: html accessed 6 June 2017 (If you want to learn more about picturebooks my Padlet might be useful: Contact Mary via Twitter @marygtroche or via email

Following a career in primary education, Mary Roche lectured on primary English in MIC (B Ed) and on Action Research (M Ed) in UCC and is currently a lecturer at St Patrick’s Campus MIC, Thurles, Eire.

6 Books for Keeps No.226 September 2017

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