Picture books are not just for small children, they are often multi layered with rich visual text and can be excellent for study in both junior and senior English classrooms. Increasing, the use of technology in the classroom has lead to the term 'Picture books' being applied to a range of more complex and sophisticated texts such as visual digital narratives. Students are able to engage with the ideas, the words and the images created within the pictured world. The following resources suggest some selected picture books, support your teaching of specific authors, give ideas for the appreciation and exploration of these powerful visual representations, and offer resources to assist students to participate in the creation of these text themselves.
List of suggested picture books.
Interactive Picture Books and Digital Narratives
Inanimate Alice is a revolutionary interactive fiction text which is comprised of images, text, and sound, in addition to requiring the reader to participate through clicking sections or performing actions. It follows the story of a girl growing up in the C21st with a digital friend, Brad. Students can access the story on any form of computer or through any browser type, This text would be superb to use when studying the reader in any unit of work, and would also be an excellent way to look at the way modalities in texts interact. Because Inanimate Alice has become so popular as a teaching tool, there are a variety of free downloadable teaching resources on the website (under 'Teach with Alice').
Dust Echoes is a fantastic interactive site which is centred on story telling through text, images and sound, and the role of story telling in Indigenous culture. An excellent text to use to with younger students to allow them to have a sense of direction in what they are studying, with plenty of stories to choose from on the site. Older students could explore the way stories connect to one another and how this contributes to cultural metanarratives, or contribution of story telling to identity. The site is expertly constructed, and also houses movies, songs, and downloadable study guides to give students and teachers direction in using the site.
This is a fantastic site targeted at students which reads well known picture books like the Rainbow Fish aloud whilst displaying visuals. Many activities tailor made accompany each book. This would be most appropriate for Stage 4 learners and advanced Stages 2 and 3 sSudents. The site also holds great potential for use with students with learning difficulties in older age groups. Links are also provided for extra investigation on issues which arise in each book.
This site reviews and recommends interactive ebooks for a young adults for iOS devices and general computer operating systems. A fantastic resource to keep up to date with new books which become available digitally, and the reviews are extremely detailed, often providing a video on the features of the ebook. The site also links you to where you can purchase or download the ebooks; note that prices vary from $1 to $30 depending upon publishers and content.
This application for iOS is an adaptation of Graeme Base's book Animalia, and supplements the story with games and challenges for the reader to participate in. This expands the range of activities students can partake in from finding hidden items in the pictures to clicking on things to learn about them and hear the noise they make. The illustrations are just as breath-taking as the hardcopy version also. The ebook costs $3.99 from the iTunes store. Below is a video from the creator of the application which demonstrates its features.
Whilst Pottermore is to some degree more of a game than a picture book, it is still a useful aspect of the story world to explore. Students can, in effect, be both part of the story, and create their own through interacting with the images and sounds. Also a useful text to analyse in terms of the way images and intertextuality shape meaning in texts.
Analysis Frameworks and Resources
A great site by the University of Houston containing many resources on how to use digital story-telling in the classroom. Some aspects of the site will be more applicable to teachers than students, for example, under the 'Essentials' tab you will find information which will inform your teaching of picture books and visual digital storytelling including the 7 elements which would be great to scaffold analysis for your students. There are also examples of visual digital narratives under 'Examples' (and then 'Language Arts') which students can view, and the 'Create' tab has resources which will assist students to create their own visual digital narrative, including clear step-by-step tutorials which will be easy for students to understand. Under the 'Web 2.0' tab you will find a range of links to podcasts, blogs, and tools which aid the reading and composition of digital stories.
This website is DEC portal password protected, but for those teachers who have access to it it is a great way to structure a unit of work on picture books for Stage 4 students. One book which is looked at in detail is Where the Wild Things Are, and other resources include activities on 2-3 pages of other picture books as an introduction. The website has a strong focus on integrating the analysis of both the visuals and text in picture books. The website structures the resource into 4 parts which can also stand alone and can be downloaded separately as PDFs, or can be viewed online by students given the log in code.
This is a well laid out and easy to follow how-to guide by Wollongong University's Library to creating a digital story. Not only does it explain the elements of structure of a digital story, but also provides checklists and templates which will be helpful for guiding students in their production. The site is not visually appealing, and some aspects, such as submission details (clearly designed for a specific assessment task), are not relevant to students.
Tools for Composing Picture Books
The Storybird site provides you and your class with the materials to do some collaborative storymaking. It lets you create beauitfully illustrated picture books by using fantastic donated images and students can choose an artist or a theme and start writing. This would make a terrific group or class activity. It is creative, guided and really well presented.
This is a free application for iOS iPads which allows students to compose interactive picture books easily and even publish them for viewing by others. Students can view examples of sample books to guide their own composition, and there are helpful tutorials to scaffold their learning of the elements of the site. Specifically designed for children to use, the application is user friendly, and students can create a book in approximately 20 minutes. This would be a great way to share writing amongst classmates and the wider community. Below is an example of a children's interactive picture book called Not Without Bear created on Demibooks Composer.
This is another free digital picture book creation application, however, it is not interactive as the pictures and text are static and participation from the reader is minimal. This application is available on a wider range of devices than Demibooks Composer. The layout and options available in this application are easy for even young children to use, and again there is an option to share the story once it is completed (albeit not publish in a public forum).
This free downloadable software program for Windows and Macintosh operating systems on laptops and PCs is an interactive ebook creator , however it would be more appropriate for older students than junior students as the composition of images and interactive elements is complex, however there are a greater range of options available in the composition process than any of the other programs available. The beauty of this program is that the product can be published in any format: for mobile devices on the iTunes store, or on a website for multiple operating systems.
This application for iOS devices is targeted more towards teaching narrative structure than any of the other ebook creators. Whilst the options available may seem aimed at younger students, the scaffolding which this application provides (in the 'Choose a theme and build a story with help' option) makes it relevant for students of any age group, even if it is simple to view as an example when composing something on a different application. This application is priced at $2.99, but offers discounts to those teachers and students who are using the application for educational purposes (visit the App Store for more details).
This article by renowned children's author, Mem Fox, contains tips from her personal experience as a picture book writer on how to write picture books. She provides examples, and an in-depth discussion of audience and purpose and how this relates to the language used in picture books. Teachers should choose the content which is appropriate for their classes as some of the content refers to advanced concepts. The article would be great for Stage 6 students who are interested in analysing picture books for related texts, or for English Extenstion 2 students who choose to compose a children's text.
This site is very much in keeping with Roald Dahl and his quirky, imaginative work. There are some interesting resources and ideas. If you happened to be using one of his books it is a fantastic complementary resource otherwise you might use some of the enjoyable games the website has or adapt some of his ideas to suit your classroom. It is worth having a look at.
This is a wonderfully visual and creative website with clear text based on the work of author and illustrator Mark Haddon. A valuable resource to accompany anything to do with Haddon’s work but could also be used as for website study itself or as a fun introduction to visual literacy and/or illustrations.
Should you ever be lucky enough to teach any of Shaun Tan’s picture books his website is a lovely resource. In itself it is beautifully presented and very easy to navigate. There are no real educational resources so to speak of but there are his own thoughts on art, interesting projects, and picture books for older readers.
Chris Van Allsburg's website is absolutely beautiful. It is incredibly well designed and easy to use. Aside from summaries of each of his books there are amazing interactive bits and pieces. This website could be studied on its own in terms of its presentation and effectiveness. Definitely worth a look!
Colin Thompson's website is a wonderful award winning visual feast. Students will enjoy browsing through this brilliant and enticing website and Thompson has published an incredible number of books. There are lots of interactive features and places for user generated content to be published. Two very good picture books of Thompson’s are Looking for Atlantis, about a young boy goes on a quest in his house to find Atlantis, and Dust, the story of a young child starving to death in Africa. While Dust is certainly confronting it is also quite beautiful and all proceeds go to "Save the Children". Another remarkable feature of While Dust is that it is the collaborative work of about 15 different illustrators with very unique styles.
Jackie French's website is clearly presented and simple to navigate. She writes a blog there and is an author of both picture books and young adult fiction. You might use this site as a source to recommend books to your students for their wide reading programs. She has recently published The Shaggy Gully Times, a parody of a newspaper which contains feature articles, editorials, ads and classifieds, all of which are humorous. This would make a great resource for teaching 'the press' and it would be most suitable for stage 4. There are lots of interesting bits on this rather idiosyncratic site including Jackie’s favorite recipes.
This site belongs to Libby Hathorn who is perhaps best known for her young adult fiction but she has also written many picture books. Here you will discover pictures books on many different cultures, appropriations of famous poems and the most sinister and well-known Way Home. She provides online stories, images, games and poems as starting points for new writers. The “Let’s Play” section is an excellent resource.
Gary Crew is a terrific writer and he specialises in illustrated books for older readers. While his website is not especially visually interesting, his work is always intricate and complex, especially The Memorial, Caleb and The Watertower. There will be much to discuss in class and he offers assistance through providing activities and ideas for teachers.
This is Jon Scieszka's website. It is creative and quirky and something that students will enjoy exploring. His most well known illustrated book is The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. This is a superb book and would be great for teaching perspective and also fractured fairy tales. Scieszka has a particular interest in why boys read less than girls, and he has a link to ‘guys read’ a website encouraging young males to engage with books.
Tohby Riddle is an Australian writer and illustrator. His website is not overly detailed but it does have some interesting cartoons on it that could be used when looking at humour/satire. His picture book, The Great Escape from City Zoo is his best known. It is a story about four animals that decide to run away from the zoo. It is entirely black and white and each illustration is modelled on a famous art-work or moment in history. It is very subtle but very clever.
Libby Gleeson's website is clear and allows you to view easily the books she has written and determine what they are about. For example, An Ordinary Day is a good text to look at when considering the relationship between text and image. There are very useful links to many other well-known writers and writing associations.
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