Picture books as pre-writing activities

Did you know that you can help prepare your child to write by reading a picture book together? A good picture book exposes children of all ages to quality literature, enhancing learning and teaching them a great deal about writing.

  • How words hook the reader at the beginning of the story.
  • How words form sentences and paragraphs and, finally, an organized story with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • How precise word choices show actions, descriptions, and feelings.

A Springboard to Writing

Before beginning to work on a new writing project or lesson, read a related picture book aloud to your child. Be sure you read during this time, not your child. She can practice reading skills another time.

Talk about the book with your child. Here are some ideas.

  • What words or sentences grabbed you at the beginning and made you want to hear or read more?
  • What happened at the beginning of the book? The middle?
  • How did the story end?
  • What are some of your favorite words?
  • How did the story make you feel?

Choosing Picture Books

We know you will want to take care in choosing just the right picture book for each lesson. There are so many wonderful read-alouds with delightful story lines and engaging illustrations. Start with your own bookshelf!

You can also scour used book stores, yard sales, online stores like Amazon, and the library in your search for the “perfect” book. For guidance, ask your local children’s librarian, read book reviews online, or seek out the recommendation of friends. Keep in mind that others’ recommendations may not always match your family’s criteria for acceptable reading. So the final decision, of course, is yours.

Though your child may love superheroes, Disney princesses, or other cartoon characters, you’ll want to avoid these mass market-type picture books for pre-writing times. Instead, look for high-quality, timeless books that play with language and use unique artwork. You know which ones I mean—the books you don’t mind reading again and again because you love them too!

A few lists of top picks:

If your child is older, and especially if she’s already reading, you may believe she is beyond picture books, but that’s not true! You’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that many picture books are actually geared toward older children.

Begin your search here:

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4 comments ↓

#1 Jacqueline on 01.06.09 at 4:20 am

Hello

I have just come upon your website. I am homeschooling my two children and am struggling a little with the 7-year-old and her creative writing.

I think the problem is perfectionism! She can write (joined handwriting) nicely and she has good ideas. She can spell reasonably for her age- she is reading herself and we read to our children a lot.

BUT despite the fact that she is happy to create stories and get me to dictate them, whenever it comes to writing them out herself, she becomes upset by ‘mistakes’ and starts to shorten her originally long and interesting sentences to avoid having to write them out in their entirety. I try tobe encouraging and am always telling her mistakes are part of the process but she really freezes up so writing things down turns into a rather tense chore.

I am a writer myself! But I worry that somehow I have made the process ardous for her. I would love any advice you may have to offer. Needless to say my second child is totally uninhibited when it comes to producing stories and does’t worry at all.

#2 Kim on 01.06.09 at 8:28 am

I completely understand, Jacqueline! My young son was the exact same way. Since you weren’t specific about the nature of her frustration, I’ll give you some general tips that should help your daughter relax a bit.

1. Establish limits. It’s OK if her story is only six or seven sentences long. Recopying a long story can ovrwhelm a seven-year-old.

2. If up to this point she has been writing as you dictate, try printing her story in on lined paper instead, skipping every other line. (Alternately, type it on the computer using a large, clean font.) Let her copy rather than write from dictation. As an additional aid, place a wide strip of construction paper beneath the line she’s copying from so she’s not distracted by other text. As she copies, she can slide the strip down line-by-line.

3. Before she begins copying, sit down together and talk about her narration. Ask her to find her favorite sentence, circle her three most descriptive words, and underline three great action verbs (or other favorite words). Ask her why she made these choices. She’ll be less likely to shorten her writing if she has already identified positive features!

4. Likewise, spend a moment praising some of her best words and sentences. She surely won’t want to shorten a sentence Mommy has fussed over!

5. Set a time limit for copying her narration—maybe 7 minutes because she’s age 7. When the timer goes off, she can stop, even mid-sentence. Let her do this once or twice a day. She can pick it up again the next day if need be. There’s no rush!

6. You didn’t mention the kinds of “mistakes” that upset her, but if they’re spelling errors, you can create a word wall at eye level from a sheet of butcher paper or poster board. If a word is giving her trouble, write it on a rectangle of paper and tape it to the word wall. When she recopies, it may be easier for her to look at the larger words on the word wall than to copy from your smaller printing on the paper. (When the wall gets full, remove the words she knows to make room for new ones.)

This may not solve all your problems, Jacqueline, but it will certainly get you started! Hope this helps.

#3 Jacqueline on 01.07.09 at 4:43 am

These pointers are really helpful and very inspired. Many many thanks! I will now be following your website closely. Do you think you will be publishing your book in the UK?

Jacqueline

#4 Kim on 01.07.09 at 3:14 pm

So glad to be of help, Jacqueline! We have no plans to publish in the UK, although we do sell internationally through our website:

http://www.writeshop.com

http://www.writeshop.com/store/categories.php

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