I have always been a voracious reader. Books were my friends in childhood (Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume), my therapists in my teenage and young adult years (Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman) and some of my best parenting tools (Junie B. Jones and the Sticky, Smelly Bus by Barbara Park). Books are woven into the very fabric of my life and I know many of you can relate.

Many educators use picture books to build a classroom community around shared texts and offer students mentor texts for their own writing, too. But what if we brought picture books into coaching and leading so teachers could experience the same?

I first experienced the power of picture books as an adult learner in one of my first graduate education classes, a class that was unlike no other and has stayed with me ever since. We would often move our uncomfortable chairs into a large circle and listen to the professor read a loved picture book. At first, I was uncomfortable. I mean, I loved books, but really? She was going to read to us? Why yes, she was. Often. And I came to love that time to settle in from a busy day at school while listening to a book that would often find its way into my classroom, too. We’d listen, talk about the book as readers and then often suggest ways to bring the book to our students, too. It was magical and I never forgot those experiences, which is why I bring picture books into my teaching, coaching and leading, too.

But there’s more.

Harnessing the power of picture books in coaching and leading offers tremendous benefits. It:
  • creates a shared culture of reading with teachers
  • offers teachers new titles to consider for their own classroom
  • models powerful read aloud practices for the classroom
  • offers a launching point for complex conversations
  • sparks coaching conversations, collaborative inquiry and even coaching cycles
  • models just how powerful picture books can be for ALL learners, even our older students.
So, how might you use them in your coaching and leading? I’ve got a few suggestions so that you can find an entry point just right for you.

Start a Picture Book Display in Your Coaching Space

Start a picture book display in your coaching space perfect for teachers to browse, borrow and read to their students. Write down possible teaching points and craft moves teachers might explore on a sticky note, connecting it to what you’re learning together as much as possible. Teachers will appreciate just how easy it is to find a new read aloud with suggestions for what to explore with students and you’ll find yourself with a stack of new coaching tools that work even when you’re not in the classroom.

Team up with your librarian, a coach’s best partner in crime, and rotate your picture book selections every month or so (more often if teachers visit your coaching space frequently) to keep things fresh and exciting. And keep the borrowing routine to a minimum: a quick sign out is all that’s needed.

Read to Teachers in Professional Learning Sessions

Admittedly, this takes guts and the ability to ignore any perplexed looks and sideways glances you might see the first time you give it a try. But reading to teachers at a grade level meeting or professional learning sessions can be incredibly powerful. It gives teachers a chance to settle in, gives you a chance to model interactive read alouds and then, offers everyone a spark to launch conversation and forward learning together.

Have you ever been leading a professional learning session, posed a question or two to launch conversation with teachers and then heard…..nothing?! Yeah, I’ve been there too. It can be hard to get a conversation going, especially after a long day of teaching and on complex or challenging topics. But we can let picture books do the talking and launch a conversation for us, especially if we choose books that lend themselves to particular conversations, like reading Five More Minutes by Liz Garton Scanlon to lead a discussion on making the most of our instructional minutes or Little Brown by Marla Frazee to better support challenging students.

After a time or two doing this, it gets easier and easier. And you don’t always have to be the one doing the reading. You might choose to watch a video of the book being read aloud instead, like when Minh Le reads one of my favorite books, Drawn Together.

Bring Picture Books Into Your Coaching Cycles

Coaching cycles offer a personalized way to connect teachers to picture books as coaching tools, too. You might offer to read a picture book to their class as a way to ‘break the ice’ and get to know the students better for an anticipated coaching cycle. My favorite read aloud to get to know classes of all ages is The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater.

Or, if you are planning a cycle together, you can be sure to bring in a picture book as a mentor text for reading or writing mini-lessons to not only model an instructional skill, but boost the reading community, too.

Make it your motto to say ‘I have a book for that!’ and harness the power of picture books to boost all aspects of your coaching.
 
One last thing: If you’d like to take a deeper dive into what leading with literature actually looks and sounds like, you won’t want to miss my Lead with Literature workshop! It’s a live (but recorded, for on-demand viewing when it works for you) workshop celebrating the power of picture books as coaching tools and comes with an unboxing of celebrated titles to use right away. But not only that, you’ll get a printable page with a book summary, how and why you might use it in your coaching and discussion prompts for before and after reading for 25 picture books! Learn more here and download a free printable page, too!


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