In honor of Picture Book Month I plan to do a series on using picture books to support students’ writing. To launch the series, I thought it would be nice to interview Marcie Colleen, the educational consultant for Picture Book Month and the author of the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide.
I met Marcie at a NJ SCBWI event last year. Her energy and open heart are contagious. She is running her first Marathon tomorrow and has been raising money for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It would be great if people would send her good wishes or maybe even submit a last minute donation.
Without further adieu. Here are Marcie’s answers to some questions I posed about picture books—their power and their influence.
1. How did you get involved with Picture Book Month? My involvement in Picture Book Month is a true testament to the value of community among kidlit-ers. Last November Dianne de Las Casas, the founder of Picture Book Month, Tweeted that she was looking for someone who would be able to create curriculum for Picture Book Month, and also tie it to the Common Core. I am not too Twitter-savvy, but the fabulous Elizabeth Omlor immediately sent Dianne my way. See? It’s good to have community!
2. What do you think is the most important reason to use picture books? Hmmm…that’s a tough question, seeing as I just created a 16 page document with MANY reasons for using picture books! But if I had to say the most important I would say the “read aloud” aspect. Not only do picture books create a shared experience between reader and child/children, they also build listening skills. Picture books ask us to slow down, listen and enjoy.
3. What advice would you give teachers when choosing picture books to use in their classroom? Choose books that you enjoy! In fact, I would go one step further: choose books that the kids enjoy. I am a firm believer that good teachers can make a lesson out of anything. So why not, at least once a month, let the kids pick the book and build the lesson from there? Talk about letting the kids have ownership.
4. I know you have been a teacher, so I was wondering how did you use picture books in your classroom? Well, I taught high school English and Drama. I wasn’t as passionate about picture books back then…or at least I thought I wasn’t. However, I did create a Children’s Literature course in which my students would study picture books and pull out the themes and issues within those books. They then would develop a lesson plan and teach it to the kids at a local elementary school. I guess you can say, the class was basically a course on creating Teacher’s Guides!
5. Do you have a favorite picture book or author to use in the classroom? If so what or who? and why? I taught a long time ago…so Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein were my favorites, mainly because they offered so much beyond the words on the page. My favorites were The Giving Tree and The Sneetches. But if I were to teach today, I would probably teach a lot of Oliver Jeffers…for the same reasons. I love layered stories that speak to a variety of readers.
6. When you are writing picture books, do you think about how the story might be used in classrooms? and if so, how does that influence your writing? Want to hear the ironic thing? I don’t. I have two different brains that I use: the teacher brain and the storyteller brain. Perhaps this is best because I never want to seem heavy-handed or “messagey” in my stories. In my opinion, writers need to write the stories they want to tell and let the teachers figure out how to teach it. When the time comes that I am published, I will don that teacher’s cap and create curriculum for my books. But until then, I strive to write stories that I love with a kid’s enjoyment as my muse.
Thanks Marcie. For your time and passion. And Good Luck tomorrow. I’m sure you’ll do great.
Marcie Colleen is chasing the picture book writer’s dream. She is represented by Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency. A former teacher, she also creates Teacher’s Guides for other people’s books. You can visit her website at www.thisismarciecolleen.com. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her amazing fiance and adorable sock monkey.