Reading Picture Books with Children 2: Jackets and Covers

Hi friends!

Ready to talk about Chapter 2 of Reading Picture Books with Children? Me, too!

Book Jacket as Coming Attraction Poster

I must admit that, before reading this book with you, I did not see the book jacket as one whole wraparound image, front and back cover. I spent time teaching the terms “front cover” and “back cover” to my students, and we looked at them separately.

I’m now taking time to look at both the front and the back of the book jacket before we begin reading, as the author suggests on page 16. Has anyone else tried this and noticed that some books take advantage of this space more than others? I’ve just started noticing these differences in picture book covers.

As the author shares on page 17, it’s charming to think about the characters in the book living outside of the pages.

Visual  Thinking Strategies for Jacket Art

  • What’s going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can you find?

I think I’ll write these questions on a little index card to keep on my lap at storytime. I need reminders to change my habits and add new elements to my teaching.

index card questions for picture books

The author says that she allows students to “steer the ship” when she opens storytime with these questions, instead of telling them her own thoughts. (p. 20) I agree that opening storytime with student voices instead of my own changes our entire time together. This is a terrific way to allow all students (of all ability levels) to join the discussion around our book.

Picture Book Covers as Invitation

I think that my students will be intrigued by the idea that books are inviting readers to come inside. Sometimes (is it just me?), I feel like we are pushing readers into books, rather than inviting them, with intrigue and curiosity.

When we invite observations, rather than pushing students for the one correct answer (“how many monkeys do you see?”), I think we can change the whole tone of our book conversations. I hope you will join me in trying this, and share with us what happens in your library. I love curious, engaged readers!

Share your thoughts about picture book covers

I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, and experiences, either in a comment, or on my Library Learners Facebook page, which allows more interaction. Thanks again for joining me in this book club!

Here are the other posts in our book club for Reading Picture Books with Children:

Reading Picture Books with Children Chapter 1

Reading Picture Books with Children 3: Endpapers

Reading Picture Books with Children 4: Front Matter

Reading Picture Books with Children 5: Typography

Reading Picture Books with Children 6: Gutters

Photo Credits:
Reader in Library: photo credit: cheriejoyful <a href=”″>The Library 7</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>
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    1. I taught about the cover as well. I often would ask about what they thought the book was about just based on the front cover and after showing the back cover. Did their idea of what the book was about change after seeing the back? After we read the book, were their guesses correct? Were they surprised by what the book was actually about?

    2. I love picture book art. I enjoy sharing the little secrets in the artwork (for example, the pigeon popping up in Mo Willems’ other stories). A typical lesson for kindergartners would go like this:

      Tell students we will be reading one fiction and one non-fiction book and looking for similarities and differences.

      Show students the front and back covers of “The Hat” by Jan Brett (E BRE)
      Ask students what they see (call on a few students). Ask them to look carefully at the pictures, and ask if they see anything else. Ask if they think the book is fiction (made up story) or non-fiction (informational)

      Look at the title page — point out the socks and hat on the sides of the main image. Point out the girl, and ask what they think she is pointing at.

      Read the book, pointing out the details in the main images and the images on the frame as you go (Jan Brett books are always so detailed).

      Show them the cover of “Warm Clothes” by Gail Saunders-Smith (391 SAN)
      Ask if they think this is fiction or non-fiction (and why)

      Show them the title page.

      Show them the spine label (391 SAN), table of contents (p 3), glossary (words to know, p22) and index (p24) which are all text features of non-fiction.

      I think my students get so much more out of the story when they are analyzing it in this way.

    3. I just can’t believe how much student engagement and responses can change by simply modifying a few words in a question. Before, I might ask kids, “What do you see?” and get simple, factual responses. Now I ask “What’s going on here?” and I get thoughtful analysis and deep discussions. This definitely applies to the cover as well.

      I enjoy the idea of thinking of the cover as an invitation as this also helps students in the book selection process also.

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