Author & Illustrators as Mentors

My daughter selected three books for me to her last night at bedtime.  I read the title, the author, and the illustrator’s name for each book just as I do every night.  Often, we examine the end pages or the title page’s illustration before we begin reading each story.  (Here’s a  Vine I created last night as I was introducing the books aloud to Isabelle.) We did that last night, but something got me thinking about the question my husband asked me when the three of us were curled-up in our bed together during one of last week’s bedtime story times.

“Why do you read the name of the illustrator?” he asked.

“Because it’s important for Isabelle to know the names of illustrators too,” I replied.

He seemed satisfied with my response, but in his mind, I think his real question probably was why have you started reading the names of the illustrators lately?

You see, I recently began reading the author’s name and the illustrator’s name aloud to my daughter in the past three or four months.  I’ve been spending more time examining picture books in the service of utilizing them as mentor texts.  I’ve gotten to the point where I can recognize the style of a few illustrators, just as I can “hear” my favorite authors’ voices when I read.  I celebrated the reunion  of Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis when they came together to create Each Kindness (E.B. Lewis illustrated The Other Side.).  I knew Melissa Sweet had to be behind the illustrations of Little Red Writing, which is written by Joan Holub, as soon as the review copy arrived in my mailbox.  I instantly recognized Oliver Jeffers‘ style from the moment I looked inside of Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit.  Even though I’m not much of an artist, I appreciate art.  As a result, I came to realize it was appropriate for me to start recognizing an illustrator every time I read a book aloud to my daughter.

But let’s take that a step further and talk about the kids in our classrooms.  All young writers need mentors.  Since the pictures in the books we share enhance the meaning of stories (Sometimes illustrations add another layer to picture books that the words don’t tell us.  The first book that comes to mind is Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco.), students should become familiar with illustrators as well as authors.  I think it would be great if students came to admire the work of a few illustrators, as well as a few authors.  Perhaps they’d seek out out artistic mentors, when illustrations would enhance their writing, as well as writing mentors.  The only way kids will be able to adopt illustrators as mentors is if they know the names of the people who illustrate the beloved books you read to them.

So it starts with you.  This fall, why not read the name of the title, the author, and the illustrator each time you read a picture book aloud?