authors · illustrators · mentoring · Read Aloud

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?

6 thoughts on “Author & Illustrators as Mentors

  1. Stacey,
    This post gave me lots to think about Stacey. Every time I write a post about an illustrators work I’m a little disappointed in my ability to really speak to the techniques they use. I recognized parts of their work I love, but I continually wish I knew more about art so I could speak to their talents. Maybe I’ll work on this a little this year.

    You have me thinking that perhaps I could dig deeper into this topic with students. I like to use Todd Parr, Donald Crews, Barton, Mo Willems and other illustrators who use shape well at the beginning of the year and have particular style. Across the year we grow these conversations and look at other illustrators who add so many interesting elements to their work to deepen the meaning of stories.

    The next time we are together I’d love to talk more about this!


  2. I love that you read the author AND illustrator to your daughter before reading a book. I do the same thing with my Grade One students. We love finding books that match or have similar features. It will be interesting to read “The Day the Crayons Quit” with my class because it just LOOKS just like an Oliver Jeffers book, but it’s not HIS words. Michael Martchenko illustrates most Robert Munch books, but when he illustrates for a different author, it’s hard to get past the different type of writing since the pictures look so similar. Great connection and post about this. Thanks for sharing! 🙂


  3. I do have a thing about authors and always point out their names. Because of your post I will add the illustrators name to the routine also. I have noticed however, that the kiddos, from an early age recognize the style of the illustrators across books. The new Pete the Cat books out there don’t have the same author right now. I’m mourning the loss of Eric not collaborating. I’m wondering if the kids will notice when I share the Wheels and then the new one coming out in the fall. xo


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