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Perspective Through Picture Books: How Can You Implement This In Your Classroom?

By Naomi O'Brien


This post *should* answer all of your questions about Perspective Through Picture Books!

*Please read this post first for an introduction to PTPB if you aren’t familiar!

What’s included in a PTPB Download?

If you have purchased our units, you may have noticed a change in what is included. In an effort to go digital/green, we are reducing the need for printables. This means that the printable workbook that was included in our earlier books will no longer be included.

When we first began writing these units, we were convinced that they wouldn’t be attractive to teachers because they weren’t “cute.” We almost tried to add in some response activities or book-themed crafts to cute-it-up. But then…we remembered who we are and what we believe! We decided to put them out there with the hope that educators would see the power of good books, good questions, and good conversations.

We just couldn’t reconcile the time (or paper) it would take to create a construction paper craft in order to write a sentence as a response. We are after the thinking. We want students to dig into a text and grapple with decisions that are made. We want students to consider the implications of choices. We want students to consider a new perspective. We encourage you to allow your students to collect what we like to call a “Portfolio of perspectives” as they read these books. We envision students leaving at the end of the year with a folder or notebook full of their reflections on windows and mirrors (available for free here) and sharing it with their families. We picture students flipping through and remembering their thoughts about their new perspectives- bravery, integrity, cultural identities, thoughts on homelessness, kindness vs. niceness, etc… When we weigh that against the crafts…for us, there’s no competition.

Now, if you already own the books that we’ve released, you have the printable workbook- and that’s fine! But they will be removed from the books going forward. We have reduced the price to compensate that change. We WILL be leaving the anchor chart cut-outs for teachers that want to use those, but we do encourage teachers to go digital where they can.

Will you be bundling these?

No. We’ll explain.

We firmly believe in culturally responsive teaching. Culture. Is. Everything. When you truly get to know your students on a cultural level, you should be adjusting your teaching practices to reflect your learners. That means that your instruction and materials should look different from year to year! We know that representation matters. When you meet your students, you should be looking for ways to provide representation OR finding ways to disrupt default (white) culture. It is critical for all children to see themselves reflected. White children will see themselves reflected by default as most children’s picture books (or T.V. shows, movies, video games, etc…) feature white children. Picture books are powerful, and white children need to see children of the global majority represented in positive ways. We intentionally choose books where these characters are the heroes, prince/princess, etc… because it’s important to see these characters just living their best life! So many educators wait until February to pull out their “diverse books” and it is only then that children see Black characters in books. This is harmful! If the only time students are seeing Black faces in books is during February (when the books are about slavery, marching, civil rights, etc…) then that sends a clear message to students. Those books SHOULD be taught, but not only during February (Black History Month) and they shouldn’t always show Black characters in a struggle.

All of that to say: You and your team should be hand-picking titles to meet the needs of YOUR learners based on these ideas and more! We can’t do that for you. A boxed set or curriculum guide goes against what we believe is important for teachers that are trying to be intentional about the texts that should be read and conversations that need to be had! We will definitely be able to meet some of your needs, but with each class being unique, there is no way we could meet the needs of all classrooms.

Instead, we encourage you to either a) pick your own books write your own lessons based on the students in your class or b) go through the titles that we’ve selected and sit down and map them out as a team! We will get into this in the next question.

Where should we start? Is there an order you recommend for these books?

Here’s the deal- these aren’t “beginning of the year” book selections. At the core of PTPB is thinking. It’s comprehension and conversation. It’s vocabulary development. It’s not basic.

That means that your students need to acquire the basics BEFORE beginning these units. Here’s a soft set of questions that we ask ourselves before beginning:

  • -Are my students able to sit on the carpet and listen?
  • -Are procedures for turning and talking tight?
  • -Can my students successfully handle getting and using white boards/markers?
  • -Can my students IDENTIFY characters?
  • -Can my students IDENTIFY the setting?
  • -Are my students familiar with the academic vocabulary for literature (setting, plot, retell, compare, contrast, etc…)
  • -Are my students able to work in partners/groups?

When the answer is YES to these questions… you are ready to engage in PTPB!!!

Guys. Little kids can do this. Get those kiddos in shape during the first month of school. Get them familiar with talking with partners and assign partners intentionally so that they are able to engage in the questions and tasks in PTPB.

Which books are for Kindergarten and which books are for first grade?

Here is the mantra for PTPB: Any kid (k-1), any book.

Here’s why.

We’ve built these units on first grade standards because they are BASICALLY THE SAME!

For most standards the only difference is the phrase “with prompting and support.” The point of PTPB is to lift the level of complexity of reading comprehension. It is supposed to be complex. But- these lessons are delivered whole group. You, the teacher, are providing the “prompting and support.” You will ask students to think and process with each other and then bring it back to the group (this is why teaching charts are critical- they keep track of their thinking!). You might see the questions and think “there’s no way kids can handle these questions…” Okay, first of all, yes they can…. a second of all, yes, they can. Here’s the deal: you’ll do a book with your class. It might be shaky. But then you’ll do a second book and then your students will start to pick up on the cadence of the week. Then comes another book, and another until one day your kindergarten and first grade students are debating the ethical decisions of the characters in a 2nd-3rd level text. They can do it. They can get there. Stick with them and truly serve as their “prompting and support.” Just think about the kind of thinkers your students will be after engaging in a year of these types of texts and thinking! This is the point of read aloud time. We don’t want to put texts in front of them they could comprehend without us. We want to give them the opportunity to engage in high level thinking with our guidance and support. Scaffold as needed and watch how high your kids can soar!

What if I want to do my own book? Can I get a blank template?

Yes!! We now offer a blank template available to plan your own with a full set of directions and a video training. You select a text, pull out your perspective, and literally fill in the blanks! Click any image below!

What about nonfiction?

It is true that our PTPB books focus on literature. We do have plans to begin a line of nonfiction magazines that will hit all of the informational text standards in a similar way. We believe that students just need to learn about the world at large because this is another way to build background. As a matter of fact, that’s what the magazines are called!

We used to have thoughts about all of the units that we would see around a seemingly arbitrary topic. Like foxes. Years ago, couldn’t quite understand the value of spending so much time learning about a fox. What was the point in drilling kids about where they live, eat, etc? Outside of it being “cool to know,” we couldn’t truly see the point. Our thinking has shifted. Now we approach nonfiction with an accessibility lens. If we allow our students to gain extensive knowledge about a fox, when the fox appears in another story or article, they are that much more likely to have higher comprehension. We are equipping them with background knowledge that they don’t need…until they do. When we think of it like that, we are all about it! This way of thinking lit a new fire for random nonfiction topics. Now, we want to build our students up to know facts about outer space, oceans, nature, animals, and on and on and on!

Will you be adding more books to this collection?

Yes! This will be an ever-growing body of work. Basically- if we see a good book, we will make a PTPB to accompany it. Here are some of the titles we are considering or releasing as they are completed.

Click here to purchase these units!


LaNesha and Naomi



Hi, I'm Naomi

I have been teaching elementary students for over 10 years. Effective reading instruction and accurate social studies at the primary level are huge passions of mine! 

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