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Picture books tend
not to be used in the middle school classroom because of the belief that those
types of books are meant for beginner readers. As students move on in the
education system, it is believed that their reading should also advance. This
advancement seeks for students to read and provide their own visual images
rather than rely on those in a book. However, picture books do not just help a
person learn to read, they can also provide an intense visual images that
engages students in difficult academic concepts. After researching the topic, I
believe that picture books can be used to engage students in new content, which
will cause them to have a deeper understanding.

Picture books are
a great way for young students to begin to read, they provide visual clues to
help break down the text. However, picture books do not need to go way once
students learn how to read. Throughout my research I have found that picture
books provide universal themes and enjoyment to students of all ages. In “A
Middle School Teachers Guide for Selecting Picture Books” by Costello and
Kolodziej they subject that in modern society, students are constantly being bargained
by visual images. Each generation is becoming more visually literature than the
next, because of an increase in technology. “The visual format of picture books
appeals to adolescents, who today are exposed to various media, including
television, videogames, and computers. Consequently, they are used to relying
on visual images to assist them in learning new content and concepts.”
(Costello, Kolodziej, 28). Therefore the use of picture books, providing that
visual aid to students, makes it easier for them to comprehend new academic

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In the modern
educational system, it is not uncommon to have students who speak multiple
languages, and are just learning the English language. These English Language
Learners or ELL, can struggle in a middle school classroom, which only uses
textbooks for content reading. Along with ELL students, in middle schools there
can be a large gap in reading levels with a group of students. Those struggling
to read can have hard time grasping the importance and engaging with new
content. “Reading Picture books in secondary courses increase motivation,
understanding of concepts, and aesthetic appreciation, and provides easier
material for less able readers.” Struggling readers and ELL students can use
the visual images provided in picture books to further understand content.
However, if the whole class uses picture books to uncover and engage in new
content, it gives those struggling readers and ELL students a chance to shine.
They are able to engage with their peers on a equal level, and not feel that
because they are not strong readers they are unable to contribute. “On a
personal level, picture books provide enjoyment for readers, develop
imaginations, offer vicarious experiences, provide insight into human behavior,
and present the universality of experience.” (Fresch 35). If students are
enjoying what they are doing, it will allow them to break down those academic
walls in their brain, and make connections. These connections will cause them
to question what they are learning, and make them want to learn deeper. These
connections will also make them become life longer learners.

In Social Studies,
especially history, topics tend to new for students; there are few experiences
and perspectives for students to connect to on a personal experience. Teachers
strive to find these connections for their students, because they know that
when a student can connect with a topic personally they will be able to engage
in content and begin to deeply understand. “Aiken (1985) further suggests that
knowing about the past, as textbooks enable students to do, is not quite the
same as the understanding and feeling that can be experienced through a
well-crafted piece of children’s literature.” (Farris, Fuhler 381). Picture
books provide a way for teachers to help students make connections to
historical time periods. Through the books and the visual images students are
able to connect with characters and events that may otherwise be removed from
their everyday life.

Memorable connects
to a history may not be to just those mentioned in a textbook, but to those not
mentioned at well.  For example, in the
book, “Faithful Elephants” the reader is thrown into a zoo in Japan at the end
of World War II. At this time Japan is being bombed by the American army, there
is a fear that if the zoo is bombed, the animals may escape and cause harm to
citizens of the city. It is decided that the animals of the zoo will be
euthanized. The readers follow as the zookeepers approach the animals they
cared for and begin to euthanize them with needles and drugs in their food. The
zookeepers express their sorrow through the text and images. However, when it
comes time for the elephants, their skin is found to be to thick for a needle,
and when they try to deliver it through their food the elephants spit it out.
It is decided that the elephants will starve to death, and the rest of the book
revolves around the decline of the elephants and the sorrow the keepers. This
book evokes an emotional response with students and allows them to connect with
the time period of World War II. A typical American textbook, displays the
Japanese as the enemy in World War II, however this book allows the reader to
view them through a different perspective. They are not the enemy in this book,
but a country and people forced to make emotional, intense, decision in time of

In “Developing
Social Studies Concepts through Picture Books” Farris and Fuhler argue that
picture books can provide background and details on specific topics that are
not necessary covered in depth in the a textbook. These details can pique
curiosity in students, and encourage them to further explore topics. “Within
the pages of a picture book is the potential to entice, intrigue, and motivate
upper elementary and middle school readers as they vicariously experience times
and places that make up their past, influence the present, and may have an
impact upon their futures.” (Farris, Fuhler 386).  Picture books can make it easier for students
to understand and be presented with difficult and sensitive concepts, through
different perspectives. This allows students to make personal connections with
characters and events from the past. These connections allow students to deeply
understand and engage in content they are attempting to learn in class.

Picture books are
generally not used in a middle school classroom, because of the belief that as
you move up in grade you should be reading more textual books. However, picture
books engage middle school students, enhance their critical thinking skills,
and allow all reading abilities to feel comfortable to engage in classroom
dialogue around text. Students today have images constantly coming towards
them, they are used to using these images to understanding new content. Picture
books provide text and images to help students grasp and engage with new
content. In social studies, especially history, picture books can help students
personally connect with historical periods and provide in depth details in ways
textbooks cannot. Picture books are a tool for teachers to use in conjunction
with textbooks to help students engage and understand new content in a deeper

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