Stepping Stones is a monthly column that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into simple, manageable “steps” that any art educator can take and apply directly to their classroom. Stepping Stones will explore a variety of topics and share advice for art-on-a-cart teachers and those with art rooms.
CHILDREN’S BOOKS INSPIRE ART PROJECTS
by Heidi O’Hanley
With the ELA common-core standards, more art educators are attempting to incorporate literature within their curriculum. From artist series to popular fictional characters, art teachers have many creative ways to promote visual literacy and help design lessons to include supplemental materials or project inspirations.
You can create a lesson from any book you pick up in your classroom, but since we’re visual artists, many of us like to focus on art-specific topics. You may find a story about “Uncle Andy’s Cats” (by Andy Warhol’s nephew, James), or read about artistic inspiration in “Bridget’s Beret,” by Tom Licktenheld. You could also use books to explain elements of art, such as “Mouse Paint” (Ellen Stoll Walsh) or “Lines That Wiggle” (Candace Whitman). Among all the books I use, I like to refer to a few series I’ve collected for my art library in my classroom.
1. Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists This artist series (written and illustrated by Mike Venezia) is a wonderful one to use with the elementary level. The pictures are bright and colorful, and the stories are very informative and to the point. Students are able to learn about the artists’ places of origin, how they became artists, what famous works they made, and how each artist impacted the art world.
I like to use this book series when introducing an artist and his/her style of art. There are currently over 30 artists featured in the series. If you go to the website, www.gettingtoknow.com, there is a list of artist books available, as well as teacher resources for specific artists!
2. Peter H. Reynold’s “Creatrilogy” Series Many schools celebrate “International Dot Day,” which is inspired by The Dot, a book that encourages students to “make their mark.” The second and third books—Ish and Sky Color—explore more about keeping your eyes open to possibilities and having the freedom to express yourself.
When our school celebrated International Dot Day, I had each grade level (K–6) create a “dot” to be displayed around the school. There “Dot Day” project ideas you can find with a Google or Pinterest search, thanks to many art teachers who post their student creations. Lesson ideas and resources can also be found at www.thedotclub.org, which is the site dedicated to International Dot Day.
3. Eric Carle’s Children’s Book Collection Most children are familiar with the picture books written and illustrated by artist Eric Carle. His most known work, The Hungry Caterpillar, has been translated into 62 languages and has sold over 40 million copies.
Carle’s style of art is very recognizable, and has inspired many early-childhood and kindergarten projects. The themes of his stories revolve around his love for nature, which is an interest of most children at the primary grade level.
I’ve enjoyed working with The Grouchy Ladybug with my kindergarten students. We’ve created paintings filled with ladybugs and other characters from the book. And, it’s quite funny when a student attempts to draw the whale in the sky!
4. Scholastic’s stories written and illustrated by students I love when we have Scholastic book fairs because I like to see what the next young author series may be. It all started when I found the book Van Gogh’s Cat, written by second-grade students from Muncie, Ind. Each page features an artwork created by each student in the class, and the story itself was written by the students, as well! The following year I picked up September 12th, which was written by first-grade students after 9/11.
After reading these books over and over again to my students, I thought how interesting it would be to create artwork inspired by books written and illustrated by students at the same age! In my second-grade classes, I have students create their own masterpieces with a cat jumping, walking or pouncing out of their paper, just like the second-grade students who wrote the book! My students are always shocked to see that books made by other kids their age can make it in print. And funny enough, there is another art-inspired Scholastic book in our fair this week called Masterpiece, to add to my collection!
5. Artist Series by Laurence Anholt While browsing through your school library, you may come across an artist story by author Laurence Anholt. There are currently eight titles in the series, with new stories being created. Anholt’s stories are about real children who actually met great artists. The material is based on actual research. To learn more about this artist series, please visit www.anholt.co.uk.
Books can be a very essential part to your art curriculum, and this list is only a small handful of what you can use within your lessons. I encourage you to explore what art-inspired books you can use within your classes!
Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT), teaches art at Brodnicki Elementary School in Justice, Ill., and is an Arts & Activities Contributing Editor. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.