Celebrating Picture Book Month and Remembering Dianne de Las Casas

This marks the 5th year that our school has celebrated Picture Book Month. This wonderful event was founded by Dianne de Las Casas, author and storyteller extraordinaire.  The children’s book world sadly lost Dianne this year in a tragic fire, so it makes this year’s Picture Book Month bittersweet.

I came to know Dianne through Picture Book Month. Each year I host a Picture Book Smackdown at the close of November which brings together students in multiple states via a Google Hangout to share favorite picture books. We also invite authors to join us and share their favorite picture books too. For the past few years, Dianne has also joined us.

When we connected with Dianne, she was always full of stories and blinged out with her tiara, sparkly attire, bright nails, and bubbly personality. We always laughed because no matter how much we tried to keep the smackdown moving along, Dianne was always hard to contain.  She wanted to share so many picture books with students and read aloud her favorite texts. Dianne was such a sweet and giving soul.   She even sent us autographed copied of her book to thank us for celebrating picture books.

We will greatly miss her this year. Katie Davis, another member of the Picture Book Month Community, posted a nice video remembering Dianne and her picture book legacy.

Even though we are sad, we are remembering, celebrating, and honoring Dianne by continuing to carry on the Picture Book Month legacy.  One way we do this is by book talking picture books every day on BTV, our morning broadcast.

Happy Picture Book Month #celebration #picturebook #tlchat #reading #librariesofinstagram

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

Another way is by hold a Picture Book Month Challenge. I encourage students to read as many picture books as possible during the month of November. During the challenge, they must read at least 10 picture books, which includes some picture books from specific genre sections of the library plus a couple of “student choice” sections.  Every picture book section is labeled with a Picture Book Month logo so students can easily see where picture books are located in the library.

This year, I’ve also made a picture book Flipgrid where I hope students, teachers, and families will share picture books during November and beyond.

I’m also planning this year’s Picture Book Smackdown where students from multiple grades will book talk picture books with students in other states.

I hope you’ll consider celebrating Picture Book Month in your own school.  There’s no right or wrong way to do it.  Just read picture books and celebrate their importance in the world. They are a powerful window and mirror into the world.

2016 Picture Book Smackdown

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Picture Book Month came to a close and we once again hosted a Picture Book Smackdown with schools around the country.  All month long, students have been celebrating Picture Book Month by reading picture books from every genre section of our library. As they read a book from a section, they earned a stamp on a challenge sheet. Once students collected all 12 stamps, they turned their sheet in for a bookmark, certificate, and to be entered into a drawing to win a new picture book.

Another piece of Picture Book Month was preparing for the Picture Book Smackdown.  Since 2013, I’ve been hosting and organizing a Google Hangout to bring together students from multiple states along with authors & illustrators to celebrate the power of the picture book.  For one hour, students and authors take turns stepping up to the microphone, book talking a favorite picture book, and saying why picture books matter in the world.

We advertised our event using Smore.

This year, we were joined by author Dianne de Las Casas, the founder of Picture Book Month.  We had students from 4 states: Maine, Vermont, Texas, and Georgia.

 

We broadcasted through Youtube Live and had a full hour of sharing favorite picture books.  Dianne de Las Casas opened and closed our event.

 

I loved that at the end she reflected on what had been shared.  There was such a mix of classic picture books with current picture books.  There were books about Star Wars and books about difficult topics like hurricanes.  There were new twists on fairy tales like Little Red and books in made up languages like Du Iz Tak?

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As students shared, I had a wonderful parent volunteer who kept a list of the books that were shared during the hangout. We need to go back now and clean up the doc, but you can view its progress here.  I also had a volunteer who helped get students up to the microphone while I made sure our technology was all running smoothly.

We had multiple viewers from around the country during the event and it was fun to see tweets from different perspectives.

 

It was also fun to look at the Smore analytics to see where people were from who at least visited our page about the event.

I think one of the things I enjoy most is seeing students and authors share with the world with one voice.  They come together around a love of picture books and each take time to speak about why picture books matter to them.  Each student had a different take on the importance of picture books and they all brought something for us to consider.

You can view our entire Picture Book Smackdown here:

As you view, I hope you’ll consider tweeting about your own favorite picture books using the hashtag #pbsmkdwn

Another incredible thing that happened this year is that I heard from a group of librarians in Alabama led by Bonnie Howard who wanted to host their own picture book smackdown gaining inspiration from the smackdown we started in 2013.  I of course encouraged them to go for it.  Their smackdown gained a lot of community attention and because of that, we get a chance to see the smackdown in action as well as hear some students talk about what they loved about the event.  One of the things I love about the video is how a principal and librarians got excited about the future of connections beyond their state and even country.  When you start connecting with other schools, you see the miraculous things that happen as students and adults collaborate with one another. I can’t wait to see how the work of Bonnie Howard, Kris Gray, Lisa D, and Dixie Paschal continues to grow.

If you are interested in starting your own picture book smackdown, I encourage you to go for it too.  Whether it’s within your own school, with other schools in your district, or reaching beyond state boundaries, you and your students will be rewarded by sharing your work with one another.

Get Ready for Picture Book Smackdown 2015! #pbsmkdwn

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For 3 years, I have organized an online picture book smackdown in honor of Picture Book Month.  Over those 3 years, our Google Hangout event has grown stronger thanks to the collaboration of librarians, students, and authors around the country.  We are busily planning this year’s event, but you can go ahead and put it on your calendar now!  It will be November 19th from 1:30-2:30PM EST.

We made a Smore to host all of the content of the event:

During the smackdown, you can expect to hear:

  • An introduction and welcome from Picture Book Month founder, Dianne de Las Casas
  • Students from at least 5 states share favorite picture books and why picture books matter in a fast-paced format
  • Authors such as Laurie Ann Thompson share her favorite picture books along with our students
  • An ongoing doc of picture books that we share!

Everything will broadcast through a Youtube link:

We would love for you to watch the event with your students or share with classrooms.  You can even participate by tweet about the event or tweeting your own picture book recommendations during the event using the hashtag #pbsmkdwn

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Even if you can’t join us, we hope you are inspired by our event and consider having your own Picture Book Smackdown online or in your own space.  Feel free to use our hashtag to connect our events together. Happy Picture Book Month!

P.S.  If you can’t wait for this year’s event, here’s a little taste of what we did last year:

It’s Picture Book Month….Let’s Have a Smackdown

November is Picture Book Month.  It’s a time to celebrate the power of picture books and why the matter in our lives no matter what our age.  Picture Book Month was started by author Dianne de Las Casas to bring awareness to the role of picture books in our lives.  Each year, multiple authors and illustrators contribute daily posts about why they think picture books matter.  The Picture Book Month website has a wealth of resources for you to celebrate picture book month with your students, including a calendar, logos, bookmarks, and certificate.

At our school, we host a Picture Book Month Shelf Challenge.  Students set their own goal for how many picture books they will read during November.  I like allowing students to set their own goal because it allows for differentiation and also allows for surprising goals from students.  Each student receives a sheet to document their reading for the month.

Shelf Challenge   Google Docs

At the end of the month, students turn in this sheet.  They receive a certificate, a bookmark, and get entered into a drawing to win picture books that I’ve collected for prizes.

picturebookmonth.com wp content uploads 2011 11 pbm certificate color.pdf

For the 2nd year, we will host our annual Picture Book Smackdown.  On November 18th from 1:30-2:30PM EST, students in multiple schools across multiple states will gather online with authors in a Google Hangout to share favorite picture books and why they matter in our lives.  The event will be a Hangout On Air, so it will also be archived for future enjoyment.

To prepare for the event, I’ve sent a Google form to students to identify students in various grades who want to participate.

Barrow Picture Book Smackdown

As students share their interest, I’m sending them a script to help them prepare for their sharing during the smackdown.  They don’t have to use this script, but many find it helpful to remember all of the pieces of sharing.  The day before the smackdown, they will gather in the library to do a quick practice.

Picture Book Month Smackdown Script   Google Docs

I hope you will join us on November 18th to watch the smackdown and help spread the word about the event in advance.  During the smackdown, students and authors will step to the microphone in their own states and share a favorite picture book.  We also hope to capture all of these recommendations in a Google doc.

Here are some things to know:

  • Tweet about the event and your favorite picture books.  Even if your class isn’t in the smackdown, they can still share their favorite picture books with the hashtag #pbsmkdwn  as well as leave comments for our authors and students.  You can also include the picture book month hashtag #picturebookmonth

Many thanks to all of the schools and authors who are participating in the smackdown so far this year:

Participating schools include:
Andy Plemmons, school librarian in Athens, Georgia
Jenny Lussier, school librarian in Durham, Connecticut
Cathy Potter, school librarian in Falmouth, Maine
Kathy Kaldenberg, school librarian in Solon, Iowa
Shawna Ford, school librarian in Weatherford, Texas
Julee Murphy, school librarian in Texas
Christina Brennan, school librarian in Pennsylvania

Participating authors include:
Dianne de Las Casas, founder of picture book month
Anne Marie Pace, author of Vampirina Ballerina

How are you celebrating Picture Book Month?  It’s not too late to get a plan together and promote the power of picture books with your students.