Picture Books for High School by: The Superhero Teacher

Hello teachers! I’m here to talk about how we, as middle and high school ELA teachers, can incorporate children’s books into our classroom.  Specifically, I am going to discuss five ways you can use BabyLit picture books to teach literary classics!  If you are hesitant, stick with me and you’ll find some simple tricks that can elevate these incredibly designed books into a learning tool for teens.

First, let’s talk a bit about these BabyLit books you’ll see in the photos throughout this post. The authors, Alison Oliver and Jennifer Adams, take literary classics and simplify them for younger ages.  Think of a classic and I’m willing to bet they have it! While at Barnes & Noble, I had the most challenging time selecting which ones I wanted to use, but I ended up with: Romeo & Juliet, Alice in Wonderland, Sense & Sensibility, The Secret Garden, and The Odyssey.  I’ll definitely be back to purchase A Christmas Carol, Little Women, and a few of the other 26 options they have available, too! So, now that we have the books, how can we teach them? 

Reading some of these challenging classics can be difficult even for your most experienced readers. Therefore, using these children’s books to teach literary elements is a great way to help your students develop a better understanding of the events taking place throughout the story.  Some literary elements I would use include: theme, main idea, imagery, conflict, and symbolism.  For example, in the BabyLit version of Romeo & Juliet, the authors use numbers to describe key events in the tragic comedy. ACTIVITY: Ask students to describe the symbolism behind each of the pages using textual evidence from Shakespeare’s original.

Using the BabyLit novels to teach plot structure is probably one of the most effective ways to use these books! After reading the original classic, use the children’s version to recap the key events that occurred by labeling the pages: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.  For instance, in BabyLit version of The Odyssey, the characters and major events are all included! Students will be able to visualize the plot structure with the graphics and text on each of the pages.  ACTIVITY: ask students to fill in the missing pieces of the picture book by designing their own graphics and elements from the text.

If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or TpT, you know that I am a HUGE proponent of independent reading assignments.  As soon as I saw these BabyLit books in the store, my mind immediately went to assigning students individual classics based on their interests.  ACTIVITY: Choose 7 classics, split your class into 7 groups, and assign each group an original version of the classic paired with the BabyLit version of the classic.  Before reading the original, ask students to read the BabyLit classic and foreshadow the events that may occur throughout the text!

One of my favorite things about the BabyLit children’s books is the illustrator’s ability to capture the appearance of the characters and symbols of the original without appearing too childish.  They are actually quite accurate—specifically in Sense & Sensibility, Romeo & Juliet, and The Secret Garden.  You can easily use these books to teach characterization and quote analysis.  For example, in The Secret Garden, each page has an important quote from the novel paired with a visual.  ACTIVITY: Ask students to describe the importance/relevance of each quote provided in the BabyLit version using evidence from the text in the original!

This is my favorite way to use children’s books of any kind (not just BabyLit) in the classroom.  After reading a novel with your class, ask students to become authors of their own by assigning a DIY children’s book activity. Using this FREE resource I created, prompt your students to choose a literary element and design a children’s book based on the original text.  You can download the free DIY Children’s Book for Middle and HighSchool English here! You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how creative your students can be and how simplifying a classic can truly impact the level of comprehension.  Be sure to use a BabyLit book as an example of expectations.
If you’re interested in more hands-on interactive resources for reading literature, please visit my Instagram, Facebook, or Teachers pay Teachers store! 

Learn how to use children's books in other grades here:

Looking for more engaging reading literature resources for middle & high school English? Check out The SuperHERO Teacher's blog, Instagram, and Facebook page! 

All the best, 
Brittany Wheaton
The SuperHERO Teacher

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