Using Picture Books with Tweens

As an elementary school librarian, one perception I hope to change in the minds of my students and co-teachers is that picture books are automatically “easy books”. That is how they are labeled in our cataloging system, so I understand why they may have the misconception.

I love using picture books with our third and fourth graders, who are in the 9-11 age range. They are great for introducing a new historical or scientific subject, or for a fun, engaging read.

Here are some that have been favorites this year:

SCIENCE VERSE by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith

Science Verse

The fourth graders laughed themselves silly when I read this to them and nodded in recognition at many of the concepts discussed in the book.


Balloons Over Broadway

I read this the week of Thanksgiving and gave the students the assignment of watching the parade and reporting back which new balloons they’d seen on TV.

THANK YOU SARAH by Laurie Halse Anderson

Thank You, Sarah

Another one I read at Thanksgiving. By the end of it, the kids were chanting “LINCOLN SAID YES! LINCOLN SAID YES!”

MR. TIGER GOES WILD by Peter Brown

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

This is one they thought was very funny but thought-provoking. We had a good discussion about social norms after I read this one.


That is NOT a Good Idea!

Nobody ever sees this ending coming and it is fun to see their reactions once they realize what’s happened. I will ask them what some good alternate titles would be for this book and they came up with some very thoughtful answers.

Are you interested in reading more tween-related posts? The YALSA Blog and the ALSC Blog both offer information of interest to librarians who work with tweens.


Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Angela Frederick. Angela is currently a school librarian with Metro Nashville Public Schools; she has eight years experience working with teens in public libraries in Nashville and San Antonio. She is currently serving on YALSA’s Printz committee.


  1. Dianna Burt

    What a great article! Thanks for sharing. I also try to encourage parents and teachers to use older level picture books to introduce a subject. And I use them when going to the schools myself.

  2. Carol Gordon Ekster

    I loved reading this! I taught 4th grade for 35 years and used more and more picture books to support every subject in my curriculum over the years. I’ve spoken about this and shared ideas about using picture books with older elementary students at literacy conferences. So I’m thrilled about your post here and hope other librarians read this and continue the practice. And who knew that all that picture book reading would lead me to my new career…now I write picture books for children!

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