Why Reading This High-Quality Picture Book Will Create Smart-Thinking Kids: Quick Lessons in Disguise for Busy Parents

Then one day, while his hand is out the window, something unexpected happens. A bird flies by and drops a twig into his hand – first, one they another.

For P-3, Lexile 600

High Quality Lasts and Lasts

To me, a high quality picture book is one that creates smart-thinking kids. Busy parents can read it to their kids in a certain way that promotes motivation, arouses curiosity, uncovers hidden meaning, starts discussions, and leads to related activities. I call this way of reading “Lessons in Disguise.”

Picture books belong to a genre of children’s books that is not given the credit it deserves.  The high quality of the picture books I use are valued by many teachers because they are the cornerstone of thousands of lessons- in reading, in literature study, in content areas, and in life’s lessons. These are the stories that you will keep on your book shelf forever.

For example, Albert was first published in 2001 in hardcover.  I purchased it in 2002 and I still have it and I still use it in 2020. The book was awarded the New York Time Book Review “Best Illustrated Children’s Book.” It is still being published in paperback format which is a testament to its value as an educational tool as well as a reslly good story.

Build Reading Skills and Vocabulary

One reason that Albert is on top of my list of pic books worth keeping is because it can be read to kids to teach about character traits and how and why a character changes in a story. This children’s story leads to great discussions about what motivated Albert to make a change in his life. “What would you do?” By making personal connections to the story, you bring your kids into the life of the character.

In addition, there are good opportunities to teach and build vocabulary using this story. I love using the word, “persnickety,” because the kids think its hilarious.  It means finicky, nitpicky, fussy. It’s fun to talk about the word before reading it to children.  Then they can find places where Albert is, indeed, being persnickety.

For example,  Albert sticks his hand out of his apartment window every morning to check the weather – to see if it’s “just right” so he will go out that day.

Children who live in apartment buildings might know the word grillwork and why this oiece of metal is needed on a window. It’s a goid word to know and you can talk about other uses if a “grill.” Also, the word fledgling is goid to learn.

Make Predictions

Stop reading at parts that make your kids think. For example, “Then one day, while his hand is out the window, something unexpected happens. A bird flies by and drops a twig into his hand – first, one they another. Finally, there in his hand is a bird nest that the mother cardinal uses to lay her eggs.”

Albert is now faced with a conundrum (another great word for kids). Since his window is covered with a protective grill, he will drop the nest if he turns his hand over to bring it inside. “What would you do?”

Yes, as far as kids books go, this one is a home run with so much for the children to talk about. And, for parents, too, because the kids won’t even realize they are learning to Think Smart about books! That’s why I call reading high-quality picture books aloud to kids lessons in disguise.

Connect to Science

Good children’s books can connect to other content area subjects to introduce a topic and its vocabulary. How long does it take for a bird’s egg to hatch?  There is a wonderful opportunity here to connect this story to a future science lesson about the lifecycle of birds.

As the story moves along, the kids can be motivated to have natural, thoughtful discussions about what Albert will do about his daily life routines like eating, toileting, and showering for all this time when he decides to keep his hand outside to protect the nest.

Visual Literacy

The illustrations in high-quality picture book stories for kids is what sets them aside from the rest. This book is illustrated by Jim Lamarche who is well known for his life-like pictures in children’s books like The Raft and Pond. Students will enjoy looking at them and talking about them.  Just look at the cover illustration!  As a Pre-Reading activity, spend some time talking about the cover illustration and the title.:

  • “What do you notice?”
  • “Who is Albert?”
  • “What is he doing?”
  • “Where does he live?”
  • “Why is there a bird on his head?”
  • “What do you think the story will be about?”

Related Stories

  • Rechenka’s Eggs
  • Stellaluna
  • Feathered Friends, Seuss
  • How Do Birds Find Their Way

Improve Listening Comprehension

This read-aloud story can improve concentration and listening comprehension. I read Albert on my You Tube Channel, Creating Smart Readers. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl8RzfMioWaox_dSKH3BPhg/videos

I hope you will join us. My stories are available any time of day.  I add a new one or two weekly.

After-Reading Activities

In the elementary school, I did a club called, “How to Eat a Book.”  We made edible bird nests out of noodles, shredded coconut, and candy.

Kids will also enjoy researching birds – perhaps the ones living in your yard or a nearby park – and drawing them.  Kids also love to make bird feeders.

A Quick Word on Lexiles (reading levels)

Please know your child’s reading level when asking them to read on their own.  Albert is recommended on amazon for children in grades P-3.  However, if you look at the Lexile chart above, you will notice that its Lexile level is 600 which is for the average reader at the beginning of grade 4.

This is why I always suggest that you read stories to your children first and talk about the vocabulary and hidden ideas before they read it on their own.  Picture books are deceiving because most people think they are appropriate for little kids.  In fact, many like this one, contain words and ideas that young kids will understand better if they have discussions with an adult first. There is great power in picture books – the high-quality ones that I use – when they are read with an adult. These kessons in disguise will creat smart-thinking kids!

End Note

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I’d love to hear about the stories you and your children enjoy and the activities you did after reading.

“Happy Reading!”

Kids Books on Bats & Birds

After our study on bats, pairs of students used gel pens to write facts on black paper bat shapes. Then they entered our cardboard “Bat Cave” (thanks to the custodians) with flashlights. Using tape, they hung the bat shapes all over the walls.

518Ppta3lOL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_[1]When I was teaching Reading in the elementary school, I was always searching for children’s books for me to read aloud to the kids and for them to read on their own. I created a unit about birds that the kids really enjoyed. I included both fiction and nonfiction titles, graphic organizers, drawing, a craft, and writing activities. Then I did the same thing for bats.

As far as good stories for kids go, Stellaluna is an all-time favorite. It is about a baby bat that gets lost and lands with a family of birds. This book leads to learning about Problem and Solution. Students also researched the habitats of birds and compared it with that of bats. We drew pictures, wrote our own stories, and ended by making bird feeders to bring home. I read this story on my You Tube Channel, Creating Smart Readers (link to the right).

Here is a link to making Bird Feeders for kids:

32 Homemade Bird Feeders To Make With Kids This Winter

There are some really good children’s stories about bats too. Here are just a few:

  • Bats at the Beach, P-3, No Lexile available
  • National Geographic, Bats, K-3, Lexile 690
  • Bats, 1-3, Lexile 630

The Bat Cave

To encourage research on bats, I arranged stacks of kids books on tables all around the room so the children could browse and read the ones they liked. After our study on bats, pairs of students used gel pens to write facts on black paper bat shapes. Then they entered our cardboard “Bat Cave” (thanks to the custodians) with flashlights. Using tape, they hung the bat shapes all over the walls. This was one of my most memorable lessons in 20 years of teaching.  Not only did the principal come to visit, other teachers asked to bring their classes in to see the cave. You can create your own Bat Cave using boxes or even a homemade tent made from sheets and blankets. Check out the many virtual tours and informational videos on You Tube.

Connect to Nonfiction

51zWfXOJ-wL._SY398_BO1,204,203,200_[1]Together, the students and I also read How Do Birds Find Their Way? This book iss loaded with information but also with inferences (hidden information) that we spent a lot of time uncovering.

It was very tricky to uncover all the good stuff in this book but the kids pressed on and we finally figured out that birds use their “instincts,” or hidden GPS, to figure out where they are going and when to come back. Navigating all the text features of this book took teaching, time, and practice.  There are charts and maps that add to the wonderful details in this kids’ book.

Some other children’s books about birds are below:

  • Dr. Seuss, Fine Feathered Friends, P-3, Lexile 600
  • Birding Adventures, Grades 3-7, No Lexile available
  • National Geographic, Birds, 3-7, Lexile 1030

Try Bird Watching

This link will bring you to an article about bird watching for kids from the Audubon Society.


Notice the Lexile Levels

Notice that the Lexile level (reading level) of How Do Birds Find Their Way? is 620 which is at the beginning of 4th grade for the average reader. In my opinion, most children in grades one, two, and three are not skilled enough to understand how to read “between the lines” and to connect all the text ideas presented in the maps, charts, and drawings in this book. There are also flashbacks to ancient times, talking about what scientists back then thought about migration of birds.  However, with adult guidance, they can glean the information given in the story so it makes good sense.

Connect to Other Stories

Children can benefit by comparing the story of Stellaluna to Mingo the Flamingo. I read these and other storiesfor kids on my You Tube Channel, Creating Smart Readers. Also, here is a free, downloadable Read-Aloud guide for Mingo MINGO Guide. A jumbo book on Read-Aloud guides is available to purchase using the link to the right. Albert is a great story about a man who faces a decision about saving a bird’s nest full of eggs.  I will read it on You Tube soon. And, of course,  Rechenka’s Eggs is about a goose that lays unusual eggs. Here is the Read-Aloud guide for it Rechenka. 

This is a link to kid-friendly Pysanky egg decorating. http://www.homeschoolroom.com/pysanky-eggs-with-kids/

Spring is here and birds are chirping in the trees. Bats are roosting at night.  I hope you will find some useful activities for your kiddos – especially during this time when we are staying home.

Please let me know which kids books and activities you and your children are enjoying. If you subscribe to this Blog, you will receive notification of each new Post.  Likewise, you will receive a notice for each new story that I read on You Tube if you subscribe there.  Please note, that I will NEVER use your information in any way for myself or to sell/share with others.

“Happy Reading!”