Mini Monets and Mommies: Preschool Picture Books About Art and Artists

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Preschool Picture Books About Art and Artists

Children’s books about art and artists offer opportunities galore for learning! Even when I could take my classes of mini Monets into the art galleries of the museum where I was teaching, I still started class off with a good picture-filled story.

Art books

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Whether you want to introduce your child to a concept such as primary colors, a specific process, a style, an actual artist or use art as a way to learn another lesson (letters, numbers, animals, and so on, an illustrated children’s books is an easy starting point.

Before I get into the books themselves, here are a few of my child-tested ways to use them with kids:

·        Illustrations are art. Always remember that those beautiful, brightly-colored pictures in the books are art in themselves. Tell your child the illustrator’s name and point out that he or she is an artist too. As you page through the book, ask your child to look at the pictures and tell you what she sees. Ask open-ended questions such as, “What’s going on in this picture?” or, “What do you think is happening?”

·        Use focused questions. Along with the general open-ended questions, use a few focused ones that lead your child to what your activity or learning objectives are. For example, if you want to help her learn the color names you could ask something along the lines of, “What color is the little boy’s shirt in this picture?”

·        Stop often for questions or to give answers. Instead of expecting your child to sit quietly and be read to passively, involve her in the process and encourage her to ask questions about what she sees.

·        Invite your child to repeat what you’ve said when introducing new vocabulary words or artists’ names. If you are reading about the primary colors, ask her to say “primary colors” as you point them out. Then have her point to each color on the page and say the name “red”, “blue” or “yellow.”

·        Let your child linger. Don’t flip through the pages too quickly. There’s no race to the finish of a good children’s book. Allow time to gaze at each page or hand the book over to your child and let her flip through it on her own.

Reading about art
Toddlers and Preschoolers: Basic Art Concepts

Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni: One of my favorites. This artsy classic takes the concept of color mixing and makes it relatable by giving the color friends human-like qualities.  This goes beyond just teaching kids about the primaries and moves into the social domain as well.

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh: Another primary paint story that bridges the concept in a way that is completely on the young child’s level. It’s engaging and educational all at the same time!

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson:  This decades-old classic can help kids to learn more than their colors. Even though the word “purple” figures prominently in the title, this book can help children to use their imaginations and learn about the concept of line.

Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert: Obviously it’s about colors, but the geometric animals can help children to explore, recognize and identify shapes as well.

My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss: It’s not as well-known as the Cat in the Hat, but this Seuss story (illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Francher) offers up a rainbow of colors, connected with emotions! Younger kids can point out the hues that they see, while older children can link the colors with their own feelings.

Famous Artists

When Pigasso Met Mootisse by Nina Laden: Hands down, one of my top kids’ books about art and artists. The imaginary tale of two animal artists at odds with each other – and with very different styles – is a lesson on art, friendships and compromise.

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle: Carle’s colorful collage-like illustrations celebrate the work of Expressionist artist Franz Marc in a way that’s totally relatable to preschoolers.

So Many Stars, Andy Warhol (illustrator): A pint-sized look at the famous artist’s world. Pop art for the preschool set!

A Blue Butterfly: A Story About Claude Monet by Bijou Le Tord: Young children can learn about the famous artist, and his gardens in Giverny, while paging through this beautifully illustrated book.

Kids Making Art (About kids making art, not how-to’s)

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! By Karen Beaumont and David Catrow: Messy paint at its best! A great rad if you want to break your child out of coloring in the lines.

A Day With No Crayons by Elizabeth Rusch and Chad Cameron:  Teaches a stellar lesson that art is everywhere, meaning that imagination is key – and not necessarily the materials.

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg: What a life lesson! Mistakes can be beautiful too. If you’re child goes ballistic when her paint smears or she makes a stray crayon mark – and many do – try this book out.

Art Books About the Alphabet

Arches to Zigzags: An Architecture ABC by Michael J. Crosbie, Steve Rosenthal and Kit Rosenthal: Yes, your preschooler can learn what an arch or I-beam is. This primer on basic architecture is also an artsy way to learn the letters.

I Spy: An Alphabet in Art by Lucy Mickelthwait: Some of the most famous artworks (by the likes of Miro and Chagall) accompanying the A,B,C’s.

A is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet by Stephen T. Johnson:  It’s almost like going to the museum, with these amazing alphabet illustrations.

Art Books to Grow On

As your child rounds the school-age years, these books are artsy illustrations of concepts and famed creators.

Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork, Lena Anderson and Joan Sadin: It’s art history and child fiction combined!

Uncle Andy’s by James Warhola: Yep, this is by Andy’s nephew. Warhola revisits his Uncle Andy through the eyes of his childhood.

Paris in the Spring with Picasso by Joan Yolleck and Marjorie Priceman: This read brings Paris and Picasso to life with colorful illustrations.

Child literature
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  1. This is so inspiring! I love art so much and I am hoping that Little Bee loves it as much as I do. :) Pinned!

  2. Such wonderful ideas! I sometimes forget that the illustrations in books are art as well. I need to stop and admire just as much as my little girl does. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. I love the reminder to let the child linger on the pages of a book. And bringing up the illustrator as an artist is a great idea.

  4. I love connecting literature with art or other learning activities!

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