FAQs about PBT

In what settings might Picture Book Theology be especially beneficial? The most obvious setting is in religious communities, especially in programs for children, but some books will be enjoyed by youth and adults. Another wide application is in classrooms situations that allow religious or spiritual conversations such as private schools and homeschools. A less obvious setting for these kinds of conversations with picture books is in therapeutic situations, such as in counseling or spiritual direction. This practice is called bibliotherapy.  

Why just secular picture books? Picture books about specific religious stories and concepts are easily accessed via search engines on-line and at local libraries. In contrast, the subjects of secular picture books are often more subtle and offer much to supplement theological understanding. Also, many who do such ministry do not have knowledge of the potential or range of these picture books.

What about the God-books? Aren’t they sacred? Why include them? The God-books that I’ve included could be considered sacred, but they are not explicitly religious, neither doctrinal nor preachy. They offer a valuable exploration of God’s nature in ways that are broad enough to fit into many theological contexts. Also, these books would not be easily found by people unfamiliar with picture books so I highlight them here.

What’s the biggest advantage of PBT? Most picture books can be accessed easily and without cost at public libraries and on the internet. Many internet book sources offer used copies so there is little cost. They are easy to relate to and easily used. You can present a book in several ways so that you can adapt it to other aspects of your plan.

I’m not a theological person or person in ministry, but I love picture books too! Will your blog benefit me? Yes! Anyone who is interested in learning/teaching positive aspects about human beings will find books here that they will enjoy. It’s up to you to dig into the theological applications or not. Likewise, many of these books encourage positive human endeavors other than theological growth such as healthy eating, engaging with nature, and exploration of diverse cultures and people.

When might PBT be especially beneficial or relevant? Sometimes an emotional event happens in a religious group such as a crisis, tragedy, or a death. Using picture books to talk about difficult subjects is particularly non-threatening and helpful to sooth and encourage conversation with children and with adults.

I found a picture book that I like. What do I do now? If it’s on my blog, note the topics that the book connects to via the labels at the bottom of each post. On my Picture Book a Day for a Year List, even more topics are given and scripture connections are offered. Other resources such as internet search engines or concordances might help you find other scripture connections. Create a lesson or use the book to supplement a lesson that is about your chosen topic or scripture. A basic way is to present your topic, scripture, and picture book (the order can be changed), and then encouraged conversation that explicitly states the connections between them. It could be as simple as acting out the sacred story, reading the picture book, then discussing the connections.

I have a book in mind. How do I see if it is on your blog? 
While on the blog, look in the large list of green search words. Find a word that I might consider a major subject of that book. Click on it and search for the book. If you don't find the book and you really want me to write about it, contact me via the blog or at hannaschock@bellsouth.net. I'm always interested in recommendations!  

I have a particular topic. What do I do now? Go to the blog and look for the large list of green words. This is the list of labels/search words. Click on your topic or a similar word. You’ll be sent to the posts of all the books I’ve loaded on that word, meaning those books are about that topic to some degree. Now and then the book will be about the opposite of that topic. For instance, You Will Be My Friend, is a hilarious book about a girl who wants to make a friend so badly that she is pushy. That book is loaded under labels such as “gentleness” and “self-control”. Read the summary of the books in the list and simply choose.

How do I introduce and end a book? Before a book is read, it’s important to guide the listeners as to how they should approach the reading. Your expectations of their understanding should have in mind the level of your least mature listener. One straightforward method is to offer a couple of quick questions for them to consider during the reading or entice them to listen for specific components of the story that connect with the theological concept you are teaching. 

Always say the name of the book, the author, and the illustrator before reading. Once the book is read, encourage discussion. Conversation that expands on the connections between the book and your theological topic is especially important. Personal reactions and connections are very valuable.

Must I read aloud the author and illustrator’s name? Yes, this is an issue of copyright law and ethics. If the book is being read and the pictures are being shown, say the name of the illustrator too. If you are telling the story, give the author credit.

Should I read straight through or stop reading at times? This depends on your audience and the length of the book.  If you see that attention is waning or a story’s plot is particularly complicated, then explanations, pointing to illustrations, and tantalizing questions can encourage better attention. However, if everyone’s attention is riveted, interruptions in the flow of the story may hinder the power of the narrative.

Won’t listeners get tired of picture books eventually? Yes, for this reason I don’t recommend that picture books be overused. Consider them a supplement to your usual instruction or a special treat. In some settings, the fit of picture books is more obvious, but still overuse, especially if presented in the same manner, will lead to monotony and a loss in the power of the book and the listener’s interest.

What if the picture book isn’t obviously about my topic? It is not necessary for the picture book to have your topic as its central idea. Sometimes the connections are subtle, but this can be fun for listeners. You can explicitly present the connection before and after your reading or you can invite more mature audiences to listen for the connection when it is not obvious. How you introduce the picture book is paramount. 

There are times when presenting a story about the exact opposite of your topic is intriguing. For instance, if your topic is honesty, reading a story about a character who is dishonest but then sorry and forgiven offers a very rich context to the lesson.

What about age-appropriateness for a picture book? The age & grade ranges listed are merely a beginning age & grade for presenting that book. Consider the length and concepts in the book. Then decide for yourself. You know your audience and setting. Adults and youth are often times quite open to being read a picture book as long as their knowledge and experiences are respected.

Keep in mind that young children, mid-elementary aged and younger, will often not understand abstract concepts. Connections between the content of your story, the lesson topic, and their lives will have to be presented repeatedly and concretely.

Is it necessary for children to be able to read to benefit from PBT? No, in fact, PBT works really well for toddler and preschool children because they are so used to books being read to them. However, it is crucial that the book is well chosen, not too long and a good match for your audience’s level of understanding.

Is it necessary to have multiple copies of the book? No. Ordinarily 1 copy of the book is enough, but it may mean you are moving constantly as you read to expose all of your audience to the illustrations. Having multiple copies of the book for some to share might be advantageous for older readers or large groups of children. For large groups, separating into smaller groups might be best. Then multiple copies would be advantageous or the groups can move through separate stations of activities. Sometimes showing a video version of the book is best. These are sometimes on YouTube or in local libraries.

How do I know the picture book is the right length? Most picture books are 32 pages long and can be read in one sitting, but there are exceptions. Longer books are often better for older elementary children, teens, and adults. Also, some books have significantly more text than others. Practicing reading the book and noting the time this takes is a strong recommendation. You can also tell portions of the book and only read that which is most applicable.

What if the book is too long or I don’t have time to read the whole book as planned?  Simply tell the story while showing the pictures. If your time is very constrained, limit the pages or your storytelling to a few key points where the connections occur. In a few picture books, a topic has been attached to it that pertains to only a small but rich aspect of the book. Reading or telling just that portion might be better than reading the whole book.

What about non-English speakers? Spanish versions of the most popular picture books sometimes exist. Search the title, adding "in Spanish." On my Picture Book a Day for a Year List, I indicate whether I had found a Spanish version of the book.
I like to use my tablet and videos. Is that a good idea? Only the most popular books will have these options. Go to the website associated with your tablet and search with the name of the book. Check out YouTube, author and publisher websites, and local libraries for video versions. Sometimes on YouTube you'll find video of amateurs reading the book. Some of these are very good! 

Which format you should use depends on your audience and setting. For large groups, offering a video version of the picture book works best. Children and youth will especially appreciate a video or tablet version, but ease of use and size of the screen must be considered. Also, variety in presentation reduces the chances of boredom. On my Picture Book a Day for a Year List, I indicate whether I had found a Kindle version and a video. 

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