Using Picture Books to Teach Point of View

The next step in our study of story elements was point of view. I got many of my ideas for the lesson from Mary at Teaching with a Mountain View. (What did people do before the internet? Save stacks and stacks of photcopied ideas, if my own childhood basement is any indication.) I used my own version of her anchor chart to introduce the concept before we dove into my favorite part–illustrating the idea with picture books. I had to be more selective in my choices here than with the other story elements because picture book illustrations often tell part of the story that isn’t explicitly mentioned in the text. For the purposes of this lesson, I tried to go with books whose text matched the pictures enough to not be completely confusing. 

First person: told from the point of view of a character. By way of example, we read Before I Wake Up by Britta Teckentrup, This is Not My Hat by John Klassen, and If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss. I was not expecting it to be so difficult to find picture books told in first person. I found many great examples that moved between first and second person or had super creative narrative voice, both things I wanted to save for later lessons. In the end, Dr. Seuss proved to be my greatest resource. I could easily have gone with an all-Seuss lineup with I Wish that I Had Duck Feet, Wacky Wednesday, and What Pet Should I Get?.

Second person: the narrator addresses you, the reader. Many second person picture books are interactive (which we love), but I deliberately sought out three books that use second person narrative in different ways. We ended up reading You’re Finally Here! by Mélanie Watt, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond, and You’re a Crab!: A Moody Day Book by Jenny Whitehead. Again, a little search made it readily apparent that Dr. Seuss was a master at his craft. Oh the Places You’ll Go or Oh the Thinks You Can Think! would make great examples as well.

Third person proved to be a little bit more complicated. Depending on the age of the child/class, third person can be further divided by the perspective of the narrator. I opted to use the same three classifications as Mary’s anchor chart because I tend to geek out when it comes to story structure. Here are the books we used for each:

Third person limited: the narrator tells the story from the thoughts and experiences of a single character (think Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone here. With the exception of the first chapter, everything we see is something that happens with Harry in the room.) We read Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell and Lillian Hoban, Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins, and Russell the Sheep by Rob Scotton.

Third person omniscient: the all-knowing narrator relates the thoughts and feelings of multiple characters. Most of the picture books at our house fall into this category. We ended up using Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Hutchet Bishop and Curt Wiese, Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman by way of example.

Third person objective: the narrator reports only facts, as if seen through the eyes of an outside observer. We read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, and Lois EhlertGoldilocks and the Three Bears by James Marshall, Gossie by Oliver Dunrea.

We spent two weeks going through the various parts of this lesson. We finished things off by describing the action in a family picture from each point of view.


Thanks to Mary at Teaching with a Mountain View for that idea as well. Another great list of picture books organized by point of view can be found at Ms. Rosen Reads.



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