Writing Picture Stories


I have hundreds of photos of children from over the years, yet only one photo is on my desk.  This scene was a party that children wanted because we read books and wrote stories.  They’re all in high school now, and doing very well.

Children have more ideas and thoughts in their heads than we realize.  Their brains are gigantic sponges; they see it all and hear it all.  The last part to develop, and the most important, is verbalizing everything that is in their brain.  In order to do that, they need words, lots of words- and then more words.

When the school year begins, I jump into reading-aloud picture books and chapter reading books with both feet.  Children are constantly hearing words- oh, their brain is soaking it up.  The next step is writing picture stories, because they need to use their language and verbalize what they are thinking.

In September we write about what we like to do in school.


Imagine being three or four years old and asked by your teacher what you like to do in school.  And then, your teacher carefully writes every word that you say.  That tells a child that words are important.  The ‘frosting on the cake’ to validate a child’s words is asking the child to illustrate what s/he has said.

Writing picture stories brings thinking and language together.  It empowers children.

The day after Halloween we write picture stories again.  Children have many memories and thoughts.  By now, their language has become more descriptive.  Two months of reading-aloud is proof.

img_1938As the year progresses, we will read, discuss, debate, write, and facilitate vocabulary.  This week one of the chapters in our current chapter reading book, My Father’s Dragon, was titled “Farewell”.  Of course that was an unfamiliar word, so we stopped to talk about it.  Children at the end of the day were saying “farewell”.

It’s all about language.  The more words a child hears, the better s/he will do in school in all subject areas.  Period.  Now, if that doesn’t make every parent run to the library, and make every teacher institute multiple ways of promoting language, then I will keep shouting this loud and clear.

How simple; increase the number of words and a child does better in school.  Write about it, and the child wants to do better.  Win-win.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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38 Responses to Writing Picture Stories

  1. We had the reading part down at home with our children but didn’t get the writing part. Turned out both of my kids were disgraphic. I didn’t even know such a thing existed.

  2. swamiyesudas says:

    This is very good, my Dear Jennie. …I have had opportunities to teach, even in Schools, and have enjoyed that very much.

    But most of my ‘Students’ have been older children, and people much older than that. Though small children love me and vice versa, I do not know what to do after the first 10 minutes or so. Hence Your words and ideas are really very useful to me.

    The pictures that the children have drawn, and the things they have said, are Precious indeed.

    Blessings on You in the Wonderful work You do. 🙂

  3. Libby Sommer says:

    gorgeous pic. and such an important story you tell.

  4. In the years that my 3 kiddos were in school, I was a regular volunteer mom and always requested to be hands-on with students rather than the one cutting out construction paper hearts for bulletin board displays (though I did whatever was needed by individual teachers at any given time!!!).
    Anyway, I was privileged to be the one who painstakingly wrote out kids stories in early grades such as you describe. Often, teachers would have the child choose a favorite, focus on it and get it ‘published’ (Another mom volunteer would laminate the pages and bind them) Boy – each kid – no matter temperament or disciplinary state would be soooooo proud!
    I’d love to volunteer in your classes for sure…

    • Jennie says:

      Laura, what a wonderful story! There you were, writing down all the important words that children had to say. Thank you for that! Yes, when you write those words it tells the child that they’re important. Isn’t that the foundation for growing goodness and citizenship (and much more)? You helped to make a difference. And yes, I would love to have you help out in my classroom- provided you would bring your guitar and open the door to instruments. Now, that would be a dream!

  5. Susan @ redcanoereader.com says:

    Thank you for this great reminder of the importance of reading aloud, both from picture books and chapter books. I love your “farewell” story! It’s so much fun when the kids begin using vocabulary from a story! Susan

  6. I love this ‘And then, your teacher carefully writes every word that you say. That tells a child that words are important.’
    That touched my heart.

  7. Great idea, Jennie. I’m going to start writing down my grandson’s stories. How fun!

  8. Khaya Ronkainen says:

    Amazing work you do with those curious and clever little people!

  9. bethany3224 says:

    Love the stories; posting a child’s story and making them feel like a real author is transformational! Great article!

  10. The grade school my kids attended had a “Publishing House.” I was lucky enough to become one of the volunteers. The younger kids would be amazed when I told them they could make up stories that didn’t have to be true. They would ask, “you mean like a lie?” I would tell them, no it was just letting their imagination have fun. I would carefully write down the words they said and they would illustrate their stories. I loved doing this and the kids loved their laminated and bound books.

  11. Lovely post, Jennie. I used to read to my children like that, bringing the story to life for them. I loved watching their faces change expression as the story progressed.

  12. So true! Especially about learning words and listening carefully to children. I have to admit I cringe a bit when caregivers are on their phones while pushing a baby carriage. No matter how young, children need to hear words, spoken to them, in order to connect with others.

  13. I totally love that you used the word validate. That is something I’ve been trying to do so much more with my own children and students. Allowing them to express their feelings, not correct or try to ‘fix’ those feelings and simply just…be 🙂 Love all your posts Jennie!

  14. What a phenomenal and innovative teacher you are! I have never heard of any elementary grade school teacher doing the kinds of hands on, integrated, exercises you do. You put everything the child learns into action. It had been awhile since I was on your blog, and I am sure happy I visited!

    Happy Holidays from Paulette Motzko!

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