Compare and Contrast: A Lesson With Picture Books

Why is it important to practice comparing and contrasting with learners? Because the exercise develops critical thinking skills and improves reading comprehension. There’s great value in considering how two or more entities are different, yet similar. Noticing and discussing differences and similarities deepens an understanding of what learners are examining. Picture books provide an enjoyable way to analyze information.

There are two picture books that learners will enjoy comparing and contrasting. The first book is Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built by Angela Burke Kunkel. The second book is Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise. Both books are illustrated by Paola Escobar.

Digging for Words

Digging for Words is about José Alberto Gutiérrez. He created a library for his community in Bogotá, Colombia because no library existed. As a trash collector, he searched for books in and around the garbage pails. Gutiérrez filled his home with the books he found and opened his doors to the neighborhood.

Because of his work, children in his community had access to books.

Planting Stories

Planting Stories celebrates the work of Pura Belpré. When Belpré moved to America from Puerto Rico, she worked at the New York Public library. Her job was to create programming for the Spanish-speaking community. Realizing the library did not have any books in Spanish, Belpré created bilingual story events in Spanish and English. She turned her stories into books.

Because of her work, Spanish readers in her community had access to books.

Compare and Contrast Lesson

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: 1.B.3 Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes generating products that illustrate learning.


In this lesson, learners will practice comparing and contrasting by analyzing two picture books and generating a Venn diagram to illustrate learning.


  • Copy of Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar
  • Copy of Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutíerrez and the Library He Built by Angela Burke Kunkel and Paola Escobar.
  • Chart paper or dry erase board
  • Marker

Day One

  • Introduce the lesson by displaying copies of the books next to each other. Tell learners that during the next two classes, you will read both stories. Point out that their job is to notice the differences and similarities between the books. Explain that comparing and contrasting two different books is important because they’ll exercise their brain to think critically about what they are reading. This practice will help them be better readers.
  • Tell learners that they will write the similarities and differences between the books on a Venn diagram. Explain that they will know they mastered the lesson when they can write at least three similarities and differences about the books.
  • Point to the book covers. Invite learners to compare and contrast what they see. Record responses on chart paper or a dry erase board.
  • Read Digging for Words. Ask learners why it was important for José Alberto Gutiérrez to share the books with his community.

Day Two

  • Ask learners what they remember about the book Digging for Words. Hold up the book to jog their memories. Explain that you are going to read another book about someone who brings stories to life in her community.
  • Read Planting Stories. Ask learners why it was important for Pura Belpré to share stories in Spanish with her community.

Venn Diagram

Tell learners that they will record the similarities and differences between the two stories on a Venn diagram. Here’s a link to a worksheet for this exercise: Compare and Contrast. Learners will know they mastered the lesson by recording at least three points in each section of the diagram.

This blog post was inspired by a Junior Library Guild interview with Angela Burke Kunkel and Anika Aldamuy Denise on TeachingBooks. TeachingBooks is an AASL Best Digital Tool for Teaching and Learning.


Author: Maureen Schlosser

Author: Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades and Social and Emotional Learning for Picture Book Readers published by ALA Editions
Skillshare Teacher:

Categories: Literacy, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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