Library Centers: Explore the Arts with Picture Books

A library center is a space set up for exploration with limited instruction. Think of a library center as an exhibit in a children’s museum. Here, you’ll notice learners engage with few directions. There’s a sense of freedom in choosing an activity that calls you to build whatever you like.

Picture books are the perfect muse for a library center. We can learn from studying pictures that help tell a story. Yuyi Morales taught herself how to illustrate by copying her favorite books. This practice helped her become an award-winning illustrator. Watch Why I Love Picture Books by Morales to learn more.

Spark creativity in your library with illustration centers. It doesn’t take much. You only need picture books, materials, and simple directions. Collaborate with the art specialist to help you plan. Their expertise with art instruction is invaluable. Work with the ideas below to plan a library center for your school environment.


Lettering refers to printed letters. Artistic chalkboards and interesting tattoos are made with lettering. So are creative picture books.

Make a library center by featuring picture books with examples of lettering. Invite learners to find words in the books to copy. Supply colored pencils, fine tip markers, and paper.

Here are two picture books with lettering that learners will appreciate:

  • Dude! by Aaron Reynolds: This entire story is told with one word: Dude. Each page features the word “Dude” with different lettering and punctuation. Notice how the author uses lettering to evoke emotion. Supply colored pencils, markers, and paper at the center. Learners can copy their favorite form of the word “Dude.”
  • Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal: Alma does not like her long name. It’s too hard to write. She grows to love her name and uses fancy lettering to write it. Give learners resources to make their names beautiful. Fill the library center with books about lettering. The public library will have some titles. My favorite is The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering by Valerie McKeehan.


Yuyi Morales illustrates with different mediums. She features embroidery in her book Dreamers. Set up an embroidery center with an instructional video. Morales demonstrates stitching in Live Art: Yuyi MoralesYou’ll see her technique 9 minutes and 25 seconds into the video clip. Add the video Simple Embroidery for Kids by Cassie Stephens to the playlist. Display directions to access the videos. Add examples of embroidery. Supply embroidery hoops, plastic needles, burlap, thread, and scissors.

Visit Library Lessons for more art ideas with the book Dreamers.


Steve Jenkins, Ashley Bryan, and Lois Ehlert use collage in many of their picture books. This accessible art form makes it easy to create. All you need is paper, glue, and scissors. Add a video component to the collage library center. Watch Create a Collage with Steve Jenkins. Display simple directions for learners to access the video.

For ideas on how to manage a library center, read Knowledge Quest’s “Responsive Classroom and Library Centers.”


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: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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