Math Picture Books: CLELCON22 Reflections

by Kaylene Loo / Grand County Library District

Being in a rural library, there is the opportunity to do it all.  As of now GCLD has a limited number of staff, therefore library associates take on all programs and library tasks.  I have the wonderful opportunity to do programs in early literacy, but also programs for children, teens, and adults.  In my opinion it is the perfect way to explore different areas.  Not only do I get to discover what I like best, but in which areas to improve upon. 

After attending this conference, I gained a new appreciation for the role that libraries play in maintaining diverse and inclusive collections of materials.  To my “toolbox”, I added new ideas for implementing math, writing, movement, and mindfulness into storytime. 

While I learned so many wonderful new ideas, the one session that really stuck with me is “Let’s Look: The Latest, Greatest Early Math Picture Books for Storytime” presented by Jessica Fredrickson.  This session reminded me that math is not just about adding, subtracting, and counting.  Shapes, colors, size, patterns, and comparisons are the foundations for math.  

My biggest takeaway from attending this session, was that not all picture books are written well.  I never thought to really evaluate the pictures and the words together.  For instance, in some counting books the pictures and words are not represented well.  There may be only six of the same objects on the page with another character, so it becomes unclear whether the count should be 6 or 7.  The other area to watch for is the word “several” or “many”.  Well written picture books will use the actual number.  Young children need things that are concrete.  The word “several” could mean 2 or 3 and sometimes even 7, 8 or more. 

Pictures are also important to watch out for.  When a book is comparing two concepts it should be very clear.  For example, there are books written that compare different animals, and then the picture shows one animal and a group of another animal.  This can be confusing as to how it should be compared.  Are they comparing the size of actual animals, or the number of animals in the pictures?  Is it the size of the picture or the amount? 

I was also surprised to find out that a book can seem like it is good, and then there is one page that is off.  So before reading a story during storytime, evaluate it.  Do the words and pictures make sense together?  Are the concepts clear or are you certain what the page is getting at? 

About Kaylene: CLELCON 2022 was my first conference as a librarian.  With just over a year’s experience working in a rural public library for Grand County Library District (GCLD), there is so much to learn.  I never saw myself as a librarian, but an opportunity presented itself.  Now I cannot see myself in another profession. 

For more information on Let’s Look: The Latest, Greatest Early Math Picture Books for Storytime CLELCON22 presentation by Jessica Fredrickson, see the conference materials.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position or opinion of the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy organization or the individual committee members.