Saturday, July 21, 2012

Books To Encourage Creativity

I am a huge proponent of encouraging creativity with students, particularly young students because many of them just don't know how to channel those creative juices. Very quickly they learn my stock answer when they ask "what color should I make the sky?" or "should I draw my hair curly?"--my answer is always "YOU ARE THE ARTIST!". 

My first year teaching, a master teacher observed my class just before Thanksgiving and was horrified that my kiddos were making turkeys of all different colors-purple turkeys, blue turkeys, even rainbow turkeys. She marked down on my evaluation that I had to teach them how to do it realistically. Of course, I took the criticism under advisement :), and I make it very clear during science if we are making observations that the illustration should be realistic. But if we are doing some kind of craft or art project---the sky's the limit, and I will vehemently defend that position. Where are the creative minds of tomorrow going to come from if we prohibit them from using their imaginations? What if someone told Steve Jobs that digital music was not realistic (they probably did, but he obviously didn't listen), or Ray Bradbury that the future worlds he wrote about were not realistic? Or Mondrian that he had to use more colors?

Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox and share with you some of my favorite read-alouds to model creativity for the kids:

Have you ever heard of Blue Dog? A New Orleans based artist name George Rodrigue created her many years ago. He drew the likeness of a his beloved dog that had passed away--Tiffany. There are hundreds of versions of his paintings, kind of a pop culture icon. This story is a great one on using various colors to get varied effects. 

Eric Carle of course if one of the most fabulous illustrators out there. I love to have the kids make an illustration like his. If we read the Cat in the Hat for example-draw him the way Eric Carle would....

I love this story because all the descriptions are unexpected. "Pink is the color of crows...when they have just hatched." The colors aren't matching with what we would expect-very creative.

A creative way to use space on a roof-the character turns it into a marvelously sculptured garden.

A true story of a Mexican artist Juan Quezada who used animal hair for brushes and mud/berries to create beautiful pots. It's in the same repeating rhythms as the House That Jack Built.

This is just a wonderfully cute story about kids who cannot stay clean. Again, refers to making different colors (for them it's the bathwater after mom makes them clean up). But you can talk about what the different colors can mean.

Beautiful legend about a painter who just can't capture the color of sunset.

It amazes me that kids come into Kinder not knowing what colors make mixed together (although sometimes they are even trying to paint with the plastic end of the brush the first time we paint!). I love to let them experiment with all the colors themselves to see what they can come up with. They'll say-what if I mix purple and white--try it and see! Of course their favorite is to mix them all together, but that's an exploration too.

Amazing true story of a jazz musician who was nearly blind. Talk about raw talent! The illustrations look like watercolors-just beautiful.

And of course, Duke Ellington. The author talks about the different colors we see when we hear different music. I always have the kids listen to jazz and paint what they see after we read this story.

What books do you use to inspire your creative minds?


  1. Thanks for sharing these wonderful books with us. I am your newest follower:)

  2. Thanks for sharing a nifty set of books!

  3. These are such great ideas! Some of these books are new to me, but others are in my library right now. I'm going to bookmark this post so I can refer back to it during our first projects.

    Oh, and I just snagged the Duke Ellington book when our school library was getting rid of some well-loved books. I didn't get a chance to read it at the time (I totally judged it by the cover...), but from what you said here, it will fit perfectly with a short art project I already use. Yay!

    I'm your newest follower. :)

    ★ First-Graders from Outer Space ★

    1. They read it aloud on Discovery Education as well. I really like the story-they often learn about Louis Armstrong, but there were other influences in the genre as well! :)

  4. I've only heard of one of those books! Yikes! I need to add some more books to my list of books I want to read. Thanks for your list.

  5. Thank you so much for your comments--I really do appreciate them! :)

  6. I love The Dot, Ish, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, and Bojangles for creativity, too!

    There's also a great poem by... Jack Prelutsky? about having to write a poem for school- and by the end of complaining about it, he realizes he's already written a poem.

    Thanks for the suggestions!
    Luckeyfrog' Lilypad

  7. Oooh! I'll have to find that Prelutsky poem-love using poetry! :) I do love the Dot and Ish as well--the other 2 I haven't heard of though-thanks so much for sharing them, will definitely check them out!

  8. This is a great list of Books! I love you blog. I have awarded you with the One Lovely Blog Award... Stop by my blog at to pick it up!