Reading: Enriching Art Lessons and Lives

The arts are often the first opportunity a student has to apply, practice and enhance the skills they are learning in core academic subject areas. As an elementary school arts educator, I try to incorporate reading into my lessons and often ask my students to write about their art process.

2015 Florida Teacher of the Year Christie Bassett visits students with First Lady Ann Scott during Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida!

2015 Florida Teacher of the Year Christie Bassett visits students with First Lady Ann Scott during Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida!

Sometimes I use artist biographies to have my students read to shoulder partners. Or, I might read aloud about the technique we would be using. Occasionally, I would find a magazine article on the subject of our art project and have my student take turns reading to the class.

My favorite types of books to share with my art students are ones illustrated by the book’s author. In addition to reading the book, I enjoy discussing with my students that many talented artists not only create the words on the pages, they also make the words come to life with their artwork!

This year, I’m on a leave of absence from the classroom so I can fulfill my duties as Florida’s Teacher of the Year. In August, I explained to my students that they would have a different art teacher for this school year. They kept asking me the same question over and over. To my surprise, no one asked “Will the new teacher paint with us?” or “Will the new teacher let us make ceramic projects?” or “Can we still use oil pastels?”

All of my students kept asking, “Will the new teacher READ to us?” Reading during art class has made so much of an impact on my students, possibly even more than I realized while I was teaching them.

In honor of the 2015 Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite books by author/illustrators:

  • Animal Popposites: A Pop-Up Book of Opposites by author, illustrator & paper engineer Matthew Reinhart
  • Frederick written and illustrated by Leo Lionni
  • Jumanji written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar written and illustrated by Eric Carle
  • Bunny Cakes written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells
  • The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule written and illustrated Mike Berenstain, created by Stan & Jan Berenstain
  • The Hat written and illustrated by Jan Brett
  • The Art Lesson written and illustrated by Tommy dePaola
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear written and illustrated by Bill Martin, Jr
  • The Cat and the Hat written and illustrated by Seuss
  • Where the Wild Things Are written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak

It is my hope that Florida students, parents and educators will set aside time to check out these fantastic creations with their students! As a parent of two little ones myself, I know that time is a precious commodity. However, reading with your students is a gift that keeps growing with every word and every page.

About the author: Christie Bassett is an art teacher from Polk County, Florida. She is spending the 2014-2015 school year traveling the state of Florida speaking to educators, future teachers, district personnel and business leaders about the continued success of Florida’s public education. You can contact Christie at and read her biography at


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