33 Picture Books for Teaching Theme and Main Idea
It is easy to confuse teaching theme with a books main idea. Read on for a quick explanation of the difference between theme and main idea, as well as picture books to teach these comprehension concepts.
What is the Difference Between Theme and Main Idea?
It is easy to confuse the theme of a book with its main idea. The theme or central idea of a book is the lesson, moral or message the reader takes away after reading. The main idea is what the book is about and can usually be stated as a short summary.
The tricky part of identifying the theme of a book is an author will often imply rather than explicitly state it. This means your students have to look for clues from the text.
As you read, model how to identify the theme. You could start by reminding your students of themes of other books you have read. This will help them focus on what they are looking out for as you read. Also, remind them that the theme may be implied rather than stated, so they will need to look for clues in the text.
After reading, focus your questions on the characters and how they reacted to events, their decision-making and what they learned. As your students come up with ideas, ask them what their evidence is. You could introduce a graphic organiser/anchor chart at this point to help your students organise their thoughts.
Teaching Main Idea
Finding the main idea of a story involves organising, explaining, and remembering the text read. Identifying the main idea shows an understanding of a text by determining the relevant parts. You can model this by highlighting repeated words, phrases, or ideas that represent the main idea as you read to your students.
Before reading, focus on the front cover. Do the title and illustration give any clues as to what the main idea will be? Is the book fiction or non-fiction?
As you read, ask your students to be mindful of text features that may help identify the main idea, as well as words or information repeated throughout the book.
After reading, reflect on the important parts of the book and identify evidence from the book to support their main idea conclusion.
Picture Books for Teaching Theme and Main Idea
You will have books to teach theme and main idea in your classroom. This list of books are some of the most popular on Children’s Library Library, and may give you some ideas to get you started.
A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
My Father's Arms Are A Boat by Stein Erik Lunde
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne
Please Mr Panda by Steve Antony
Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson
Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson
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