There’s no better way to teach art history and cultural literacy to kids than with projects inspired by famous artists. But did you know that how you introduce the artist can make or break the success of your project? This is where famous artist books for kids can save the day.
Kids love stories (who doesn’t?) so you can get their attention right from the start by introducing the artist with a story. I’ve watched kids’ interest levels go from ho-hum to totally engaged simply by sharing a good story.
What makes a good story when it comes to art history for kids? Mike Venezia’s “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists” series (affiliate link) provides a perfect example.
Look for these 4 qualities when choosing a famous artist book for kids:
1. It makes the artist relatable.
In his books, Mike Venezia always includes a bit about the artist’s growing-up years, something kids can immediately relate to. It might be about the artist’s family, friends, attitudes about school, or parents’ feelings about their child’s interest in art.
There’s something about realizing this person you’re learning about was also a kid once that makes them seem more “real”.
2. It’s long enough – but not too long!
A famous artist book for kids needs to be long enough to share the stuff that matters without being so long that you lose them. These books are right in that sweet spot!
In a large class setting, you may want to choose some pages to read and some to paraphrase. If you’re short on time you could pull out the most relevant parts to share while students are working.
Truthfully, Venezia’s books are best appreciated when you can read them one on one or to a small group. There is so much to enjoy in his clever illustrations you won’t want students to miss any of it.
3. It includes some humor and fun facts.
Did you know that Salvadore Dali once arrived at an event in a limo filled with cauliflower? Or that Diego Rivera used to draw on the walls of his house when he was a kid?
Venezia uses a humorous approach in his writing that makes every one of his books a fun read. Humor also helps to make these stories memorable.
4. It has plenty of pictures.
Each of Venezia’s books are filled with photos of the artist’s work along with entertaining depictions of their life. If the artist’s style changed over time, he shows examples of that, too. So much to look at here!
You’ll find most of your art heroes in these books.
At last count, I think there were around 50 of these titles available on Amazon. They may not be the “newest kids on the block” in this genre, but the information covered won’t be changing!
If you think your students are too old for these famous artist books, I recommend reading them for yourself. It’s amazing how much we adults can learn about artists and art history from these delightful children’s books! They’ll leave you with lots to share about famous artists your students may have more in common with than they thought.