Ideas! and Curriculum Activities
Click on these children's book titles to go directly to the activities you want or browse them below.
Also, email us your own creative ideas for sharing Pat's books. Include your name and the name of your school or library.

Curriculum Activities

Agua, Agua, Agua (Spanish edition: Agua, Agua, Agua)
  • Create a science experiment on water displacement.
  • Older students can study fables in the library and on-line and then write an original fable to present to the lower grades using very simple text.
  • All of these books can be part of your April 30th, Día de los niños/Día de los libros celebration.  Visit the REFORMA site for ideas of library events.  A school in South Texas some years back had a book parade by decorating A-V carts with favorite books.  Feature bilingual books, books in other languages or that include other languages, and books about bilingual children.

  • Create scary abuelos masks using white paper bags, crayons or paints or paper mache.
  • Read the Author's Note in the back of the book. Pat Mora mentions a cultural tradition similar to los abuelos which is practiced in Japan. Find out if there are similar traditions in other countries.
  • Talk about other multi-generational holidays, festivals, traditions, and activities you know about that are practiced in your family or community.
  • Locate New Mexico on a map of the United States. Visit your school or public library and research 5 facts about the state and the people.
  • Act out a scene of los abuelos coming down from the mountains, or for a long-term project, create a class play based on the story Abuelos by Pat Mora. Perform the play for other classes, teachers and families. Serve bizcochitos (see recipe below) and empanadas after.
  • Share something you're afraid of with the group and talk about scary feelings.
  • Read a story about another cultural tradition with similar elements to Abuelosthat interests you.

(Makes about 8-10 dozen)
See recipe show

The Bakery Lady (Spanish edition: La señora de la panadería)
  • Studying bread-making traditions popular in different cultures can be connected to math (measurements), science (reactions), social studies (community helpers), geography (grain production) and history (craft production).
  • Enjoy art-making projects in which students shape and decorate either traditional breads or their own creations.
  • Visit a bakery willing to have the students not only tour but also interview the bakers. Have students discover other community helpers seldom noticed whose work is both utilitarian and aesthetic.
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The Beautiful Lady: Our Lady of Guadalupe (Spanish edition: La hermosa Señora: Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe)
  • After sharing the book, join students in making paper flowers. Sample instructions:
  • Share two to three books of other cultural stories/legends. Invite students to share a story from their culture.
  • Invite students to create art (drawings, collages) depicting a story from their culture.
  • Plan a Readers' Theater of the book.

A Birthday Basket for Tía (Spanish edition: Una canasta de cumpleaños para tía)
  • Introduce children to birthday customs around the world.
  • Enjoy storytelling baskets created by the children with items brought from home.  
  • Students could also bring a favorite book to share.  
  • Students can create memory gift baskets for a family member or friend.
  • Counting skills and games can be part of the basket activities.

Anita Canteenwalla and Jean Thornton of Longwood Elementary in Seminole County, Florida, have suggested a Tia lesson planning idea for struggling readers that "Brings a Gift to the Whole Class." Download the lesson plan.

Book Fiesta! Celebrate Children's Day/Book Day
Celebremos El día de los niños/El día de los libros
  • Before reading the book, show Book Fiesta! to the group asking them to look closely at the book cover and illustrations on each page/spread. Ask children to guess what’s happening in the story by looking at the pictures.
  • Invite students to write a poem about the books they like to read.
  • Teach students the Book Fiesta! song and have them perform it for another class or group. If there’s a music teacher at your school, involve that teacher in planning this singing activity.
  • Rafael López paints with acrylics on sanded wood. Children can paint a mural in the style of Rafael on a large piece of plywood or on large sheets of paper and display the mural in the school library or hall.
  • Does the classroom have a reading corner? Rename it the “Bookjoy Corner” and have children design signs or pictures for the space. Change these every week so that all signs have a turn being displayed.
  • Have children create dioramas of a place where they enjoy reading and then display them in the hallways.
  • Share the suggestions for celebrating El día de los niños, El día de los libros/Children’s Day, Book Day that are printed in the back of the book. Involve parents, your colleagues and the principal in creating these celebrations annually at home and school.

Bookjoy, Wordjoy
Download a teacher's guide for Bookjoy, Wordjoy from the publisher, Lee & Low Books.

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Bravo, Chico Canta! Bravo!
  • Plan a Reader’s Theatre of the book using props suggested from the book’s illustrations.
  • Enjoy a field trip to a local children’s theatre.
  • Ask students who are bilingual what languages they speak and what some of their favorite words are.
    Create a display list of the words and their meanings.
  • Invite students to create a language for their favorite animal and to prepare a glossary of common words to share with the group.
  • Invite students to choose a favorite story and to draw a picture of the set designs and characters on stage.

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Confetti: Poems for Children
  • Download a teacher's guide from the publisher, Lee & Low Books.
  • Students could study both egg-decorating traditions around the world as well as Mexican folk arts.  Students could then make cascarones, dry egg shells filled with confetti.  Mayhem possible!  
  • Ask students to prepare and share a Me Bag that contains items about their culture(s).  Strive to help them see that though cultural expressions include food, folklore, fashion and festival, cultures are complex and reflect a group’s values, geography, history and knowledge.  
  • After a field trip to a neighborhood bakery, for example, students could learn about bread-making traditions and the connections between food and culture.  
  • Using an array of children’s toys from around the world, let children discuss differences and similarities.

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Delicious Hullabaloo: Pachanga deliciosa
  • Download a teacher's guide from the publisher, Piñata Books/Arte Público Press.   In Spanish.
  • It’s hard to resist a food activity given the appetites of the main characters.  After  learning about the indigenous foods of the Americas, students can prepare their own pachanga deliciosa.  They could also illustrate and publish their own cookbook of recipes of the Americas.  
  • Teach students about Mexican music and instruments and have them learn a Mexican song.  
  • Students can explore the diversity of the U.S. Latino population, the differences and the similarities such as enjoying a pachanga with friends and music.  
  • Students can select a kind of lizard (collared, gila monster, horned lizard) and compare and contrast what they learned.

The Desert Is My Mother: El desierto es mi madre
  • Download a teacher's guide from the publisher, Piñata Books/Arte Público Press.
  • After learning about mural art, students can plan and create a large desert mural.  
  • Students can create a desert diorama, art boxes, mosaics, desert animal masks, cartoons of desert creatures, riddles, bookmarks.  
  • Students can learn about protective coloration—camouflage, warning coloration and mimicry.
  • After learning about the desert, students can listen to one of the many tapes available of nature sounds and write as they listen, and share their work in small groups.  
  • Students can practice observation skills essential to a writer by spending time outdoors and recording in their small poetry notebook what they hear and see in preparation for writing.

Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart (Spanish edition: Doña Flor: Un cuento de una mujer gigante con un gran corazón
  • Enjoy two audience-participation poems (Young Children) (Older Students) for use with Doña Flor.
  • Introduce the tall tale tradition and have students explore if it is a uniquely American tradition. Have them select their favorite tall tale and illustrate it.
  • Have students do a comparison of Flor and another tall tale.
  • Of course, have students write and illustrate their own tall tales and, if possible, present them to another class. These could make wonderful dramatizations that could include music and technology.
Download a lesson plan from teacher Elizabeth Herrera.

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The Gift of the Poinsettia: El regalo de la flor de nochebuena
  • I love etymology including horticultural etymology, details such as the origin of the name tulip possibly coming from the Arabic dulband meaning turban.  After learning about the origin of the name poinsettia, have students read about flower folklore and write a story based on their research or create a name for an imaginary flower and write and illustrate that story.  The flower could, of course, be named after themselves or their friends which could lead to some interesting descriptions.  
  • Humans enjoy celebrations.  Have students study celebrations around the globe and share a holiday celebration important to their family.  
  • Students can learn about legends and either re-tell a legend, particularly one native to their area or place of birth, or create their own legends.

  • Ask the students to draw what they're grateful for and to share their drawing with a partner or small group.
  • Ask the students if they know how to say "thank you" in other languages. Teach them to say "thank you" in some of the languages spoken locally or connected to the children's cultures.
  • Have children make and decorate "gratitude baskets" to take home for sharing with their families. Students can invite family members to write down what they are thankful for on a slip of paper and leave it in the basket. These can be read aloud at a family gathering or special meal.
  • Depending on the age of the students, have them write and illustrate their own GRACIAS book (a great present to share at Thanksgiving). With younger students, write a group poem.

Here Kitty, Kitty/¡Ven gatita, ven! (Book 3 of My Family/Mi Familia)>
  • Ask the class or group to draw pictures of their favorite hiding places.
  • Read aloud some nursery rhymes and poems about pets to the children. Poems are an excellent way to introduce rhythm and rhyme to children, and they enjoy the humor that is found in many poems for the young.
  • Guide the class in writing a group poem about a kitten. Write the completed poem on a large sheet of poster board and hang it in the classroom.
  • Create your own Kitty Hides math game. Make cut outs of 10 kittens and a "hiding place" pocket. Reinforce counting and introduce subtraction and addition by hiding the kittens and returning them to the group. You can play a matching game by making some of the kittens the same color or with the same spots or stripes.
  • Ask the class to create a list of ways to take good care of our pets.

I Pledge Allegiance

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Join Hands! The Ways We Celebrate Life
  • The poem describes "ways we celebrate life." Ask the children to share some of the ways they celebrate life in their family and community.
  • Name ways to celebrate life with books. Try starting a Mother-Daughter Book Club; donating "gently-used" books to children's hospital; making your own alphabet book; or acting out a story from a children's book.
  • Joining hands is a way of showing togetherness. Name other ways of being together with family and friends.
  • Create a celebration collage using students' own photos or photos from magazines.
  • Older children can write their own pantoum; it's a fun form to create and illustrates the power of repetition. Use the color-coded lines of the poem in the back of the book as a guide or by numbering the lines to use as a map.

Let's Eat ¡A comer! (Book 1 of My Family/Mi Familia)
  • Ask children to share examples of what their family eats for dinner and chat about how different families and different countries have favorite foods.
  • Have children draw a picture of dinnertime at their house.
  • Ask what Dad means when he looks around at everyone at the table and says "Yes, we're rich."
  • Ask the children to define what "grateful" means. Create a morning circle time and ask children to tell one thing they are grateful for. Try to do this regularly.
  • Ask children to bring in the recipe of their favorite food. Create a class cookbook, copy and distribute to families.

A Library for Juana: The World of Sor Juana Inés
Teachers, search engines can take you to many interesting sites on Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.  Here are ideas for your students:
  • Students can contrast life in Nueva España (now Mexico) with life in the United States in the 17th century: politics, the arts, daily life, etc. Students can create a time-line of the history of Mexico up to the 17th century beginning with the Olmec.
  • Sor Juana loved word games. Students can create a class book of riddles.
  • Sor Juana enjoyed collecting scientific instruments. Students can prepare group reports on the instruments available at that time or reports on the scientific instruments of today that students might like to collect.
  • When Juana went to Mexico City, she was fascinated by the many languages she heard and included one indigenous language (Nahuatl) in some of her work.  Students can listen to their world and learn about languages other than English that they or other students around the country might here.  Encourage students to include words from another language in a poetry project.
  • Enjoy a cyber-visit to the Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts that opened July 2002 in Santa Fe,

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Listen to the Desert: Oye al desierto
  • Students can make desert puppets and stage a play.  
  • Learning to make desert sand paintings provides an opportunity to teach about native cultures and the art of the Southwest.  
  • Students enjoy writing group poems on a theme such as, “Listen to the Playground.”  
  • Students can research early musical instruments of the Americas, make their own and use them to accompany the words.  
  • Try choral reading with this book.

Love to Mamá: A Tribute to Mothers
  • Invite students to read other anthologies connected by theme such as In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall.  Students can create their own theme anthologies and include original work and poems by others.  The books can be illustrated or enhanced by other kinds of student art such as collage.
  • Students can select one of the poems in the collection and write a prose piece on the same theme.
  • Using one of the poems in the book as a model, students can write their own poem using an existing format.
  • Students can collect compelling photographs of mothers and grandmothers and write brief poems as captions.  This is a good opportunity for a global photography project.
  • Of course, students can write and/or draw their own poetry gift for their mother or grandmother. 

Maria Paints the Hills
  • Create a “Paint the Hills with Maria” event that encourages young readers to study and paint their landscape using a variety of media.  This can provide a good opportunity for learning about local geological features and the names of local flora and fauna.
  • Maria Hesch modeled her style after the work of Grandma Moses.  Students can study the work of Grandma Moses and do a comparison of the work of these two women artists.  Students can also select a visual artist whose style they would like to imitate and create their own art piece for display.
  • Students can learn about the history and crafts of Northern New Mexico and contrast Maria’s life with their own.  Students can enjoy making adobe or a simple weaving project.
  • Water is an issue of growing global importance.  Students can learn about the acequia or irrigation system of Maria’s region and contrast it with our own piped water systems and with other water systems around the world.
  • Enjoy a cyber-visit to the Museum of International Folk Art that hosted the Maria Hesch exhibit in 1997,

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¡Marimba! Animales A – Z
  • Plan a Marimba Fiesta. Work with a music teacher to teach some of your students or a group of older students to play the marimba and have them accompany the reading of the book. Students could also learn a few of the Latin dances mentioned in the book and bring samples of the foods mentioned.
  • Students, alone or in pairs or groups, can learn more about the animals they don’t know in the book and share the information with the class. This could include facts, drawings and original work such as a poem about the animal.
  • If there’s a zoo in town, ask your students to visit the zoo and write about their visit or select three favorite aspects to share with the class. You might also invite a zoo staff member to visit your class and talk about not only the animals but also about jobs at the zoo.
  • Excite your students about writing and illustrating their own alphabet book or create a class alphabet book. You could together create a list of other cognates.
  • Explore other musical instruments popular in Latin America and create an art project connected with them—bringing some to class and accompanying music with them, drawing them or making them out of clay, etc., writing haiku about them.

My Magic Wand:Growing with the Seasons
  • Distribute art supplies and let students turn their pencils or markers into beautiful magic wands.
  • Ask students to write or draw a poem for someone special with their magic wands!
  • Students can draw or write about a special animal friend they have--or would like to have.
  • Help students create a book of poems and put a title, a picture, and their name on the cover.

Download a teacher's guide from the publisher, Lee & Low Books.

The Night the Moon Fell (Spanish edition: La noche que se calló la luna)
  • After introducing folktales, ask students to find other folktales about the moon or have them write a folktale about a part of their environment.  
  • Students can study the phases of the moon and the relationship of the moon and tides.
  • Students can research the topic of endangered languages and report on current strategies for language revitalization.  
  • Students can learn about folklife and folklore studies, the folklore of their area, and then help document the folklife and lore of their neighborhood or region perhaps with the guidance of a local folklife expert.  For resources, visit the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress at

Pablo’s Tree
  • Using branches, have students create their own tree for a special person or to remember a specific birthday of their own.  Teaching origami or making clay wind chimes are possibilities.  
  • A number of my books describe relationships between children and an older relative.  Invite students to share traditions from their families.  Invite grandparents or older relatives and friends to visit the class and perhaps to share a memory, game, tradition, or song in their native language.  
  • Students can make items for Pablo’s sixth birthday.  
  • Using “dress-up props,” children can stage a scene about an event with an older relative or friend.

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A Piñata in a Pine Tree
  • Ask the students when and where they hear languages other than English. Do they like to learn new words in other languages? What new words did they learn in this book?
  • After sharing the book, have students draw the book, or a few pages, as you read the book.
  • Help students make their favorite gift in the book and give it to their amiga/o.
  • Learn to sing the song and perform it for another class or group.

The Race of Toad and Deer
  • Since students are interested in ancient cultures and often don’t know very much about the indigenous cultures of Mexico and Central America, this book and The Night the Moon Fell provide opportunities to create large time-lines comparing the major ancient cultures of the world as well as specifically learning about the advanced civilization of the Maya.  
  • Much of what we know about the ancient Maya comes from the careful work of archaeologists.  Create a digging experiment to teach the concept of super-position, layering.  Older children could help create the experiment.  
  • Have students research the rainforest and its diversity including its people, how and why rainforests are threatened, and strategies for saving them.  
  • Students can research Guatemala, its languages, history, geography, music, its past and its present.

The Rainbow Tulip
  • Explore the value of oral history with students.
  • After discussing the value of oral histories and teaching basic interview techniques, ask students to interview a family member and create an artistic response: a story, play, poem, dance, collage, etc.  
  • Given the many kinds of families, students can design their own symbol (which need not be the standard family tree) to illustrate their connections to the special people in their lives, those who constitute their family.
  • Students can take photographs (or draw) their families and neighborhoods and create their own books.  Some students could even create a video.  
  • Students could role play a scene about the discomfort of feeling different.

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The Remembering Day
  • Download a teacher's guide from the publisher, Piñata Books/Arte Público Press.
  • Invite students to share stories about their relationship with a remembered loved one. Students can also share a photo or their own drawing.
  • Invite students to write a poem about a deceased family member or friend.
  • Invite students to bring photos or special objects of remembered loves ones and create a classroom, library or school display.
  • Plan a remembering day event at your school or library. You can include flowers, songs, favorite foods of loved ones, funny stories. Create a celebration of special people we have known.

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The Song of Francis and the Animals
  • A good opportunity to explore the complex process of making woodcuts. Perhaps a local woodcut artist or an art teacher could explain the process and devise a safe method for students to create their own art.
  • Invite students to discuss the relationship Francis had to each creature. Have students share stories of their own habits of treating animals.
  • If possible, invite a veterinarian or veterinary student or a staff member of a humane society, animal shelter, or animal rescue program to do a presentation on how to be a good pet owner.
  • As you know, this book is an extended poem. Invite students to write their own poem/song about their favorite animal.

Sweet Dreams ¡Dulces sueños! (Book 2 of My Family/Mi Familia)
  • Ask children to share their bedtime routine. Do they have a glass of water? Does someone read to them? Sing to them? Is a language other than English part of their bedtime routine?
  • How many children in the class have members of their extended family living with them? Ask children to name something they've learned from a grandparent or an aunt or uncle.
  • Read some bedtime poems to the class. Try to find "classics" and contemporary examples. Ask the children what they like about these poems.
  • Listen to a selection of lullabies illustrating different musical styles and lullabies from different countries.
  • Ask the children to create a group list of their favorite nighttime words. Write them down and post the list decorated with stars, moons etc.

This Big Sky
  • Students can create poetry anthologies of the natural life in a specific region-- theirs, an area of interest, or an imaginary landscape.
  • Especially during April, National Poetry Month, students can treat one another to a poem a day.
  • The poet who shares the poem receives an apple.  
  • After discussing “Old Snake,” students could draw or make their own snakes and write on the back one of their fears or self-doubts.  
  • Among the many responses possible after a discussion of student’s personal dreams, they can make and then release kites on which they’ve written their dreams.  
  • Students can study how plants and animals conserve water in the desert.  

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Tomás and the Library Lady (Spanish edition: Tomás y la señora de la biblioteca)
  • After exploring with students the qualities of heroes and why some people such as sports or music figures are noticed and others like nurses, school bus drivers, migrant workers or park rangers aren’t, work with students to write brief biographies or biographical poems about unnoticed heroines and heroes.  They could also draw portraits.  
  • The discussion on heroines and heroes offers an opportunity to teach media literacy to help young viewers assess what they see.  
  • Few of us know enough about migrant workers.  Students can learn about the history of migrant workers in this country and about their difficult lives and the discrimination they encounter.  
  • Using maps, students can share their families’ historical journeys and facts about the family’s countries of origin.  
  • Students can also learn about the history of libraries, the library as a career, and the kinds of librarians and libraries.  Further they could study how libraries are funded and what a library board is.
  • Fourth grade students at Pattison Elementary School in Milford Ohio who read TOMAS suggested to their teacher, Christina North, that they pretend they were Tomás and write postcards (which they made) to the library lady. They sent their postcards to Pat who enjoyed them thoroughly.

The Family Involvement Storybook Corner at Harvard University has created a tool kit for Tomás and the Library Lady.

Choose to Read Ohio created a tool kit when they chose Tomás for their 2019-20 booklist.

At Perkins Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa, with the help of Des Moines Performing Arts' Applause Series, each class did a different type of performance based on their experience of reading Tomás. Watch the video:

Uno, Dos, Tres: One, Two, Three
  • Have students draw their own Spanish counting dictionary or write a story using the numbers from one to ten in Spanish.
  • Students could write and illustrate counting books using other languages.
  • Students can learn about the folk arts of Mexico and how those traditions are maintained.  Students could then make a simplified or simulated version of tin work, papier-maché, straw art, piñata making, clay art, papel picado, etc.

Water Rolls, Water Rises/El agua rueda, el agua sube
  • Download activities (pdf)
  • Download a teacher's guide from the publisher, Lee & Low Books.
  • Download a teacher's guide that aligns with TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) standards and curriculum for first and second grades, written by Kendall Miller, the Logistics and Outreach Coordinator for the Texas Book Festival. Kendall also runs the TBF literacy outreach program Reading Rock Stars.

Wiggling Pockets/Los bolsillos saltarines
  • Ask the students to discuss their reaction to the book. Was it funny? What have they or other family members done to make the family laugh?
  • After sharing the book, ask the students ask the students to draw a picture of their favorite scene in the book.
  • Have the students act-out the book as you read it after an initial first or second reading. Part of the class could provide sounds to the story.
  • Make frog shapes from colored or pattered paper and play a matching game. Cut out frogs of different sizes and ask children to arrange them in sequence - larger to smaller; one small, one large, repeat etc.
  • Read some poems about frogs to the class.
  • If you're feeling ambitious, build a terrarium and keep a frog(s) in your classroom. Talk about the kind of habitat a frog needs to live in.
  • This is the last book in the series My Family * Mi Familia. Have the students discuss their favorite scenes. Would they like this family as their neighbors?

Yum! ¡Mmm! Qué rico! America's Sproutings  (Haiku)
  • Download a teacher's guide from the publisher, Lee & Low Books.
  • Invite students to create an art piece (watercolor, collage, etc.) incorporating the 14 foods in the book.
  • Students can visit a grocery store and make a list of how many of the 14 foods they find. They might select one food to prepare in a recipe or as is and share with their family.
  • Students could read the ingredients on one box in their pantry and list which of the 14 foods they find.
  • Invite students to make a list of 14 of their favorite foods and write a haiku about one.
  • Plan a Yum! Party with your colleagues or class. Guests can choose one or a combination of the 14 foods in the book to use in a dish to share at your event.

Leslie Wills, a second grade teacher at Woodbrook Elementary School (VA) submitted this idea: "Yum! ¡Mmm! Qué rico!"affirms Hispanic culture in such a positive way and prompts ALL students to think about the origin of foods that we enjoy regularly. Check out the printable created for ‘Food Poetry,’ Poetry on My Plate."

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A few more good ideas:

Plant Poems:
Here’s a good idea from my friends at the Princeton Day School. When the first graders planted flowers for the library and teachers’ lounge, they also planted their poems. They worked with their third grade poetry partners on their writing. The printed poems were then glued onto wooden sticks and planted for all to enjoy.

Author Visits: Deck the Doorways
My friends at Neshannock Elementary School in New Castle, PA provided the perfect end to an author visit in 1999: a booklet of photos. What a special gift! Thank you, Cheryl Massie. Doors throughout the school had been decorated with children’s art connected to my books. The collages, painting, poems and stories also spilled over into the hallway walls and into the library. When the young create their own art prompted by what they read, their reading experience is enriched and deepened as teachers and librarians well know.