Integrating the arts happens in a variety of ways.
One of the most effective pathways towards arts integration and STEAM is through reading. Today, we’re sharing our list of 15 must-have books for your classroom STEAM library serving to inspire an arts integration or STEAM lesson.
While many are picture books, that doesn’t mean these are limited to elementary classrooms. You can use pictures books at any level (yes – even in high school) with a few tweaks and strategies. With the holidays approaching, these would make a great gift for any educator. You can even put them on your own wish list!
Connections: visual art | music | dance | theater | STEM | social studies | writing
This book explores the magic of having an idea and playing with it for a while before allowing it to take shape into something extraordinary. This book could easily be used to introduce the process of moving from an artistic idea to an original work of art. Or, it could be used as a way to think about the many ways creativity is used to take an idea from another content area and broaden its scope and impact.
Connections: music | STEM
This book could be used to connect music, architecture and engineering as children can identify not only the instruments being played, but also the skyscrapers that line the city streets of Manhattan. With a theme of persistence floating through the pages, this is also a great book for integrating the standards of mathematical practice and artistic habits of mind.
Connections: music | environmental science | writing | history
This accessible book about the history of jazz great John Coltrane, provides children with insight into how environmental sounds can be used to influence artistic decisions in compositions. The book encourages children to use all of their senses and ask “is that music?” when confronted with new sights, sounds, and textures.
Connections: visual art | STEM
This book about Alexander Calder uses the idea of creating a circus using found materials like wire, cork and paper. This is a wonderful way to introduce the juxtaposition between visual art, math and science!
Connections: visual art | STEM
This book for young learners takes a look at the world from the viewpoint of the monarch butterfly. The illustrations are all done so that the children see what the butterfly sees. Great for studying point of view, symmetry, and the life cycle of the butterfly, this non-fiction book could be used at multiple grade levels.
Connections: theater | dance | social studies
This Newbery Honor chapter book is the tale of a Saigon refugee who travels to America and journals her thoughts through a first-person rhyming poem. This is the perfect book to use with theater and dance, as the text is short and choppy, lending itself to both short scenes and dance narratives.
Connections: visual art | science
Talk about using visual art as text! This Caldecott Medal winner is a true picture book – no text at all. However, the illustrations explicitly tell the story of a boy’s trip to the beach and all that he finds – including an underwater camera. You could easily have students analyze, evaluate and create new text or images based upon the illustrations in this book.
Connections: visual art | music
Integrated books don’t just have to be limited to the fine arts and another content area. In this book, legendary author and illustrator Eric Carle combines visual art and music. When the musician plays his violin, shapes and colors come to life. This is an excellent prompt for looking at how many times artists are informed and influenced by other artists and art forms.
Connections: theater | literacy
You can’t have a list of picture books without including this classic. Victoria Brown, innovative founder of the arts-integrated Lucy School, uses this story as a way to integrated theater concepts and literacy skills. Each student has an opportunity to actually become Max and make decisions and inferences based upon each page in the book. What an incredible opportunity to see where the Wilds of Creativity will take your students!
Connections: visual art | music | theater | social studies
Exploring tales like this one from Africa is a terrific way for students to learn about legends and symbols. This story is so rich in detail from the illustrations that it could easily be transformed into a way to study mask-making, musical drumming, or even as a reader’s theater piece.
Connections: visual art | dance | literacy | STEM | social studies
This book looks at the element of line in a whole new way. Each page contains a verb that identifies ways that lines can move. This is an excellent way to study word choice and how words can be used in a rhythmic way throughout a text. You can also study the use of line in architecture and mapping skills. Additionally, students can both move and create art in ways that demonstrate line.
Connections: visual art | STEM
This is a book all about mistakes. It takes a look at how mistakes lead to inquiry, discovery and creativity – and that the best way to learn is through error. This is a perfect pairing for connecting the science of art and using mistakes as a pathway to innovation.
Connections: visual art | writing
This 2014 Newbery winner looks at the art of the unexpected. Formatted with both text and in comic-book fashion, this book is a great way to utilize illustrations through comics as a way to communicate broad ideas in a succinct technique.
Connections: theater | literacy | science
In this beautifully moving story, figurative language is the highlight. Using theater skills to communicate these word choices is a powerful process for insights, inquiry and interpretation. This also provides and opportunity to study the gorillas and captivity through the “real” story of Ivan, who lived at Zoo Atlanta.
Connections: music | writing | social studies
This book is written with the rhythmic sounds of trains running down the tracks. Studying how word choices can effect the musical line of a phrase is a natural connection when reading this book. As an added bonus, students will discover the story of how the transcontinental railroad was instrumental in connecting the vast expanse of the United States.
Do you have any books for integration that you love? Share out so that we can all build our integrated classroom STEAM library!
Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.