More Books by Liz Knowles



Poignant, sobering, and informative, picture books are short enough to illustrate a point and entertaining enough to drive a message home; they can be used at any academic level, most surprisingly, they are very effective in grades 5-12!

DIY Brain Fitness presents the organized and repeated process of using selected games and activities to practice, enhance, and develop cognitive skills. Most games and activities are available on Amazon.

Boost Your STEAM Program with Great Literature and Activities
Knowles & Smith – June, 2018
ISBN-10: 9781440862502

The Common Core Approach to Building Literacy in Boys
Knowles & Smith – May, 2014
ISBN-10: 1610696352

Differentiating Reading Instruction through Children’s Literature
Liz Knowles – May, 2009
ISBN-10: 1591587875

Understanding Diversity Through Novels and Picture Books
Knowles & Smith – May, 2007
ISBN-10: 159158440X

Character Builders: Books and Activities for Character Education
Knowles & Smith – July, 2006
ISBN: 1591583705

Boys and Literacy: Practical Strategies for Librarians, Teachers, and Parents
Knowles & Smith – March, 2005
ISBN: 1591582121

Talk about Books!: A Guide for Book Clubs, Literature Circles,
and Discussion Groups, Grades 4-8
Knowles & Smith – July, 2003
ISBN: 1591580234



Picture Books for Middle and High School? Wait, What?

This book is specifically for teachers of teens because most middle school and high school teachers think of picture books as strictly for toddlers and most certainly for preschool and early elementary students. Well, that is the case in many instances, yet it is surprising to learn how many picture books are actually suitable and appropriate for teens.

The picture books included in Picture Books for Middle and High School? Are You Kidding? are short, poignant and thought-provoking. They are great for discussion starters especially in the high school. Picture books contain an average of 32 to 40 pages with pictures appearing on every page or every two-page spread. With so few pages – the text of a picture book is critical. With a minimal number of words, it must tell a very complete and clear story in order for the illustrator to “get it right.”

I have reviewed over 525 picture books and organized the titles by seven subject areas: science, math, history, language arts, the arts, character, and miscellaneous. Some categories have sub categories for further clarification.

It is important to highlight the artwork in picture books – much of which is art gallery quality. Sometimes it is very apparent from the cover art who the illustrator is – as the artistic work is very unique.
These particular books, that I have identified and listed, are really not suitable for preschool – elementary school students but are more appropriate for middle and high school students. There are those that detail the suffering of war, slavery, civil rights, immigration, poverty, homelessness, bullying, and mental illness. The picture book – Rose Blanche would not be suitable for kindergarten.

Librarians know all there is to know about picture books but my research has shown that most middle and high school teachers are unfamiliar and therefore unaware of the value picture books could have in their content area courses.

Picture books can be used to:

  • start a discussion about historical events
  • give background information on the discovery of inventions
  • give insight to famous people
  • provide a better understanding of geographical locations
  • develop character traits
  • highlight math concepts
  • embellish and enhance grammar lessons
  • feature poetry styles
  • bring new clarity to concerning issues
  • model various types of writing
  • generate ideas for creative writing
  • introduce sophisticated concepts and ideas
  • demonstrate succinct, rich language
  • demonstrate writers’ craft: setting, foreshadowing, characterization, theme, plot, conflict, point of view, etc. because of brief, explicit text and supportive illustrations
  • demonstrate alliteration, personification, simile, metaphor, illusion, irony, parallel structure, understatement, hyperbole, and onomatopoeia because of brief text and beautiful illustrations

Picture books are short enough to easily become part of any lesson. Another important feature – picture books are just plain entertaining.

Brain Exercise Really Works!

Brain Exercise Really Works!

For ALL Ages!

Change Your Brain – Change Your Life!

Exercise for the Brain?   

A brain exercise program is extremely valuable for all age levels – beginning from the earliest years. Strengthening cognitive skills levels the playing field for success in school starting in preschool. Continuing a brain exercise program through the grade levels creates better learners who are able to pay attention, work quickly and accurately, remember important information, and demonstrate superb problem-solving skills.

Building these cognitive skills can be done in a fun and challenging way using a variety of games and activities that are readily available on Amazon. The exercise program can continue into the senior years because the brain can still change and grow and thrive even as adults age.

Research focused on neuroplasticity and its implications for executive function and cognition has exploded in recent years in the fields of neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and education. There is mounting evidence that exercises designed to strengthen cognition correlate with physical changes in the brain.

Mental ability is not fixed, nor planted firmly in our brains from birth. Rather, it can be forming, changing, and developing all throughout our lives!

There are specific games and activities that will help with the four most important areas of cognitive development. Those are memory, processing speed, focus and attention, and logic and reasoning. All four of these cognitive areas, although separate, are intertwined. Issues with memory can be from the lack of focus and attention. So, by strengthening one skill you can increase the functioning of another.

Puzzles are food for the brain – no matter what age you are! Putting a jigsaw puzzle together calls upon many cognitive skills, providing a great brain work out. Matching shape, color, and design gives the occipital lobe a workout. Searching through the pieces strengthens visual scanning abilities. It improves hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and dexterity in young and old hands. The steps it takes to complete a jigsaw puzzle incorporate elements of sequencing, planning, logic, strategy, and problem-solving skills. Jigsaw puzzles exercise short term and visual memory and help to improve spatial reasoning.

Jigsaw puzzles are only one exercise in an arsenal of specific exercises selected to enhance cognitive skills. It is so very important to exercise the brain throughout life! And DIY Brain Fitness is an excellent way to exercise the brain through specific games and activities, social interactions, repetition, and competition!