Deep Concept Books: ReFoReMo 2018


For the last several years, I’ve been honored to contribute a mentor text list to ReFoReMo (Read For Research Month). This year, I focused on concept books for older readers that really hone in on deep concepts. Take a peek at my list here.

Past ReFoReMo posts:

2017–Reader Engagement

2016–Back Matter

2015–2nd person POV

ReFoReMo is Here!

ReFoReMo stands for Reading for Research Month. It is run by Carrie Charley Brown and her team and focuses on diving into picture books as mentor texts.

My post is the first one in the line up today with a focus on reader engagement in picture books. Hop on over there to read my post about these 10 picture books. 

Mentor Texts in the Classroom: A Second Person Point of View Writing Challenge

Image for posts--mentor texts in the classroom

I love it when my day job and my writing life merge together–when research and studying in one feeds the other. I was working on a post for ReFoReMo on second person point of view (which you can read here) in my writing life. In my teaching life, I was preparing for an upcoming mentor text book study meeting using Georgia Heard’s Finding the Heart of Nonfiction.  I wanted to use some nonfiction mentor texts in a short lesson in science class.

NF collage

I utilized some nonfiction picture books that were written in second person point of view. I read snippets of some of these books as mentor texts and my students and I talked about features of second person point of view. Because we were studying some tricky concepts in electricity (insulators, conductors, series circuits, parallel circuits, open circuits, closed circuits, and more), I wanted to see how well students understood those concepts.

I asked students to pick an electricity term and write a short piece that gives facts about that term using second person point of view. Example: If you were an insulator you would slow down electricity.

Right away we applied our newfound writing technique (second person point of view) to our content knowledge (electricity). Students wrote a few sentences, a paragraph, or even a page. But I quickly was able to find out two things: 1) Do they understand the electricity concept and 2) Were they able to apply the point of view lesson.

The results were fascinating. Students eagerly shared. Their examples were full of voice, full of knowledge, and mostly clearly understood how to write in second person.

It was a quick and easy way to utilize nonfiction mentor texts and a quick way to do some cross-curricular nonfiction writing.

This took less than one class period to implement and it could be done in any content area.

More Resources:

Second Person Point of View Primer and Examples for ReFoReMo

Printable PDF Bibliography of Second Person Point of View 

Mentor Texts for Writers: Carrie Charley Brown Breaks the 4th Wall

Carrie Charley Brown is our first guest for Mentor Texts for Writers 2015. She challenged herself to write a picture book about breaking the 4th wall, but FIRST, she studied mentor texts that had done it well. Stay tuned. At the end of her post, she offers you a challenge as well. 

Mentor Texts for Writers 2015 image for blog


A picture book is like a happy shiny gift just waiting to be opened and explored. Lots of things go into that 400 word or less package… a stand-out concept, dynamic relatable characters, a unique voice… among countless other traits. With such a need to cry out “I’m different!” in order sell the masterpiece, one might question why in the world picture book writers turn to reading other picture books to learn.

Let’s examine just one of the fore-mentioned traits to see how valuable this practice can actually be. In general, today’s agents and editors gravitate toward shorter picture books. Our job then becomes to say it all without really saying it all. Therefore, studying great picture book models, of 400 words or less, might teach us a little about how to wrap everything into that tight little story arc. It examines the process and not the idea.

Last May, I challenged myself to write a picture book that would attempt to break the 4th wall and involve the reader as a character. I was inspired to do so by reading other picture book greats that featured unconventional interaction between the characters. As I studied these models, I focused in on the language.


Big Bad Bubble by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

Carrie--Monster at the end

The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael Smollin


I Dare You Not to Yawn by Helene Boudreau, Illustrated by Serge Bloch


Many of these models use a second person point of view to directly address the characters. However, when the word “you” is used, the reader can’t help but feel they are also being questioned… and sometimes they are. “You” are invited right into the story and even if you are not a character, you feel like you are. Other times, “you” feel like the narrator, addressing the character directly.

Carrie-Easter Cat

Here Comes the Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda

Carrie--Secret pizza

Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

Carrie--It's a tiger

It’s a Tiger! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard


A mentor text is a stellar model used to understand how picture book elements work for great authors.

I consult different resources before considering if a book is worth studying. I pay attention to the book reviews of knowledgeable picture book writers, career reviewers, librarians, and award committees. If a book shows up in multiple places, that is an indication to me that I need to get my hands on it right away. But, sometimes just one particular opinion is usually right on the money.

Personally, I’ve been reading and studying a wide variety of picture books for over twenty years, first as a primary teacher, and now a picture book writer. After participating as a 2014 CYBILS Awards Fiction Picture Book Panelist, and reading hundreds of nominees in a very short period of time, I realized how many picture book authors would benefit from reading current mentor texts. While books from long ago have a lesson of their own, current picture books (those written within the last three years) can tell us more about the market today. It is exciting to know that the learning will never end and there will always be more new picture books to study.


So what do you say? Should we study together? I’ve been inspired to inspire! I recently founded the 2015 ReFoReMo Challenge, or Reading for Research Month. This online challenge aims to encourage picture book writers to reform their writing by reading mentor texts. Participants will learn how to use mentor texts, read, research, and interact in a private KidLit community. The ultimate goal will be to read 105 titles in three weeks and the major prize is deeper understanding of what makes picture books tick. But, there will be prize drawings, too!  Registration will open on February 15, and remain open until 11 pm CST on March 1, 2015. For more information visit the ReFoReMo Blog here.


Carrie Charley Brown juggles ideas every day as a children’s writer, teacher, blogger, and mom. She is the founder of the 2015 ReFoReMo Challenge, or Reading for Research Month. You can learn more about Carrie’s writing journey, her KidLit Services, ReFoReMo, and many other amazing authors & resources, at her blogsite Carrie On… Together!