Top 7 Picture Books to Help Introduce Genius Hour

I love using picture books as part of my teaching! And I don’t think they are only for primary classrooms! In fact I use them regularly at the intermediate level and even when I teach University students.

Picture books make for great hooks at the beginning of lessons! I think they capture our attention and get us curious about the upcoming learning! And who doesn’t love being read to?

So here are my Top picks (in no particular order) for Picture Books to help introduce Genius Hour:


The Most Magnificent Thing 
By Ashley Spires

I love this picture book starring a little girl and her dog/assistant oh her quest to create the most magnificent invention.  The journey isn’t perfect though and she “fails” quite a few times. I think this book is perfect for teaching persistence, risk-taking and flexibility–all traits that are on the Genius Hour rubric that we use. I would read this book right at the beginning, after I have introduced Genius Hour and we are about to get started. 

Click here for The Genius Hour Creativity Rubric created by Denise Krebs.


What do you do with an Idea? 
By Kobi Yamada

Perfect for taking Genius Hour from inquiry-based and passion-based learning to the level of compassion-based learning! In this story a little boy has an idea (represented as an egg) but he doesn’t know what to do with it. He carries it around for a long time until he finally learns that ideas are meant to change the world.  I think this picture book is perfect for teaching the creativity traits: originality of ideas, ambiguity and risk-taking–all of these are also on the Genius Hour Creativity Rubric.  It would also be handy to read to your class if you feel like they are needing some fresh inspiration after doing Genius Hour for a while.


Rosie Revere, Engineer 
y Andrea Beaty

Rosie is a fantastic character! She loves making things and embodies so many of the characteristics that we would attribute to Genius Hour and The Maker Movement. I also love the handkerchief that she wears, the same one as the woman in the iconic “We can do it” image.  Rosie is inspired by everything around here and I think this book can be used to introduce the discussion on inquisitiveness, risk-taking and generating ideas (Again, these are traits from the Genius Hour Creativity Rubric).  It also teaches an important lesson about failure and persistence.  


Iggy Peck, Architect 
By Andrea Beaty 

This picture book looks similar to Rosie Revere, Engineer and is indeed written by the same fantastic author, Andrea Beaty and illustrated by the same talented, David Roberts.  I love reading about Iggy Peck and his passion for architecture.  I think this book would be great to introduce the concept of passion as well as being used to understand the intrinsic motivation trait on The Genius Hour Creativity Rubric.  The book can also be used to share with students how sometimes are Genius Hour projects can be about building, creating or inventing something (helpful if your students are stuck on research-only type inquiry questions). 


It’s Okay to Make Mistakes 
By Todd Parr

This book is fantastic! I only recently came across Todd Parr books so I have yet to use them with an audience but I just love his illustrations and his style.  This picture book helps us learn that it is okay to make mistakes, and that sometimes things do not go quite the way we thought they were going to but that is part of trying new things! “It’s okay to make mistakes sometimes. Everyone does, even grown ups! That’s how we learn.” Exactly! And this is an important thing to learn if we are going to do Genius Hour.  I would use this book to talk about risk-taking and self-reflection: two of the many traits on The Genius Hour Creativity Rubric.  I would also connect this book to everything we do at school and probably use it right at the beginning of the school year and then again when we are about to start our Genius Hour inquiries.  


The Dot 
By Peter H. Reynolds

I adore all of the Peter H. Reynolds picture books. The illustrations are wonderful and they all have important lessons in them that connect well to the classroom.  The Dot is one you may have heard of already because SO many teachers love this book and it also has its own day–International Dot Day on September 15th.  The book begins with Vashti sitting in her classroom with a blank piece of paper on her desk.  Her teacher encourages her and says “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” Vashti gives the paper a “good, strong jab” and leaves it with just the dot.  She returns to the classroom on another day and finds that her teacher has framed her dot.  This book reminds me of an amazing teacher I had in high school.  Ms. Morrison did something similar for me: I said something during English Lit 12 and she stopped and exclaimed how profound my statement was. She wrote it down on a piece of paper and I didn’t give it another thought. The next day when I walked into the classroom there was a small, new poster on the wall above the chalkboard. She had written down what I had said with quotation marks around it and my name underneath. I remember being shocked and feeling so proud that she thought I was quotable. I think that gesture is what led me to my getting my BA in English Literature. She made me feel smart, capable and confident.  I have never forgotten that moment and I have tried, like Vashti’s teacher and like Ms. Morrision, to do that for my students too.  I have used this book as part of an Art lesson, and that is how I would probably use it in future years too, but I think we can also make connections between Vashti’s journey and the Genius Hour journey. 


Q is for Question: An ABC Book of Philisophy
By Tiffany Poirier

Need help thinking about BIG questions. I think that this picture book, written in ABC format (A is for answers, B is for Beauty, C is for Cause, etc) can help us think about our questioning. I would read this book to the class but also make sure that it was on-hand for students to flip through when they need inspiration as it is a lot to take in after only one read through.  I absolutely love how Poirier encourages us to have philosophical discussions and debates with our students and I think this book is a great place to start those discussions.  This book connects to inquisitiveness and generating ideas on The Genius Hour Creativity Rubric. 

So there you have it–7 of my favourite picture books to use during Genius Hour
Are there any others you use to inspire students during Genius Hour?