Here is a collection of some truly amazing picture books that will encourage young children to explore and understand a variety of concepts and ideas related to colours. They can discover how colours are combined, how colours can represent feelings and moods, how colours can be interpreted using not only sight but our other senses as well. In addition to helping children develop as artists, these books will show how the arts can be extended into a variety of learning areas, including science, literacy, numeracy, and social growth. I hope you’ll find them both useful and enjoyable!
Walsh, Ellen Stoll. Mouse Paint. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989
This is a great concept book to share with preschoolers. It introduces them to the names of primary colours and helps them to understand colour combination. The characters are three little mice who find jars of red, yellow and blue paint. As they dance in puddles of paint, new secondary colours are revealed to them. This book could be read before a painting activity, to find out what children already know about colours and colour mixing, or to encourage them to make predictions. It could also be read after painting, to reinforce what they learned while exploring colours through play.
Otoshi, Kathryn. One. Mill Valley, Calif.: KO Kids Books, 2008
This is a marvelous book, on so many levels. It introduces the names of various colours, and their qualities (e.g., blue is quiet, yellow is sunny, purple is regal). It also introduces number concepts up to seven, as colours who are being bullied by “hot red” begin to join the one who was brave enough to stand up and say, “NO!” Over and above teaching children about colour and number concepts, One carries a powerful message not just about bullying, but about uniqueness, and everyone’s right to be counted, to be cherished and to belong. Encourage children to make a self portrait, using the colour they feel best represents them, and to talk about what makes them special.
Seuss, Dr. My Many Colored Days. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1996.
This is a playful rhyming book that introduces children to the idea that colours can represent feelings and moods. The illustrations are beautiful paintings that show different animals performing actions that suggest joy (e.g., a red horse kicking its heels), sadness (e.g., a purple dinosaur dragging its tail) and anger (e.g., a black wolf howling). Children can explore the idea that we can experience many feelings each day, though we always remain who we are. This book could be part of a pretend play activity where children can imitate the actions of different characters in the story including flamingo, bear, fish, bee and seal.
Cottin, Menena. The Black Book of Colors. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2008.
This is an extraordinary book because it challenges children to imagine colours using each of their senses, with the exception of sight. Each page is black with embossed images of different things being described (e.g., soft feathers, sweet watermelon, crunching leaves or fresh cut grass). In addition, the text – which is white – is also printed in Braille. Children can touch the embossed illustrations as well as the words. By doing so they begin to understand the experience of interpreting colours and objects in the world when one cannot see. An interesting art activity to consider is feely bag painting. Children can touch a mysterious object concealed inside a bag and try to guess what it is by how it feels. They can only look at the object after they have painted a picture of it.
Jonas, Ann. Color Dance. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1989.
This book is wonderful because it encourages children to think more deeply about colour mixing (e.g., ‘Purple is red and blue mixed together. No yellow’). The illustrations of children dancing with scarves simplify the concept of which colours are included and which are not for each combination of two primary colours. A beautiful feature of this book is that it provides children with a rich vocabulary for colours, including words like chartreuse, magenta and vermilion. Children learn what happens when all colours are combined or when white, grey or black are added to them. The book concludes with an explanation of the colour wheel. A painting activity to consider is mixing two colours (e.g., red and blue) on a background of the opposite colour (e.g., yellow).