What MaryAnn F. Kohl Can Teach Us About Fostering Literacy Through Art

Today I’m excited to be joined by the ever-inspiring children’s art book author, MaryAnn F. Kohl. MaryAnn’s books helped me prepare lessons in my teaching days and have since become dog-eared favorites in my life as a parent. I now own eight of her books and constantly turn to them for ideas. Because MaryAnn is so prolific (full list here, on Amazon), we thought it might be fun to spotlight one of her books as an introduction to her work.

And…it happens to be MaryAnn’s birthday today! Happy Birthday, MaryAnn!

what maryann f. kohl can teach us about fostering literacy through artRACHELLE: Welcome, MaryAnn! As you know, I’m a huge fan and your book, First Art for Toddlers and Twos: Open-ended Art Experiences, was the first place I looked for inspiration when my older daughter was old enough to draw. We’ve been having fun trying different activities from your book, Storybook Art. A lot of the books are traditional favorites, while some are new to me. How did you choose the books that are included in this book?

MARYANN: Storybook Art was a joy for me to research and write. Choosing books was at the same time both easy and challenging, because I knew which books would have great art connections for kids, but how to choose 100 or less? As I sorted and chose, I was looking for a wide mix of art styles created by the illustrators, as well as a variety of art experiences for the children. I wanted to be sure I had a good mix of paint, crayon, sculpture, photography, and so on. And of course I had my favorites that I simply could not leave out, like Ezra Jack Keats’ Snowy Day and Leo Lionni’s Fish is Fish. Everyone who knew I was working on the book had a favorite and begged me to include each one! Definitely challenging.  When all was said and done, I arrived at 100 books and their illustrators selected in four categories (the four chapters): Paint, Draw, Cut & Collage, and Craft & Construction. I was pleased with the balance and only had to omit a few of my very favorites, but perhaps another book one day? I spent hours and hours in our public children’s library so I could see the real books up close. One of my favorite parts of writing the book was interviewing illustrators and getting quotes from them about why art is important.

RACHELLE: It’s evident that a lot of time and research went into gathering biographies and details about the illustrators’ artistic processes. How do you hope parents or teachers will use this book?

what maryann f. kohl can teach us about fostering literacy through artMARYANN: I offer the details in Storybook Art to parents so they may choose how much their children may be interested in knowing, and how much to share with them. Some children will be fascinated by the quotes and lives of various illustrators, and others will be more interested in just getting on with the art. Parents often introduce a little tidbit of information at one reading, and maybe a few more details at another reading. Whatever is comfortable each parent and child is what works best. I hope that parents will find picture books that their children enjoy, then explore the art project that relates to that book, and then, most important of all, re-read the book again (and again). Parents will find that after their children explore the art projects, they will be more interested and more finely tuned to the details of the illustrations and the story when read a second and third and fourth and however many times.

RACHELLE: How can the process of following up a story with an art project contribute to a child’s language skills? (Sharing some photos of our experience with Watercolor Snow Collage: Ezra Jack Keats).

what maryann f. kohl can teach us about fostering literacy through art

MARYANN: Picture books rely heavily on their illustrations, their art, if you will. Connecting picture book art with children’s own art connects children to their books. When a child has a personal connection (in this case, through hands-on art experiences) to a book, that book becomes more deeply appreciated, the story more deeply comprehended, the language more readily remembered, the illustrations more finely noticed. So much of learning to read is hearing a story and finding a personal connection. If art is a connection, it’s just one more way for children to become attached to their books in a personal way, with all the benefits that go with it.

A few are:

  • When we surround our children with books, and therefore with words and language, we are giving them meaningful vocabulary they will add to their use and understanding.
  • The conversations we have with out kids about books increase their listening and communication skills.
  • Including body language like facial expressions and clapping or other movements, helps get the words into the children’s bodies, and therefore will be remembered.
  • Children will often retell stories, or make up new stories inspired by their favorite books.
  • We’ve all seen kids who memorize a book word for word, or at the very least know which words are next in the sentence before you read the words … all this long before they can actually read. This is a sign of a budding great reader!
what maryann f. kohl can teach us about fostering literacy through art
All these are amazing language skills that will launch a child into reading when he is ready.

A little story: I remember at one point in my teaching career, I was talking to my kindergarten class about all the details of forest animals, just talking and talking, and this little boy raised his hand as he threw up his hands in the air with an exasperated look on his face, “….and rain makes applesauce!” He was referring to the chant from the book “Rain Makes Applesauce” that we had read in class, and letting me know I was just going on far too long with far too many details about forest animals. That one made me laugh! Kids will transfer phrases and words from their books into their lives, a connection transfer that makes those brain synapses just snap and sparkle! When this happens, you know that language has taken root in your child’s mind and heart, and will expand his creative thinking as he grows.

what maryann f. kohl can teach us about fostering literacy through art

RACHELLE: What are your favorite illustrators and activities from the book?

MARYANN: My favorites vary from day to day, and from child to child. Whenever a child is inspired and excited about a project, then I become equally excited, so my favorites change often! There are some projects in Storybook Art that are sure winners for just about every child. For example, most kids really enjoy “Cat & Mouse Prints” that go with Wanda Gag’s classic “Millions of Cats”. They enjoy making “millions of prints”! another one young children love is Robert McCloskey’s “Blueberries for Sal” followed up with “Blue Fingerdots, which is simply making a painting with a finger dipped in blue paint, or better yet, blue dots art made with actual blueberries.

One of the biggest surprises to me was a book that I added at the very end of the writing process because my daughter, Megan, requested it: Dare Wright’s “The Lonely Doll” with the project “Portraiture”. In this activity, children set up toys in various poses and scenes, and then photograph them, just as Ms. Wright did with her doll Edith and Edith’s companion Mr. Bear. Kids tell me this is one of their most favorite projects of all, and it’s fascinating to see the stories they put together through their photographs and scenes. I had no idea until I started doing portraiture with kids of all ages of the depth of creativity and concentration that would unfold. What a joyful discovery!

what maryann f. kohl can teach us about fostering literacy through art

RACHELLE: I’d love to hear about your writing path. Can you tell us what influenced you to begin writing books and what you’re working on now?

MARYANN: When I was a little girl, my dad owned a bookstore and brought home a Little Golden Book or other storybook for me weekly. My parents read to me every night, and during the day I read and re-red those books, often incorporating the stories into my make-believe and pretend play with my dolls or into my crayon drawings.

what maryann f. kohl can teach us about fostering literacy through artWhen I was a little older, my dad managed a huge printing and book bindery, and I would spend a Saturday morning with him at his “office”. He would send me off to wander the shelves in the warehouse and find any books that interested me to bring home. His bindery did library bindings for every publisher in the USA, so the choices were magnificent! Little House on the Prairie was one of my best discoveries. It was pure luck that I found the series because no one had ever shared these books with me — not my teachers or the town librarian — and I loved the stories. Books were one of my most important activities as a child, along with my crayons and scissors, and my bike. Books remain important to me, and were clearly important in how I raised my children.

I mention this, because growing up with books the way I did made me want to be an author. I always knew I would be one some day. I was in no hurry. I knew it would come about at some point. And here I am, 20 books later, with plans to write fiction for children who love “chapter books”. Right now I’m working on another activity book called “Great Composers for Kids” with my musical theatre writing daughter, Hannah. We’re coming up with some wonderful projects to help kids connect to the classical composers and their lives and music. It’s very exciting!

When my kids started school, I decided to use the time when they were in school to write a book of art activities. I’d noticed that at the time no books existed, so I gathered my favorite “independent art ideas for kids” in a book called “Scribble Cookies”, now called “Scribble Art”. I self-published it with no clear idea of how to really do that, 27 years later, here I am! Scribble Art became an immediate best seller, and it’s still my favorite book of all the ones I have written.

RACHELLE: You shared that your own girls are all grown up and have turned out to be amazing grown-ups. I’m so curious to know what your own home was like when you raised your children. 

MARYANN: My home was not unlike the ways yours looks and what you do with your children, though perhaps mine was not quite as magnificent in scope. I wanted my kids to have an imaginative childhood, so we always had art projects going on in our kitchen, lots of make-believe and storytelling, acting and pretending galore, costumes, dance, and singing. Making up songs was a big part of what we did together — just something that we enjoyed. My two daughters loved“Little House on the Prairie” on television and rarely missed an episode. They loved Broadway musicals like Annie and Fiddler on the Roof and great classic fairy tales to listen to like The Little Mermaid (not Disney) and Snow White and Rose Red. Much of their creative play was based on these stories and shows.

what maryann f. kohl can teach us about fostering literacy through art

what maryann f. kohl can teach us about fostering literacy through art
And now, my oldest daughter, Hannah Kohl, is living in New York and working on Broadway as a musical theatre writer and producer. Her first professional children’s musical opens in January at the The Chicago Children’s Theatre based on Brian Selznick’s book, The Houdini Box. (Yes, I’ll be there for opening night!) Selznick is the author of the Caldecott Award winning book, Hugo Cabret, now an amazing beautiful movie called Hugo. I’m sure our love of books and fairy tales, etc. paved the way for her to seek theatre as a career.
what maryann f. kohl can teach us about fostering literacy through art

My younger daughter, Megan Kohl, does serious theatre performance in Chicago, and to our delight, was recently seen as the K-Mart witch in their national Halloween commercial. The most fun she’s had commercially was taping a travel DVD for Disney Resorts where she walks through the parks giving hints to parents about how best to enjoy the various Disney experiences. You can order the DVDs for free from Disney Resorts. Sing up here: http://www.disneyvacations.com/dv/en_US/VacationPlanningDVD/index   Watch for Megan!

RACHELLE: What books and blogs inspire you?

MARYANN: I follow many amazing blogs, and of course TinkerLab is one of tip top favorites! If I were to list several, they would not surprise anyone because I’m sure your readers follow them too: The Imagination Tree, NurtureStore, Chocolate Muffin Tree, Pink and Green Mama, Crafty Crow, Childhood 101, and The Artful Parent are some of the best that come immediately to mind. I am inspired and amazed at what young mothers are doing with their blogs and their fabulous photographs of kids in action and their wonderful artworks and adorable crafts. I am sure I would have been a mommy blogger if that technology had been available to me when I was raising my kids.As far as books that inspire me, I have shelves full of activity books and love them all for different reasons. I continue to especially enjoy Kim Solga’s“Paint!” and “Draw!”, books filled with open-ended art ideas and great illustrations and photos. I also like the more focused books put out by Chicago Review Press, like “Monet and the Impressionists for Kids”. All the DK books are beautiful! A little series I like for young children in board book format is called “Mini Masters” by Chronicle books. If you look for these, check out “Quiet Time With Cassatt” by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober.

RACHELLE: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

MARYANN: I invite your readers to join my mailing list at www.brightring.com. I’ll send out a short newsletter, the ArtsyKidsNEWS, once a month with a great art activity and other bits of news. Also, I encourage your readers to visit the Barnes and Noble website where 15 national experts have been selected to write articles about various parenting and child related issues from infancy on up. My current articles there are all about art and child development, and perhaps will be of interest. My specific articles are here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/maryann-kohl-importance-of-art/379002442/ My blog might be of interest too, at:  http:www.maryannfkohl.typepad.com/blog/

Lastly, I’d like to remind everyone that art for kids doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive or fabulous every day. If you give kids blank paper and crayons, you have given them the best possible. Did you know kids who draw frequently uninterrupted by adults do better in academic subjects? It’s true! The important thing is to allow kids to create in their own ways. Relax and enjoy art with kids. The benefits are tenfold.

RACHELLE: Thank you for joining me today, MaryAnn! Talking with you is always such a pleasure!

What are your favorite storybooks? How have you been inspired to spin books into art project?


MaryAnn has graciously offered to share a copy of Storybook Art with one lucky readerReaders who leave a comment by Monday, January 30, 2012 at 9 pm PST will be entered to win. Winner will be chosen by random number generator. Only open to U.S. addresses. The winner has been selected. Thank you to everyone who entered!!what maryann f. kohl can teach us about fostering literacy through art


  1. What a nice interview! My little guy is still pretty young to do much more than scribble with crayons (we have MaryAnn’s “First Art” book and love it!) but we read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” a lot and the Finnish Muumin trolls. I look forward to a time when my child will enjoy paint more so we can do color themes and whatnot. He’s a bit of a neat freak right now and complains if he has sticky fingers. 

    • Give your little guy some circles to glue together to make a caterpillar shape, or just to glue in any design at all. He will notice the shapes in the book more closely after working with shapes in art. Easy and fun!

  2. This would be such a fun book to have on our shelf.  My kids love both reading and art!!

  3. I am inspired by books all the time and we recently did Going on a Bear Hunt. We got out all of our stuffed bears, read the story, and then we glued felt noses, ears and buttons for eyes onto our paper and then sponge painted the rest of our bear around the face.

  4. This book sounds awesome! I haven’t incorporated books into actually doing art (just talking about the art as we read) but will now!

  5. What a cool interview!  I’ve used MaryAnn’s Global Art book quite a bit in my days of teaching and it followed me to my current position at the public library.  Thanks for scoring such a cool author.

  6. Hi, Rachelle. And Thank You for this lovely birthday interview!! My husband just read it over my shoulder and got a little teary, so that was worth it if nothing else, right? Can’t wait to see who wins the free book!!! Love your blog, love you, and love sharing kids art,
    ~ MaryAnn


    maryann_kohl (twitter)


    PS I have a mailing list sign up on my website for people to receive one short newsletter every couple of months, so I am inviting everyone to sign up! (Your info will always be private, so no worries.)

    • That is definitely worth it, MaryAnn! I’m so honored to share you on my blog and think the world of you and your work. 

  7. So inspiring! Would love, love, love to add this book to our family collection of art books. Thank you!

  8. What a wonderful looking book! My favorite books are our seasonal story books. It’s always exciting to pull them out at the start of each season and remember our favorites and add new ones. They usually inspire some seasonal themed art, but sometimes we try to do something related to any techniques the illustrator may have used. 

    • As our book collection has grown (thanks grandma and grandpa!), seasonal books have become one of my favorites as well. Having a real-world, real-time connection adds so much meaning to the book reading experience. Great reminder!

  9. Goodnight Moon has been an inspiration for many things – art included. When reading the book we like to find the mouse hiding on every illustrated page. That translated to hiding a mouse in our hand drawn pictures – fun!

    • We look for the mouse, too! What a great idea to add the mouse to your own pictures. Life is art!!

  10. Oh, this book sounds amazing! I love the idea of tying stories and art together. What a great way to expand imaginations!

  11. Some of our favorite craft activities have been based off of books… we love to use storybooks as inspiration! Thanks for the wonderful interview. MaryAnne Kohl is always inspiring!

  12. I’ve been seeking inspiration in this area for a while now. The book could be just what I need. Thank you for the chance to win!

  13. I love her books and would love to win this one!

  14. What an inspiring interview!  My boys and I would put this book to good use! 

  15. I’d love a copy of the book! I find I can never have too many book recommendations, but I do struggle with giving direction / guidance regarding art projects. This sounds great!

  16. Would really love to win this!  My boys love books and love art and I would love some ideas of how to combine the two for them.  Thanks, Maureen (jnomaxx at hotmail dot com)

  17. This book would be a great resource for my and my childcare home!!!  Can’t wait to see who wins 🙂

  18. What a cool idea for a book!  Thanks for the giveaway & interview!

  19. This looks brilliant!  Thanks for the chance and Happy Birthday MaryAnn!

  20. That is great interview!! Loved learning more about ‘our ever inspiring’ lady and thanks for sharing those precious photos:) Wishing her happy birthday again!! 

  21. This is such a cool post! We love Mo Wilems but I haven’t incorporated an art project. I got the wheels turning…

  22. We absolutely enjoyed many books my Ms Kohl. It would be fun to win this one. And, yes, we do literature-based projects a lot even though my daughter is rather an author than an illustrator.

  23. Love all the ideas!  Thanks for the giveaway too!

  24. I haven’t seen that Storybook Art book before but I’m so interested! Thanks for the wonderful opportunity and what a great interview! I  loved reading it.
    Sarah M

  25. I haven’t seen that Storybook Art book before but I’m so interested! Thanks for the wonderful opportunity and what a great interview! I  loved reading it.
    Sarah M

  26. First time to this blog and am excited to read up more of what I have been missing. This book sounds great! 

    • I’m so glad you found me, Heidi!! Stay as long as you can, check back often, and comment frequently 🙂

  27. what i love about your blog Rachelle and what all your peers are doing, is giving art the celebration is deserves. I grew up with very little art, very few books, no dress up clothes….i would sneak into my dad’s garage and hammer nails into a block then sneak into my moms knitting basket and take some yarn and then hide. I still struggle deeply with my sense of value in art, even though i have made it my focus in life. As rediculous as it sounds – I need advocates like you and Mary Ann to remind me to love and value art as much as i do. And that is what storybooks do for me and my family, they make art real, valued and inspire us to keep the story going.

    • Art takes on so many different roles in each of our homes. Just today I asked my Facebook fans if paint easels stress them out or if they give their kids free access to them (I fall into both camps), and the responses were equally divided. I suppose it’s our role as parents to decide what kind of environment we want to set for creativity, because the long-term outcomes as our children become adults is so vital. Thanks for always making me think. xo

  28. I got “First Art for Toddlers and Twos” just a few months ago, and I love it! I’ve been encouraging my son to create since around 7 months old, and I enjoy how the projects in the book can inspire and be modified for all young children. I also like that so many of the supplies I have on hand, or can get easily and affordability!

  29. I’m always looking for activities to do with my kids related to their favorite books and fairy tales. I can’t wait to check this book out!

  30. What an inspiring interview! I particularly enjoyed learning more about this prolific artist and author’s life.  Happy Birthday! I am familiar with some of her other works, but had not yet seen Storybook Art before. It sounds perfect for our family.  I am not artistic but my 4 and 6 year old are deep into fairy tales and other stories and have caught my love of books (I wish I owned a bookstore or a publishing company like her father:) We particularly love author/illustrators Esla Beskow, Sibylle von Offers (The Story of the Root Children is our favorite) and Jan Brett. 

    • Isn’t it fun to get an inside peek at the lives of those who inspire us? Thanks for sharing some of your favorite illustrators and authors. They’re all new to me, and I can’t wait to look for them!

  31. What a fantastic interview! So interesting, especially to read about MaryAnn’s family growing up and the play they enjoyed.

    • I loved learning about her family too, Cathy!

  32. I’m on a toddler art learning spree now 🙂

  33. My kids and I love The Snowy Day by J.E. Keats. We make snow with shaving cream and glue and make pictures of what they like to do in the snow!

  34. Love her! I used First Art when I started a toddler art group last year…
    I haven’t had a chance to do it but I can’t wait to do a large mural with my daughter. I ran an after school literacy program where we used art as a way to bring the books to life. The mural I did with first graders after reading Leo Lionni’s Swimmy. I gave them tons of choices for printing and let them go to town:)

  35. My daughter loves books and adores art, so I’m sure she’d absolutely love to do book related art! What a fantastic idea. (And so wonderful to see the results of a childhood in which creativity was fostered. So inspiring!)

  36. I’m working on fostering a love for art in my 16 month old son. This weekend was his first time working with glue. He was fascinated by the liquid glue stick and shiny decorations I had found for him to glue on his paper. I like to follow your blog for more information…thanks for focusing on a great author so I can get more inspiration 🙂

    • 16 months is a great age to delve into your creative journey. It’s all about the experience, process, and developing small motor skills. Everything is new and amazing to toddlers. I have a 16 month old too, so we’ll go on parts of this adventure together!

  37. I would love to win a MaryAnn Kohl book for my collection! I love the art of David Wiesner and Lois Ehlert

  38. What a wonderful interview and giveaway!  My toddler loves art of any kind…clean is fun but the messier, the better. 

  39. I absolutely love the idea of this book!  My favorite storybook is Alice in Wonderland, for the artwork and for the word play.  One of the best projects that my kids and I did together was inspired by an episode of Mr. Rogers, where he visits with Eric Carle and talks to him about his technique.  So we spent a lot of time coloring and collaging to make interesting animals.  Thanks for the contest.  I can’t wait to see this book!

    • Alice in Wonderland — I loved that book! Must put it on our reading list. I bet my 3 year old would LOVE it. You reminded me of a favorite Mr. Rogers crayon-making episode. Aren’t they well done, and don’t kids get so much out of them?

  40. I absolutely love the idea of combining art with literacy.  I am a 5 grade language arts teacher and I also teach an enrichment writing group before school two days per week.  I was looking for an exciting art and writing activity and now I know what I will do!  Thank you for sharing…I can’t wait to get a copy of the book!

    • Isn’t that great, Shelly! I’m thrilled to hear that this gave you a bit of inspiration, and would love to hear what you end up doing. Do circle back if you get a chance.

  41. Happy Birthday, Maryann Kohl! I have several of your books and love them all. Storybook Art sounds great! I love Leo Lionni and Eric Carle’s stories.
    Rachelle, thank you for your wonderful blog! I teach a mommy and me art class and get tons of inspiration and ideas from you!

    • That is the nicest compliment! I’d love to hear how our ideas translate into a mommy and me class — it must be an awesome job!

  42. love this interview and one of my favorite things to do when i work with children is to pair a book with a project related to it…it is very motivating for the kids 

  43. Our family loves Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. My kids and I made green felt balls after reading the story — now they can act it out.

    • I don’t know Little Pea. Yay — more new books to hunt for! Isn’t felting great?! I have a felting post in the works and must…get…to…it! Thanks for the reminder.

  44. Pick me, pick me!!!  I love that book!  & great interview – I am bookmarking!

  45. Our favorite right now is Winnie the Pooh because Eiya really loves it. We read the Classic versions. My personal favorites are books by Taro Gomi, Jimmy Liao https://www.amazon.com/for%C3%83%C2%AAt-songes-French-Jimmy-Liao/dp/2747026868/ref=sr_1_14?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327376989&sr=1-14 and all his other books. I am thinking to use felt storyboard to recreate the characters or painted stones/wooden eggs. 

    • We just got a Taro Gomi book — it’s so sweet. And thanks for the Jimmy Liao link; he’s new to me!

  46. We recently checked out “Max and Art” from our library, and we love it.  My girls had fun copying the book by painting on each other a few days later 🙂

    • I’ll have to look for that book — now curious to find out why your girls painted all over each other!

  47. I’m absolutely blown away by the warmth and fun of the comments in this thread… as to favorite picture books my kids loved, hmmmm, so many !!!! We liked “Little Fur Family” quite a lot and so many others that it’s difficult to list them all. I’m so blessed to be a part of a community of art and creativity lovers such as this. Thank you so much, friends I have never met! I am just so happy today it’s difficult to say exactly why… I just feel wonderful.

    • MaryAnn! I’m so glad you chimed in! You’re well-loved in this community, that’s for sure!!

  48. Oh, I love the pics! And the reference to “Little House” made me wanna watch the episodes all over again. When my now-16yo was younger, we had monthly craft parties and assorted crafts were a part of our daily life. I now have a 1yo and I look forward to many years of doing it all over again!

    Solid interview. Thanks!

    • Thanks for the lovely feedback, Jessica! Isn’t that exciting that you get to relive all these little gems of childhood again!!

  49. I recently bought her “Science Arts” book and have been LOVING it!  I would be thrilled to see the Storybook Art book and how it ties art projects in with the stories.  Our favorites are The Teddy Bear’s Picnic, Big Red Barn and the Bear books by Karma Wilson.  While I haven’t tied any art projects to these books yet, we do a lot of imaginative play using the themes and characters.

    • Thanks for sharing the positive review of Science Arts and some of your favorite books. I don’t think there’s one book of hers that isn’t inspirational! 

  50. This is the most indepth interview about Ms. Kohl that I have read. Great post. I love the idea of combining my daughter’s two loves…art and literature.  While we have done some combo projects in the past, this book would be an excellent resource.  It’s hard to say what fav books we have now because she owns sooooo many.  Hush Little Horsie and Our Nest are two that we read often right now.  Thanks for the giveaway!

    • Thanks very much, Heather. MaryAnn is one of those people that is so easy to interview. She’s really a lovely person. And thanks for sharing your current favorites — adding them to my book list!

  51. I would love to look at Storybook Art!  I’m always interested in finding new-to-me children’s books with neat illustrations!  I love the idea of having a craft to go along with each book.

  52. I LOVE Maryann Kohl’s books and can’t wait to get this one especially since my oldest is now in preschool.

  53. I was pleased to see an interview with MaryAnn Kohl today because just this morning, I picked up 8 of her books from the library that I had put on hold. I’ve just devoured “Making Make-Believe” and can’t wait to dive into the others! I’m looking forward to being an artsy parent once my son gets older (he’s only 2 months now). I get to put some of these ideas in practice now, though, because I’m the program director of an after school program. I feel like I am BURSTING with ideas these days!

    • So fun — you get to play with these ideas from two perspectives! And what a small, serendipitous world it is. I hope you’ll check back and share some of your new ideas with us!!

  54. Mary Ann Kohl is just an inspiration in so many ways!  Storybook Art is definitely on my I-want-that list.

  55. I have checked out some of her books from the library and they were very inspirational! Full of so many creative projects for a wide age range. As the mom of a toddler, sometimes my mind is so fuzzy and tired and empty of anything imaginative, and with books like these, so many great ideas are collected in one place and I don’t have to reinvent the wheel trying to come up with new things to do with my daughter. Thanks for the giveaway!

    • Hi Nicole, you make such a good point. I often feel the same way as a parent of young children. Some days I’m super organized, but others i’m just bumbling along. Having everything in one place is VERY helpful, and MaryAnn does a superb job organizing her books for real parents and teachers.

  56. Oh thank you for this! She is one of my favorites. I keep her books with my cookbooks so that when it’s time for artistic play we are ready to go! When I supervised infant/toddler classrooms I bought her books for each room. 🙂

    • That’s a great place to keep her books — I always splatter ours up when we pull them out for dough recipes. And what a great gift these would make for classroom teachers!

  57. I’m new to your site and I can’t wait to start doing some art projects with my 2 year old.

    • I’m so glad you found me, Becky! 2 is a great age to get started with art.

  58. My daughter and I have used transparencies, permanent markers and paints to create layered art like in Eric Carle’s Seahorse book. it wouldbe wonderful to haves source for more book based art inspiration.

  59. Storybook Art looks fabulous! 

  60. I already own 3 of Mary’s book.  She is truly inspirational.  It would be a pleasure to own this book as well.

  61. I love her books.  They are my go-to reference to do something fun and hands-on with my (now) preschooler.

  62. MaryAnn Kohl is the BEST! We’ve gotten so many great ideas from her books, they are endless! Big Fan!

  63. We love the books with no words, only pictures to guide you along making up the story… so many little details to notice in books like Good Night Gorilla–we love that one.
    Great interview & thank you for the chance to win her book!

  64. I would love to win Storybook Art! Thanks for the giveaway!

  65. nice article sounds like a good book


  66. We have several of Ms. Kohl’s books in our library which are used constantly.  I’m sure this book will join the rest!

  67. I only knew MaryAnn by name before this post. It is great to find out more about her and I am on my way to sign up for her mailing list! Favorite books for art….Eric Carle books, Miss Rumphius, Children of the forest to name a few…I haven’t thought so much about spinning out activities out of them but might after reading through some of the comments….THanks for the great post!

  68. My 2 year old loves Eric Carle books and one of them shows him painting and she just had to paint ‘like that.’  So we did.  And now I can’t remember which book it was…I need to put it on my library list again.  Love the interview and all the pics.

  69. Wow that looks like a fabulous book

  70. Love her books. Love that my library has quite a few of them. Would love more to own them . .  🙂

  71. I love her books and frequently check them out from our library. I’d love a copy of my own!

  72. I love the concept for the Storybook Art book. I try to inspire the 4 year olds I teach by pointing out the illustrator’s work but struggle to come up with different art for them to do in that style. This book is what I have been needing, I just didn’t know it!

  73. We’ve been amazed at our baby’s awareness and focused concentration on patterns (on his crib sheets, on his “art cards” during “tummy time,” in books, everywhere he can spy one) almost since he came home from the hospital. He’s now 14 months old, and we’re just getting started with making art ourselves. “Storybook Art” would be a great resource!

  74. What a wonderful looking book! It would be wonderful inspiration around here!

  75. I’d love to win this book!  It would be great to use with my son who’s 4 1/2.

  76. Hooray! I love all of Kohl’s books and look forward to checking out Storybook Art as well. 

  77. This is such an inspiring article! I just found your blog through Pinterest and am really enjoying what you’re sharing! Thank you so much!

  78. Thank you for featuring Mary Ann Kohl. She is an inspiration to all!

  79. I am a teacher and I love incorporating it into general content! I could also use some of these ideas as centers for indoor recess.

  80. I love MaryAnn’s books. I don’t have this one and would love to add it to my collection so I can using it with my preschoolers! It combines two of my loves books and art!

  81. Thanks so much for the giveaway! We’re huge fans of her books. 🙂

  82. Very inspiring!  Looking forward to using these ideas with our class:)  Thanks!

  83. I love The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds and using it to inspire kids to have confidence to make artwork. Using books as motivation is a great way to get some inspiration!

  84. I love MaryAnn’s books!  It would be great to add another to our collection!

  85. When I was in college one the first books I ever purchased as resource was by MaryAnn Kohl – 16 years later it’s well worn and dogeared!  

  86. I would love to win the book. I am cuurently teaching an art class based on art elements through children’s books. I would love to have even more inspiration to share with my students and my own kiddos as well!

  87. What a great interview! Can’t wait till my daughter is old enough to do these projects!

  88. So inspirational!  She really sparks the excitement and enthusiasm in this teacher turned stay-at-home mom!

  89. My favourite book has always been Winnie the Pooh. But when I teach art to kids, I like to use books about History, Nature etc., as this gives them a lot of inspiration to use their imagination and put it together into something special.

  90. Great interview and wonderful book! I would love to have it as inspiration in my classroom!

  91. I use picture books all the time to teach Spanish to elementary children! The images are so inspiring for both me and my students! I get ideas for corresponding activities from the art and my students reach a deeper understanding of language and culture through creative expression.

  92. What a fabulous giveaway! Thanks!

  93. I own many of her book, but not this one!  I would love the chance.  Very happy with all her books!  I used use them all the time at preschool and now I am excited to use the same ideas with my own children. 🙂

  94. Was just looking at The Houdini Box today…and wishing I could go to Chicago to watch it. My son is in Chicago for theatre also. I guess reading to him all my preschool books at a young age really paid off!

  95. I have most of your books, but I want them all! I love how much of your art is about the process instead of the product!

  96. I’d love to win! Thank you!

  97. Wow! Great interview! Book looks chock full of interesting arty ideas that I can try out with my son in future! 🙂

  98. Thank you so much for this interview and giveaway! I would not consider myself “artistic” by any means, but have an 18 month old that often requests “color paper” and am anxious to begin fun art projects with her. As an SLP, I love the idea of ‘Fostering Literacy through Art’ and am grateful for this introduction to MaryAnn Kohl.

  99. I have the winner’s name, and will send the book out on Monday! What fun!!! Storybook Art is full of neato connections to great picture books with very unusual art ideas. I’ve always enjoyed the book (yes, I use my own books) and hope Kim does too!


  100. I have the winner’s name, and will send the book out on Monday! What fun!!! Storybook Art is full of neato connections to great picture books with very unusual art ideas. I’ve always enjoyed the book (yes, I use my own books) and hope Kim does too!


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