From Motivation to Inspiration: Using Picturebook Biographies to Inspire All Learners, Especially English Language Learners
Keywords:picturebook biographies, English language learners, reading motivation, inspiration
This article begins with a vignette that involved a response by an eighth-grade English Language Arts (ELA) teacher to the question: “Why do you assign a grade for every student assignment?” She stated: “Because grades drive my students! It’s so much a part of their lives that if I don’t give them points toward a good grade, they ask themselves, ‘Then, why am I doing this?’” For us, this response generated several inquiry questions about the role of motivation in student learning. One question was: Is motivation alone enough for student success? Our initial answer was probably not. We hypothesized that motivation is helpful but insufficient for student learning. Inspiration is also important. This hypothesis inspired this article. It describes fundamental principles underlying research on motivation, identifying important differences between motivation and inspiration. Next, it provides an overview of different definitions of the term picturebook. It then describes the power of picturebook biographies to inspire all learners, especially ELL learners. It shares an extensive list of high-quality, award-winning, multicultural picturebook biographies of historical figures from around the world and across four major categories: Trailblazers and Daredevils, Sports Figures, Heroes Conquering Disabilities, and Historical Figures from Around the World. It ends with final thoughts and an invitation for teachers to hear new voices and start new conversations about the importance of using picturebook biographies to inspire all learners.