Ready or not the new school year is upon us. Rosters are set, schedules are made, and curriculums are being finalized. As art teachers we have an endless amount of resources that we can pull from to supplement our teaching. We can find inspiration from nature, media, art history, core curriculum, graphic design, books and more! Books play such a vital part of a child’s education and can add huge value to what you are teaching in your art room.

I love reading children’s books to my students in art class. I use them as introductions to material I am about to teach or as an endcap to finish up or supplement a project. There are so many great children’s books geared toward art and new ones continue to hit the shelves every year. It is hard to narrow down my list of favorites but here is my Top 12 Art Books that are must-haves for me each school year. I hope you find them as a great addition to your arsenal if you don’t already use them!



Mouse Paint
by Ellen Stoll Walsh
Suitable for pre-school to 1st grade

This is an older classic but I love it! This book is a great addition to an introductory lesson on how the secondary colors are made. It’s a tale of three little white mice who find some jars of “mouse paint” to play in. When they get out of the paint, the mice begin to play in each other’s paint puddles and discover the new secondary colors that are made from mixing the paint together.

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
Suitable for grades Kindergarten – 5

This book is a must have staple for every art room! Not only does it have an important message for any art class, the pages in this book are a masterpiece in itself. The pages are thick and sturdy with places to open up, flip up, and pull out as it stunningly illustrates the lesson that “when you think you have made a mistake, think of it as an opportunity to make something beautiful.” And this book is just that, beautiful.

What Makes a Rainbow? By Betty Ann Schwartz
Suitable for preschool to 1st grade

This is my “go-to” book for teaching the rainbow to my youngest students. In this story Little Rabbit asks his mother what makes a rainbow. Mama Rabbit responds by encouraging Little Rabbit to ask his friends. Little Rabbit discovers what makes a rainbow by asking his friends and with the turn of each page an actual ribbon rainbow is created at the top of the pages. This cute story is topped with a pop up rainbow on the last page making the entire book a site to see. The embellishments added to the pages are such a fun way to show younger students how to make a rainbow.

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
Suitable for grades Kindergarten – 5

As art teachers we have all seen that student who doesn’t think they are good at art. This story is wonderful tale of a little girl named Vashti who didn’t think she could draw. With the encouragement of her art teacher, Vashti made a mark on her paper and then signed it. The next week when Vashti returns to art class she discovers her signed paper with a dot on it was framed and hanging above the teacher’s desk. This begins a journey for Vashti where she discovers she can make art by simply painting a dot and seeing where it takes her. By the end of the book Vashti is even encouraging another discouraged student that he too can be an artist.

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds
Suitable for grades Kindergarten – 5

I love Peter H. Reynolds and his work too much to only include one of his books. Ish is another great tale of a little boy named Ramon who becomes discouraged when he thinks he can’t draw. With the help of his sister, Ramon discovers that his art doesn’t have to be perfect as long as he is doing his best. By the end of the story he realizes that “ish” art can be just as wonderful.

Snail Trail by Jo Saxton
Suitable for grades Kindergarten – 3

In this book you will follow an art-loving snail on a journey to finding the famous artist whose artwork looks like him. As the snail travels through the story he comes across various famous works of art and teaches the reader how to compare the way he looks to the artwork in the illustrations. This book is an easy read with rhyming words and perfect prompts for comparing and contrasting the snail to some of the classic famous works of art. This book is a great addition to any art room and a great supplement to a lesson on Henri Matisse.

Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter
Suitable for grades Kindergarten – 5

If you are teaching a lesson on Henri Matisse, this book is a must-have. It is a beautifully written story on the life and artwork of Henri Matisse. His life and career as an artist offers a great lesson on never giving up regardless what obstacles you may face and this book conveys that message perfectly.

When a Line Bends a Shape Begins by Rhonda Gowler Greene
Suitable for grades Kindergarten – 1

I love using this book to teach about the formation of shapes from lines. It provides wonderful real life examples where students can see the various shapes that objects are made of and what lines are used to create those shapes. This book is practical and easy for younger students to understand.

When Pigasso Met Mootisse by Nina Laden
Suitable for grades 1-5

In this story, Pigasso is a pig who portrays the artistic qualities of Picasso and Mootisse is a cow who portrays the artistic qualities of Matisse. Pigasso and Mootisse develop a rivalry that creates a lot of tension between them. But, eventually they realize that putting their differences aside and being friends is more important. This book is great for teaching about artistic styles. Throughout the book the two characters create artwork containing the same subject matter that artistically look very different making it easy to show variations in the styles of painting.

Bridget’s Beret by Tom Lichtenheld
Suitable for grades Kindergarten – 3

This is a cute story about a little girl named Bridget who loves to draw. Bridget had lots of art supplies but her most important one was her black beret. One day Bridget’s beret was blown away in the wind. Without her beret she feels she can no longer create her art, until one day she discovers her inspiration in art isn’t based on her black beret after all.

Willow by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan
Suitable for grades Kindergarten – 3

If you teach art you need to have this book. It not only has a valuable lesson for students but also for teachers. In this story Miss Hawthorn is an art teacher with pretty rigorous expectations for what kind of artwork her students should produce. She expected all her students to make the same kind of pictures. Until one day, one of her students named Willow, showed her the power of using her imagination and then Miss Hawthorn realized what comes from letting go and creating artwork that is different and unique.

My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss
Suitable for grades Kindergarten – 2

Who doesn’t love a good Dr. Seuss book? This one is perfect for the art room! It is a great story about moods and feelings and how colors can be used to convey various feelings. With the usual Dr. Seuss rhyme and fun expressive illustrations, it is great addition to any art room.