Books Sure To Put You In The Spirit Of The Season

Awhile back I wrote a post about winter books perfect for these cold December days. Today, I want to expand on this and share some of my favorite Christmas books this holiday season. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, families gathering together, sometimes even traveling far to spend time with one another. Gifts are exchanged, people serve and help each other, and whole community happiness shines. Here are my favorite books that bring that spirit of Christmas in a little more for us. 

First, what is Christmas without the classic The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg? A magical story of a boy who rides the Polar Express to the North Pole. If this book doesn’t put you in the Christmas spirit, I don’t know what else will! 

Christmas Wombat by Jackie French is a favorite of mine as well. By the end of the book, everyone is smitten with this little wombat that follows Santa and his reindeer around on Christmas Eve, stealing carrots and taking naps.

Snowmen At Christmas, a book by Caralyn Buehner is a fun story about snowmen who celebrate Christmas in their own snowmen way. 

A newer Christmas book called Pick A Pine Tree by Patricia Toht instantly stole my heart when I saw the beautiful illustrations by Jarvis. Once you start reading, the rhyming script almost sends you into a Christmas trance, reflecting on your own experience of picking and decorating trees for Christmas.  

How will you use Christmas books this holiday season? What are some of your favorites? 

Three Cheers For Repeating Text!

If I were to pick three books that are favorites for my two-year-old right now, it would be Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See, Goodnight Moon, and Bear Snores On. I read these three books so often I could read them in my sleep! What makes these texts so memorable for my daughter, why is she so drawn to them? The repetition. Repetition can be a powerful tool for younger students, whether it’s in book, song, dance, word, or any other form. 

Hearing the sentence over and over “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?” with only the noun and pronoun changing through every page gave my daughter the confidence to say this phrase herself at a young age. When she was younger and still learning phrases, one of her favorites to say was, “What do you see?” Obviously, it sounded a lot more like, “at you ee?” but we could translate! 

Still, almost a year later, her favorite phrase is, “Mama, what do you see?” said a little clearer now, and with actual meaning. When I respond by following the pattern of the book, “I see a little girl looking at me!” she giggles in delight because she knows these words, they are near and dear to her heart. 

The repetition in songs and books can also promote: 

  • Recognizing letters 
  • Phonological Awareness 
  • Writing skills 

Some of our other favorite repetitive books include:

  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess 
  • If You Give A Pig A Pancake Series by Laura Numeroff 
  • Don’t Let Pigeon Drive The Bus! By Mo Willems 
  • There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly by Lucille Colandro 

So next time your child or student requests Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell for the 50th time (yes, I have that one memorized as well) remember that they are learning and their little brains are growing, becoming more confident with words, speaking, and writing by hearing these over and over and over and over again. So let’s add in a little more repetition and give three cheers for repetitive text!  

Beautiful Winter Books for Gloomy Winter Days

The only thing I love more than a good list is the Winter season. I know the cold weather isn’t everyone’s favorite, but the magic of the holidays and the peaceful falling snow makes me so happy! If winter isn’t for you, here are a few fun winter-themed books to make the snow and cold a tiny bit more enjoyable. 

The Mitten by Jan Brett: A boy loses a mitten in the snow and animal friends come to help.  

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats: This Caldecott book is not only perfect for its storyline but the artwork as well.  

Wolf In The Snow by Matthew Cordell: A book with no words telling a story of humans and wolves helping one another through the wintery cold snow. 

Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter by Kenard Pak: A brother and sister see the signs of a dying autumn and a growing winter as they take a walk outside. 

Snow Party by Harriet Ziefert: Snowmen throwing a party in the woods, what’s not to love?   

These books are sure to have you smiling and feeling excited about the snow right along with your students. When you’re having a hard time getting to school in the cold and ice, just pull out a fun wintery book and get reading, it’ll be sure to brighten your spirits and appreciate snow for the fun magic it can create. 

The Season for Giving Thanks and Reading Books

Thanksgiving is only two weeks away, so do you know what that means? Thanksgiving picture books! There is no better way to celebrate a holiday than with picture books in the classroom, I am a huge advocate for picture books at any age. Here are four books you need to keep on your radar this holiday season. 

A Turkey For Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting A fun story about woodland animals that get together to eat Thanksgiving dinner together, just to realize that their friend, Turkey, is missing! 

Thanksgiving in the Woods by Phyllis Alsdurf This book is based on a true story of a New York family who celebrates Thanksgiving in the woods with family. Not only is it a great book, but the pictures are also beautiful as well. 

Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano A story that will have your students laughing out loud seeing Thanksgiving from the perspective of the turkey. 

If You Were At The First Thanksgiving by Anne Kamma This isn’t a picture book per se. However, it is a great book to keep around the classroom for the month of November. It answers common questions and some misconceptions you or your students may have about the first Thanksgiving. 

What fun books are you reading in your classrooms this Thanksgiving? 

Featured Image: deathtothestockphoto.com

Let’s All Remember Our Heroes This Veterans Day

Veterans Day is on Monday, and with any important holiday, a great picture book is a must. It doesn’t matter if your students are 2-year-olds in a daycare, or 18 years old in college, a powerful, informative picture book can always be applicable when used correctly. 

Veterans Day is now more widely known as, “Head over to our stores for our 50% off Veterans Day sale” It has become a commercial holiday used to boost sales and place the United States flags on their ads as if that honors the men and woman that served our country in some way. Veterans Day is so much more than a 50% off sale and needs to be treated that way as well. 

It’s a day to celebrate and remember those who gave their all, sometimes even their lives, so that we can continue to live in peace and comfort we have today. It’s remembering those families that suffered weeks and months without their dads, or the kids who attended their first day of school without their mom because they had parents serving across seas. It’s a chance to feel empathy for the families who have packed up and moved so many times in a year that they have lost track of what cities they’ve lived in. It’s a holiday all of us need to remember a little more. 

I have read multiple books on Veterans Day, and after all of my readings, one book sticks out to me because of the emotional pull it brought out as I read. America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven goes through everything placed at the White Table, the rose, the lemon, the chair, and more, then explains what it represents and why. 

Katie, the young girl in the story helping her mom set the White Table, is told a story of her uncle who served in the war and ended up as a Prisoner of War (POW) but eventually was able to escape and help a friend escape as well. Hearing his emotional story helped Katie see the importance of the white table. 

“It was just a little white table… but it felt as big as America when we helped Mama put each item on it and she told us why it was so important.”

-America’s White Table

I was somewhat ashamed to find out after reading this picture book that I did not know what each of the items on the White Table was for, I just knew it represented a solider somehow. Let’s change this for our students that also do not know the purpose of the white table. Let’s not just teach out kids numbers and letters, let’s teach them about our heroes of this country this Veterans Day. 

A few other great Veterans Day books: 

The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans by Barbara Elizabeth Walsh

H Is for Honor: A Military Family Alphabet by Devin Scillian

Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion by Jane Barclay 

How do you honor Veterans Day in your classroom? 

Featured Image: Pexels.com

The Powerful Purpose Of Books About Other Cultures

Let’s talk about different races and ethnic backgrounds. It’s something that is a growing topic in our schools, as it should be. Why are these conversations important for students? Studies have shown that kids as young as 3 years old can start showing signs of racism, which can stem from the TV shows they are watching, the toys they play with, and the books they read. 

A few of my favorite books to expose children to these different cultures do not explicitly teach how to be tolerant of others, instead, they give you a peek into their worlds and what makes them special. It can be so powerful. 

CROW BOY is a book about a young boy who attends school in Japan that walks to and from school by himself every day for years and years. By the end of the book, his classmates see just how special Crow Boy is and what a mistake it was to ignore him all of those years. 

I, DOKO: THE TALE OF THE BASKET a story told by the basket a family uses for various purposes over the years, from carrying grain to carrying a baby. This book can become confusing with the different generations of family members, it may be beneficial to write or draw a visual of the family tree to help students understand who is who in the story. 

TUKI AND MOKA: A TALK OF TWO TAMARINS this book is sure to capture your students’ love with two monkeys that follow a little boy around in Ecuador as they collect Brazil nuts to provide for their family. Later, the monkeys and other animals are captured by poachers and the protagonist must take action right away. 

Not only do these books explore the lifestyle of different races and cultures, but they also teach vocabulary words from their language. This can be engaging for students and fun for students to learn these new words and names. A word of advice, before reading these books out loud in class, practice a few readings out loud by yourself to know the words and names pronunciation beforehand. 

Books are powerful. Whether read aloud in classrooms or left for little hands to explore, having ready access to different ethnicities through text and pictures will benefit them, our classrooms, schools, and our society. Our students and teachers can make or break someone else’s school experience based on their cultural awareness. If you don’t believe me, watch this Ted Talk by Melissa Crum. 

What are books you use in your classroom that expose children to different races, whether directly or indirectly? 

Featured Image: pexels.com

How ‘Empowered’ Can Make You Feel….. Empowered.

Let’s talk about books that help us become better teachers. There are typical books like What Works in Schools by Robert Marzano. There is also Teachers And Machines: The Classroom Use Of Technology Since 1920 by Larry Cuban. While I’ve never read either of them, I am certain they are excellent at giving all of the information they are trying to get across in a very explicit way. 

After I read the book Empowered by Nathan Cureton, I realized that not all informational, inspiring teacher books needed to be direct learning. While I do recognize that there are a time and a place for the more straightforward books, I appreciated the different aspect that Nathan used while writing Empowered

The book is a fictional story about a school counselor that meets with and helps the teachers of the school, both new and old, work through their classroom management to create an ideal classroom culture. He uses the power of a fictional storyline to bring you into a world that is very realistic with common situations and problems that teachers face today, then helps you solve these problems by watching Kris, the school counselor, work with each teacher on improving their classrooms day by day. All of these tips Kris is giving to the teachers are tips that each of us can glean for our own classrooms.

It amazed me how powerful the indirect text was as I read it. Reading about that teacher who struggled with students blurting out made me feel like someone knew exactly what I felt like trying to manage a 9th-grade class for the first time. I connected with the book and those fictional teachers on such a personal level. I found myself thinking a few times in the book, “No! Paul! That’s not how Kris told you to handle your classroom!! STOP!” 

Nathan talks about how each classroom has its own unique culture, it’s own way it functions and runs. Each teacher’s room has a different culture from the next, and in the book he points out how students go from one classroom to the next, transferring into different expectations from different people. This is why explicit expectations need to be taught because one teacher is fine with a dull roar throughout the classroom at all times. The next has a strict “no talking while I am” rule. While Mr. Smith across the hall has constant chatter. It’s only fair to the students to explicitly let them know what you expect in your classroom. 

After reading this, I had a moment of, “Oh. Duh.” This is what I needed to read before I started teaching. Isn’t it funny how I spent four years during undergrad learning this, yet after I had some teaching experience and read this book, that’s when it sunk in? 

Whether you’re still in school, it’s your first year teaching, or you’ve been teaching for years and years, I highly recommend reading Empowered. Lose yourself in Kris’ journey, and maybe learn a little classroom management while you’re at it!