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

A Quick List of Fall Books For The Classroom

We are now well into fall and a fall book list is a must. I always say if I could live in one season forever, it would definitely be fall, hands down. I’ve often wondered if there is a place that exists where autumn lasts all year, and then I recall the life cycle of trees and how it is not possible for them to forever be in this state. But of course, Anne says it best.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

-L.M. Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables

A few picture books that are perfect for any fall day in the classroom:

Fall Mixed Up! 

I will warn you. Only read this book to your students if you’re prepared for continual laughing. This book is wacky and silly and so perfect for when you just need a change of attitude in your classroom!

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves 

This cute story tells of a fox showing empathy for a tree losing its leaves. He is deeply concerned for the tree, up until he sees how beautiful it is on the first day of winter. 

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves 

We all love the old lady who swallowed a fly, but now she’s swallowing leaves! What is there not to love about that!? If you’re into felt storyboards, this book is perfect for one. 

Room on the Broom 

A fun Halloween based book about a witch that adds more and more friends to her broom. Again, another great felt storyboard book! 

Charlotte’s Web

This literary classic is a must-read in every classroom. The setting starts in the early fall, then reaches into early winter, making it a great read-aloud book for this time of the year. 

What autumn books have you read to your class this year?

10 Delightful Picture Books con español!

Maybe it’s because I’m anxious not to let my high school Spanish slip away entirely, but I absolutely love coming across picture books that include Spanish phrases. Not only are they fun to read out loud to my kids (and fun for them to try and learn new words), but they send an important message of inclusion and honoring diversity.

Here are 10 picture books con español that I would recommend. These are primarily in English, with Spanish phrases woven throughout.

#1: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

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#2: El Chupacabras by Adam Rubin and Crash McCreery

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#3: My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero & Zeke Peña

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#4: Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market! by Raúl the Third

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#5: La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya & Juana Martinez-Neal

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#6: Tia Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina & Claudio Muñoz

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#7: Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

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#8: Alma & How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal  (most of the Spanish phrases are part of the illustrations here)

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#9: The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy & Eugene Yelchin

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#10: How Are You? = ¿Cómo Estás?

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¡que se divierta leyéndolo! Have a great time reading!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Book Club Ideas for Elementary Principals

I don’t know if my principal knew what she was getting herself into when she asked for book recommendations for her Principal’s Book of the Month list she’s launching next year. But I figure that after all the time enthusiastically devoted to this task, I should share here what I sent to her.

I started with author study recommendations. Because she is choosing 3 books each month — one for grades K-2, one for grades 3-4, and one for grades 5-6 — I shared a few authors whose works spans all these ages. Some don’t actually have chapter books out (like Peter Reynolds), but have picture books that I think would be just as suited for older grades as younger!

  • Kate Messner
  • Mo Willems
  • Laurel Snyder
  • Kate DiCamillo
  • Paul Fleischman
  • Peter H. Reynolds
  • Kevin Henkes
  • Peter Brown

Next I gave codes. PB=picture book; GN=graphic novel; CB=chapter book. Obviously, kids (and adults) of all ages need all three of these categories in their lives.

Now, onto the book recommendations! I was sure to note that many of these grade levels are flexible–I would fully endorse “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates” just as much for a 6th grader as a kindergartner. I also added video previews of the books wherever possible.

Grades K-2

  • All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold PB (great back-to-school read) video
  • We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins PB (hilarious back-to-school read that I’d recommend for all ages) video
  • Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear by Emily Gravett PB (simple, yet interesting story/word play that young readers can actually read themselves)
  • The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld PB (on emotions, self-expression, & empathy) video
  • Because by Mo Willems PB (a story that celebrates music, as well as all the cause & effect of inspiration & effort) video of the story behind this story
  • Hey, Water! by Antoinette Portis PB (good nonfiction read that explores water & highlights vocabulary in interesting way–perhaps a good one to pair with other water conservation books for a month)
  • The Earth Gives More by Sue Fliess PB (book in verse that illustrates seasons, nature, and the importance of caring for earth–good April earth day read)
  • Fox & Chick: The Party by Sergio Ruzzier GN (accessible early graphic novel full of word play, inferring, and fun) video review
  • Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder CB (sweet early reader that has an enjoyable plot line of 2 brothers’ doings)

Grades 3-4

  • Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera PB (beautiful for any time of year and any grade: story in free verse of a boy’s immigration experience & adjusting to new language & environment) video
  • The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson PB (another wonderful back-to-school book that I would recommend for all ages; finding belonging amid our differences) video
  • Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell PB (great for cultivating empathy & understanding) video review
  • The Curious Garden by Peter Brown PB (on cultivating creativity, problem-solving, & gardening) video
  • Izzy Gizmo by Pip Jones PB (story in verse on persistence and and invention, with great word choice) video
  • Water Princess by Peter Reynolds PB (story of a girl going to fetch water for her family in an African country) video
  • Gone Camping: A Novel In Verse CB (each “chapter” is a different type of poem told from the different characters’ perspectives as they deal with unexpected setbacks, worries, & adventures of camping)
  • Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo GN/CB (fantasy with messaging that kids will find highly relatable–especially those who deal with divorce & custody issues–with plenty of humor in the mix) book trailer
  • How to Write Your Life Story by Ralph Fletcher CB (nonfiction how-to that’a s lot of fun to read)
  • Fergus & Zeke by Kate Messner CB (a good easy reader chapter book with lots of illustrations and good friendship themes) 

Grades 5-6

  • The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy PB (story about rule-making, fairness, & voice, with some lovely Spanish phrases thrown in) video of author reading first part
  • The North Star by Peter Reynolds PB (beautiful story about finding your own path) video preview (The Dot & Say Something are others I would recommend)
  • Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm CB (strong & funny protagonist voice; historical fiction story of boy living during the Great Depression; his problem-solving, his fibs, and his sense of community) book trailer
  • Rocket to the Moon! by Don Brown GN (engaging nonfiction of the process it took over decades to get humans to the moon)
  • Sweep: The Story of a Girl & Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier CB (moving and compelling fantasy/historical fiction of 11 year-old Nan trying to survive as one of Victorian London’s child chimney sweeps) video introduction by the author
  • Lions & Liars by Kate Beasley CB (hilarious realistic fiction as a boy who has trouble feeling sorry for himself accidentally ends up at a camp for “troubled boys;” themes on friendship & belonging) book trailer
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage CB (strong voice in a fabulously written realistic fiction/mystery. Best part is its the first in a series that kids will be dying to read for themselves) book trailer
  • The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson CB (Harry Potter lovers will love this fantasy read)
  • Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly CB (realistic fiction told from the perspectives of the 4 main characters) 
  • Pax by Sara Pennypacker (lovely and unique story of a pet fox that is returned to the wild; told from both the fox and the boy’s perspective)
  • Seventh Goldfish by Kate Messner CB (I actually wrote a review on this one that I’ll link here)

What book club reads have been popular across your school grade levels?

featured image: Dan Barbus

All The Books I’ve Shared, Gathered In One Place (plus 5 recent favorite nonfiction reads)

I just wanted to write a quick post to share that I’ve (finally) created a page where one can find all the book recommendations on this website. With how much I enjoy writing book round-ups, I’m surprised I did not do this sooner!

While you’ve stopped by, here are a few more reads we have enjoyed lately. I was surprised to realize when I made the above page how few nonfiction round-ups I’ve written, so here are our recent favorites from that genre:

Round byJoyce Sidman, Taeeun Yoo. Beautiful illustrations that get us thinking about what is round and why. An excellent inquiry text.

Birthdays From Around the World by Margriet Ruurs, Ashley Barron. Great text for helping kids comprehend similarities and differences across the globe.

Where’s the Baby: A Spotting Book by Britta Teckentrup. Really cute rhymes and even cuter illustrations. All of my kids (ages 2-8) delighted over finding the babies.

Living Things & Non-Living Things: A Compare & Contrast Book by Kevin Kurtz. Most accessibly nuanced approach to living vs. non-living that I’ve ever seen. “Not even scientists have a perfect answer.”

Power Up by Seth Fishman & Isabel Greenberg. My 8 year-old can’t stop musing about the power of her pinky ever since reading this illuminating book. Fascinating introduction to energy.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto