Thursday, June 4, 2015

Great Read-Alouds!

These book recommendations are my own, based on what worked for me throughout my ten years in education and also from the viewpoint of a mom. I go with books that not only interest children, but keep me interested, too. If I want to see if there is a monster on the next page just as badly as the kids--then I know it is a good book!

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems

Pretty much any book by Mo Willems has been a hit with the children I taught and my own son. They are lively books with really good plots. I also think you should check out the Pigeon books written by Mo Willems. Good reads, good reads.

Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells

You may recognize this bunny on the cover from the Max and Ruby cartoon show! When I was a child, I was always drawn to these books. Maybe I understood mischievous Max and that his shenanigans often happened because he wanted to help. Little kids often have trouble vocalizing the why behind their actions so they may find a kindred spirit in these books.

If You Give/Take... books by Laura Numeroff

It all started by giving that silly mouse a cookie! Any book from this series is a real win-win. They are short and catchy. I love books that have a pattern to them because that makes kids feel excited about reading since they can catch onto the patterns in the text.

Clifford the Big Red Dog
 by Norman Bridwell

Clifford is a giant and he is red. I can’t remember if they ever explain why he is so huge in one of the books...maybe too much red food coloring and high fructose corn syrup? At least that is what I can say when my son wants Kool Aid. "No, look at Clifffffford!!"

Oh great. Now I am thirsty!

I love how he celebrates holidays and saves people. I like the books written pre-PBS series—I guess the “old school” books because they were more authentic to early reading. They seem more leveled toward young readers. I feel like if you ever get *any* books from a tv show please look inside and ask yourself if it is a "right fit" for your child. I find many often are long, tedious stories, and children tend to get bored or struggle with them. 

I think of them as the Wal-Mart of books. They may be cheap. They may be new and shiny. They may feature the latest popular cartoon or movie character. But what is the educational value? Do I want a wilted, molded salad or a fat, juicy {organic, grass-fed, non-GMO} steak to feed my child's mind?

Oh! Here's a tip!!! You can go to Scholastic's Book Wizard to determine the level! There is even an app. So as a parent you can see if it is age-appropriate and not too easy or too challenging. As a teacher you can level books in your classroom library! And it is FREE.

This is a big deal for me because as a Reading Specialist I always had to count all the words and use some Einstein formula to determine the level. I like easy-peasy!

Back on track, Tina Winkle...

There’s a Nightmare in My Closet
by Mercer Mayer

 Ah, man. This is a sentimental favorite. My son loved for me to read this book to him. I think it helped him to be a little less scared of the dark. This book is funny and empowers kids.

Todd Parr books

These are shockingly colorful. I love the messages these books send. They encourage friendship and acceptance of differences. And they also teach shapes and colors. You may have to wear sunglasses while reading, but I think kids love the characters because they look kid-drawn.

 Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs by Byron Barton

Grrrr. Rawr. Once I had a first grader proudly share his theory of why the dinosaurs became extinct. He stood up with his chest puffed out, and sincerely and seriously declared, "They all farted and the gasses killed them."

I really have nothing else to say after that.

Absolutely anything at all by Eric Carle

I am partial to this author. The first book that piqued my interest—the one I remember re-opening and re-opening was The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It made me want to read so baaaaddd. I wanted to know why there were all these holes in this story and why he disappeared and a butterfly was on the last page. It takes a special book to make a five-year-old crave knowledge.

I never found out that year. The next year the teacher labeled me a “dud” and we were divided into reading groups by bird names indicating level. There were eagles, hawks, robins. I was probably a crow or roadkill or something. I knew in my heart I was in the lowest group. She gave up on me before I even started. So I gave up on trying to learn how to decipher these lines on the pages.

Now the following year my second grade teacher, Mrs. Manes was my angel. She believed in me more than I did. And I finally found out what happened to the caterpillar! J

 It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw

This book keeps students on their toes because they are trying to determine what shape the milk is. They loved it so much I ended up also cutting some white felt into the shapes and made a flannel board so they could re-tell the story themselves during centers.

 Mrs. Wishy-Washy by Joy Cowley

When I taught first grade at Western Oaks Elementary, I was introduced to the Story Box Book Collections. My students adored any of the books by Joy Cowley. Their favorite page was the one when Mrs. Wishy Washy gave her pig a bath.
Big laughs. 

All of the Joy Cowley books have repetitive text so students can pick up the text patterns. I used the smaller versions of the books in my guided reading groups with great success. Then I weaned the students off to where they were reading books without the patterns.

Harry, the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion

This is an old-school classic. Kids get very wrapped up in Harry's adventures he gets into to escape bath time. My students were always relieved with the outcome at the end. I don't know why but they get really wrapped up in this story. I have read it Prek-2nd and they have all loved it.

Harold and the Purple Crayon
 by Crockett Johnson

Another classic! This book promotes imagination. Maybe students will be more apt to take care of crayons after you read this to them?

Maisy at the Library by Lucy Cousins

A mouse named Maisy does things with her friends. One of them is a crocodile named Charley, and that's okay that in real life Maisy would be his snack. 

Anyhoo, Maisy learns along with her friends. These are great books for toddlers and PreK students. Maisy books are often interactive and always ultra-colorful. I really like to put some Maisy books at a Writing Center because they often worked like picture dictionaries for my students. 

 Where the Wild Things Are 
by Maurice Sendak

You knew this would be on the list! During the read-aloud my students loved it when I would do the monster voices.

This book has endured through the ages.
Many students are drawn in by the illustrations alone.

It is is one of those books you will re-read to them because they want to soak up every detail. "We'll eat you up! We love you so!" I could probably tell it by heart at this point as many times I have read it as a teacher and a mother.

 No! David! by David Shannon

This book like many of the favorites has follow-up books. When my child was a toddler he loved the "NO!" in the story. He instantly connected to that word because often toddlers hear...NO! 

David is just a wild child. He may be made out of dirt and lollipop saliva. He is the child that will tiptoe around that line in the sand. And you and your child/children will love him.
It's a "Reading Rainbow"-get it?

Like the show I worshipped as a child stated, "Don't take my word for it!"
Go to the library (it is freeee), go online to research or go sit in Barnes and Nobles. Open these books up. See if you connect. If you do, I bet your students will, too.

I can think of literally hundreds of more books I want to post about for read-alouds but my hands are getting numb so I’ll just keep those books floating in my head for now. Maybe there will be a future post. A part two. Who knows? Maybe there is a monster on the next page?

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