We can’t argue that school libraries have changed and changed for the better. When you walk into a school library, chances are that you may see one or more of the following: Legos, 3D printers, Break Out Boxes, or iPads. But at its center, the heart of the library is still about reading good books. So this February, for Valentine’s Day, I want to get old school and just talk about books my students, teachers, and I LOVE.
My Kindergarten and first-grade students love picture books, particularly any book written by Mo Willems. Two favorites are We Are in a Book and That Is Not a Good Idea. They also love books that can be tied into music. Pete the Cat is a favorite, and the website contains many songs that match the books.
My first graders love all retellings of the gingerbread man folktale. We recently finished a unit where I read many different versions of this story. Week one, students decorated a large cut-out gingerbread man. The second week, we read Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. Afterward, students worked on map and coding skills. They drew a path on a map from the gingerbread man to his gingerbread house. During the third week, they used various building materials (IO Blocks, magnets, tegu blocks, and LEGOS) to create a vehicle that the gingerbread man could use to cross the river. The kids also loved The Gingerbread Man Song by Andrew Queen and the Campfire Crew. (It’s such a catchy tune and it’s been running “on and on and on and on” in my head for days.)
Some new early chapter books that my students are enjoying are the Sophia Martinez series and the Yasmin series. These books fill a huge diversity gap in the early reader chapter book section of my library.
After recommending The Spiderwick Chronicles by Toni DiTerlizzi and Holly Black to one of the second-grade teachers, her students were all scrambling to check out the next book in the series. This series is what I like to call a “gateway” series into the fantasy genre. Second grade also loves the super silly classic Wayside School series by Louis Sachar. Ellie, Engineer by Jackson Pearce is a new series that also had my second-graders giggling.
I like to use the following non-fiction picture books with my third graders to reinforce having a growth mindset. In November, we read, Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson. The kids loved discovering that Thanksgiving would not be a national holiday if it weren’t for her perseverance. In January, we read Snowflake Bentley. Wilson Bentley spent years figuring out how to photograph snowflakes. When my students are complaining about the difficulty of cutting out snowflakes, I ask them if Wilson Bentley would have given up after one try?
Virginia Reader’s Choice 2019 Nominee A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold is a sweet story about a boy on the autism spectrum. The author does a beautiful job of creating interactions between Bat and his family that are realistic and show the reader what is going on in Bat’s head during the story. A second book about Bat will be coming out in March called Bat and the Waiting Game.
I never get tired of rereading The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis. Despite its serious message, the characters are very lovable and their antics never fail to make me laugh out loud.
When our fifth-grade teachers start their World War II unit, I read Yellowstar by Jennifer Roy to the kids. This is a true story of a girl who spent most of her childhood in a ghetto in Poland during the war. It is told in verse and very beautifully written.
What Books Do You Love?
This is just a small sampling of the books that I have recommended to students and teachers and have used as a librarian. Some are older but they still have the ability to get kids caught up in a good story. ALA just announced its award winners so I’m sure that I will have some new favorites to add to my list. What books do you love? Tweet them to me @MrsLeesLibrary or leave your favorite titles in the comments below. I would love to hear what you’re reading.
Author: Colleen R. Lee
Colleen R. Lee is a former middle school English teacher and Elementary Teacher. She is currently the Elementary Librarian at Greenfield Elementary School in Chesterfield County, VA. She is frantically working on the first draft of a YA Fantasy during NaNoWriMo this month. Follow her on Twitter @MrsLeesLibrary.