Our Favorite Read Alouds from the First Semester

*This is part of my newsletter for parents for the month of February. A push for our school has been to encourage families to read more with their children at home. Practice what you preach!

I have been in a lot of classrooms this year, reading aloud great literature to students. It has helped me get to know the students and their names, as well as share some of my favorite stories that I read to kids when I was a teacher. Here are just a few:

Primary Grades (Grades K-2)

The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown

Many students have heard Goodnight Moon by the same author. This book is written as a series of poems. Each page focuses on one thing, like snow or grass. The author starts and ends each poem the same way; what is most important to her for each thing. After we read the book, the students and I write a poem together about something new, following the same format as the author. Once written, each student receives their own copy of the poem to reread at school or at home.

A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting

This story details a boy and his grandfather trying to find work. Francisco speaks English, but his grandfather just came from Mexico and cannot speak the language. When Francisco finds work for his grandfather, he tells a lie about their skills as gardeners. The project goes wrong, but it is grandfather that teaches Francisco the importance of honesty and how it is an essential skill when working with others. This book prompted great discussions with kindergartners about always telling the truth, even when we make mistakes.

Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn

To quote the website at www.tumtumnutmeg.com: “Tumtum and Nutmeg lead cozy and quiet lives, secretly looking after Arthur and Lucy, the disheveled human children of the cottage, never dreaming that so many exciting adventures will soon find them. But when evil Aunt Ivy, a squeamish schoolteacher named Miss Short, and pirating pond rats threaten the safety of those they hold dear, the courageous pair will stop at nothing to save the day.”

This book has been hard to put down! I am only reading the first story of three from this anthology. I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and read aloud the next two stories to your kids at home.

Intermediate (Grades 3-5)

The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco

In this sequel to Thank You, Mr. Falker, Trisha cannot escape her label of a student with special needs, even when she attends a new school. Her class consists of several students with different disabilities, but her teacher Mrs. Peterson does not let them get down on themselves. The students use the snide label given to them (“Junkyard Wonders”) and use it to their advantage. They visit a landfill and create amazing science projects with only spare parts and their imagination. It is a touching story, all the more powerful because it is based on the author’s own life as Trisha.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

This anthology of poems is a classic and can be shared with anyone, grades K-12. I chose to read it aloud to 4th graders because a reading standard at this age calls on kids to be able to read and comprehend poetry. These funny and thought-provoking poems are the perfect introduction to this genre. Once we are finished, I read aloud more literature that uses the format of poetry to tell stories, such as Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.

A Stranger Came Ashore by Mollie Hunter

One of my all-time favorite read alouds when I taught 5th and 6th grade. Set on the coast of Scotland, a small fishing community are visited by a foreigner names Finn Learson, someone who is not who he appears to be. Robbie, the main character, is suspicious of this visitor after hearing his grandfather’s stories of the Selkies, creatures who change from seals to humans. The incorporation of folklore creates a story of suspense that is almost impossible to put down. In fact, there were a few instances where the 5th graders almost didn’t let me out of their classroom last fall! Another page turner for older kids is My Daniel by Pam Conrad.

As parents, one of the best things we can do with our kids is share stories with them, and it is never too late to start. Not sure where to begin? Check out The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Nearly every single recommendation in there is a sure winner.

Happy reading!

-Mr. Renwick

P.S. Any recommendations you have for reading aloud? Please share here:

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

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