Unusual Picture Books to Start the Year | Mentoring in the Middle

Unusual Picture Books to Start the Year

As a Reading teacher with a large library, I want to introduce students to my books, but I also want to start reading aloud to them.  This year, I read several blog posts about using picture books for older elementary students, and I decided that I'm going to use some those first few days.

But these aren't your typical "First Days of School" books, they're books with a more focused reading purpose.  The act of reading aloud, by itself, demonstrates a love of books, as well as the habit of reading daily.  But I want students to get more than that from these books.

What do I want my students to learn?

I want my students to know that readers come in all shapes and sizes; everyone is unique and no comparisons are made. 

I want them to know that books are magical.

I want them to know that books can take you to places you'll never get to in real life.

I want them to know that books teach lessons.

And I want them to know the daily habits that make good readers.

Which books am I using this year?

I'm starting the year with this beautiful book, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, picture books
We'll read it, then watch the video.  Students will have Post-It Notes to see if they find connections between the book and the video or the book and other videos (lots of references to the Wizard of Oz.)  We'll spend some time talking about the magic of books, and (hopefully!) turning some thinking around with my more reluctant readers.

 While this one reads a little "young" I think it makes an important point.  I want students to know that readers come in all shapes and sizes, and that one person, who might read 12 books this year should in no way be measured against someone else's 35 books read.  Everyone reads according to their interests and choices and as I get to know them as readers, I'll be able to tell if they're reading the kinds of books that are a good-fit and if they're spending the right amount of time reading, for them.  There is NO "one size fits all" with reading, and choice is key!

Day 3 will be this book.

This book will start to set the tone with how we share books in our classroom.  Students can do book commercials, Flipgrids, and small group discussions, helping each other locate good books.

We'll create a visual reminder of every book we've read, starting with me buying this font from KG Fonts and creating a "This is What We've Read So Far" sign outside my classroom.  (Still need to do this but I've been sick and haven't had a chance to make it and put it up!) Using this book spine, which you can grab here, we'll start a trail of books we've finished outside my classroom door and see where the trail takes us!

Day 4 will serve a slightly different purpose, but one that needs to be emphasized.  I love that Each Kindness has an African-American protagonist.  Although I think the book is intended to teach a powerful message about being mindful of the way we treat each other, I also want to use it to explain to students that I work hard to provide multi-cultural books in my library.  I want them to feel like they can find books about people whose culture and race are similar to their own. This is where I showcase Amal Unbound, Refugee, Inside Out and Back Again, Shooting Kabul, Ghost, Patina, Red Thread Sisters, Esperanza Rising, Echo, and a host of other books that reflect protagonists who look and live like them. 
Day 5.  Kids love to talk about books!  That's a good thing.  But it's not a good thing when we give away the ending and ruin reading the book for someone else.  Book commercials are specifically tailored so that students explain up to the climax of the plot and stop there.  Their final line is:  "If you want to find out what happens next, read _____________." 

  We'll also talk about and practice finding good places to sit and read.  My classoom is a mix of desks, bungee chairs, and low tables with pillows.  Students have a lot of choice about where to sit.  As long as they're reading, they're good to go!

After creating a number of Project-Based Learning experiences for my students the past few years, our entire sixth grade team has worked with some of the leaders in our community.  Our town has just hired someone to take a look at how they can improve the community, and she is excited to have our students come up with proposals from their perspective.                                                                                               What better book to read than this one, to get students ready?

I hope to teach about the things I value as a reader while reading these books to my students, and I hope they learn a little about themselves as readers!  What do you think about these choices, and about using picture books with older students?

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