Browsing Tag

third grade

Top Ten Kid-Recommended Picture Books to Celebrate Kindness

Books We Love, Literacy in the Classroom

Happy World Kindness Day! Every November 13th, we have the opportunity to celebrate kindness, while recognizing that kindness is important every day of the year. Today, during snack, my third graders and I started discussing books that fit a theme of kindness. This launched a fascinating conversation that stretched into our literacy block and throughout the rest of the day. My students compiled the following list of Top Ten Kid-Recommended Books to Celebrate Kindness. Enjoy, and be sure to let us know how you celebrate kindness in the comments below!


Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev was one of our read alouds on the first day of school. Telling the story of a boy and his pet elephant, this book captures the isolating feeling of exclusion as well as the joyful feeling of including others. My third grade readers said the message of this book can be expressed in just three words: “All are welcome.”

Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi is an absolutely gorgeous wordless picture book. It’s fitting that this book has no words, as it communicates a feeling that can be so hard to articulate: the feeling of genuine friendship. While friendship can be messy and hard, it can also be beautiful. My third grade readers love the colors and creativity with which this story is told.

We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio captures the feeling of longing to belong – something that we all experience at some point in our lives. In the same way that her novel asks students to “choose kind,” Palacio’s picture book encourages readers to see the strengths that we all hold inside ourselves.

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts makes me cry every time I read it aloud! It can feel so isolating to be the only one who is “missing out” on the newest thing. This book celebrates the people in our lives who try to give us the world, and teaches us that it’s okay when we can’t get everything we want. In fact, what doesn’t work out for us might be the perfect thing for someone else.

 

Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh chronicles young Sylvia Mendez’s fight for quality education in the 1940s. When a student proposed it as a book about kindness today, he pointed out that being fair and inclusive is necessary in order to be kind. This nonfiction text reminds us that justice for all is another way to show kindness towards all.

 

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes just effuses kindness. A little gardener, no bigger than a worm, puts his whole heart into helping his garden. While he doesn’t look like much, he makes an impact a million times larger than he could imagine. This book is a celebration of kindness towards the environment and kindness towards each other.

 

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney is a gorgeous wordless retelling of an Aesop fable. Today, our class discussed how kindness can circle back towards you when you least expect it. If you put kindness out into the world, you may get a little bit (or a big bit!) back.

 

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister shows how unkind behavior like bragging and excluding others can harm everyone. Celebrating our strengths and using them to bring joy to others is the way to go! My students have such fond memories of reading this book for the first time in kindergarten or first grade. It’s definitely a kindness classic!

 


One by Kathryn Otoshi is such a great read aloud for any grade level, K through 12. My students love the playful way in which the colors learn to stand up for themselves, and eventually stand together. This is a book we return to again and again throughout the year as we explore ways in which we can speak up and stand up.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson is a heartprint book that always leaves my third graders thinking. Every day, we take actions that create hurricanes or sunshine for others. How will you bring sunshine to the lives of those around you? Each Kindness reminds us of the importance of considering this question every single day.

Books We Love: A Boy, A Mouse, and A Spider

Books We Love

My love for E.B. White’s stories has existed ever since my first grade teacher read Charlotte’s Web to our class. It wasn’t until Melissa Sweet’s Some Writer was released that I learned the story behind the beloved children’s author. It’s a story of a man who was brilliant, smart, and above all, an unrelenting optimist.

I’m so excited that Barbara Herkert and Lauren Castillo have teamed up to bring White’s story to younger readers. This well-written biography tells of White’s journey from childhood to literary fame. Readers who loved Stuart Little and other books will adore this look into the life of an incredible author. Lauren Castillo’s gorgeous illustrations are a perfect fit for the story.

Classroom Connections

This book would serve as a strong mentor text for biographies. Herkert’s text clearly explains the events of White’s life and celebrates his significance.

For paired middle grade texts, Melissa Sweet’s Some Writer! is an obvious and perfect choice. Sweet’s words add depth to Herkert’s strong overview. Students might also find enjoyment in Kid Authors by David Stabler (my review coming to the blog this Tuesday!).

Books We Love: Read, Read, Read!

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

There are certain poetry books that I return to over and over again in my classroom. Books with poems that reflect my students’ experiences show up as read-alouds every year. The books then find worthy places on our classroom bookshelves where they are adored by dozens of third graders. Read! Read! Read! by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater may become an instant classic, too.

This book is a celebration of what it means to be a reader. Much of the book explores the magic of the written word and how we carry it with us as we grow. While many of the poems are inspiring, they are funny and clever, too. The poems are inclusive of many different reading experiences, from the child whose favorite reading material is on the cereal box to the child who lost a grandmother, but found healing in Charlotte’s Web.

As I read the poems, connections to students past and present were swirling around in my head. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has given us a gift: poems that will meet readers where they are on their reading journeys. Every child reading this book will find a poem that makes them feel celebrated. It is my hope that this book finds its way onto the bookshelves of classrooms and homes, and into the hands of young readers everywhere.


Read! Read! Read! will be released in September 2017 by Wordsong Books.

Huge thanks to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater for sharing a copy of Read! Read! Read! with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

Books We Love: Come With Me

#bookexcursion, #DiverseKidLit, Books We Love

As I write this post in mid-August 2017, violent protests have broken out in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Over the past year, students have been walking into classrooms with more and more questions about the world. They feel fear. They feel confusion. They feel helplessness. Wouldn’t it be powerful if, every day, we could do something to replace those feelings with ones of kindness? Connection? Hope?

Come With Me by Holly McGhee tells the story of a little girl who feels scared by the images she sees every day. She’s not sure to engage with a world that scares her. With the help of her parents, she learns to step beyond her fear and build connections with others. While the things she does with her parents aren’t groundbreaking steps towards social justice (she goes to a grocery store and rides the subway), the little girl learns to celebrate togetherness over fear.

Like any book, this book alone is not enough. But it’s a start in discussing social justice and current events with children. As the dedication of the book states, “Come With Me is written in honor of friendship, bravery, and the fact that we aren’t powerless, no matter how small and insignificant we may feel.”


Come With Me will be released in September 2017 by Penguin Kids.

Huge thanks to Holly McGhee for sharing a copy of Come With Me with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

Books We Love: What Makes A Monster

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

This week marked a book birthday for Jess Keating’s What Makes a Monster?! After the success of her Pink is for Blobfish, my students became captivated by Keating’s writing. With fascinating facts and strong nonfiction text features, the World of Weird Animals series draws in many young readers. Keating’s website describes the series as “a must-read series for curious kids,” and I can’t think of a more accurate description.

What Makes a Monster pulls readers in to the respective worlds of the aye-aye, the vampire bat, the prairie dog, the tyrant leech king, and other scary animals. The book explores what makes the animals dangerous, as well as how many “monsters” contribute positively to our ecosystems.

Each two-page spread features a large photo of each animal, along with a vivid description and fast facts. Funny illustrations add humor to the pages and make this book a great fit for young readers.

One powerful section in the book talks about “misunderstood monsters:” the animals who are less likely to be included in conservation efforts because they aren’t cute or furry. This serves as a call-to-action for readers as they think about how ugly or scary animals can still add to our world. By the end of the book, readers will be questioning what it means to be a monster.


Huge thanks to Jess Keating for sharing a copy of What Makes a Monster? with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

 

Books We Love: It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

What would happen if fairytale characters didn’t listen to the narrator? That’s the question Josh Funk explores in his new book, It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk. This hilarious, inventive new take on a classic will keep kids laughing out loud. When the narrator starts the story, Jack doesn’t exactly cooperate. He doesn’t want to get up in the morning, doesn’t want to throw the beans out the window, and especially doesn’t want to start climbing. If Jack doesn’t do what the narrator says, will it change the end of the story?

My students are big fans of fractured fairy tales. They love rooting for characters who may not have been heroes the first time around. I know they’ll love this book, where the giant is a little different than they might remember. They’ll also enjoy the playful illustrations by Edwardian Taylor, which just add comedy to an already hilarious tale.


It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk will be released on September 19th, 2017 by Two Lions.

Huge thanks to Josh Funk for sharing a copy of It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a group of ten educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

Books We Love: Her Right Foot

Books We Love

It’s not often that you come across a children’s book that asks children how they interpret an American symbol. That’s exactly what happens in Her Right Foot, a new picture book from Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris. Alongside beautiful illustrations, Eggers tells about the construction of the Statue and Liberty. From the statue’s construction in Paris to its reconstruction in New York, Eggers gives children the facts about the statue in a hilarious tone. Eventually, Eggers gives one more fact: if you look closely, you can see that the statue is taking one step forward.

At this point in the book, Eggers has presented the facts, so he turns to the questions. Why would the statue be taking a step? What does it mean for us as a country that our most famous symbol is moving forward? This books asks many great questions, then poses an excellent solution. This text will spark great conversations about how the Statue of Liberty represents our American ideals. It’s a book that could be used from elementary grades through high school and beyond.

When I first started my blog, I sought to find books that help kids answer big questions about the world. I know that Her Right Foot will do just that.


Her Right Foot will be released in September 2017 by Chronicle Books.

Note: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Chronicle Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Books We Love: Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker

Books We Love

Sometimes, you read a book and you absolutely know it will resonate with your students. Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker is one of those books. Telling the story of Beatrice’s first day of third grade, it’s a perfect fit for upper elementary classrooms.

There are so many themes explored by this book that are necessary in today’s classrooms. Learning styles, friendships, family dynamics: these are all things that our students think about often and should have the opportunity to explore through literature. Through watching Beatrice navigate her own social situations, family scenarios, and school environment while maintaining her individual spirit, students can learn how to do the same.

This book is for the dreamers, the free spirits, the artists, and the innovators who walk into our classrooms every day. It’s for the kids who may have felt like they didn’t quite fit in. Just as importantly, it’s an opportunity for all of us to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who thinks a little differently. This book is a must-add for your classroom bookshelves this fall!


Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker will be released in September 2017 by Disney-Hyperion.

Note: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Reflecting on a Year as Readers

Literacy in the Classroom

One of my colleagues shared an amazing idea with me this past spring, and I just had to give it a try in my classroom. My colleague has her students write letters about their reading journeys. The insights students share are amazing! My students came up with questions they could answer in their letters. Here are a few:

  • What have you discovered about yourself as a reader this year?
  • What is your favorite reading memory from third grade?
  • What new things did you try as a reader in grade three?
  • Are there any books that stuck with you this year?
  • How have your reading habits changed in third grade?
  • What are your reading plans for summer and beyond?

All the questions were optional, and there wasn’t a sentence or page requirement. I was amazed with the writing that came back. Students wrote pages upon pages about the books that made a difference in their lives, the ways they have grown, and their plans to keep reading in their futures.

Many of my students described finding the genres and book formats that fit their reading styles. Learning how to make reading choices was a big focus of ours this year, so I was so excited that many students now know where to look to find new reads!

I love how this reader admitted to losing her reading log. (I tell students all the time that it’s about the reading, not the piece of paper that says you read!) I also loved the description of finishing a great book: a mix of sadness and understanding.

As this reader says, this letter was my “ticket to knowing town” when it comes to learning about him as a reader. After finishing Stone Fox, I knew this reader would appreciate Pax. I’m so happy he stuck with it!

What a great description of a cozy reading moment! I hope that all of my students can identify some landmark reading memories. There’s nothing like curling up with a good book when it’s raining outside.

As this reader illustrated, “reading is what I live for!” When there are so many books out there and kiddos want them all, we know that our school has created a strong reading community.


How do your students reflect on their year as readers and writers? Let us know in the comments below!

Chapter Book Read Alouds for Third Grade

Books We Love, Literacy in the Classroom

We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves.
-Neil Gaiman

One of my favorite things about being a teacher is reading aloud to my students. During that fifteen or twenty minutes a day, our class connects in so many ways. We laugh together, we cry together, and we share big ideas we have about the world. This year, my class has connected around four chapter book read alouds. Some are funny, some are heartbreaking, some are inspiring, but all of them have brought joy to my students, and I hope they bring joy to you, too.

 

Sideways Stories from Wayside School
by Louis Sachar

Every year, the third grade team at my school starts off with Sideways Stories. There’s so much to love about this book: hilarious characters, fantasy elements, laugh-out-loud scenes, and teachable moments. This book reminded my students how much there is to love about reading. After we read this aloud, the other books in the Wayside School series flew off of my classroom bookshelves!

The BFG
by Roald Dahl

This year, we read The BFG as part of the Global Read Aloud. While the entire experience was amazing, the book itself takes a lot of the credit. Kids around the world love the characters of the BFG and Sophie. They immerse themselves in a world where “frobscottle” and “whizpoppers” are actual words, and where courage and kindness matter above all else.

 

Holes
by Louis Sachar

As you can tell, my class and I love Louis Sachar. Students are usually amazed when they realize that Sideways Stories and Holes are written by the same author. The books couldn’t be more different! I usually read Holes a little later in the year, when students can dig deeper into the questions the book raises about fairness, luck, hard work, and friendship.

 

The Wild Robot
by Peter Brown

Since The Wild Robot will be the selection for this fall’s Global Read Aloud, I decided to give the book a shot with this year’s crew of third graders. While we haven’t finished the book, the students absolutely love it so far. Reminiscent of Charlotte’s Web, but with a sci-fi twist, this book appeals to so many types of readers. Fair warning for teachers: make sure you have your robot voice down before giving this book a try! I highly recommend adding this book to your collection and connecting with other classes during the GRA this fall!


I would love to hear about the chapter book read alouds that captivated your classes this year. Feel free to comment below to share the literacy love!