Today, August 10th, is time for the annual Picture Books 10 for 10 event (#pb10for10). Teachers and educators are challenged to choose and share their 10 favorite picture books, and the posts will be aggregated by Cathy of Reflect and Refine and Mandy of Enjoy and Embrace Learning. So, without further ado, here are my Top 10 Picture Books for Read Alouds ...
Top 10 "Must Have" Picture Books(Un-ranked. Narrowing it down to 10 was hard enough! Each of these books are ones that I have shared and re-shared as read alouds with my third and fourth grade classes. Presented in roughly the order they are shared throughout the year.)
One Green Apple by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ted Lewin. This 'second day of school' book is one that I always share during the first week of school. Farah's story of being in a new school and a new country is one that resonates as we begin to establish our own class community. Students immediately grab onto the symbolism of her "different" apple becoming a part of the blended cider. This is a book we return to again and again as we learn about new people and new cultures and as well think about how to be a welcoming and inclusive community ourselves.
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr (Caldecott winner). I love this book. The story is captivating, the language is incredible, and the illustrations are powerful. I love to share this story early in the school year, as we are working on finding and writing small moment stories about our own lives. This book showcases the power of one small night between a child and his/her father. Students are captivated by the story, and we return to the writing again and again as a mentor text for how to write well. A classic.
The Day of Ahmed's Secret by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, illustrated by Ted Lewin. This powerful story follows a day in the life of Ahmed as he works his rounds delivering butane gas by donkey cart in modern Cairo, Egypt. He is a thoughtful, interesting narrator and makes unique observations about the world around him and his place in it, even connecting back to Egypt's ancient history. (Skip the next paragraph if you do not want to know the ending.)
When he reveals his secret at the end (*spoiler alert* that he can write his own name in Arabic), students must suddenly face some of the realities of child labor and poverty. I always end this read aloud with a discussion of why writing is powerful and what it represents for Ahmed, and student often offer many insightful ideas and realizations. Everyone then gets their own chance to write their name in Arabic as well, and I often find students still using Arabic to sign assignments even weeks later. (I use Firdaous for help with the Arabic. There are often minor mismatches with vowels, but it is a decent approximation for most names.)
Silent Music: a story of Baghdad by James Rumford. Silent Music expands on the interest in Arabic generated by Ahmed and introduces students to some of the history and beauty of Arabic calligraphy. The story also connects to the US invasion of Iraq as Ali, the main character, finds solace in writing Arabic calligraphy under the covers during the scares of the fighting. Ali draws strength from his connection to the famous historical calligrapher, Yakut, who also focused on calligraphy through the destruction of Baghdad in the 1200s. Student find themselves easily relating to Ali, and I find myself having to pause the read aloud often so that students can try their hand at copying down the various calligraphy found throughout the story.
Sitti's Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. This story about an American girl who travels to Palestine to visit her Sitti (grandmother) remains as relevant today as when it was published in 1997. Mona does not speak Arabic, but between her father's translations and the language of gestures and smiles, she builds her relationship with her grandmother. The ongoing conflicts in this region are addressed only obliquely when Mona writes her letter to the President urging him to find a peaceful solution.
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Doug Chayka. This book gently introduces children to the existence of refugees and refugee camps through the touching friendship of Lina and Feroza, two girls from Afghanistan who have made their way to a refugee camp in Pakistan. Both the text and illustrations offer insights into life at camp (including the detail that the girls are excluded from the camp-run school), as well as provides a bit of the tragic back story that led them both to flee their homes and lose members of their families. An important book for introducing a difficult topic.
The Pet Dragon: a story about adventure, friendship, and Chinese characters by Christoph Niemann. On a lighter note, this story is the delightful fantasy tale of young Lin and her pet dragon, told in illustrations that introduce readers to different Chinese characters. The story itself is quick and fun, and students love being able to see and recognize new Chinese characters, as they are introduced through the illustrations. A great way to pique student interest in foreign languages!
Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: a worldwide Cinderella by Paul Fleishman and illustrated by Julie Paschkis. We share this fabulous picture book at the conclusion of our study of Cinderella stories from around the world (a subject for a future post). Paul Fleishman weaves more than a dozen different Cinderella tales into this one story, and Julie Paschkis' illustrations change throughout to celebrate the different folk art traditions of each country. Students love seeing the individual stories that they know well appear and disappear throughout the book. Also a good book to talk about framing, as the book itself is being read inside the book by a mother to her daughter.
Peppe the Lamplighter by Elisa Bartone and illustrated by Ted Lewin (Caldecott Honor book). I love this book. The illustrations will take your breath away, with Ted Lewin's masterful paintings. Living in turn-of-the-century New York, Peppe finds himself needing to get a job to help his ailing father and his many, many sisters. But Peppe's father is a proud man and becomes angry at his son. This father-son confrontation always prompts deep discussion and conversation. In the end, everyone realizes how important the job of lightlamper can be. I read this book in connection with our unit on Ellis Island and American immigration.
What You Know First by Patricia MacLachlan and engravings by Barry Moser. Another just amazing book. We share this one near the end of the year when the students are working on writing memoir. This powerful story about moving and the importance of place resonates with students, and the "small bag of prairie dirt" helps them think about the richness of symbols and symbolism and apply these lessons to their own writing. The engraved prints for illustrations are based on family photographs of both the author and illustrator and add another dimension to this wonderful book.
There's my 10 for 10. Tons of others I would love to have included. Have a favorite you think I missed or want to share your thoughts about one of my 10? Leave a comment below!