Tuesday, August 9, 2011

10 Picture Books I Can't Live Without

Thanks so much to Cathy Mere of Refine and Reflect and Mandy Robeck of  Enjoying and Embracing Learning  for leading this blogging event.  The question was basically....What 10 picture books could you not live without?  It was so hard to narrow down this list to only 10, but here goes!

1.  Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin-This was a book that my kindergarteners held on tight to all year long.  They loved the book and anything related.  The simple catchy rhythm of the text along with the groovy song deliver a very powerful message for kindergarteners.  "Don't sweat the small stuff!"  I love Pete, his attitude and his message.  So...much to my delight, Pete the Cat is now Rocking His School Shoes.  I was so thrilled with this sequel and had my doubts as to whether it could live up to the original, but it does!  Love it!

2.  We Share Everything! by Robert Munsch- This is a book that I read every year on the first day of school.  It is silly and a perfect ice-breaker and leads to a little discussion of things we do and don't do in kindergarten.   I love Robert Munsch and always do an author study in February and my students all become big fans.

3.  No David! by David Shannon- All of the David Shannon books are a must in kindergarten.  No David! is always the book I use to help the the students generate class rules we can all agree on.  The kids find these books hilarious and can all connect to the character.  And, with the simple text, all of the students want these books in their hands and love to reread them.  I have multiple copies and they are always in demand.

4.  Knufflebunny by Mo Willems- This is one of my favorite Mo Willems books and I love ALL THINGS Mo Willems. He earned 3 spots in this list and it was hard not to give him more.   I love to read this book towards the beginning of the year as a way to illustrate growth over time with persistence.  Trixie, the main character, is a toddler who is not talking and only babbling. ("Aggle-flaggle"....lots of laughs!)  But when her precious stuffed bunny "Knufflebunny" is left at the laundry mat, she protests in her loudest babble until she is able to clearly speak the word "Knufflebunny!" at the end of the story.  I use Trixie's persistence to illustrate how many of them feel that they can't read, or draw or write.....but if they only keep trying in the best way that they know how...they will get there.  If you don't try, you never give yourself a chance.  Trixie didn't give up and she got her precious Knufflebunny back because of it!   This is an important life lesson and so valuable in our classroom.

5. Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog- Another Mo Willems favorite.  My students LOVE this book and beg me to read it over and over.  It is often a reward at the end of the day for me to read this AGAIN if I still have some voice left because I haven't had to give the same directions over and over again.  (wink! wink!)  I do this small squeaky voice for the little chick and they laugh so hard.  I have multiple copies of all of the pigeon books and they are always in someones book box throughout the year.

6.  ALL Piggie and Elephant books by Mo Willems- I can't pick.  It's impossible.  Mo Willems is one of the most clever writers I know.  He uses the simplest of text and illustrations to tell brilliantly funny stories of these two best friends.  My students love these books so much.  And they are perfect for beginning readers to reread again and again.  Every year I have many parents emailing me and telling me that their child is hounding them to go to the library to check out Mo Willems books or go into the book store to buy one.  They are amazed that their 5 year old has a favorite author and is asking to go to the public library or the book store.
7. Chalk by Bill Thomson- This is one of the BEST wordless books I have ever read.  I bought it last summer and used it last year to "prove" to my students that they CAN read.  The first step in kindergarten is often helping the students realize all they are capable of and redefining reading for them.   I had them "read" the book to me by orally telling each other what was happening in the story and sharing it with the group.   They were in shock as they realized that they were making meaning out of work on a printed page.  They ARE readers.  I can't imagine not having this incredible book now to help the children cross this bridge to confidence in themselves.  Love this book!
8.  Miss Tizzy by Libba Moore Gray- I absolutely love Miss Tizzy!  One of my favorite college professors, Dr. Lynn Kirkland, who really helped spark my love of children's literature read this book to us in a class one day.  I have read it every year since.  The children love the story and can really connect to it.  Miss Tizzy really reminds me of the kind of teacher I want to be.  One that focuses on what really matters, cares about children, dares to be different.....and gives all that she can.

9.  Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco- This book is one that I cannot ever read all the way through without tearing up.  This is a true story about young Patricia Polacco and her struggle to learn to read and a teacher who found a way to help her.   This story is one of perseverance and struggle and success.  The children are in awe at the end of the story to learn that the story is about the author and illustrator.   This book changed who I was as a teacher and restores my teaching spirit every time I read it.

10. Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider and Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin-  Okay, I'm bending the rules a little but I can't decide.  These are some of the funniest books I've read and my students ALWAYS love them and can't wait to get their hands on them.  They are witty and clever and I laugh every time.   It is so much fun to see children delight in a book and these books always bring that joy!

It was nearly impossible to narrow down this list.   I often genuinely say to my students, "This is one of my favorite books," as I begin a new story.  And, they tell me...."You always say that!!"  But it is so true!  It is terrible that this list doesn't include any Cynthia Rylant books.  She is one of my very favorite authors.....but at the start of this new school year, my mind is on the books that bring kids joy and promote a love of books and reading.  It is such an important thing for beginning readers to find that book that really lights their passion for reading.

And a shout out to Twitter.  I feel like I have "met" new teacher friends this summer through twitter.   Cathy Mere, thanks so much for always sharing your thinking.   I appreciate you!   I can't wait to read everyone else's list.   Cathy will be linking them at her blog.  Be sure to check them out.   I would love to hear your favorites if you want to comment here.