Sunday, July 7, 2013

Top 10 (or more!) Back to School Read Alouds: Love of Reading

What read alouds are your MUST READS during the first few weeks of school? In the next few weeks, I am going to share groups of read alouds that I use for various purposes at the beginning of the year.

One of the main focuses of my read alouds for the first few weeks of school is a "love of reading." Here are some of my favorite read alouds to use to provide students with a variety of perspectives on having a great reading life and developing (or continuing) an appreciation for and love of reading:

Aunt Chip and the Triple Creek Dam Affair, Patricia Polacco
(All time favorite for Reading Life!) What happens to a town when a tv tower comes along? Books become furniture, props, pot-hole fillers. Can Aunt Chip, the town's old librarian bring Triple Creek back to life with a love of story, books, and the printed word? 

Thank You, Mr. Falker, Patricia Polacco
I'm sure you are familiar with this one, but Patricia Polacco was a struggling reader herself. Mr. Faulker was a teacher who made a difference in her reading life.

The Bee Tree, Patricia Polacco
When Mary-Ellen gets tired of reading, grandfather shows her how to follow the bees to a tree with honey. "Just like we ran after the bees to find their tree, so you must also chase these things adventure, knowledge, and wisdom through the pages of a book!"

•More than Anything Else, Marie Bradby
During Emancipation, Booker T Washington pursues learning to read. This reminds me of one of my favorite reading quotes, "Once you learn to read, you will forever be free!" (Frederick Douglass)

•That Book Woman, Heather Henson
That Book Woman makes her rounds throughout Appalachia and turns the most uninterested child into a reader.

The Wretched Stone, Chris Van Allsburg
The Wretched Stone entrances everyone when it is found. The men on this ship turn into monkeys and have a hard time thinking and remembering anything after watching the wretched stone for hours. (This is great for making inferences and discussing figurative vs literal--the wretched stone is a figurative television. Re-read the book after figuring this out to show students all the things Chris Van Allsburg says about the "wretched" television.)

Richard Wright and the Library Card, William Miller
What if you didn't have the right to get a library card? What if a love of reading was something you had to pursue with perseverance and at the risk of being caught? Our students don't know how blessed they are to have parents and teachers who try to instill in them a love of reading and who help them pursue reading, no matter their struggles. (set in the 1920's segregated south, Richard eventually learns to read and becomes a writer.)

The Librarian of Basra, Jeanette Winter  and Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq, Mark Alan Stamaty
When Alia, a librarian and lover of books, is caught in the war zone of Iraq, her love of reading transcends her fear of danger. She saves 30,000 books from being destroyed. These two books tell the same story, but Alia's Mission is more of a graphic novel.

•The Wednesday Surprise, Eve Bunting
This book has a twist. The granddaughter and grandmother read together every week. Throughout the book, you may be thinking the granddaughter is learning to read, but at the end you find out she has been teaching the grandmother how to read. Great for discussing illiteracy.

•Amber on the Mountain, Tony Johnston
Another story set in Appalachia. Anna comes along and teaches Amber how to read.

•The Library, Sarah Stewart
Elizabeth is a true bibliophile, so much so that her house is overflowing with books. Eventually, she has to figure out what to do with all of her books. This is a quick read in poetic form. Easy to squeeze in at some point during my back to school week!

• Please Bury Me in the Library, J Patrick Lewis (poetry)
Mix up your love of reading discussions and read alouds with a little poetry. Some of my favorites from this book are "Are You a Book Person?" and  "Please Bury Me in the Library."

This past week, I worked on polishing a "Reading Life" packet to help me with my first few weeks back to school. I created 15 reflection templates (in 1/2 page form) and 16 quotations about reading (these are in poster form and in a form that you can print for students to put into a reader response). This set of journal sheets and quotations are meant to initiate discussions and minilessons about a love of reading and to lead your students in carving out time for the best reading life they have ever had. I also like to participate in this reflection and share my own "reading life" goals with students (like trying to read more for myself, trying to read a book that one of them has recommended to me, etc.) IF YOU HAVE PURCHASED THIS PRODUCT, IT RECEIVED A BEAUTIFUL REVISION 6/26/2016, so please go re-download in your tpt account!

I made sheets of the quotations so that I can copy them and give them to students to analyze, to help us have discussions, and most importantly, to help me learn more about their reading lives so that I will have some ideas about how to help them have the best reading life ever!

I created 15 1/2 sheets to go into the "reading life" section of their journals. I will not use all of these at the beginning of the year, but I thought that the ones I do not use early in the year would be great for "boosters" when we need to revisit our reading life conversation (for example, when we return from our first break or as "New Year's" reflections for reading.
Last year, I called my Reading Life unit "Coaching Your Own Reading Life." I decided to divide students' reader response notebooks into four sections (these are included in my reading life product):

What is the purpose of each section?

My Reading Life holds beginning of the year “Reading Life” journal prompts, responses to quotes, and can contain responses to the end of classroom read alouds. We use an “I remember” structure to celebrate and respond to a book when we finish it.

Coach’s Huddle: a place to put handouts from the teacher, record notes from mini-lessons,etc.

Practice Time!: In this section, students respond to the classroom read aloud; it is used as a space for active engagement during mini-lessons and for students to practice a concept with teacher support.

Game Time: When students respond to their own reading (or book club books,) it’s GAME TIME. This is when students take what they have learned about reading and apply it with their own responses.

Students started to run out of pages in their marble notebooks this year. Some students glued another marble notebook to their first, so this year, I am just going to have everyone glue two together from the beginning of the year. How exciting! (Maybe I will tell you more about how much I LOOOOOOVED reader response this year~we instituted a 10 minute write right after minilesson and it did WONDERS!)

I hope you LOVE LOVE LOVE reading as much as I do. And, I especially love to turn my struggling, apathetic readers into READERS for life. I hope I am ready for whatever challenges my students have in store for me this year...only 7 more days until the first day of school! :)


  1. Love this post! I am always looking for good book recommendations. I love anything featuring Miss Malarky.


    1. Great minds think alike Emily- We wanted to comment on the same post!
      I like Miss Malarky books also but I absolutely love Thank You, Mr. Falker and any Patricia Polacco books for that matter. The Librarian of Basra and More Than Anything Else are other favorites of mine!

      Thanks for this very thorough post. So much good information for launching reading workshop. I bookmarked this page so I can refer back to it closer to the school year!

    2. Hi Antoinette, thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer! Wish I had a few more days :)

  2. I am so excited I found your blog! Looks like you have some AWESOME ideas for 5th! I am jumping up from 2nd to 5th this year - yikes! Looking forward to following you :)

    The Sweetest Thing
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    1. Lauren, thanks for stopping by! I hope you LOOOOOOOVE 5th graders. I sure do! Even when I taught 4th grade, I considered myself a 5th grade teacher in a different grade level (since I was looping with them, this made total sense!) Feel free to let me know if I can help with any resources or ideas.



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