Top Ten Books I Will Carry Over From 4th Grade to 6th by Adrienne Gillespie
Everything was different as I packed up my class in June. I was packing for a move, not just putting things away for a few months. After 12 years in a Title I elementary school, I was going back to teaching middle school. I am going to teach 6th grade Humanities in a program for the highly gifted. I am excited to make this enormous change but it presented a packing dilemma. Which books would transition well from my 4th grade classroom to my 6th grade room? Upon reflecting, I decided these are the books I cannot live without.
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Ferdinand likes to sit quietly and smell the flowers, but one day he gets stung by a bee and his snorting and stomping convince everyone that he is the fiercest bull.
This classic was my favorite as a kid. This was the first book I read and identified with the main character. I use this book to talk to students about my reading life in the hopes that they will talk to me about theirs.
A River of Words by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
As a boy, William Carlos William loved words but h knew he needed to earn a living. He went off to medical school and became a doctor, but never stopped writing poetry.
I worry that kids think everything they do has to be their job when they grow up. They play basketball to become an NBA star. They sing to become a famous performer. This simple story shows that something you love can become your avocation, in the way that Dr. Williams wrote just because he loved language. In addition to being a great introduction to the poetry of William Carlos Williams, the illustrations show creative ways to represent ideas.
The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin
The Doll family has lived in the same house for one hundred years and is taken aback when a new family of plastic dolls, The Funcraft family, arrives and doesn’t follow The Doll Code of Honor.
This is the first in a series that I think is overlooked by too many people. Like The Flintstones, this book has different levels if humor. It feels at times like social commentary more than a kid’s book. Since 6th graders are also embarking on a new adventure in middle school, it seems like a perfect crossover book.
Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
In his letters to his favorite author, ten-year-old Leigh reveals his problems in coping with his parents’ divorce, being the new boy in school, and generally finding his own place in the world.
An homage to the power of writing in an individual’s life, this book is deceptively simple. Although Leigh is a 6th grader, the book is usually read in grades lower than 6th. The reader sees how Leigh matures, as a human being and as a writer, over the course of the novel. Kids get this. This is a good book to reference through the year when you ask kids to reflect on their own growth as a writer.
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
Jack, a young student, comes to love poetry through a personal understanding of what different famous poems mean to him and surprises himself by writing his own poem.
Here we have another homage to the power of writing in an individual’s life, for many of the same reasons as I mentioned above.
Frindle by Andrew Cements
Nick Allen invents a new word and begins a chain of events that quickly moves beyond his control.
If you think of Frindle as an introduction to linguistics, it makes perfect sense to have it in a class if highly gifted 6th graders. I hope they like to play with language as much as I do. This book gets me thinking about words, power and culture.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
When a baby elephant is added to the mall, where he lives Ivan decides that he must find her a better life.
This is one of my heart books. I actually cried when I heard the announcement naming it the winner of the 2013 Newbery Awards. Although I suspect every 6th grader in my class will have some passing knowledge of this book, I hope that they’ve all actually read it or had it read to them. If not, I have multiple copies they can borrow.
Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories About Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka
Jon Scieszka grew up as one of six brothers. He attended Catholic school, read lots of comic books, spent lazy summers at the lake, and told jokes told at family dinner.
The entire book is made up of anecdotes from Sciezcka’s life that are almost too funny to be true. They are the sorts of stories that make you want to tell a funny story of your own.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
During the German occupation of Denmark in 1943, ten-year-old Annemarie learns how to be brave and courageous when she helps shelter her Jewish friend from the Nazis.
World War 2 was my dad’s childhood so he talked about it a lot with his kids. Kids today don’t necessarily have someone who can talk to them about those war years. This is a great introduction to the time period, offering factual information in a compelling story that let’s you see how the war impacted the lives of ordinary people. This is a book some kids read again and again.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.
Edward Tulane is a cold-hearted and proud toy rabbit who loves only himself. When he is separated from the little girl who adores him, he travels across the country, acquiring new owners and listening to their hopes, dreams, and histories.
This is another heart book. It is terribly sad, but I think it is good for kids to know that sometimes, if they are patient and brave, sorrow can turn to joy.
I have 19 boxes to move from my old school to my new school. Most of them are filled with books, really good books, but these are ten books that I put in a box of things to open first.
Adrienne Gillespie is a former school librarian and 4th grade teacher. She is excited to be returning to middle school language arts in September. You can follow her on Twitter at @adrienneelva or online at https://booksandbassets.wordpress.com.