Top Ten Picture Books for Read Alouds by Kate Olson
As an elementary school librarian, I am always looking for ways to connect my read alouds with other books I have shared with students, and build a community of books, reading and readers. One way I do this is by choosing specific picture book “series” for each grade level and making sure to read EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of the books in the series to that group throughout the school year. Or at least trying to, given the constraints of an elementary “specials” schedule! I adore seeing my first graders on the first day of school and telling them I’m SO EXCITED TO SEE THEM because this is their FROGGY year!!! And the second graders…….this is your OTIS and MARLEY year!!!! And yes, I do actually talk with exclamation marks – no one could ever accuse me of being blah or quiet in my library.
I choose these series based on the number of titles in each, and on the appeal to each grade level and/or curricular connections. It’s a major bonus when the series includes holiday and seasonal books to create excitement at those times of the year! Of course, these series/collections are not the only books I read to any given grade level during the year. However, these collections create a connection throughout the year that is a lot of fun for all of us. It also helps those students who struggle to select books in the library, because these are always easy-to-find options to re-read and share with families. I don’t call these author studies because in all honesty, we may or may not explore other books by the author, but these are all about the characters and stories!
Here are my current selections by grade level ~ it was hard narrowing it down to only ten! They all appeal to a wide variety of grade levels, but this is where I chose to place them in my lessons.
#1 – The “Bear” books by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman
These sweet books follow Bear and his woodland friends through different seasons and adventures, all with text that just begs for the reader to read in a song-song manner, and invites students to chime in.
#2 – The “Elmer” books by David McKee
Elmer is a patchwork elephant who is a poster-elephant for individuality and embracing differences. The first book in the series sets the scene, and the rest of the books all share this message along with other messages of inclusivity and kindness.
#3 – The “Click, Clack” books by Doreen Cronin
These funny animals rise up against their farmer in various adventures and get into all kinds of wacky trouble. Minimal text on each page make them a quick and fun read.
#4 – The “Elephant and Piggie” books by Mo Willems (not all pictured)
I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love these books! The books are written in dialogue through speech bubbles and share messages of sharing and friendship in a goofy way. Kids love trying to find the hidden pigeon on the inside back cover of each book as well.
#5 – The “Froggy” books (not all pictured) by Jonathan London and illustrated Frank Remkiewicz
Froggy is, in every book, more “red in the face than green” due to some silly mishap he finds himself in. He learns lots of lessons and is always with his friends and family while doing so, all accompanied by sound effects such as “zip zoot zut” that are a blast to read aloud.
#6 – The “Marley” books by John Grogan and illustrated by Richard Cowdrey
Marley, the famous dog from the “Marley and Me” book and movie has a wonderful family who are extremely tolerant of all of his “Marley-isms”. There is a book for every holiday and season and kids are always excited to see what this goofy dog is up to!
#7 – The “Otis” books by Loren Long
Otis is a tractor who lives on a quiet little farm with all of his animal friends. He reminds me of an old farmer, and helps take care of all of his friends and people. He helps rescue kittens, saves a horse’s life, and makes friends with a scarecrow, among other storylines.
#8 – The “Rosie Revere, Engineer” (and friends) books by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts
Rosie and her friends are all creators and show great things to kids about grit, growth mindset and STEAM topics. There are historical references and influences as well, but these are not biographies. They are great launching-off points for discussion and introduction to science/technology units.
# 9 – ”Ordinary People Change the World biographies by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos
This series of biographies presents the lives of famous people and historical figures in a cartoon-like way, making them perfect read alouds. They are written in first-person read like stories and have bobblehead characters speaking in speech bubbles throughout the stories along with traditional text.
#10 – Patricia Polacco “school” books
Polacco has written over 100 books for children, and so many of them are timeless classics. The ones I make sure to share with 5th graders are the ones about the teachers who inspired her to become the writer she is today. These teachers help her overcome challenges such as dyslexia and fear of public speaking. Make sure to to schedule a longer time period for these read alouds or split them into multiple sessions as I do.
I would love to hear from you about the series of books that you share with your students in your classrooms and libraries! Oh, a bonus #11 (that just turned into a series!) I’m so excited about is the “Gaston” collection by Kelly Dipucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson ~ with the second book, “Antoinette” just out, I can officially add this to my series list!
Kate Olson came to the library via a winding path through the business world and many areas of teaching before settling (ecstatically) in the library. She is the PK-12 librarian in a small rural school district in Wisconsin, and lives on the top of a giant hill in the middle of nowhere with her husband, 3 feisty children and a border collie named Max (possibly her favorite child). When not searching for “you know, that one book with the cover that might have a dog on it?”, she can be found happily reading, quilting or walking her dog (aka escaping the house to listen to an audiobook). She can be found on her blog The Loud Library Lady and on Instagram as @theloudlibrarylady and Twitter as @theloud_library.