Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Slice of Life Tuesday:Building a Community Through Books

One of the most important things a teacher needs to do in those first few days of school is to create a community. The classroom needs to be a place where the students feel safe. It needs to be a place where students can take a risk and know they will not be laughed at or ridiculed. When a child enters the classroom, he needs to know they he has joined a family of learners.

A way to build that community is through Read Alouds. Every year as a district coach, I would receive an email or phone call from the fourth or fifth grade teachers in one of the elementary schools  I worked in. The call would be asking if these teachers could borrow my "community" books. I would pack them up in a box or basket and head over to deliver them personally. There was just something about actually seeing the children who would be interacting with these books.

Now that I am retired that phone call never comes. I still have those books in one of my baskets here in my "space" at home.  Here are a few of my favorites and why they were picked to go in this beginning-of-the-year basket!

  • Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes: I always started my second grade year with this book. It was a way to show students that everyone is special and names are important. We then would do a study on where our names came from and where our parents got our name.
  • Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud: what a wonderful book on helping children to look outside themselves and think of others.
  • Don't Laugh at Me by Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin: this actually is a song. It again helps children to treat others as they would want to be treated.
  • Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna: This is an old story retold, but with a wonderful message everyone needs to be reminded of again and again. Be careful what you say, you can never get those words back.
  • Wolf! by Becky Bloom: This is a great book to show the power of reading. A great one to start off your independent reading time!
  • The Conversation Club by Diane Stanley: with the common core state standards emphasising the art of conversation, this book is a perfect way to kick off discussion about talking!

The last one I recommend for everyone. I used it many times in professional development as well as classrooms. Walk On! A Guide for Babies of All Ages by Marla Frazee. As you begin your new year, don't be afraid to take those first few steps. Yes, you may fall down, but get right back up and keep walking!

Let me know how your community of readers and writers is doing!



  1. Great suggestions of books, Kathleen! The Picture Book 10 for 10 that is hosted by Cathy Mere http://reflectandrefine.blogspot.com/2014/08/picture-book-10-for-10-being-brave.html is an incredible way to find wonderful books for read alouds, as well.

  2. I found one on Pinterest one day - "If She Only Knew." It is about a little boy who lives in poverty, and both wishes his teacher knew how hard some things were for him (getting homework done when he has to watch his brothers and sisters, going to school hungry), and that there are things he does know (things about how to get around in his community). Taking a cue from the writer, when I finish the read aloud, I hand out an index card and my students write down at least one thing they wished that I knew about them. The stuff they write is amazing. Sometimes they fill the front and back of the card. I like the books on your list too - and have used them.

  3. Great read alouds...I love Chrysanthemum, even for sixth grade!