Top 10 Books to Use in the Classroom

My list of Top 10 Books to Use in the Classroom consists of five for grades K-2 and five for grades 4-6.  I chose each one primarily because I feel the story contains information presented in a way that is meant to be shared.  As a read aloud there is opportunity for discussion of the material but in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

alphabet  counting on frank  zin zin zin  cazuela  alexander  alligators  gabriela  american plague  bad news for outlaws  a gathering of days

  1. A Prairie Alphabet by Jo Bannatyne-Cugnet is a collection of words and themes as it pertains to life on the North American plains, in particular farming.  The vocabulary would be very familiar to children living in the western panhandle of Nebraska but it would be very eye opening and educational to a group of city dwellers who are unfamiliar with where their food comes from.  The drawings in this book are so realistic and rich in detail that it would be easy to spark a discussion.
  2. Counting On Frank by Rod Clement was chosen for its large bold artwork and unique situations that are perfect for inspiring a discussion on fractions, volume, counting, and measurement.  Sample activities are listed at the back of the book.
  3. Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss offers a lively expressive description of the instruments in an orchestra.  This would be a great read aloud to initiate discussion as part of music class or prior to a field trip to the orchestra.
  4. The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos is written in fun sing-song verse that is partly bilingual.  In fact when I read it I put it to a tune.  I chose it because the illustrations are bright and lively and it would be a great addition to encourage cultural diversity.
  5. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst is a delightful story of a boy who describes his worst day ever.  He is in a bad mood and he doesn’t smile much throughout the book.  It provides the perfect opportunity to discuss feelings and the importance of respecting each other.
  6. Alligators and Music by Donald L. Elliott contains accurate descriptions of the instruments in an orchestra as narrated by the instruments themselves.  This would be a great accompaniment to a music class as a read aloud to initiate discussion of the purpose of each instrument individually and as a whole when played together in an orchestra.
  7. My Name is Gabriela/Me llamo Gabriela (Bilingual): The Life of Gabriela Mistral/la vida de Gabriela Mistral by Monica Brown tells the story of Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American woman to receive the Nobel prize in Literature.  The story illustrates her passion for education, poetry, and teaching with bright colorful pictures and bilingual passages.  I would use this to encourage cultural diversity as well as initiate discussion on the Nobel Prize.
  8. An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy is a historically accurate account of a plague that wiped out thousands of people during the end of the eighteenth century.  This book is so interesting that when it is read to students they will want to pay attention because the story is so intriguing.  It reads like a mystery novel and is a real page turner.  It will not feel like they are learning history.
  9. Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U. S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson is a beautifully illustrated and historically accurate account of a former slave who became a U.S. Marshal in Indian Territory prior to Oklahoma becoming a state.  Reading it aloud will capture the class’s attention and spark a discussion on the early days of post slavery and western expansion in our country.
  10. A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal, 1830-32 by Joan W. Blos is a collection of journal entries by a young girl in New England.  One of the reasons I chose it as a read aloud for older students is that it is written in language as it was spoken in the early nineteenth century.  Reading it to students will allow for explanations of what they don’t understand and will stimulate free discussion of the social, political, and cultural aspects of growing up during that time.  Children went to school but learned from a speller filled with Bible quotations; girls were taught only the basics of mathematics; slavery was still legal but only in certain parts of the country.

2 thoughts on “Top 10 Books to Use in the Classroom

  1. Wow, great review on an American Plague and A Gathering of Days. Those were great books I was able to read this semester. I agree that having a diary entry read aloud makes a lot of sense. You kind of embody that character when you speak her diary entries. Good job!


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