Picture Book 10 for 10: My Top Ten Favorite Books About Community

I am excited to participate in this year’s Picture Book 10 for 10 hosted by Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning and Cathy Mere of Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community.

Here’s my list of ten books to share with students as you work to build and strengthen your classroom community throughout the year:


One of my new favorite picture books is Because You Are My Teacher written by Sherry North and illustrated by Marcellus Hall. Throughout this story, the students experience wondrous adventures together as they learn about the world – a learning community at its finest.


Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss, Jack Prelusky, & Lane Smith also helps to reinforce the idea of community and its importance in our learning as students and teachers work together to meet their goals.


Each time I read the book Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, I am inspired by Alice’s dedication to her dreams and her quest to make the world more beautiful. She learns the meaning and value of community in her travels and at home.


The Mitten by Jan Brett is a fun reminder that community members need to share and look out for one another.


The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord is another book that helps students focus on the idea of what a community is. In this story it takes a village to succeed, through cooperation and each person using his/her unique abilities and resources.


Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes illustrates what can happen when there are problems in communities as well as what can happen when those differences are resolved. Communities are strongest when everyone feels valued.


Nora the Nonapus, written and illustrated by fifth-grade students of Estes Hills Elementary in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, provides some unique insights into the feelings various members in our community may have. It covers the insecurities and embarrassment that often come from being “different,” how bullying hurts others, and the bravery it takes to stand up and do what is right.


Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox is another favorite. In this story, community is created as a young boy takes time to listen and learn about the people around him, building friendships and sharing memories along the way.


Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is another story that illustrates the importance of sharing our skills and talents with those around us. Just like snowflakes, we are all different. Bentley’s community (and the world!) was blessed by his love of snowflakes through the research and pictures he shared.


The Impossible Patriotism Project by Linda Skeers is a favorite book to share around President’s Day. However, its message is fitting during any time of year. It’s important to remember those missing from our communities. Communication is key to keeping those bonds strong.

And there you have it, my (current) top ten, which I am sure will change the next time I discover a new favorite book. 🙂

What stories do you like to share with your students to help the community building process in your classroom?

Prepare for Launch: International Literacy Day is coming!

“Lift Off to Literacy” is the International Reading Association‘s theme for this year’s International Literacy Day, September 8, 2014.

Chosen to help inspire students to reach for the stars, this theme is also a challenge for teachers to help launch students’ literacy habits “by devoting an additional 60 seconds of literacy activities each day for 60 days. Celebrate ILD and share the message that developing a habit of reading, writing, listening, and speaking leads to lifelong literacy success.”

The IRA is offering free printables, an activity kit, and more. Check out the resources here and prepare for “Lift Off!”

How will you include an additional 60 seconds of literacy activities in your class each day?

Here are a few of my ideas:

  • See how fast your students can alphabetize the class list – on paper or by physically standing/sitting in alphabetical order.
  • Collect food labels and have students do a quick sort by brand, certain ingredients, or number of servings.
  • Share a poem.
  • Make lists of rhyming words.
  • Post a picture and have a “Caption this!” contest.
  • Try out some tongue twisters.

First Friday Freebie #4: Action Verbs

When the Fly Flew In, written by Lisa Westberg Peters and illustrated by Brad Sneed, is another one of my favorite books. Full of descriptive action verbs and imagery, this story takes readers on a ride as a fly unknowingly assists a young boy in cleaning his room.

Use this free worksheet I created to help your students identify action verbs for each animal in the story (click here for pdf file).


additional resources:

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I’ve also added another set of Daily Visual Challenges to my TpT store. First person to contact me gets a free copy.


Visual Literacy in Action: Daily Visual Challenge

I used a version of these Daily Visual Challenges with my third grade classes, and I’ve been working on updating them into a format that can be shared. I just posted the first set (for February) in my TPT store. You can preview the Daily Visual Challenges here and download a free sampler.


DVC_phoneI’ve found them to be a great way to incorporate more visual literacy practice into each school day. They encourage students to be observant, train them to strengthen their memory recall, and provide them with opportunities to dive in and explore meanings of visuals.

How do you incorporate visual literacy practice into your day?

Olive and other Miss Takes

Misunderstandings can lead to all kinds of trouble, embarrassment, and (thankfully!) occasionally adventure, but they are not something that we want to abound in the classroom.

Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster by Debra Frasier illustrates the importance of both correct spelling and comprehension when learning new vocabulary. It’s a great story to open up the lines of communication with your students and encourage them to seek help when in doubt. It also shows how initiative and creativity can aid the learning process.

book resources:

Scholastic – Miss Alaineus lesson plan (K-5th)

ReadWriteThink – Learning to Learn with Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster (3rd-5th)

slideshow introducing vocabulary, strategy and skill (5th)

McGraw-Hill – interactive online activities

Creating Vocabularians: Word Connoisseursstrategies for strengthening students’ vocabulary and celebrating words

*in case you’re wondering where the blog post title comes from 🙂

In Other Words

Looking for more resources to help your students with grammar and vocabulary development? Here are some of my favorite books for that:

Many Luscious Lollipops: A Book About Adjectives, by Ruth Heller

Many Luscious Lollipops: A Book About Adjectives, by Ruth Heller

You can learn more about Heller’s World of Language series here and by clicking on the books below.

A Cache of Jewels and Other Collective Nouns, by Ruth HellerKites Sail High: A Book About VerbsBehind the Mask: A Book about Prepositions, by Ruth Heller


I and You and Don’t Forget Who: What is a Pronoun? by Brian P. Cleary

I And You And Don't Forget Who: What Is a Pronoun?, by Brian P. Cleary

Brian P. Cleary also has a book series dedicated to helping students understand the English language. Check out his amazing interactive site here. You can learn more about Cleary’s Words are Categorical books (which are illustrated by Jenya Prosmitsky) here and here and by clicking on the covers below.

Pitch and Throw, Grasp and Know: What Is a Synonym?, by Brian P. ClearyDearly, Nearly, Insincerely: What Is An Adverb?, by Brian P. ClearyBut and For, Yet and Nor: What Is a Conjunction?, by Brian P. Cleary


Dear Deer: A Book of Homophones, written and illustrated by Gene Barretta

Dear Deer: A Book of Homophones, by Gene Barretta


If You Were an Adjective, written by Michael Dahl and illustrated by Sara Gray

If You Were an Adjective, by Michael Dahl


Punctuation Takes a Vacation, written by Robin Pulver and illustrated by Lynn Rowe Reed

Punctuation Takes a Vacation, by Robin Pulver


In a Pickle: And Other Funny Idioms, written by Marvin Terban and illustrated by Giulio Maestro

In a Pickle: And Other Funny Idioms, by Marvin Terban


Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference! written by Lynne Truss and illustrated by Bonnie Timmons

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference! by Lynne Truss

online resources:

Word Structure (prefixes, suffixes, roots)



Taller than a newborn calf…

Vocabulary… such an essential part of comprehension.

When readers cannot connect meanings to words in a story and/or lack prior knowledge to truly understand key details, comprehension suffers. Pictures and videos can help to fill in these blanks for readers, making the reading experience richer and more meaningful. With the use of the Internet, opportunities for helping our students expand their vocabulary and understanding abound.

Programs like Picnik (which sadly is closing in April) make it easy to create vocabulary cards like these for some of the key words in the picture book Snowflake Bentley:

For more complex concepts like evaporation and the photography process, there are a variety of videos available:     Evaporation     Water Cycle

And if your students want to see a photo of the camera that was “taller than a newborn calf and cost as much as [Bentley’s] father’s herd of ten cows,” visit this site and then check out this page for more info on bellows cameras from the 1800s.

As time and resources allow, students could also search for examples to expand their own vocabularies and knowledge, having fun along the way learning what a difference a picture can make.