I have started planning out my school year and even though my school follows a monthly calendar I like to break my planning up by season first. I want to make sure I am exploring each season fully with my class. As I dig through my notes I wrote on last school year’s lesson plans what stands out the most are the book titles. I thought you might like to have a list of books organized by season too. You can use this list for rotating books or even as a library list ready made for your whole year. Many of these books are must read picture books that can be read anytime but are even better when kids can connect what they are reading to what they are experiencing presently.
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Must Read Picture Books For Summer
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey is a true classic, written in 1948 it’s a simple tale about a little girl and her mom collecting blueberries to can. While mama pics them, Sal eats them and wanders off but they aren’t the only mama and baby out gathering blueberries. This book is chill and sweet and the black and white illustrations make the readers feel like they are on the top of the mountain gathering blueberries too.
Otto Goes to the Beach by Todd Parr. I really enjoy this book and so have my kids. Otto is a dog who goes to the beach, but no one wants to do the same things as he does, even the fish swim the other way. In the end after feeling very sad Otto finds a new friend and all his misery is forgotten. I love Todd Parr books, I love the insanely bright colors, the cute simplistic illustrations and I love the messages they send. This book followed his other books perfectly and provided a great final message about not giving up finding a friend who will like all the same things you do!
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman is the first picture book I have ever read that is all about an LGBT Pride parade. I loved the book and both my children loved the illustrations. If you have never been to a pride parade read this book to see what you are missing, I took my son to the pride parade in San Francisco when we lived there in 2007 and it was amazing. Children can learn a lot from experiencing the joy and community of a pride parade, learning that just marching in a parade like this was once impossible. There are families and children at the parade and that gives parents and opportunity to teach their own children who might be unfamiliar with pride why they are there.
Mighty Casey by James Preller is a cute and funny story about an awful little league team who rallies and finally wins one game. Every parent who has ever watched a little league game will recognize a few familiar behaviors in this book. The kid who decided to pee during the game, on the field, will get a ton of laughs from your little readers. The heart of this book is that even if the odds are stacked against you, don’t give up until the game is done!
How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A by Marjorie Priceman didn’t disappoint one bit. I was worried after falling in love with How To Bake An Apple Pie and See The World that this couldn’t live up to my expectations. It did! This time she wasn’t looking for ingredients for the pie, but rather materials for her tools. She gathered wood in Washington for her rolling pin, cotton in Louisiana for pot holders granite in New Hampshire for her pastry slab and more. What I wasn’t expecting from this book and loved was how she gathered natural resources and then processed them to make what she needed. I think this is a wonderful lesson about manufacturing and could be used for a launchpad for learning about so much more. Another gem I will be adding to my must buy list.
Cowboy Camp by Tammi Sauer is funny and touching all at the same time. Avery is off to Cowboy Camp to learn how to be a real cowboy, only one problem, every lesson turns into a disaster. He can’t stomach cowboy food, he is allergic to his horse and ends up on a cow instead, and he gets rope burn when he is learning to lasso. After the other campers head to bed Avery encounters the nefarious Bad Bart a bad cowboy who wants to stop cowboy camp, Avery outwits him and saves the day. I loved that there was no teasing from the other campers and each time Avery came to an obstacle he was offered an alternative (cheese and crackers to eat, a cow to ride and yarn to lasso with) instead of simply sitting out. Great book to read before summer camp!
Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach by Melanie Watt is so funny. I love books like this that have absurd humor thrown in. Before you even read the story on the inside flap you will notice a blurb that ends with “This story is not suitable for pirates” it just makes me giggle! The story follows the most anxious squirrel you’ll ever encounter as he tries to make his own beach, only to end up at a busy one! What I love about this book are the details, the small asides will have you laughing and the main story will keep even young ones totally entertained. My son loved it especially the part about the pool being the ocean and the flashlight being the sun, even at two he was trying to tell the squirrel how wrong that was. Super fun and a great message about overcoming fears as well.
Apple Pie Fourth of July by Janet S. Wong is an awesome book. I am always awed by authors who can tackle complicated “adult” issues in the pages of a children’s book successfully. In this case the issue is 1st generation identity and immigration, at least that’s my take. The little girl in this book is sulking around her parent’s store on the 4th of July. They are busy making Chinese food for customers she is sure won’t come, who would want Chinese food on such an American holiday is her rational. Of course, there are layers about her connection to her ancestral culture and her own national pride. As a proud owner of a green card and a Canadian passport, I relate to this story, sure the differences are as deep or as obvious to an outsider but unlike the previous book when this book ended with fireworks I got tingles of pride for my adopted country. Fantastic book and my son liked it too.
Beach Party! by Harriet Ziefert and Simms Taback reminds me of “Head to Toe” by Eric Carle , and that comparison is a compliment. This large board book is a fun and cute way to introduce toddlers to movement as well as animals you find or want to avoid at the beach. The reader is asked how they want to walk today then they see how each animal moves. This would be a fun read for a circle time where kids could get up and move like the animals in the book.
Must Read Picture Books For Fall
A Plump and Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman is such a cute and funny book about a town that needs a turkey and the hilarious lengths they go to to find one. The town is sadly outwitted by the turkey and end up eating shredded wheat for thanksgiving. The illustrations kept my little man interested when he was a toddler but he only started understanding the dark humor at around 4. I love this book because of the humor makes me giggle. My son was a little off put by the idea of the towns folk eating the turkey and was relieved when he escaped before they shoved him in the oven. I like that he is starting to understand that the meat he eats is actually a cooked animal, we take that for granted but for many young kids this is a huge realization!
Inside a House That Is Haunted by Alyssa Satin Capucilli was the hands down favorite Halloween book for my 3-year-old class in 2005. I must have read this 200 times and even after Christmas had come and gone it was still requested all the time. The story is a rebus read along, so it is repetitive and it builds upon itself. This is great for children who are eager to “read along” before they are able to read words. The repetitiveness allows them to anticipate what is next and feel included. Very cute even after reading it so many times.
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat! by Lucille Colandro was a huge hit! It’s a reworking of the classic song “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly” only this one swallows a whole bunch of Halloween creatures, like a goblin, ghost, and of course a bat. She continues to swallow bigger and bigger things much to my son’s amazement! He was giggling through the whole book and the end when the old lay belches he laughed hysterically. It was predictable but I have to admit was a really fun, silly read.
Duck for President by Doreen Cronin is probably the first book most teachers will mention when you ask for a picture book about elections. It’s a great book about a duck who overthrows his farmer and ends up moving up in politics until he is elected President. With each step on the political ladder Duck realizes that he doesn’t like the job and wants something better only to discover that with each move up the workload increases too. I love that that teaches readers that being a leader isn’t about being the bossy one but rather having the most responsibility. My son got that immediately and it opened a good dialog about what he thought being President really is like. I also love the book because there is a good dose of humor that only the adults will appreciate.
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg has a special spot in my heart. It’s a book about not wanting to go to a new school, the first day is always the hardest and it’s easier to just stay in bed! The beauty of this book isn’t just the recognition of the anxiety about the first day but in the end, the twist is that it’s the teacher who has the jitters, not a student. I love this book and the power it has to help anxious kids, I have read it more than once to a jittery child and see how it can help first hand.
Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes by James Dean is a special school book for our family. At my son’s kindergarten orientation, the teacher read this to her class and the prospective students and it’s been a favorite ever since. The book follows Pete who is a cool cat with rockin’ shoes. He heads to school and while he isn’t exactly sure of how things work he doesn’t worry, he just goes with the flow. There is no way you will be able to read this book without smiling, it’s so chill and relaxed and plain fun. Both my kids love it and I love the repetitive questions about Pete and his reactions to new situations and answer each one every time we read it. Not many of these books are must buy, but I would add this to your shopping list it’s that good!
Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio is fantastic. The very best part of this book is on the first page when the main character a little girl named Grace exclaims “Where are the girls?” in response to her teacher hanging up a poster of all the presidents. If I wasn’t in a tent in the backyard while reading this with my son I would have stood up and given Grace a standing ovation. I can’t wait to read this to my daughter in a few years. I love how shocked the character is and I was really happy that my son was surprised that there have been no female presidents as well. Grace decides to run for president in the mock election for her grade at school and be the change. My love for this book doesn’t end with the wonderful example of basic feminism because next up the author tackles something oh so tricky – The Electoral College. The author does a great job explaining what can be a very confusing system used for American presidential elections and I bet more than a few parents reading this to their kids will get something out of it too. The story of Grace and her own campaign is sweet as well but the brilliance of this story are the complex lessons broken down so well for a young audience.
A Friend for All Seasons by Julia Hubery is a gem! The book explains the change of seasons in a fun and easy to understand way for young children. Readers follow along with Robbie Raccoon as he notices the changes that are happening around his home, a big oak tree. My favorite part of this book was when Robbie and a few woodland friends notice that the tree’s leaves are falling and they assume he is crying, so they give him a hug. I loved that! Robbie’s mama raccoon explains the changes and before they go to sleep for a long time during winter’s dark days, they plant 5 acorns. This was a fun part of the book because I had my son predict what would happen. I liked that it gives parents an opportunity to extend this into a science lesson about seeds, and an oak tree’s life cycle. Sure enough when Spring comes there are tiny baby oaks waiting for Robbie when he awakens. I loved this book and would recommend it happily!
Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara is on my must buy list! A little girl moves into house and soon finds out it is haunted. Luckily she is a witch and knows just what to do. The ghosts in the story seem mischievous but never scary and even when she washes them in the washing machine, they are still smiling! My son loved this book, the text was the perfect length for a 3 year old, short but still descriptive. I loved the simple black and orange colors and had to look at the copyright twice because I was certain this was written sometime in the 30s, nope 2008. The simplicity of the book and colors is balanced so well with the little details like the little girl’s constant companion, a white cat that puts on a black costume when the little witch pops on her hat. This detail had my son in stitches, “Cats don’t wear clothes, silly cat!” . Absolutely a perfect Halloween book for children not yet ready to be scared for fun!
This First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story by Laura Krauss Melmed is a stunning gem of a book. I can’t believe I haven’t read it before, normally great books like this go through teaching circles like wildfire. The book has so many layers it will keep toddlers and preschoolers alike busy and engaged. The text explains the first Thanksgiving while counting 1-10 in rhyming poetry and the illustrations by Mark Buehner have hidden treasures, see if you can find them! After I return this to the library, I will be buying it for sure!
Leaves by David Ezra Stein is such a sweet book about a young bear who doesn’t understand what is happening when he sees leaves falling from the trees. He even tries to put them back on but it doesn’t work. Eventually he lays down for a nap and hibernates until Spring when he happily notices that there are new tiny leaves budding on the trees. Both my kids loved this book. I got it out of the library for my toddler who loved it and while reading it to her I had to start over so her almost 6 year old brother could listen from the start. We each took our own things from it, my daughter has been noticing the changes of Fall for the first time just like the bear in the story. My son took the chance to tell me all about hibernation and everything he knows about it. I thought it was bittersweet, and related to how quickly the years seem to pass and how quickly my little bears are changing too. A really lovely book!
Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington is another instant favorite in our house. My son loves this author and I like how simple but informative this book is. Your little reader will learn about the basics of what happens at an apple orchard , but you can take it further if you want. On many of the pages there are chances to learn more, like the page about sorting and classifying, where there are apples ready to count 1-10, and sorted by colors. I love the last page that says that Annie is so happy to have her own apple farm. I loved that message and think it’s a lot more powerful than some may think, women on farms in most books are “farmer’s wives” and I love that there is no one but Annie doing her own thing.
Must Read Picture Books For Winter
The Mitten by Jan Brett is visually impeccable, each page is so full of details that you will find yourself staring at them long after you have read the words. The story is about a little boy who looses a mitten and what happens next. It’s a sweet retelling of a Ukrainian folk tale but the detailed and layered illustrations really steal the show! My kids love this book but when I told them this same story they told me they hate folk tales. The illustrations by Brett bring this story to life much better than I could obviously!
My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Christine King Farris. Teaching preschoolers about history is tricky, but you can do it, you just have to break it down and give them bits they can relate to. This book does a fantastic job, while reading it I always have to hold in tears, it is just such a unique look at the childhood of a man who’s dreams changed the world. What I love about this book is that the majority of it is about his childhood and children can relate so much more easily to him as a child growing up then simply as this great man on the podium. Kids always love learning that he played pranks on people just like they like to do. The author explains prejudice and segregation in a straightforward and simple way so that children can understand and reflect on how it feels to be treated like that. The book doesn’t ignore the great accomplishments and wonderful man the little boy became but does a wonderful job making Dr. King into a hero your child can feel something in common with, and in return become more interested about.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic. Some classics are the type of books that lose their relevance and leave readers wondering what the hype is about. This book is timeless. A little boy goes exploring in the snow and discovers his world in a new way. The illustrations are magical and the way that they convey the emotions this little boy experiences throughout the day are nothing short of perfect.
Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat: A Chanukah Story by Naomi Howland is a Hanukkah story about kindness repaid and how things can go awry. Sadie is a kind young woman and after she offers her firewood to an older woman who is cold the older woman repays her with a magic frying pan. This pan magically makes latkes , as many as you want if you say the magic words . Her hungry brothers are overjoyed, their bellies are full but as often happens, they get greedy. See the frying pan will keep cooking and cooking unless you know the magic words to make it stop, and her brothers didn’t hear those words. Mayhem ensues but the family and village find a way to make the mountains of latkes into a celebration. Beware you will be craving latkes after reading this, luckily there is a recipe.
Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara is another fantastic book that will have you aching for snow. A little boy is lonely after his friends have all gone into hibernation for the winter when Jack Frost shows up. They frolic and play exploring all the fun that winter has to offer friends but when the first signs of spring arrive Jack is gone. The illustrations are perfectly simple and will suck you into a wintery world that you won’t want to leave. My kids love this book and after one reading at the library we bought our own copy.
Snowbots by Aaron Reynolds is funky, fun , and full of really awesome rhymes. The robot reality is a sweet one and my kids totally dug this book. We were picking favorite robots in the first few pages and loving the book more and more as we read it. The story is a familiar one but with the substitution of robots instead of humans basic snow day things get more interesting. My son loved the snowball fight and my daughter was all over the pink robot. I loved how they had cereal with gasoline and an oil bath. A huge hit with all of us.
Valentine’s Day by Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell is a lovely book with a cute twist. The story follows a class making special valentines for each other, some are very touching others goofy. The story doesn’t reveal who the Valentine’s are for. There are pictures of the same girl with the various students though so after a while you are clued into that they are for her we still don’t know why. I was so worried she was sick in the hospital, as it turns out the class goes to the post office to send it away to a classmate that is far far away! I like the idea of a class all writing to a friend far away, focusing on friendship and not candy! I also love any book that causes my son to say “Let’s go see a map of where she lives mama!”
This Next New Year by Janet Wong is a great new book about Chinese New Year. I read it with my kids after dinner and they booth really enjoyed it. My daughter liked the illustrations and the text itself was short enough to keep my 2-year-old interested too. What this book did a great job of doing was explaining a few of the differences between Chinese New Year and New Year of January 1st and lots of the traditions. My son related well to the main character, a little boy about his age, and had a ton of questions after the book that the author actually addressed in an authors note at the end. Great book for PreK and up.
Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson is such a heartwarming story about friendship. Bear is hibernating but his friends wake him up to celebrate Christmas. It’s not easy at first, Bear is super sleepy and wants nothing more than to cuddle back up and fall back to sleep. They get a tree, decorate it, hang their stockings and sing carols. When all the other animals snuggle in and go to sleep Bear stays up. He is busily making gifts for all his friends, he is so busy he doesn’t even notice Santa coming and filling the stockings. He delights in the friendship and when his friends present him with a lovely quilt, he snuggles under and goes back to sleep happy and filled with friendship. This is such a wonderful book , I love it’s focus on friendship and the excitement of giving gifts!
Must Read Picture Books For Spring
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a classic, that most preschool teachers like myself can recite from memory. It really is a fantastic book, not only does it explain the life cycle of a caterpillar/ butterfly it also is useful for lesson about day of the week and healthy eating! It was a childhood favorite of mine and if the fact that he fell asleep holding his “Pillar” is any indication it is already one of my son’s favorites too!
Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino is a classroom favorite, I don’t know many preschool teachers who can’t recite this book by heart. Readers follow Lloyd the llama as he riddles his way through a bunch of animals until he finds the one he calls mom. I like the mix of animals in this book, a little different than your average zoo or farm collection.
Butterfly Butterfly: A Book of Colors by Petr Horaeck is such a wonderful book! I love the simple text and engaging story about a little girl who is trying to find the butterfly that she saw the day before. In her attempts, she finds many other colorful bugs in her garden. At the end of the book is a beautiful pop-up butterfly that will delight your little readers. I read this to a class of 2 and 3-year-olds who were glued to every page and both my kids who are 3 and 7 loved it as well. Great book!
The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story About Recycling by Alison Inches is awesome! I only wish that my son was old enough to enjoy it as much as I did. It’s not aimed at 2-year-olds at all, but he did like to open it to the page with the recycling truck and point out all the parts to me. The book itself takes the reader through the complete process from crude oil, to bottle and then to synthetic fleece. I am not too proud to admit I learned s a few new things and had a few good laughs along the way with the books little bits of humor too. I think most 5-year-olds would enjoy this book, and it’s easy to break it down for those unable to sit for this much text. Also, the book was printed on 100% post-consumer waste paper.
Because I Am Your Daddy by Sherry North is a cute rhyming book about all the things a dad would do for his daughter if he had various jobs. The rhyming text works well but the illustrations by Marcellus Hall steal the show. They are fun and detailed enough for kids to loose themselves in them. I like the idea of a parent imagining with their child, it’s such an important skill and is often pushed aside as not worth doing. Lovely book.
The EARTH Book by Todd Parr is a great Earth Day book for preschoolers and young elementary aged kids. It focuses on small everyday steps kids can take to help the environment as well as how these little everyday measures help. The way the text is written it begs for discussion whether you are reading it to a class of 25 or in bed with your only child. Add om Parr’s wonderfully whimsical, bright, bold illustrations and you have a super Earth Day book.
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger is the perfect book to introduce life cycles to young kids. It doesn’t go into great detail, but it doesn’t have to it is perfectly effective just the way it is. Each page shows one stage like a seed and the following the result of a flower. My son loved this book and I think older children would too, it’s simple but isn’t infantile. If your child is in the “Why?” stage be prepared for a long but fun and informative story time!
Have You Seen My Duckling? by Nancy Tafuri is a wonderful book with minimal text but a call to action for the readers. On every page the mama duck asks other animals in the pond if they have seen her missing duckling and with close inspection of each illustration readers can find that little one just beyond her mama’s gaze. Kids love to feel like they know something that others don’t and this simple book taps into that while giving adults a chance to talk about all sorts of animals and even opening a dialog about wandering off and getting lost.
Zinnia’s Flower Garden by Monica Wellington is really useful not just about teaching about flowers and gardens, but also about patience and the annual cycle of a garden. Zinnia plants and waits, waters, enjoys her flowers, then they die, she collects the seeds and plans her garden for next year. I love that the main story is perfect for my almost three year old but there is much more for older children with longer attention spans. There is a little journal with notes about what’s happening with her garden, and various facts about plants as well. Like in so many of her books the author celebrates hard work and her characters take great pride in what they do. A fantastic message for readers, big and little. I also love the mix of illustration and photographs in this book especially, it gives the illustrations depth and a really interesting look.
Big Earth, Little Me by Thom Wiley is a cute introduction into an environmental theme for toddlers. The book is a lift the flap format and the pages are extra sturdy for fumbly toddler fingers. I love the illustrations by Kate Endle they bring the super simple text to life and get across the point that even little kids can help the earth. My students loved this book and during quiet reading time many would hunt down the book to read while classmates finished up their snack. It was a favorite for certain!