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Growing Reader

7 Picture Books That Celebrate
Great Teachers

by Lindsay Barrett

celebrate teachers
Background credit: Diane Labombarbe, DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

I hope you have countless memories of your own treasured teachers — and, if you’re a parent, your kids’ teachers, too! Teachers are a diverse group. They vary in subject expertise, ages taught, passions, and where they fall on the spectrum from stern to huggable. The best ones share universal qualities, whether they preside over a daycare sandbox or a lecture hall: They work tirelessly to nurture the potential of each student, and they dole out wisdom from an endless well, year after year.

What better way to honor teachers than with poignantly crafted stories about them? These kids’ books starring and celebrating educators are prime examples.

  • Miss Bindergarten Has a Wild Day in Kindergarten

    by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff

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    This canine kindergarten teacher seems to have boundless energy across her many books, but even she succumbs to a few face-palm sighs and indignant hands-on-hips moments during this particularly trying day at school. Spills, mischief, injuries, and plenty of other mishaps abound. Despite it all, with true teacher-optimism, Miss Bindergarten relays an important closing lesson: Even the most unexpected days are full of opportunities for learning.

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  • How Rocket Learned to Read

    by Tad Hills

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    The teacher in this story may be a tiny yellow bird, but it bears the cheerful persistence and reverence for learning indicative of a true educator. When Rocket’s nap spot happens to be under the tree that the bird designated as its classroom, the bird introduces Rocket to “the wondrous, mighty, glorious alphabet.” Rocket’s hooked — he simply must learn to read. This charming tale characterizes the interplay between a teacher who presents worthy goals and a student ready to reach for them.

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  • Here Comes Teacher Cat

    by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda

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    Ms. Melba’s classroom at Kitty Elementary needs a substitute teacher. While reluctant at first — teaching seems demanding, and definitely cuts into nap time — Cat agrees to step in. Soon, he brings unexpected flair to the role. This twist on the traditional teacher tale shows how anyone can find their inner teacher if they’re open to it, and just how important diverse role models are for students.

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  • The Day You Begin

    by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

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    If you’re feeling out of place or unsure of yourself, a teacher can be particularly impactful. A diverse cast of students enters their new classroom feeling alone and a little nervous. When their teacher encourages them to share their stories, they find confidence, pride, and connection. This story beautifully illustrates how teachers can create empowering experiences and build a classroom community that lets students thrive.

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  • Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!

    by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Lane Smith

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    This posthumous completion of a tale imagined by Dr. Seuss applauds all the adults in a school that contribute to its vibrancy — the playful librarian, the merry cafeteria staff, the innovative music teacher, and the quirky classroom teachers all make Diffendoofer School remarkable. When a standardized test threatens the school’s future, the adults stand behind their students’ abilities to achieve, and achieve they do. This rollicking rhyme highlights the power of a supportive school community — and how great teachers are often just a little “bonkers.”

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  • The Art of Miss Chew

    by Patricia Polacco

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    Patricia Polacco has written prolifically about teachers who made a lasting impact on her life. In The Art of Miss Chew, her first art teacher introduces her to the “language of art” and acts as her tireless advocate. Her fifth-grade teacher gives her the specialized instruction that turns her into a reader, as seen in Thank You, Mr. Falker. Drama teacher Mr. Wayne (of Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece) helps her find her voice, both on and off the stage. And Miss “Killer” Keller, relentless in her demand of excellent writing, helps “give her words wings” in An A From Miss Keller. Read individually or as a quartet, these stories present real-life examples of how the best teachers give students just what they need, at just the right time.

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  • A Letter to My Teacher

    by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

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    While often heroic, teachers frequently go unsung. This book is written as a touching letter from a former student to let her second-grade teacher know just how deeply her teaching influenced the now-woman’s life. As a girl, the student had trouble sitting and listening or following the group, but her teacher found ways to reach her, celebrate her, and build on her strengths. This sweet tribute reminds us that teaching is so much more than following lesson plans.

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