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Growing Reader

Teachers Share Their All-Time Favorite Books for Preschoolers and Early Elementary Schoolers

by the Brightly Editors

Photo credit: Tom Stewart, Corbis Collection/Getty Images

It takes a truly special book to captivate an audience of young children. In search of the literary cream of the crop, we asked real-life preschool and elementary school teachers about their favorite books for the classroom and their passionate and thoughtful responses knocked our socks off. Here are 11 of the picture books they recommend, plus tips on how to teach them.

  • Llama Llama Time to Share

    by Anna Dewdney

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    “Of all the Llama Llama books, this is one of my favorites. It is written in rhyme, which is a preschool skill, and concerns meeting a new friend and sharing. Four-year-olds typically find it hard to share; some are even quite stubborn about sharing. The moral of the story is how one can make good friends if he/she can share.”
    —Carol, early childhood teacher

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  • The Book with No Pictures

    by B.J. Novak

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    “This book is anything but boring!!! My 4-year-old son could not stop laughing from beginning to end and this is a favorite bedtime read on many, many nights. This book appeals to people of all ages and could be used in classrooms of young and older children alike. Older kids will benefit from being read aloud to just as the young ones [do]. Students could create the pictures to go along with this book too.”
    —Jennifer, early childhood teacher

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  • It Looked Like Spilt Milk

    by Charles G. Shaw

    “This book has a white form on each page, which are actually shapes in the clouds. The students like to guess what object or animal the shape looks like; it helps them use their imagination. After everyone has read the book with me, we go outside, and the children lay on a quilt and pick shapes out of the clouds in the sky. This activity is a favorite every year. I have also poured a tiny bit of white paint on a piece of dark blue construction paper, then the students fold it, and open it to see what kind of shape appeared.”
    —Carol, early childhood teacher

  • A Rainbow of My Own

    by Don Freeman

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    “Perfect for teaching rainbow order to young children. I have students cut colored paper to make the rainbow. This helps me with teaching cutting skills.”
    —Sheryl, K-5 teacher

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  • Elmer

    by David McKee

    “Colorful illustrated book about a loud, patchwork-colored elephant in a herd of quiet, gray elephants that teaches children that it is okay to be yourself! The book is humorous and has a great message about being unique.”
    —Tricia, kindergarten teacher

  • Mercy Watson to the Rescue

    by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

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    “I use the Mercy Watson series to begin reading chapter books with my kindergartners. It has the perfect mix of illustrations with longer text. These stories keep my class on the edge of their seats and increase their appetite for more books!”
    —Lisa, kindergarten teacher

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  • Green Eggs and Ham

    by Dr. Seuss

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    “This story is a classic. My children read as many Dr. Seuss stories as we can in February. We celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday on March 2nd every year. This is a definite favorite for the children. The lesson from the book focuses on trying new things.”
    —Karen, 1st grade teacher

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  • The Little Engine That Could

    by Watty Piper, illustrated by Loren Long

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    “I enjoy sharing this classic book with my students as a way of illustrating that some things we attempt are truly difficult. If we pull together, allow others to help us, and don't quit, then we can succeed.”
    —Alicia, 1st grade teacher

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  • The Hat

    by Jan Brett

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    “I do author studies with my class. Jan Brett is one of the kids’ favorite authors! [This book] is about silly farm animals that pull winter linens off of a wash line and wear them. The kids always laugh and smile while I am reading it. They especially love looking for Hedgie the hedgehog in all of her books. Hedgie is a main character in this book.”
    —Karen, 1st grade teacher

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  • The Rough-Face Girl

    by Rafe Martin, illustrated by David Shannon

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    “I shared this book with my second grade students in an Interactive Read Aloud format. It is an Algonquin Indian version of Cinderella. This is a good choice for this grade level because it ties together ELA through the traditional literature genre, lends itself to comparing and contrasting other culturally related versions of Cinderella, and it covers second grade Social Studies standards in Ohio as well. The students loved the book and were totally engaged and thinking deeply throughout the read-aloud and were eager to discuss various aspects of it at each of the think, pair, share spots I had identified before the actual read-aloud.”
    —Sandy, 2nd grade teacher

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  • This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World

    by Matt Lamothe

    “As a teacher, I am always looking for ways to support my students as they become global citizens. Many of my third graders are curious about the world around them, and are looking for ways to learn about kids who live around the globe. This is How We Do It shares one day in the lives of seven kids from countries as far away as Russia and Uganda. My students absolutely loved exploring the differences — and the similarities — between the lives of all the kids.”
    —Lorraine, 3rd grade teacher