By Akemi Bourgeois
"The books you always read to us. The really fun books!" They replied.
Once a week, as a library volunteer, I have ten minutes to read a picture book aloud to my son's third grade classroom. Let me tell you, I was thrilled to have been asked by these girls about the books I read to them!
Note: My son told me not to read with so much expression. He also does not want to be seen with me when I carry my Sprout TV umbrella (it was a freebie!). It sickens me sometimes to see how tween-like he has become, which is why we have banned Wimpy Kid books and the like in our home.
It's not easy to select just the right picture book for third graders. Much of what is on the library shelves is either too preschoolish, too gender specific or has too much text for a ten minute read. Some third graders, like my son, are deep into the tween stage. They are too cool for school.
Anyway, if I can't find what I'm looking for in the school library, I often pull from our library of picture books at home, which I gathered on many a picture book buying spree way back when my boys were between the ages of two and five.
I like books that have an edge, that are not in the realm of the popular books in rotation. I also like classics, such as the Little Match Girl and world literature such as Guji Guji.
Today, I read Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein. I happened to see it on a library shelf and just knew it would appeal to the class because each and every one of us can be an interrupting chicken and also the word chicken is inherently funny.
The kids laughed, they really did!
I don't think anyone can ever be too old for a picture book. There is something just so magical and soothing about picture books. To me, this is childhood, and one that you can go back to time and time again. These books are my happy place. My son, however, is probably thinking "how embarrassing" when I read picture books in front of his friends, but I still see him settling in nicely at home with a pile of picture books from time to time.
I know there are lots of good picture books out there that appeal to third graders read to as a class, but these were/are my book parameters:
- A 10 minute read (no text heavy books)
- Not gender specific
- Not a preschool or kindergarten book
- Beautiful illustrations
- From the school library or home library (I am not buying any more picture books at this point)
- Something slightly different, with an edge, a sad story, a funny story, a twist...
I skipped the classics in favor of newer titles, though if the school year were longer, I'd certainly add in a few. I also skipped the Project Cornerstone type books because, well, books about self-esteem and bullying are the domain of the Cornerstone parents and those books aren't really what I love to read. If you are reading aloud to third graders, most of these been tested and approved by my son and his third grade peers. Enjoy.
Thank you, Sarah by Larie Halse Anderson This book comes recommended by a first grade teacher, as the perfect pre-Thanksgiving read. I hadn't known to that Sarah is the women who saved Thanksgiving, and neither had any of the third graders, so I think we all appreciated the historical lesson.
The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell A simple book with a big message and requisite reading before the holidays. I will probably read the class Hug Time around Valentine's Day. I just wish these books were a little larger so that all the kids could see the simple illustrations.
Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran Welcome to the imaginary town of Roxaboxen, where stores are bordered in sticks and rocks and cactus is a jail. My sons and their friends play "forts" every recess and lunch with their peers, which basically means, they build with sticks and leaves, just like the kids of Roxaboxen. What I really wanted to scream to the kids was, "Turn off the Minecraft and go outside and build a Roxaboxen!"
Wild Horse Winter by Tetsuya Honda The wild horses of Japan survive a brutal winter under a blanket of snow and then find freedom at the seashore, where they eat kelp. Beautiful watercolor illustrations draw the reader in. I happened to notice that one of the illustrations almost perfectly matches a page from the Polar Express and left the coincidence for the kids to ponder.
Guji Guji by Chih-Yuan Chen Guji Guji is a crocodile who rolled by happenstance into mother duck's nest, but no matter, he is raised with love just like the other ducklings. Guji Guji is a crocduck! The author of Guji Guji is Taiwanese and this is a tale of adoption.
Kali and the Rat Snack by Zai Whitaker Kali's dad is a rat catcher, a job that makes other kids poke fun at Kali and his tribe, the Irula's. A rat catcher, how yucky! But Kali saves the day when a rat snake decides to slither into his classroom, causing chaos. Even the teacher jumps onto his desk in fear!
Egg Drop by Mini Grey A young egg makes unwise decisions and pays the price. I think older kids sometimes like not-so-happy endings.
Beware of the Frog by William Bee (not pictured) A protective frog is watching out for sweet little old lady, Mrs. Collywobbles, who lives "on the edge of a big, dark, scary wood." Gobble, Gobble. Kids reacted with "Ewwww followed by nervous laughter."
City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems Love Friendship and the cycle of life by the author of the Don't Let the Pigeon series. A dose of reality in this bittersweet story of animal friendship. Simple words but a deep meaning.
The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers A boys zooms off to the moon in a toy airplane and gets stuck there. But he befriends an alien, who helps him find his way back home. This is a book I love for the illustrations.
There's Nothing to Do on Mars by Chris Gall I'm bored, there's nothing to do! What child hasn't complained of boredom? Follow bored Davey and his robotic dog as they zoom around the red planet encountering smelly aliens and massive craters.
These are just a few of the books on my list of books I can read aloud in ten minutes to third graders. I just have to remember not to read with so much expression so as not to humiliate my tween wannabe son. I'm thinking that instead, I'll show up in a Barney shirt.
Which picture books do your older children still enjoy?
This is an original post to Chalk and Cheese Chronicles.