Monday, January 25, 2010

Book Arsenal I

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

- Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Preparing for a sub job is like preparing for battle. When there are inadequate plans or the students finish their work early, the substitute teachers are struggling to find a way to fill in what feels like e n d l e s s - t i m e. Subs need to be armed and ready for such situations.

Books are a great way to bring a class together. Being a mother and an assistant in the fifth-grade for a few years has given me an advantage because I’ve been exposed to a variety of brilliant picture books. I’ve decided to share my arsenal with you, which you can use to just read aloud or to also do a follow-up project (Time-killer). I’ve provided appropriate age ranges for reach book.

An Undone Fairy Tale by Ian Lendler (illustrated by Whitney Martin) is a comical book, which can be used from preschool all the way up to fourth-grade (Maybe fifth). The illustrator can’t keep up with the illustrations because the teacher is reading too fast. See how the illustrator copes. Afterwards, have young ones draw their favorite part of the book.

My Daddy is a Pretzel by Baron Baptiste (illustrated by Sophie Fatus) is a cute story with yoga poses. Read slowly, having preschool to second-grade students try the poses. Can even have them draw themselves doing their favorite pose afterwards. Good for an antsy bunch!

Ish and The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds are about teaching students that they’re all artists. After reading, Ish, tell them to make an “ish” drawing. After reading, The Dot, have students make their own dot. Provide colored pencils, markers, or (if you dare) paints. These are best for third-grade and under.

I Pledge Allegiance by Bill Martin Jr. (illustrated by Chris Raschka) is a good learning tool. How many students recite the pledge each morning, but have no idea what it means? Read it; then write vocabulary words with definitions on the board. Students should copy them, and draw and color an American flag. Good for third to fifth-grades.

One of Those Days by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (illustrated by Rebecca Doughty) is one of my favorites. As a sub, I can relate to having a bad day*. The illustrations will tickle the kids up to third-grade. It’s a short book, so afterwards, have them draw something that happened to them on “one of those days”.

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems is about a toddler losing her beloved bunny, cleverly written and illustrated. It's a great book for preschool to first-grade. After reading the story, have them draw and color their favorite stuffed animal or special item.

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann won The Caldecott Medal. It’s about safety tips, a boring officer, and his zany dog. Kids in first to third-grade will get a kick out of this. Afterwards, have students write an important safety tip along with a picture of Gloria the dog.

The Bugliest Bug by Carol Diggory Shields (Illustrator Scott Nash) has great rhyming, is a fun story, and has lots of bugs. Afterwards, have students from preschool to second-grade draw their favorite bugs and perhaps a few bad spiders too.

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina is a classic because kids still love it. Encourage students to play the parts of the monkey and peddler as your read it. After reading, have students draw the monkeys in a tree with the caps on their heads. Good for preschool to second-grade.

Fireboat by Maira Kalman is the best book for children written about September 11th. It handles the difficult topic well without being scary. This is a good book to use around the anniversary for just about any age group, but you may want to read it from second to fifth-grades**.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss (illustrated by Bonnie Timmons) is great for fourth and fifth-grades. It shows how the meaning of a sentence can drastically (and hilariously) change as the result of incorrect comma placement. Make copies of the book in advance, and give the students two sheets of paper to show two sentences and different meanings after you read aloud.

Come On, Rain! By Karen Hesse (illustrated by Jon J. Muth) works well with preschoolers to fifth-graders. For younger kids, after reading, have them draw a picture of a hot day, and then a rainy day. For older kids, after reading, go through the vivid vocabulary. Ask what the author means by, “The rain has made us new.”

Check with the local and school libraries for availability, but you may want to have a few on-hand to make your life easier. I’ll share thirteen more books soon. I figured I’d break it up because how many books do you want to see on one post?

*See my blog using quotes from this book:

**Read my Amazon review and my blog about working on September 11th:


  1. This is a great list. Some I hadn't even heard of. Off to check the library!

  2. Hi

    I've been whizzing round the links above. And would really want to read Fireboat.

    The only book here on this fab list that I recognise is Eat, Shoots, Leaves - I really nice little book to have. I do like the summaries you give each one - makes me want to get all of them!

    Take care

  3. Jackee, let me know if you pick up any of them and what you think.

    Thanks, Old Kitty. I'm reading the adult version of Eats, Shoots & Leaves now.

  4. When my kids were young I knew about all the picture books, the middle grade books and the favorite YA authors. I read everything along with them. I sure miss that! Not recognizing a single one of these makes me realize how far out of it I am. Thanks for the list!

  5. Theresa,

    My name is Jessica and I work with Substitute Teaching Division of Next week we are launching a blog called The Bus Stop. One of the posts I was going to write was going to be about children's books in the classroom. I would love to have this post on there with you as a guest blogger. Would you mind emailing me sometime about it and we can chat more?

    My email is:


  6. KarenG, my youngest is seven, so now that she reads chapter books, and we read and purchase less picture books. Now it's mostly middle-grade and YA books at home. The good thing about subbing is I get to see some of the new picture books.

    Jessica, thanks for the offer. I just sent you an e-mail.

  7. Caps for Sale, the only one I recognized. I haven't read it in forever though.

  8. Brooke, I'm not surprised since most of these books would've been published after you would've read them. I wonder if most of them will still be on shelves if/when you have kids someday.

  9. I haven't given up... I'm still here reading through your archives! Just a bit more slowly than before. : j

    So how many battles have you prepared for?
    Sometimes, in battle, you can't know what's ahead, so all you can do is to fasten your resolve and go forward because you must. That said, from what I've read of your work posts, you do that often enough too. : j

    Pay hommage to the Substituteteacherwoman who girds her loins with picture books before entering the fray! : D

  10. Alessa, your last line made me laugh!

    Since I've been working in the middle school a lot these days, no picture books needed. Though subbing on Friday was all about books, so Substituteteacherwoman is still battling with books. (See yesterday's post.)