Saturday, July 14, 2012

Top Ten 2011 - 2012

I love the Top Ten!

Each year I eagerly anticipate the whittling down process to see which books had the greatest impact on the children and, of course, await the inevitable surprise selection.  This year in accordance with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) I asked my first grade students to write an opinion piece explaining why they chose a book and reminded them to include all of the necessary elements (including a "sense of closure").  I will share a bit of that writing as the list unfolds.

The only requirement for consideration was that each book had to be one that we enjoyed as a class.  Personal favorites that were unknown to everyone were eliminated.  All of the books listed below were either read aloud in class and/or used in a unit of study or excitedly circulated amongst the students without any guidance/nudging/input from an adult or connected with an author visit.

The Top Ten Children's Books for 2011-2012

The Number One book, The House That Drac Built by Judy Sierra, was a bit of a shocker to me.  That was until I realized that this was the same group of children who voted for another Halloween themed book (Skeleton Meets the Mummy by Steve Metzger) when they were in kindergarten.

I guess it's hard to keep a good ghoul down.

The second most popular book was The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara.

I love this choice because this was a book brought in by a student who asked me to read it to the class. It connected to our study of the Solar System and was rooted in our kindergarten investigations into fairy tales.

How wonderful to have a book in the top ten introduced to the class by another student.  I was not familiar with this book until she brought it to my attention.

That cannot be said of the Number Three choice - Curious George!

I am happy to note that years of not-so-subtle brainwashing has proved successful. How can anyone resist the charms of this indefatigable monkey?

I am psyched to teach kindergarten next year so I can introduce a new group of children to the adventures of H.A. Rey's Curious George.

Number Four is really a series of books.  It is the immensely popular, incredibly entertaining exploits of Greg Heffley in The Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.

I never read these books aloud in class (without the visuals much of the humor is lost) but they were the most sought after titles on our weekly library visits.  The books passed from one child to another and sparked many impromptu "book club" discussions.

At one time I questioned whether or not these books were appropriate for first grade but who can argue with that kind of motivation to read?  Plus, they really are funny!

I Will Surprise My Friend by Mo Willems comes in at Number Five.  It is my feeling that this "Elephant & Piggie" book is representative of the love we all have for the entire series.

Like the Wimpy Kid, these books are wildly amusing and clever.  One student wrote, "The story of I Will Surprise My Friend is funny because it tells the story of hiding from friends and being scared and surprised."

We've all been there!

The Number Six selection is yet another book series.  The Betsy Books ("B" is for Betsy, Betsy and Billy, Back to School with Betsy and Betsy and the Boys) by Carolyn Haywood were books that I read when I was a boy.

Written in the 1930s and 40s, they follow the adventures of Betsy and her friends through First, Second, Third and Fourth grades.  The stories may be about the life of suburban children long ago but the timeless tales of childhood are easily relatable for urban boys and girls today.

I read the books aloud--about a chapter a day--with the class comfortably sprawled out on pillows.  I used this time to deepen their listening skills by stopping periodically to ask them to retell what happened.  As time went on we began to make connections and predictions during the readings. The time we spent with Betsy was incredibly fruitful and enjoyable.  I consider it one of the great successes of the school year.

One student wrote, "I like the Betsy and Billy books because Billy made a lot of mistakes because he fell in the snow with his feet kicking out of the snow and he fell in the paint, he slipped on the pancake batter with Betsy and the dog.  The children named Betsy and Billy made 2 giant golden pumpkins in the oven.  And that's why I really, really love Carolyn Haywood books!"

Billy's legs sticking out of the snow!

Favorite children's book author and illustrator, Todd Parr, is represented in the Number Seven spot with Underwear Do's and Don'ts.

Todd is coming out with The Underwear Book soon and I am sure this will be a hit as well.

Never underestimate the appeal of underwear (or other silly, not talked about subjects) for a group of giggling children. Todd knows his audience!

A note to children's book authors - visiting schools works!

Two books on the list were written and illustrated by talented men who took the time to read and sign books for us.  Number Eight is Lawn to Lawn by the incredible Dan Yaccarino.

One girl wrote, "I like Lawn to Lawn because it is a traveling adventure!"

This is one of my favorites as well (click on the book title link to see a cute video based on the book).  Dan's books Every Friday, The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau and All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel were hovering just outside the top ten.  If this were a top twenty they would have made the cut.

Tad Hills also visited our school this year. His How Rocket Learned to Read falls at Number Nine.

After his visit my students found an app on the iPad for this book and it became very popular. I look forward to reading Rocket Writes a Story which will be released on July 24, 2012.

I also use this book in my beginning reading and writing course to demonstrate to graduate students in education how children's books can be used to support classroom instruction.

Rounding out the Top Ten is Let's Go, Pegasus: A Greek Myth retold and illustrated by Jean Marzollo.

In first grade I teach the Greek Myths and the inclusion of the Medusa story in the Top Ten reflects a bit of everything we covered this year.

The list represents the multicolored dimensions of our time together. A bit of planetary exploration, a dash of wonder, a sprinkle of laughter all tied together in a collaboratively fulfilling time of growth.

I'd say they chose well.


Lynda said...

I remember my teacher reading Charlotte's Web to my class in 3rd grade and loving it.

Arielle Bair (Becker) said...

That was awesome read, Gary! I love the ways these kids think and I really liked hearing about the selections. Most of the books were ones I had not heard of yet, so it was cool to see what's out there. It's great that you do this with your students - it really helps them see that reading is important and that their opinions are important.

Greg said...

I found some new books I need to check out. Curious George taught me how to read!! My all time favorite, for sure!

I am a new follower! I hope you'll check out my manly kindergarten blog!

Smedley's Smorgasboard of Kindergarten

Gary said...

Arielle - This is one of my favorite traditions and one that I enjoy having as an annual post (even though the Top Ten posts are generally skipped by most readers because they tend to be quite long). And now with the Common Core Standards demanding opinion writing it fits right in!

Greg - Another man teaching kindergarten! I love it! I'm curious, how did you find my blog? I popped over to your manly kindergarten blog and became your newest follower. Good luck starting the new year TOMORROW?! (I have until the day after Labor Day)

Ms.M said...

Hmmm, I am really interested in the The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot. I'll have to look it up next time I am in the book store.

I just love books. Now it's time for me to catch up on all the posts I have missed.



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