Friday, June 28, 2013

Top Ten 2012 - 2013

Number One on our Top Ten list!
There are 180 days in the school year and we read about two books aloud to our students every day.  Those 360 books, which encompass multiple genres, serve as the foundation of our collectively shared literacy experiences.

However, this by no means solely represents the extent of the books that blanket our classroom.  We have book bins of favorite authors (Todd Parr, Dan Yaccarino, Nancy Carlson, Ezra Jack Keats, Mo Willems), favorite characters (Curious George, Rotten Ralph, Froggy, Clifford) and popular themes (holidays, planets, community workers, school, friendship, animals, etc).

Students bring books from home to share with the class and constantly create their own little books "in the style" of the books that surround them.  I love when they do that!

Number Two on our Top Ten!
Given the constant exposure to so many wonderful books I am always curious to know which titles really make an impact on the students.  So, at the end of each school year I ask my students to compile a list of their favorites.

This year they came up with a preliminary list of 25 books. From there they voted on the Top Ten.

It was a huge surprise for me to see that Five Little Ducks retold and illustrated by Ivan Bates came out on top.  This was just a cute, simple book I chose from the library one morning.  I suppose one should never underestimate the power of a catchy tune and the inherent appeal of waddling like a duckling.

The second most popular book was no surprise.  Clay Boy by Mirra Ginsburg and Jos. A. Smith has elements of The Gingerbread Boy (which was in the top 25) and The Three Billy Goats Gruff but ultimately stands on its own.  It is virtually impossible to resist the charm of Clay Boy even as he gobbles up everything and everyone in his path.

Number Three on our Top Ten!
Unlovable by Dan Yacarrino came in at Number Three. Interestingly, this book held the same position in the Top Ten for 2009 - 2010.  I was introduced to this engaging book when I observed another teacher sharing it with her class and immediately fell in love with sad, insecure Alfred.  SPOILER ALERT! - He is not unlovable at all!

I think this was also the first time that author/illustrator Dan Yaccarino entered my consciousness. Afterwards, I began to notice that he was responsible for many of the books I was reading to my students.

Once I realized this I invited him to visit our school and he graciously accepted!  In addition to that visit he also gave his time and talent to support the fundraising event held at the Children's Museum of the Arts for art education in our school.  His book Lawn to Lawn also made our Top Ten in the Number Eight position.

Number Four on our Top Ten!
Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester and Lynn Munsinger is the Number Four selection. At heart this is a story of the underdog triumphing over his loud, bossy oppressor.

But I think the reason our students voted for this book is because we have a student, Camilla, who shares a name with the know-it-all character in the book.  Our Camilla was not amused (and she is nothing like the character in the book) but it proved intriguing to everyone else.

Number Five on our Top Ten!
I am thrilled with the Number Five pick.

Washington Irving's The Headless Horseman is a story that I do not always read to my kindergarten students because it can be a little frightening (especially the way I tell it) although it is one of my favorites.  However, I gauged the bravery level of this group and went for it.

Their reaction was immediate and positive.  Instead of harping on the scary elements, the students focused on the humor in it.  I had kids throwing "pumpkin heads" at one another on the playground all week.  It was fantastic to listen as they excitedly recreated their playground dramatics using character names ("I'm Brom Bones and he is Ichabod Crane") and mounting their imaginary horses.

Their reaction gives me great hope that they will take most favorably to the stories from Greek Mythology I plan to teach them in first grade.  If they like headless horsemen, they'll love Medusa!

Number Six on our Top Ten!
Curious George by H. A. Rey made the list again this year. Yes, perhaps my influence is strongly felt in regard to this book and this character but I did have a few students (all girls) who told me they didn't like him.

Imagine that!

I have a limited edition pop-up book from Scholastic that amps up the interest in the story if needed.  And the classroom is heavily decorated with Curious George touches.  I'm glad he made the cut again this year!

Number Seven on our Top Ten!
Stop Snoring, Bernard! by Zachariah OHora proudly joins the Top Ten in the Number Seven position.

I discovered this book while browsing at the bookstore last summer and it thrilled me. Sometimes I wish that I could go back in time to hang with Margret and Hans Augusto Rey and feel the excitement of their literary journey as it unfolded.  When I held this book by this incredible illustrator I thought of them.

I contacted Zachariah about a school visit and last November he generously made time to do just that!  His latest book No Fits, Nilson! just came out this month. My sweet co teacher, Michelle, gave it to me as an end of the school year gift.  I wouldn't be surprised if it is on the Top Ten list next year.

Number Nine on our Top Ten!
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister was a story some of the children performed during our American Sign Language Festival this year.  This week long celebration of ASL and Deaf culture concluded with a lively performance by Peter Cook with our students acting as his opening act.

The Rainbow Fish is a popular, award winning book that aims to instill good values, like sharing, in young children. Rainbow Fish comes to understand that friendship is more important than his superior beauty, a message that deserves to be told again and again.

Number Ten on our Top Ten!
How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills rounds out the Top Ten. Tad is another brilliant storyteller who visited our school last year and also gave his time and talent to support art in our school during our fundraiser last fall.

The Rocket books are excellent for beginning and emergent readers and writers.

Initially our Top Ten had a five-way tie for tenth place which we had to have a special vote to resolve.  It was close but in the end, Rocket took the honors.

Still, honorable mention must go to the other four books that were edged out.  They are Otto Goes to School and Otto Has a Birthday Party by Todd Parr and We Are In a Book and There's a Bird on Your Head by Mo Willems.

Thank you to all of the talented authors and illustrators for providing me with superior material to share with my students.  And congratulations!


Steve Reed said...

Seeing your posts about classroom reading has taken on a whole new dimension now that I'm working in a school library! (Though I don't work with elementary school books -- I'm at the middle and high school level.) I've probably told you this, but my favorite book when I was a young child was "Swimmy," by Leo Leonni, about the oddball minnow who saves the day. Do you have that one in your classroom?

Gary said...

Steve - Swimmy by Leo Lionni was on the Top 25! And now that you mention it I think I got my fish books mixed up. It was actually Swimmy that the children performed at the closing ceremonies of the ASL festival, not The Rainbow Fish.

The Rainbow Fish was the inspiration for a mural created in class with the teaching artists from The Children's Museum of the Arts. It is currently displayed in an exhibit at the museum now.

They are both wonderful books. Lucky you to be surrounded by books all day. I wrote a post a while back about books for young readers which connects a bit more to your area - at least middle school.

Steve Reed said...

Oh, good! I'm glad Swimmy made the cut! :)

Tad Hills said...

Hey thanks Gary!

Zachariah OHora said...

Hey Gary,

This is fantastic! Thank you for sending. Flattered to be on your students minds!

Glad you liked Nilson too, in the fall I'll be doing a few events at New York bookstores, I would be more than happy to visit PS347 again.

Warmest Regards,

Dan Yaccarino said...

Hi Gary,

So great to hear from you.

It is an honor to be chosen by the students (since they know far more than you or I)!

I'd love to come back for another visit.

Please say Hi and Thank You to the kids for me.

All the best,



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