Presentation: Interactive Read Alouds, plus 100 Easy No-or-Low-Prep Ideas for Interactive Read Alouds

Marci Bishop, our District Elementary Library Specialist in Granite School District, recently shared this presentation on interactive read alouds at the UELMA 2021 conference for school librarians in Utah. Check out the slides, filled with resources and links, and watch a recording of the presentation below.

Presentation: Interactive Read Alouds

Interactive Read Alouds Presentation – Marci Bishop – Video

From the presentation description:

Kate DiCamillo calls the shared space and experience of a read aloud a “third place” and “a safe room” where participants make connections and build community. In addition to the “magic” of the moment, a read aloud is a great opportunity to teach. As a bonus, a well-planned or directed read aloud improves student focus and behavior too. In this session, we’ll explore:

-Simple, everyday ways to encourage interaction
-How to ask the “right” questions–one book can work for all grade levels!
-How to plan an interactive read aloud (examining the writer’s craft, making personal connections, etc.)
-Effective reading comprehension strategies and how to embed them into a read aloud

100 Easy No/Low-Prep Ideas for Interactive Read-Alouds

To go along with the presentation, Marci Bishop also created and shared this list of one hundred no-prep or low-prep ideas for interactive read alouds. Get them in this shared document, or read on below.


  1. SIMPLE INTERACTION  Just read the book then ask kids what they liked, if they’d recommend the book, what they learned, how they felt, etc.  You can ask along the way or at the end.  You don’t “teach”–you just let them think and feel
  2. JUST GO (and SHOW) WITH THE FLOW  Read a book you know and love well.  Stop at big words, stop when you have a thought or question, discuss when you finish the book. The idea is to SHOW the kids YOUR interaction with the text while you read and allow them to see comprehension strategies in action!


  1. PEP RALLY Chant a repeated line together or perform a call-and-response pattern in the book.
  2. BOO! HISS! Make some audience response signs  (Boo! Yay! Aw! Applause! etc.).  Use them as you read–or let another student run the signs!
  3. THE SECRET WORD Make a “secret word”; every time the students hear it, they jump up (or clap or wiggle or whatever).
  4. NAME THAT RHYME  Leave out the second rhyme in a patterned rhyme book and let the students guess the word .
  5. VOICE ACTORS Give two or three students the role of a character in the book.  They read those lines in a fitting manner.  Characters like monsters, grumpy people, whiny people, etc. work best.  This is even better if there’s a repeated line. Pierre by Maurice Sendak is one of my favorites.  You can even just point randomly at kids who deliver his line “I don’t care” with whatever emotion they imagine.
  6. STUDENT CHOICE Let a student choose the book AND an action or sound for the listeners to make.
  7. GO WORDLESS Try a wordless picture book.  Make up your own story then ask students to make up their own.  Or just ask comprehension questions:  what do you think is happening here?  Why do you think that?  (inference)  What do you think will happen next? (predicting) Why?  Some great options: 
  • Aaron Becker
  • Lizi Boyd
  • Henry Cole
  • Molly Idle
  • Jihyeon Lee 
  • Suzy Lee
  • Barbara Lehman
  • Bill Thomson 
  • David Wiesner
  • Anno’s Journey by Misumaso Anno
  • Once Upon a Banana by Jennifer Armstrong & David Small
  • Mirror by Jeannie Baker
  • Zoom by Istan Banya
  • The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
  • Beaver is Lost by Elisha Cooper
  • Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
  • Truck by Donald Crews
  • Good Dog Carl by Alexandra Day
  • Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola
  • Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley
  • Penguin Sets Sail by Jessica Lee Evans
  • Shine by Dagny Griffin and Laura Bobbiesi
  • Field Trip to the Ocean Deep by John Hare
  • Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins
  • Red Sled by Lita Judge
  • I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët
  • Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson
  • Lift by Minh Lȇ and Dan Santat
  • A Boy, A Dog, and a Frog by Mercer Mayer
  • Float by Daniel Miyares
  • South by Patrick McDonnell
  • Hike by Pete Oswald
  • The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
  • A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka
  • 10 Minutes Till Bedtime by Peggy Rathmann
  • Time Flies by Eric Rohmann
  • Where’s Walrus by Stephen Savage
  • Rain by Peter Spier
  • Fly! by Mark Teague
  • Deep in the Forest by Brinton Turkle
  • Professional Crocodile by G. Zoboli & M. De Giorgio
  1. I JUST LIKE IT Repeat a line that’s fun to say:  “I like the way that rhyme sounds–say it with me  __”
  2. FIFTH-GRADE NOSTALGIA For older kids, have them request “classics”–picture books they loved as kids.  Read and let them tell you why they loved it.
  3. DOODLE! Put down a big piece of butcher paper to share (or just give each student a piece of paper), get some crayons and have students “doodle” while they listen to you read.  They can draw pictures, write words, make patterns, whatever.  At the end of the story, ask a few to share what they made and how it fits the story.  (You may need to reread so they can see the pictures the second time.)
  4. OPPOSITE DAY Read a book that explores opposites.  Afterwards, have the students think of faces, actions, or poses that match the opposite pairs (stand up for “big”; squish down for “little” for example). Then re-read, acting out the opposites..  Some titles (originally for little ones, clearly):
  • Opposites by Sandra Boynton
  • What’s Up, Duck by Tad Hills
  • Black Cat White Cat by Chuck Murphy 
  • Opposites by Eric Carle
  • Black? White! Day? Night!  by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
  • Big and Little by Steve Jenkins
  • The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood
  • The Loud Book by Deborah Underwood
  • Opposites by Larissa Honsek (fun illustrations)
  • Big and Little by Cheryl Pilgrim (dogs!)
  • Animal Opposites by Roger Priddy
  • London: A Book of Opposites by Ashley Evanson
  • Double Take! by Susan Hood, illustrated by Jay Fleck
  1. EMOJIS Give students five or six emojis you printed out before class (or have them draw some).  Another variation would be to have five big emojis on the wall or whiteboard.  Stop occasionally in the book and ask the students to choose an emoji that fits this part of the book.  Happy, sad, angry, surprised, and loved will usually fit most books if you want to just keep the emojis on the wall to use occasionally while you read.
  2. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Before you read the story, read the author’s biography from the book jacket or a quick online bio. Ask students to listen (and/or watch) for anything that might connect to the author’s life. Discuss it when you finish. Generally, this could be an opportunity to discuss a writer’s context or just to remind students that books come from people who have their own experiences and lives.
  3. A MOODY SOUNDTRACK  Play samples of three or four emotion-inducing songs before you read. Tell them that you will read the book and at the end of the book, they will decide which song fits best.  Discuss their choice(s), take a vote, maybe let them dance to the song they choose! Current songs are fun too, but classical choices keep them from just choosing the song they like or relying on the words instead of the mood. (These are all on YouTube too!)


  • Spade and Bucket Polka (Percy Whitlock)
  • Marriage of Figaro Overture (Mozart)
  • Sonata No. 17 in C (Mozart)
  • Hoe Down (Aaron Copland)


  • Requiem  (Mozart)  
  • Nimrod (from the Enigma Variations) Edward Elgar
  • Adagio for Strings (Samuel Barber)
  • Adagio in G minor (Tomaso Albinoni)
  • Come, Sweet Death (Bach)
  • Symphony No. 6, fourth movement, ‘Pathetique’ (Tchaikovsky)


  • Air on the G String (Bach)
  • Piano Concerto in A minor (Grieg)
  • Gymnopédie (Erk Satie)
  • Clair de Lune (Debussy)
  • Wiegenlied (Mozart)
  • Spiegel im Spiegel (Arvo Pärt)


  • Night on Bald Mountain (Mussorgsky)
  • Symphony no. 5  (Beethoven)
  • In the Hall of the Mountain King (Grieg)
  • Danse Macabre (Camille Saint-Saëns)
  • Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath (Symphonie Fantastique) (Berlioz)
  • Toccata & Fugue in D Minor (Bach)
  • O Fortuna from Carmina Burana (Carl Orff)
  • Don Giovanni (Mozart)
  • Totentanz (Liszt)
  • Symphony No. 2, The Resurrection (Mahler)
  1. SING! Read a book that is also the lyrics to a song.  Sing the song!
  • There Was a Tree by Rachel Isadora
  • Raffi Songs to Read: Spider on the Floor, Down by the Bay, Baby Beluga, Five Little Ducks
  • He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands illustrated by Kadir Nelson
  • Pete the Cat Singalongs: The Wheels on the Bus, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk by Kabir Sehgal & Surshtha Sehgal, illustrated by Jess Golden
  • Barefoot Books Singalongs: The Animal Boogie, Knick Knack Paddy Whack, Space Song Rocket Ride
  • If You’re a Monster and You Know It  or Itsy Bitsy Spider by Rebecca and Ed Emberley
  1. CONNECT TO A SONG Play or sing a song that you think can connect to a book (same theme, setting, plot details, or another connection between the two).  Ask kids to think about connections while you read the book. Share ideas. Brainstorm other songs that would connect.  I love the self-celebration and positive energy of I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James.  Lots of happy, positive, celebratory songs would work, but I’d share “Touch the Sky” performed by Julie Fowlis.  It’s a lesser known Disney song (from Brave) so some kids might recognize it and it’s appropriate for school– but they have to listen since they don’t already know every word.  
  2. BACK IN MY DAY . . .  Read a book you loved as a kid.  Share the story of how and when you read it and what it meant to you. 
  3. MINI “ESCAPE ROOM (BOOK)” Stop at a critical moment and tell them you can’t continue because the last part of the book is “locked”  Put a combination lock on the page or a bike lock around the last part of the book.  Divide the kids into three groups (or choose three small teams) and give them a clue.  They should each find one of the numbers to the combination (somewhere in the room).  Once they return, they can try the three numbers in different combinations to open the lock.  Once they unlock the book, you can continue.  This is especially fun if you are reading a mystery book.  If you are, you can tie your clues to the book!

General clue examples:  (for younger kids or faster play, you can italicize or put the key words in bold)

  • Hurry! You don’t have much time to find this number! (number is on the clock)
  • Where is the number?  You might need to check out several places! (at the checkout desk)
  • If you find this number, your team will definitely rock (rocking chair)
  • Finding this number will take Guts but not much Drama.  You’ll Smile when you find it (by the Raina Telgemeier books)
  • You’ll need sharp detective skills to find this number (pencil sharpener)
  • To find this number, you’ll need to do Mo work than you expect.  It’s guarded by a pig, a pigeon, an elephant, and a knuffle bunny! (Mo Willems books)
  • You can make finding this number a big project or just look up!  (write the number on a paper taped to your projector)
  • I hope you don’t feel too under pressure. The clue is beneath the tricky language of this clue. If you get tired, just take a seat. (Put the clue under a chair–this one is kind of hard?)
  1. READER IN TRAINING “Train” your older readers to read a book aloud.  Show them how you change the pace, use voices, alter the volume of your voice.  Have them practice with a partner. Arrange for them to be in the library with your 1st and 2nd graders the following week.  Each student will read his or her book to a group of about five kids.  The little ones can “rate” their reader.
  2. WHEN/WHERE/WHAT? Read a book that could use some background information.  Give small groups an iPad or Chromebook then assign them a very specific task (find a picture of Chinatown in San Francisco, find a definition for the word, etc.).  Share what you found before you read.
  3. WHERE ON EARTH? Read a book with a very specific geographical setting.  Use Google Earth to locate the setting and zoom in for pictures.  (Google Maps will work to a point, but not as impressively.) 
  4. IN THE NEWS Don’t shy away from social issues, especially those in the news.  Picture books are reasonable “small bites” of big issues which can help kids understand what they are hearing in the news and from other adults. Don’t preach or control their thinking. Let them share and talk too–they have more experiences and insight than we might think.  Listen with an open mind and heart and show them how to do the same. 
  5. ACROSTICS! Write an acrostic poem using an important word or character name from the text.  For example, after (or during or both) reading Sugar in Milk by Thrity Umrigar, illustrated by Khoa Le, write S-U-G-A-R  I-N  M-I-L-K vertically down the side of a big piece of paper.  Ask students to think of words or phrases that start with the letters to show the lesson (theme) of the book.  Display their poems so they can compare with others who heard the same story.  You can also work together to write one big class poem together (helpful for the younger students).
  6. MAKE ‘EM LAUGH Read something really funny.  Tell them what you think is funny, laugh even though you are reading. Laughing together is magic.
  7. SIT BACK AND RELAX  Read for a “rest.” Tell students you are going to read a book to help them relax, rest, and feel calm. Have students spread out on the floor or rug and lie on their backs.  It might be fun to start with a short body scan meditation or breathing exercise (there are MANY online, especially on YouTube, or if you already use an app like Calm or Insight Timer, find one you want to use there–5-10 minutes is probably right. There are ones made especially for kids.  Relaxing music works too, but I think you’ll be surprised how much your students like meditation!  Read your book.  If students fall asleep, roll with it :)  Some good calming books: 
  • A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel 
  • Let’s Go Home by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Wendy Andeson Halperin
  • In a Jar by Deborah Marcero
  • Quiet by Tomie dePaola 
  • Here and Now by Julia Denos, illustrated by E.B. Goodale
  • Slowly, Slowly, Slowly Said the Sloth by Eric Carle
  1. LIVING PICTURE Do a tableau vivant: “living picture” in French, (pronounced “ta-BLOW vee-VAHNT,”)  the plural is tableaux vivants but sounds the same!  By definition, this is a silent and motionless group of people arranged to represent a scene or incident.  People can obviously stand in for characters, but you can also have kids be trees in the background, a table in the middle of the room, etc. (Keep some easy, background ideas available so everyone can participate even if they feel shy.) If you have some extra time, plan some costume and/or props and organize some “theatrical” lighting.  If not, it’s still fun.  

After reading, have students choose the most exciting part of the book. Have volunteers stand in for the characters (or trees and buildings, etc.).  The characters should be in a physical position to match the moment, have the right look on their faces, etc.  Let the rest of the students add ideas.  For the performance, the performers get in position and remain motionless and silent.  You set the time.  30 seconds is about right (maybe longer for older kids).  You can then move on to another important scene and another group of volunteers if you’d like.  Obviously, books with a lot of characters, crowd scenes, and/or DRAMA work best. Dr. Seuss books are a good choice, The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson.  More contemporary examples: Story Boat by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh, or the Jabari books by Gaia Cornwall.  A simple way to talk about this is “instant illustrations”; they illustrate the scene physically.  Encourage older kids to do more than simply recreate an illustration already in the book (imagine what isn’t there!).

  1. PANTOMIME   Students spread out so they all have individual personal space in the room.  While you read, students silently act out (pantomime) the physical movements and facial expressions of the protagonist of the story.  Everyone has the same “role” and they do not interact.  They just put themselves in the book.  Books with physical actions and emotions are the most fun.   
  2. FOLEY ARTISTS The “foley” is the soundscape of a film, the reproduction of everyday sound effects added to films like footsteps, squeaky doors, breaking glass, swishing of clothing, phones ringing, etc.  It’s all of the sound besides the dialogue and the music, basically.  Read the book through once and brainstorm five or six sounds that could accompany the story.  Read again, this time adding the “soundscape.”
  3. MAP THAT! Draw a map of the book’s setting.  Students can do this individually while you read and compare their maps OR draw a map together when you finish reading.  You can also do a metaphorical map of the character’s feelings, the plot, some “journey” in the book.
  4. FIVE ADJECTIVES  Have students brainstorm five adjectives to describe the book itself or some element of the book (a character, for example). Once you have five adjectives, have the students explain why each adjective fits the book or element.  You don’t have to write anything down, but if you want to, you can draw a big hand on the whiteboard or a poster paper and write an adjective on each finger.  On the palm of the hand, write down the reasons these descriptive words fit..  
  5. CHARACTER INTERVIEWS  After reading, have students volunteer to represent different characters on a “panel.”  The remaining students ask the characters questions and the panel responds as they think the characters would.  This is especially effective when you’re reading a chapter book together, but a more complex story in a picture book will work (especially for younger students).  You don’t have to wait until the whole book is finished to do these panels.  Students may want to rotate being characters too.
  6. WHAT IF?  After reading, encourage students to post “what if?” questions to explore how the story would be different if the characters were something different from what they are (or the setting or plot points).  For example, what if Horton never heard the Who?  What if Clifford were a big red cat? What if Madeline didn’t live in France? What if Alexander just laughed at all of the horrible, no-good things that happened during the day? What if Arthur didn’t have a sister? Discuss the questions. Sometimes these will be serious. Often, they get silly.  Silly is okay once in a while. :)
  7. AROUND THE WORLD IN SEVEN BOOKS Read a story from (or about or featuring an animal from, etc.)  every continent for an “Around the World” day.  Hang up maps of each continent around the room and “travel” to each area for your story.
  8. LISTEN UP  Teach active listening skills to practice while you read.  Here are five active listening tips you could teach: 1) Maintain eye contact, 2) don’t interrupt, 3) ask questions, 4) repeat what the speaker says, 5) listen for the total meaning–the content and the suggested emotions. Another way to show you are listening actively is using non-verbal signs such as smiling, head nods, upright posture, and focus.  Practice one or two skills and repeat this activity occasionally to build up to all five and positive non-verbal signs. (This could improve general behavior too.)
  9. TRADE ME PLACES  Let a student volunteer read the book (or read a few pages) instead of you.  They have _____ minutes/pages/sentences to read. For a little silliness, instead of setting a limit, have students “tap in” and out like they do in a wrestling match or hand off the baton like relay racers.  Volunteers pop up and jump in!  (You may need to reread the book for full comprehension!)
  10. CO-TEACHERS  Give the students cards with key questions on them that they can raise at a pause during the teacher’s reading of the story (cards like “What do you think will happen next?” or “Has something like this happened to you?”)  Number their questions so you can pause at the right time and say “question 1,” etc.
  11. THIS IS DEDICATED TO . . . read a book with an interesting dedication.  Talk about the wording and practice of dedicating a book to someone.  Let them discuss what the author’s/illustrator’s dedication might be about. Tell them you’re going to read the book, but afterward, you want them to choose someone they would dedicate the book to and explain why they chose that person.  Responses might be written, shared in class, recorded, or just thought about.  This works especially well with books geared toward social-emotional learning: 
  • Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, illustrated by David Catrow
  • Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
  • Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
  • The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López 
  • Thank You, Omu by Oge Mora
  • What Do You Do with a Problem? By Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom
  • Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
  • Enemy Pie by Derek Munson, illustrated by Tara Calahan King
  • Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
  1. THAT 600/700s SHOW  Read a joke book, craft book, “how to draw” book, recipe book–any sort of book we normally expect to read individually.  Some kids don’t know that these kinds of books are in the library! Look at cooking books and talk about what they want to make. Look through a craft book then turn kids loose with a variety of materials.  Just enjoy the jokes–older kids may enjoy passing the book around a circle.  Each person reads one joke then passes it to the next person. This is also a relatively safe activity for reading aloud if the jokes are short and simple.
  2. START WITH A QUESTION  Choose a book (or a few books) that have a question as the title. Look for answers to the question while you read.  Discuss why the author might use a question after you finish.
  3. CATS V. DOGS  Everyone knows animals get kids talking–and children’s book authors too!  Pull a few picture books that feature cat and dog characters (Stretchy McHandsome by Judith Schachner is one of my recent cat favorites; Can I Be Your Dog? By Troy Cummings is a recent favorite dog book–and there are HUNDREDS more!).  Tell the students you are going to debate which is better–cats or dogs.  BUT they can only use evidence from the books to support their argument.  They listen closely before the debate.  You can list some answers for younger kids to refer to.  You can also use a few sentence frames to help students stick to the rules:  _________  are better because they _______ the way they  did in the book when _________.   You can always do a different “vs” with two often-compared and argued things.  Avoid “boys vs. girls” though–let’s stop promoting that argument!
  4. GO ON A JOURNEY Read a book where a character goes on an adventure or makes a journey.  “Follow” along physically by moving from one place to the next as the character moves.  You can put up pictures or signs so kids know where to go next, or just pretend a spot where you stop is the new scene. Most “quest” books end up with the hero returning home so you’ll probably end where you began!) A couple of my recent favorites:  Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman, Pea, Bee, & Jay #1: Stuck Together by Brian “Smitty” Smith.  
  5. HIDDEN PICTURES & SECONDARY STORYLINES Read a book with “hidden” pictures or secondary storylines.  These might be simple “seek and find” books like Where’s Waldo? But there are many rich alternatives where there is still a central plot, but students interact to identify what else is happening in the pictures. (In large groups, find an ebook to project the pages or maybe make a few copies of some pages so kids can search without crowding around you!)  Some “hot tips”:   :P
  • Goodnight Moon  by Margaret Wise Brown (look for a white mouse on every color page; watch the clock–how long does it take to get the baby to bed?)
  • Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman (look for a red balloon on every spread; can you spot the mouse hauling a banana? Look at the photos in the zookeeper’s house!)  She also references earlier books in later ones.
  • Any Arthur book by Marc Brown (He hides the names of his kids in the books: Tucker, Tolon, and Eliza and sometimes his wife’s, Laurie).
  • The Mysterious Tadpole (or any other book) by Steven Kellogg (all of his books have his dog–Pinkerton–and his cat–Secondhand Rose–somewhere in the book.  Pinkerton also “writes” his own series!)
  • The Lost Mitten (or any other book)  by Jan Brett (look for the hedgehog hidden in all of her books; sometimes it’s a toy, once it was the French name for “Hedgehog”  The margin drawings have some other activity going on too.)
  • Waiting for Wings by Lois Elhert  (there is a heart hidden within the illustrations her books)
  • Books illustrated by Ralph Masiello.  Masiello hides different things in his illustrations.  In The Extinct Alphabet Book he hid a picture of the book’s author, Jerry Pallotta and many others–Elvis is on the ‘U’ page!.  In The Skull Alphabet Book, he hid 43 US Presidents!
  • Curious George books by H. A. Rey feature his black cocker spaniel somewhere in the illustrations
  • Chris Van Allsburg  includes a white dog with a patch over one eye (Fritz) in all of his books.  The dog is a character in The Garden of Abdul Gasazi but in the later books he is hidden
  • Anything illustrated by Maurice Sendak includes his West Highland White Terrier (named Jenny).
  • Miss Nelson series (and other books) by James Marshall–every book includes the flag of Texas, look for other symbols of Texas too–like Santa’s cowboy boots in his Night Before Christmas
  • The Neighbors by Einat Tsarfati: early in the book you see a sign for a “LOST HAMSTER.”  The hamster is on each page–this one is sometimes challenging but fun to find (and hilarious in the last scene)
  • Janet Ahlberg’s  Each Peach, Pear, Plum: watch for fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters
  • Anno books often have fairy tale characters; they all have “the man on a horse” in every scene along with optical tricks, hidden paintings and literary scenes.  You’ll find Anno on each page of Anno’s Journey as well (Mitsumasa Anno)
  • Keith Baker (Elephants Aloft) has a nut in each illustration (writing by Kathi Appelt); Hide and Snake is a tricky one–one item from each page “migrates to the next page)  Look for bees and fruit too.  Who is the Beast has a snail on each page.
  • The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen (hidden-pictures spread)
  • Illustrator Graeme Base has intricate illustrations with all kinds of objects hiding inside. In Eleventh Hour there are clues in the illustrations to help solve the mystery. In Animalia, each letter of the alphabet has hundreds of pictures to identify.  He also has a young boy in blue pants and a striped shirt on each page–the boy is kind of dressed like Waldo, but it’s supposed to be the illustrator as a kid.
  • Piggybook by Anthony Browne: as the story deepens, more and more pigs are integrated into the pictures.
  • Mark Buehner–lots of animals hidden in the illustrations: a cat, a dog, a rabbit, a dinosaur, multiple others! 
  • Snowmen at Night and Snowmen at Christmas there is also a hidden santa. In later books, he includes a list of items to find.  
  • David Catrow puts crazy images in his illustrations, but doesn’t really comment on all of them.  Rotten Teeth (Simms), the main character talks about her boring house but it has many crazy items, including an alien landing on the grass and an elephant mowing the lawn.
  • Henry Cole’s  illustrations in Pamela Edwards’ Some Smug Slug feature S-shapes.
  • Donald Crews hides the year the book was created in his books. Night at the Fair has his self-portrait (looks like the About the Author flap)
  • Tomie dePaola  includes his dog, a peacock, a dove, and/or a heart shape
  • Tim Egan has said he likes to hide things in his illustrations–especially family names and spoofs of famous art
  • Phoebe Gilman puts her husband and her daughter in her books and often includes details from earlier books in her later books, for example “Little Blue Ben” is in one of the art pictures on the wall in Jillian Jiggs.
  • Will Hellenbrand The Biggest Best Snowman (Margery Cuyler)  As the animals roll the snowball, they make the word ”snowman” in the snow.  It happens over several pages.
  • On Marketplace–look for Frog and Toad!  Arnold & Anita Lobel
  • Mercer Mayer–Little Critter books have a cricket, grasshopper, mouse, and spider in the illustrations
  • Waltz of the Scarecrows by Constance McGeorge (look for a scarecrow hidden on each page)
  • The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. Each time the little wolves are escaping the pig, they bring their teapot
  • Jerry Pinkney hides family members in his books, even himself.  He draws faces in foliage (look in leaves AND tree trunks)
  • In Song of Night by Linnea Riley, her characters are reading Riley’s first book, Mouse Mess
  • Phyllis Root In One Duck Stuck there is a branch with a leaf that gets closer and closer to the duck until he is finally able to step on it and get out of the muck.
  • Richard Scarry Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, Goldbug is on every spread.
  • Peter Sis–any of his books are filled with hidden and disguised images.  Check The Three Golden Keys
  • Way Out in the Desert, Over in the Garden, Way up in the Arctic Somewhere in the Ocean (Jennifer Ward) illustrator Kenneth Spengler puts the correct number of items to go with the counting story, but also hides the numeral in the picture (one of  the nine coyotes in the desert book has a tail that curls into a 9, for example).  You also can find a miniature of the creature for the next page on the current page.
  • David Weisner’s books have interesting objects (frog-shaped clouds, for example) even if they aren’t necessarily “hidden.”  In Tuesday, the man eating a sandwich and drinking milk is the illustrator himself!
  • Mike Wilks includes a picture of himself and a snail in every picture (occasionally just in one panel of a spread)
  • Don and Audrey Wood put their son in every book, not hidden but just as a character.
  • Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky: the cat is on every page and it grows as the book progresses
  • Lon Po Po by Ed Young has some challenging ones.  On the dedication page, the face of Young’s grandfather is in the picture of the wolf.  In the first picture the landscape is a wolf’s head (the mom is walking toward the nose).  At the end when the wolf is being pulled up in the basket, the tree looks strange–if you turn the page sideways, it looks like the wolf’s head–the basket is the eye.
  • William Bee books: And the Train Goes, And the Cars Go, Beware of the Frog . . . there’s a snail on each page
  • It’s Only Stanley  by Jon Agee  The dog on each page is an obvious feature–but there’s a cat on each page too!
  • The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool.  There is a “face” on the hills that changes expressions to fit the story.
  • The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman  Besides a cat on each page, you can also discover the cat’s name!
  • Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle has a spider in every picture
  • Snowmen All Year by Caralyn Buehner–two ducks on each page
  • Wild About Us! By Karen Beaumont–look for the fly on each picture
  • Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems–look for Pigeon on pages scattered throughout the book.


  1. Read looking for PERSONIFICATION (human characteristics given to non-human things)
  2. Read looking for METAPHOR (a direct comparison of two different things) 
  3. Read looking for SIMILE (a comparison of two different things using “like” or “as”)

GREAT choice for 46 and 47:  I Talk Like A River by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith (beyond the simile in the title, you have lines like “I feel a storm in my belly; my eyes fill with rain”).  Other recent releases teeming with fresh and clever metaphor and/or simile include I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes; illustrated by Gordon C. James and Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho.

  1. Read looking for ONOMATOPOEIA (words that sound like their meanings–”crash,” “boom,” “pop”)
  2. Read looking for FORESHADOWING, details along the way that hint at a later outcome.  Fitting choices: 
  • The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau by Jon Agee
  • Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say
  • Ruby the Copycat by Peggy Rathmann
  • Don’t Eat That by Drew Sheneman
  • Enemy Pie by Derek Munson, illustrated by Tara Calahan King
  • The Mystery of Eatum Hall by John Kelly, illustrated by Cathy Tincknell and John Kelly
  1. Read looking for ALLITERATION (add consonance, assonance, and rhyme if you’re feeling brave!)
  2. Read (and teach) the literary device FRAME STORY.  A frame story is any part of the story that “frames” another part of it.  For example, in Mouse Tales by Arnold Lobel, the book begins and ends with a father mouse sitting with his children as they fall asleep.  He tells them different stories to help them sleep–the stories we read as the “mouse tales.” Also, in a new release, Sugar in Milk by Thirity Umrigar, illustrated by Khoa Le, a girl recently immigrated to the US and missing her friends in India is cheered up and inspired when her aunt tells her a traditional Persian story (the main text of the book).
  3. Read looking for HYPERBOLE (an exaggerated statement that emphasizes the significance of the statement’s actual meaning–”I haven’t seen you in a million years” is a hyperbole; it emphasizes how long it has been since they saw each other).  Most children’s books have an example or two. These three do for certain!
  • Parts by Tedd Arnold  
  • Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
  • My Daddy is a Giant by Carl Norac, illustrated by Ingrid Godon
  1. Read paying attention to IMAGERY (details that appeal to the senses).  Teach the types of imagery if you’re feeling ambitious–visual, audio, tactile, smell, taste, kinesthetic.  Kinesthetic images appeal to our whole body/muscular system like balance and movement.
  2. Read paying attention to FIRST-PERSON POINT OF VIEW–and how/why it creates an UNRELIABLE NARRATOR. 
  • I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
  • Olivia Saves the Circus by Ian Falconer
  • Dear. Mrs. La Rue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague
  • My Cat, the Silliest Cat in the World by Gilles Bachelet
  1. Speaking of Dear Mrs. La Rue, read a book or two in the EPISTOLARY FORM (written as letters).   These are a very unique point of view exercise since they are first-person, but the audience is one person.  They also often require a lot of attention from the reader to infer details that are left out of the story since it’s all told in letters.  A keen eye in the illustrations pays off too.  Read a few of these books and ask questions or make comments along the way.  Let the kids talk about these books–they’ll have interesting questions and observations.  Besides Dear Mrs. La Rue, consider 
  • XO, OX by Adam Rex, illustrated by Scott Campbell
  • Dear Substitute by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Chris Raschka
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
  • Letters from Bear by Gauthier David, illustrated by Marie Caudry
  1. Read looking for/discussing RHYTHM & REPETITION (any rhyming book will work)
  2. CHARACTER TRAITS  Read an engaging biography or a picture book with a strong, unique central character.  Before reading, talk about adjectives (words that describe a person, place, or thing).  It may help to brainstorm a list of adjectives we use to describe the inside traits of a character.  Read and ask students to nod or (or some other small movement*) when they hear a describing word they think is a character trait.  While you read, point out a few along the way.  After, make a list of words the writer used then brainstorm to add more character traits you can infer (draw a conclusion about) based on the book’s details. (*Use a response other than raising hands so kids don’t expect that you will “call” on them while reading.)
  1. Read while analyzing the AUTHOR’S (or ILLUSTRATOR’S) CHOICES.  Just ask general questions along the way:  Why do you think she added this detail?  Why would he make the animal a crocodile, not a bear or rabbit or some other type of animal?
  2. Read paying attention to (and teaching) the traits of a FABLE
  3. Read paying attention to (and teaching) a traditional TRICKSTER TALE 
  • Doctor De Soto by William Steig
  • Who’s in Rabbit’s House? by Verna Aardema, illustrated by Dian and Leo Dillon
  • Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache by Greg Rodgers, illustrated by Leslie Stall Widener
  • many of Gerald McDermott’s books (Jabutí, Raven, Zomo, Anansi the Spider, Pig-Boy, Coyote, etc.)
  1. Read paying attention to (and teaching) a POURQUOI TALE.
  • How Raven Got HIs Crooked Nose by Barbara J.Atwater & Ethan J. Atwater, illustrated by Mindy Dwyer
  • Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema 
  • How Chipmunk Got His Stripes by Joseph and James Bruchac, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey 
  • Rabbit’s Snow Dance by James & Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Jeff Newman
  • How the Rooster Got His Crown by Amy Lowry Poole
  • The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon KIassen
  1. ONE STORY, MANY STORYTELLERS Read different versions of the same folk or fairy tale. Compare and contrast.  For example, these are all versions of Cinderella: Pattan’s Pumpkin by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Frané Lessac (India), The Golden Sandal by Rebecca Hickox, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand (Middle East), Adelita by Tomie dePaola (Mexico), Yeh-Shen by Ai Ling Louie (China), The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece by Anthony Manna and Christodoula Mitakidou, illustrated by Giselle Potter (Greece), The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin, illustrated by David Shannon (Algonquin). 
  2. Read a book with a strong, important SETTING.  Decorate or imagine details to recreate the setting.
  3. BEFORE AND AFTER  After reading, create a before/after list to compare ways the characters change in the story, learn something new, or feel different by the end of the book.
  4. Grammar mini-lesson: VIVID VERBS  Remind (or teach) students that words that show action and states of being are called verbs.  A verb is full of motion or shows what a person or thing is doing.  Have younger students act out some verbs: dance, sing, wiggle, think, pout, jump, sit, obey, etc. (notice how my last verbs are the quiet ones!).  Older students can identify the verb in sample sentences to review.  Explain that the best writers choose verbs that are exactly what they want you to imagine. Vivid verbs are ones that stimulate your senses and make you use your imagination.  Read a book with exemplary vivid verbs and ask kids to listen for a few vivid verbs they really like.  At the end, review the best verbs (act a few out with the younger kids?) Some authors may even make up a verb or two! Some books to consider: 
  • Some Pets by Angela DiTerlizzi, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
  • I’m Here by Peter H. Reynolds
  • Southwest Sunrise by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Wendell Minor
  • Dreamland by Noah Klocek
  • Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter by Kenard Pak
  • Things to Do by Elaine Magliaro, illustrated by Catia Chen
  • Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
  • My Tree and Me by Jo Witek, illustrated by Christine Roussey
  • Small in the City by Sydney Smith
  • Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
  • Honey by David Ezra Stein
  • The Nest that Wren Built by Randi Sonenshine; illustrated by Anne Hunter
  • Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita 
  1. HOW TO READ A GRAPHIC NOVEL  Read a selection from a graphic novel.  Project the pages if possible.  You can prepare some tips and techniques for reading and understanding graphic novels to expand the students’ understanding.  Follow this link for a good starting point. BUT I think it’s also interesting to tell students that graphic novels are relatively new.  We read comics and comic books as kids, but they have more experience with graphic novels than we do.  Ask them to teach YOU how to read a graphic novel. Create a list of tips to display.  Ask ALL the questions: Where do I start? How do I know what to read first? Can I skip the panels without words?  Why are there pages before the story starts (or after)?  and so forth!
  2. DESIGN ELEMENTS: SIZE & ORIENTATION  Focus on “visual literacy” by helping kids notice interesting concepts (like how the white space grows smaller as Max’s imagination becomes bigger in Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak).  Size and orientation: consider how perfect the landscape orientation is for Nanette’s Baguette (Mo Willems) and how the unusual portrait orientation in Tadpole’s Promise (Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross) separates the water and sky. Consider why Madeline (John Bemelmans Marciano & Ludwig Bemelmans) books are so tall, why Locomotive (Brian Floca) is so big (there aren’t firm “answers,” just ideas–and kids are surprisingly insightful!)
  3. DESIGN ELEMENTS: ENDPAPERS & FRONT MATTER  Teach kids that the first and last pages they see in a picture book are endpapers.  Jim Trelease compares them to “curtains that open and close on a performance or play.”  Teach the terms to students and let them analyze what they see.  The color bands in Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle,  are the same colors of the animals in the story, in the order in which they appear in the book. Endpapers might summarize the whole story (see Ugly Duckling illustrated by Jerry Pinkney).  They can show the passage of time (The Napping House by Don and Audrey Wood are dark at the front of the book and light at the end, following the shift in mood through the book. And in Best Best Friends, the preschool cubbies are full in the front papers and almost empty at the end).  The inclusion of a picture after the endpapers but before the story begins might be meaningful too?
  4. DESIGN ELEMENTS: TYPOGRAPHY (the style and size of font).  When the rabbit lies in I Want My Hat Back (Jon Klassen), the words are in red while all of the other words in the book are black.  The Book with No Pictures (B.J. Novak) relies on the size, color, and white space to “show” you how to read a picture book with no pictures! Think about size and neatness in Mo Willems’ pigeon books (especially the freak out that is bound to happen). Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child such as I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato go crazy with the fonts, wavy lines, mixed font styles, etc.  Why?  I don’t really know, but it’s fun to think of possibilities–and kids can do it!
  5. COLORS  Read a book paying attention to the way the illustrator uses color.  Discuss how color can reflect the mood of the story or even the subject.  Stop occasionally and “read” the color in the pictures. Pictures may be symbolic too (What else is red? What does it mean to “feel blue”? Why is the last page brighter than the others?) (Note that very old publications were sometimes limited in color because of expense or set-up; this may work best with newer books).  Books to consider: 
  • Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
  • We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade
  • Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews; illustrated Bryan Collier
  • Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown
  • Blackout by John Rocco
  • No, David!  By David Shannon
  • Snow by Uri Shulevitz
  • Golem by David Wisniewski
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
  • Lon Po Po by Ed Young
  • Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang, illustrated by Max Lang
  • My Papi Has A Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña
  • Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
  • My Mouth is a Volcano! By Julia Cook; illustrated by Carrie Hartman
  1. Read a story featuring DRAMATIC IRONY (that uncomfortable feeling that happens when you know something the character doesn’t–think about comedies when people keep missing each other or someone is dressed up like someone else so no one recognizes them–or think of scary movies when you know where the bad guy is and the characters are walking right toward him!).  Teaching dramatic irony is difficult, even with older students. You don’t have to teach them what it is this time–just read them a book full of it. It is difficult NOT to interact with a text when you want to shout at the book!  Titles to try: 
  • Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
  • Life on Mars by Jon Agee
  • The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee
  • The Worst Book in the Whole Entire World by Joey Acker
  • The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Marchenko
  • The Lion in Our Living Room by Emma Middleton and Briony Stewart
  1. POETRY!  Poetry slows down your reading, makes every word and image worth thinking about, and often speaks directly to readers’ emotions and memories.  It may seem difficult if you haven’t spent a lot of time with it, but if you keep reading you’ll find it has a different mood and mindset.  In fact, the slower pace and attention to detail  can help struggling readers make connections more easily.  It usually seems “hard” or “boring” to those high-flying readers who are used to skimming and easily recalling what they read!  But they’ll love it too, especially when it’s read aloud–the way poetry is meant to be read.  Verse (Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, etc.) is a lot of fun–but don’t be afraid of more literary poetry that shares much more with poetry for older readers but still appeals to children.  Some fun places to start: 
  • Dogku by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Andrew Clements
  • Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees
  • A Full Moon is Rising by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Julia Cairns
  • (Other poetry books by Marilyn Singer)
  • Shaking Things Up, by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, Emily Winfield Martin, et al.
  • All the Wild Wonders by Wendy Cooling, illustrated by Piet Grobler
  • If the Shoe Fits: Voices from Cinderella by Laura Whipple, illustrated by Laura Beingessner
  • Least Things: Poems about Small Natures by Jane Yolen , photographs by Jason Stemple
  1. AWARD WINNERS: THE CALDECOTT MEDAL  Of course, the Caldecott Medal honors the artist of “the most distinguished American picture book for children.” One definition for ‘distinguished’ is “successful, authoritative, and commanding great respect”  Other definitions use words like these: excellence, dignity, special, singular, and memorable.  Read (and look at!) a Caldecott Medal winner.  Ask students to share what they think is “distinguished” about the illustrations.  Share your own observations.  (You could also do this activity with minimal adaptations for the Pura Belpré Illustrator and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards.)


  1. VOCABULARY Stop at difficult words. Explain what they mean, have kids act out the word or create a symbol/action that will help them remember what it means. Do this sparingly, though, or it will frustrate kids.(Too many stops!)
  2. READER REACTIONS React and insert your own thoughts and questions: “What? Why would he do that?  “I wonder if he will find his way home?” “Oh, that picture makes me giggle!” etc.
  3. FORWARD THEN BACK Read without stopping, then go backward through the book to look for interesting moments and pages to talk about.  Let the kids lead:  Tell me something interesting about this page.  What do you notice?  What did you think when we read it the first time?
  4. PICTURE PREVIEW Read the book only using the pictures; ask for ideas about what is happening.  Then re-read the book with the words to see how close your guesses came.
  5. “IMAGINE” STOPS Stop after reading a description or burst of action. Give the kids a minute to close their eyes and “see” the scene.  “Imagine what the car might look like” or “see if you can make a short little movie in your mind with what has happened so far.”  BONUS:  If you can get kids to close their eyes for a little while, they’ll be quiet. It’s the most magical thing ever!
  6. FEEL THE FEELS Sit with your feelings for a while: during an emotional moment, ask them to sit still and imagine what the character must feel at this moment. (A quiet moment is perfectly appropriate!)
  7. NONFICTION WALK Take a “walk” through an informational book before you read.  Note the features of the texts (pictures with captions, graph, charts, etc.).  Discuss strategies to help them read nonfiction.
  8. WHICH CAME FIRST? Help students “reconstruct” the story they just read by sorting events on a timeline.  Make this a physical and tactile opportunity.  Make the line on a whiteboard or use masking tape to create one on the wall or bulletin board.  LOW prep:  Write events from the story on sticky notes and pass them out.  Have the kids arrange them in order.  NO prep:  Let the kids write the events on a sticky note as you dictate!  This would also be a good exercise for a biography or historical book for a nonfiction read aloud.
  9. WHAT ABOUT YOU? Stop and ask for personal experiences:  “Have any of you ever felt left out before?”  (Obviously, be careful with some groups–first-graders, for example, can share for hours!).  You can also just ask for a sign to keep it short–and to protect kids from stories they may not want to share:  “Nod your head if you have ever felt left out before.”
  10. THE BUILD-UP AND SUSPENSE Read a “cumulative tale” that builds anticipation for easy predictions and emotional interaction.  
  • The Napping House by Audrey Wood and Don Wood
  • A Bear Sat on My Porch Today by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Rilla Alexander
  • The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred   by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Rafael López
  • The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung  by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Sebasitià Serra
  • Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis, illustrated Kenard Pak
  • The Treasure of Pirate Frank by Mall Peet and Elspeth Graham, illustrated Jez Tuya
  • One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree  by Daniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
  • There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight  by Penny Parker Klostermann, illustrated by Ben Mantle
  • Me and Annie McPhee  by Olivier Dunrea, illustrated  by Will Hillenbrand
  • There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback 
  • The House that Jack Built by Diana Mayo
  • The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel, illustrated by Nancy Winslow Parker
  • If you Give a ________ a ________ books by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by  Felicia Bond
  • My Little Sister Ate One Hare  Bill Grossman, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
  • A Giraffe and a Half by Shel Silverstein
  1. THE NO-PICTURE PREVIEW Read a few pages of the book without showing the pictures.  Give the students a few minutes to draw what they think will be on one of the pages based on what you read.  Compare  their results as you return to those pages.
  1. WHAT’S THE TITLE?  Explain that you will read the book, but you won’t tell them the title just now. They need to listen carefully so that they can make guesses at the end of the book.
  1. FIVE SENSES  Stop periodically to ask kids to use their senses to explore part of the story:  Can you see the bird in the tree?  What sounds is it making?  Touch the tree to see how the bark feels.  It’s a nice spring day; feel the warm sun on your face.  What do you think you might smell in this scene? (This is very fun with scary books!)
  1. TAKE NOTE! Give the students 3X5 cards, individual whiteboards OR put one big piece of butcher paper on the ground or table in front of them.  Have them write down questions or thoughts they have while you read.  Go through the questions and thoughts afterward. Re-read as needed.
  1. VOCABULARY PRE-TEACH  Choose 3-5 words from the book that might be more difficult for the students.  Spell it for them, show them how it is written, and give them a definition.  Have them invent an action to do (or a face to pull, or…) that represents the word and its definition well.  As you read, they should listen for the vocabulary words and do their action when they hear it.  Stop at the end of that page and point out the word.  Reread the sentence the word is in.  Ask them to explain what the sentence means.
  1. PAIRED TEXTS (NONFICTION AND FICTION) Read a fiction picture book and a nonfiction title about similar subjects to compare and contrast the genres.  Examples:
  • Being Frog by April Pulley Sayre and I Don’t Want to be a Frog by Dev Petty, illustrated by Mike Boldt
  • You are the First Kid on Mars by Patrick O’Brien and Mousetronaut Goes to Mars by Mark Kelly, ill. by C. F. Payne
  • Wonderful Worms by Linda Glaser and Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Harry Bliss
  • A Rock Is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long and Old Rock (Is Not Boring) by Deb Pilutti
  1. BOOK-TO-BOOK CONNECTIONS Choose a theme and read two or three books with that theme.  Think “out loud” and help students make book-to-book connections.  

Example: You can be anything you want to be (Theme).  

Books: Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman, The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting, and City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan.

  1. ONGOING PREDICTIONS (During Reading) Focus on making predictions during the reading.  Read a book that drops hints along the way or asks students to wait for a full understanding of the plot.  Stop occasionally to make predictions.  You can also do this with the cover or title of any book!  Some good choices: 
  • Duck on a Bike by David Shannon
  • Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes
  • What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? By Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
  1. FOLLOW ALONG Project the book using a doc cam or hand out a few extra copies of the book so students can follow as you read aloud.  For young or beginning readers, point to the word you’re reading and identify elements of the text that help you read or know what’s important.  You can also make some copies of a few pages; students could stand when they recognize their page (or when they recognize the picture).  Stop and let them hang their page.  When you finish, verify the pages are in the correct order.
  2. PROBLEM/SOLUTION  Teach that the “plot” of a book is what happens, but specifically it’s about a conflict and resolution, or, more simply a problem and a solution.  Read, stopping along the way to help students define and refine the problem.  After you read, discuss the solution–how the character came to that solution, if they think it will work and why, if they have had similar problems, what other problems this solution might solve.  Any book will work, but some books with clear problem-solution plots include the following: 
  • Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber
  • Dog Breath by Dav Pilkey
  • Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
  • Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
  • The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
  • any Elephant and Piggie book by Mo Willems
  • Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter
  1. CAUSE & EFFECT This is a plot lesson, but can also be character analysis. For example, while they may sympathize with Alexander in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, you can go back through the day and see where Alexander could have avoided some of the disasters.  A simpler idea is just to explore how one event causes another.  This may seem overly simple, but it is a challenging cognitive task for developing minds (think of your favorite teenager and his/her ability to see consequences!).  Reinforce that CAUSE is why something happened and EFFECT is what happened. Good options: 
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (and the many books that follow) by Laura Numeroff, Illustrated by Felicia Bond
  • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  • The Lumbrerjack’s Beard by Duncan Beedie
  • Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
  • The Stray Dog by Marc Simont
  • The Dog that Ate the World by Sandra Diekmann
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School by Davide Cali, illustrated by Benjamin Chaud
  1. BEGINNING, MIDDLE, AND END Read the first sentence (or two) of the book then read the last sentence(or two) of the book.  Ask students to imagine what will happen between that first sentence and the last sentence.  Read the book, stopping along the way to check their predictions.
  2. YOU HAVE FIVE SECONDS . . .   Before you read, tell students that you are going to ask them to re-tell the important parts of the story (the overall plot). This summary should not include all of the details–just a few words to tell someone who didn’t hear the story what they need to to understand it.  Provide a few examples (one or two sentences maximum!).  Add the catch: they will have only FIVE SECONDS to summarize so they have to make decisions about what is important.  After you finish reading, let the students practice with a partner.  If their summaries are not within 5 seconds, ask them to cut whatever is not essential to know about the general story. Have a few “pass off” their quick summaries (and time them).  Ask for a volunteer who wasn’t able to get their summary under five seconds.  If they will, ask them to share (time them) then discuss as a group what details  might be extra for a simple summary.  Summarizing is actually quite difficult to learn!
  3. BLOCK THE SCENE  When actors tell a story on stage, they rely on directors to make decisions about what scenery and props will be on the stage and to “block” the scenes.  Blocking means planning where actors will be and how they will move through the scene.  Read a book that has a few separate scenes (most do).  After reading the book, go back to particular scenes. Using actual blocks to represent characters (or Legos or game pieces or action figures or anything else) ask students to “block” the actors (people and animals and other moving things) in that scene. Read the scene while they move the people then see if they can repeat their blocking without the story (just summarizing/retelling in their own words).  Have a new group repeat the process with other scenes.
  4. SLO-MO REPLAY Students reenact a scene from the book in slow motion.  Introduce the idea before you read and ask them to watch/listen for a scene they could reenact.  Honestly, the slo-mo is just to make it novel and add an element of silliness that makes students less shy about participating.  They can all reenact it at once.   Alternatively, let them work in small groups.  A few groups can share while the other students guess what the scene is.  Action-packed books work best! 
  • Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers
  • The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
  • The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko
  • The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague
  • Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol
  • most Pete the Cat books (James Dean)
  • My Papi Has A Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peñ
  • Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
  • Vroom! By Barbara McClintock 
  1. TIME JUMPING Read looking for flashbacks or ”memory moments.” Lead students through, noticing time shifts and thinking about how looking back in time within a book changes how the book feels. 
  • Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
  • Why the Chicken Crossed the Road by David Macaulay
  • Previously by Allan Ahlberg 
  1. SURPRISE!   Read a book where the author surprises you.  Read all the way through then go back to see what clues the author may have dropped along the way.  Ideas: 
  • Tadpole’s Promise by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross
  • Charlotte and the Rock by Stephen W. Martin, illustrated by Samantha Cotterill
  • Finders Keepers by Keiko Kasza
  • Baghead by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
  • The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach
  • One Cool Friend  by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by David Small
  • Polar Bear’s Underwear by Tupera Tupera
  • The Forgetful Knight by Michelle Robinson, illustrated by Fred Blunt

(Access the original, printable version of the list here.)

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