Teacher Advocate

A place for educators and parents to share ideas –

Reasons for Concern Regarding Boys and School!

Untitled-1 Hello!

My name is Linda Marie Gilliam, and this is my first attempt at blogging on my own website that I feel so passionate about!  I am not exactly “tech savy”, but with help from my partner, now this site http://www.teacheradvocate.com  is up and running! Yahooooo….

In addition, if you click on the above “SOS Save Our Students”, you will read more of my concerns and suggestions!

Soon I will have my book available in bookstores, libraries and online in many countries called , “The 7 Steps to Help Boys Love School:  Teaching to their Passion for Less Frustration!”  My book will be published by Rowman & Littlefield Educational Department this spring, and I can hardly contain my excitement! Pre-ordering is available now!   http://www.roman.com  Also available all over the world at “WOW HD BOOKS”… Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You can also order from Target and Walmart.

Please watch for it around April 28TH, 2015.

In my wildest dreams I never thought I would write a book, but after seeing what was happening in our educational system year after year…the book evolved. Hopefully many teachers, parents, caregivers, principals, coaches, librarians, and administrators will read my book and pass it along to others. Over the course of my 40 years in the field of education, teaching children, helping teachers, counseling parents, and giving presentations at various workshops, my concern became larger and larger. In addition, by teaching as the Literacy Specialist, I learned many new strategies with struggling boys, and girls. Exceptional children benefit as well!

I’ve discovered that the most significant reason for children not liking school….boys in particular….is the lack of the Educational System finding a successful template. Secondly, boys learn differently than girls and develop slower when it comes to Literacy. Brain studies and so much research has been done over many years, showing that girls and boys learn at different rates and in different ways.  If our policy makers do not heed the warning that boys need more activity in their learning, and all children must have lessons presented at their developmental level….and not just presented to them according to their current age…we will lose more and more students who have the potential to succeed. These children need to be reached in their earliest years of schooling, before the lack of interest in coming to school, “snowballs” out of control.

Numerous studies have proven this fact over and over, yet classes and learning are taught the same way to all. Girls like sitting and listening for long periods of time; while many boys feel tortured. Boys need more “hands on activities”, with movement and exploration, for their learning to flourish. Medication may be necessary for some with ADHD, but it is not the answer for boys who are just “acting like boys.” Far too many boys are “labeled” early, if they cannot conform to a structured classroom.

In my opinion, we as educators and parents need to encourage children to discover their own strengths through finding a child’s true passion, or interest; no matter what it might be and early on. Those interests will change, but then so must our teaching My heart goes out to those children “lost” in the shuffle of so many schools trying to “shove children through the educational mill” of reading, writing, and math, only hoping they will do well on an upcoming mandated test. “One Size Will NEVER Fit All”, and our currently crowded curriculum leaves little time for much creativity by teachers or students.

There is no time for learning foreign languages, or any other subject not directly tied to the Common Core Standards… or required tests given. It is obvious that little has changed over the century to solve so many problems prevalent in our schools today. To further substantiate this, we have heard of how a number of our best known Nobel Prize Winners and other well known men, truly hated school. Many of them even thought school was boring, confining, prison-like, and frustrating, at very best! Consequently, a large number of brilliant men dropped out of school, choosing home schooling and learning on their own.

The time is now, if we want to close the widening educational gap between boys and girls, as well as the increasing gap when compared to other countries in the areas of reading, writing, math and science. My theory is that if we do not change our “Antiquated School System” soon, children’s frustration will lead to the serious epidemic of aggressive behaviors and a general feeling of failure found mainly in boys. We may be doomed to the mediocrity our country will accomplish in the future, not to mention what it is doing to our society as a whole. School shootings and stabbings, bullying, fighting, gang activities, bomb threats, and even suicides are constantly in the news, much to our dismay. To even think so many schools are now eliminating RECESS, to give more time for “teaching” Common Core Standards is truly ludicrous! 

Please Contact me: lgilliam@teacheradvocate.com  if you believe as I do, or have a comment.

posted by lgilliam in "SOS" SAVE OUR STUDENTS!,Brain Study in Girls and Boys,Coaching,Concern for boys learning,Educational Frustrations,Head Start,labeling our children,Learning disability?,No MORE Recess???,Uncategorized and have No Comments

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TEACHING STRATEGIES

Optimizing Station Rotations in Blended Learning

Using three stations effectively—teacher-led, online, and offline—should provide your students with plenty of ways to collaborate.By Laura LeeSeptember 20, 2019

Photo of students working at stations

©Edutopia

Interested in blending learning models?

A three-station rotation model is a valuable tool for teachers who want to integrate technology, writes former Teacher of the Year and author Caitlin Tucker on her blog. The tactic moves students through different areas of the classroom: teacher-led stations, online stations, and offline stations. While this blended learning model “creates a nice balance between online and offline work,” says Tucker, “it is easy for teachers to slip into a rut when it comes to designing their stations.” 

Tucker identifies common pitfalls and possible solutions: 

The teacher-led station: Just because a station is teacher-led doesn’t mean the teacher should do all the talking; it’s not all about direct instruction. Encourage students to engage and collaborate. Model a practice and then have students try the same practice in pairs. Or use the teacher-led station for immediate feedback on a recently completed piece of writing, completed homework, or a lab assignment, either through formal assessments or informal Q&A sessions. The teacher-led station is also a great opportunity for differentiated instruction: even if the activity is the same, give different students different instructions tailored to their particular needs. Scaffolding in small groups or moving around the group to observe students individually as they try to complete a modeled task allows teachers to cater to individual needs. 

The online station: One common pitfall in the online station is using it “exclusively for personalized practice using adaptive software or an online program.” Asking kids to work on computers or tablets in isolation can be limiting and de-motivating. Find ways to make technological integration collaborative, Tucker says, and focus on activities like designing, creating, and publishing digitally. Using technology to support project-based learning, for example, ensures that students interact with each other and not just with screens. Interactive games and quizzes where students play with each other, like Kahoot, can build knowledge while encouraging student interaction. Social media platforms can be a useful tool for engaging with experts as well. 

The offline station: The offline station is often dominated by independent work on paper. “Instead of designing collaborative tasks that allow students social learning opportunities, they are required to practice without support or peer interaction.” Like the online station, the offline station works best when students have an opportunity to engage with others and receive guidance. Art projects, STEM experiments, or in-depth discussion allow students to work together and engage in deeper learning. 

FILED UNDER


TEACHING STRATEGIES

3 Ways to Boost Students’ Conceptual Thinking

Coaching students to think in terms of concepts helps them understand how to apply their learning in the future.By Carla MarschallSeptember 10, 2019

Illustration concept showing student engagement and thought process

We want our students’ learning to be enduring, enabling them to make sense of complexity now and in the future. For this to occur, we need to nudge students beyond the learning of facts and skills to uncover concepts—transferable ideas that transcend time, place, and situation.

Learning knowledge and skills is like standing in the middle of a forest, surrounded by trees: It’s easy to spot details but hard to see patterns. For students to think conceptually, they need opportunities to head up to the mountaintop, pause, and take in the entire forest. They need the chance to search for big ideas—to generalize, summarize, and draw conclusions by looking at their learning in a holistic way.Read Full Story


TEACHING STRATEGIES

A Project to Prompt Student Reflection

Researching their dream job and prepping for an interview prompts students to reflect deeply on what they learned in a year.By Stephanie RothsteinJuly 29, 2019

High school student giving presentation to his class.

Teachers think often about how best to provide students with feedback that helps them continue to learn. This past year, as I considered how to foster the skills my students would need for the following year, I created a new final project and built up new ways to provide feedback.

At Los Gatos High School, we have a four-year interdisciplinary pathway called LEAD@LG (Lead, Explore, Act, and Design at Los Gatos). I teach the ninth-grade English classes, and the students’ final project was to explore their dream job. I wanted students to have a personal job goal because supporting them in that future pursuit created authentic buy-in and allowed them to dream big. The students cared about researching the companies and analyzing the skills needed to achieve their goals.Read Full Story


LITERACY

6 Elementary Reading Strategies That Really Work

Strategies like choral reading and ear reading improve students’ reading fluency, expand their vocabulary, and increase their confidence. By Emelina MineroSeptember 11, 2019

We know that learning how to read is essential for success in school. Students need to be able to close read, annotate, and comprehend assignments and texts across all subjects.

So we looked through our archives and consulted the research to arrive at a list of strategies that could develop strong reading skills and confidence for all students—including struggling readers.Read Full Story


LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

10 Common Flexible Seating Myths

An elementary teacher who has been using flexible seating for over a decade responds to the concerns he hears most frequently from other teachers.By John S. ThomasSeptember 3, 2019A student at work in the author’s classroom

During my 14-year flexible seating journey, I’ve taught a mix of first through third grade classes, including multigrade classrooms with up to 28 students. I’ve encountered plenty of challenges, but through research and some trial and error, I’ve been able to create a sustainable flexible seating environment that is differentiated for my students’ needs.

The path has not always been straight, but when I see the impact flexible seating has on my students’ focus and learning, I’m certain the journey has been worthwhile.Read Full Story


MENTAL HEALTH

The Evolution of a Trauma-Informed School

Two years after Edutopia filmed trauma-informed practices at a Nashville school, we check in with the principal to see what has changed.By Alex Shevrin VenetSeptember 13, 2019Mathew Portell, principal at Fall-Hamilton Elementary School in Nashville, at work with a student

There is no arrival at a perfect implementation of trauma-informed practices, and no one knows this better than Mathew Portell, principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary in Nashville. Portell has been leading Fall-Hamilton’s journey with trauma-informed practices for the past several years, and Edutopia profiled one point in this journey in May 2017.

I recently heard Portell share this thought with a group of educators: “Trauma-informed education is a journey, not a checklist.” I wanted to know more about what that journey has looked like at Fall-Hamilton, so I contacted Portell to learn what’s happening at his school now.Read Full Story


SCHOOL CLIMATE

Every Student Matters: Cultivating Belonging in the Classroom

These five strategies can help ensure that students feel they belong in your classroom.By Michael DunleaSeptember 4, 2019

About a year ago, I received a text in the middle of the teaching day from the mother of a student I had taught eight years earlier as a second grader. She thanked me for always being there for her son, who had come out as gay to their family the night before. She shared that her son—now a senior in high school—mentioned me in their conversation and said I had taught him that all people have equal value in the world, a lesson that helped him face the truth of who he was.

Early elementary teachers rarely see the seeds we try to plant in our young students come to fruition, but we always hope they will grow into the people we imagine they can be. For the last 16 years, I’ve taught in an inclusion classroom where many students have learning differences that can pose a challenge to connecting with others. I’ve learned that if students feel anxious socially, they will not be open to taking academic risks, so building a culture of belonging has become my greatest priority. It is important to clarify that when I say “belonging,” I am not talking about “fitting in”—students’ individuality and uniqueness should always be valued. Belonging in the classroom means ensuring that all students feel welcomed, comfortable, and part of the school family. Read Full Story


NEW TEACHERS

How New Teachers Can Create a Welcoming Classroom

A few tips for new teachers who want to foster strong relationships with students and between students.By Beth PandolphoOctober 1, 2019

New teachers intuitively understand the need to create a welcoming community in their classrooms. A warm and responsive classroom culture is essential because, like all of us, students need to feel safe and valued in order to thrive. As the professor of education Linda Darling-Hammond has said, “When that sense of belonging is there, children throw themselves into the learning environment.”

One path to creating this kind of classroom culture is to focus on setting expectations and routines that are designed to foster relationships and a sense of safety and belonging.Read Full Story


BRAIN-BASED LEARNING

Maintaining Students’ Motivation for Learning as the Year Goes On

Neuroscience can suggest ways to keep students working toward their learning goals after their initial excitement wears off.By Judy WillisSeptember 30, 2019

It’s likely that your hard work orchestrating the first weeks of school enhanced your students’ connection to the school community and their enthusiasm for the learning to come. However, as the semester goes on and you seek to sustain that motivated momentum, you may not be able to find the same amount of prep time that you dedicated to the start of the year.

Yet even when your students’ bubbles of excitement fade, you can reboot their connections, engagement, and motivation with the help of insights from neuroscience research.Read Full Story


SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

Social and Emotional Learning in a World Language Class

Monthly visits to a nursing home taught middle school students empathy and built their confidence as they practiced their Spanish.By Laura LaverySeptember 27, 2019

As I began teaching my middle school Spanish students last year, I knew that in addition to guiding them through verb conjugations, I wanted to find a way to develop their social and emotional skills and offer them an opportunity to create positive change in our community. I got the inspiration for this when a couple of colleagues and I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary about Fred Rogers.

After a lot of reflection, I decided to introduce my students to neighbors in a nearby nursing home. In addition to giving students a context for practicing empathy, it would give them an audience for their fledging Spanish. Knowing that they would need to sing a song in Spanish for the nursing home residents, for example, could be a prod to practice more.Read Full Story


SERVICE LEARNING

Using Community Challenges for Learning

Find tips on how to collect real-world problems for your students and a framework to start and monitor their projects.By Cathleen BeachboardSeptember 27, 2019

“Why should I learn this?” “When am I ever going to use it?” “How is this information important for my life?” Students have asked these questions year after year in my classroom. They have longed to see how our content connects to the world. 

One day I received an email from the assistant superintendent saying that the proposed school budget was in danger of being rejected and he needed someone to advocate for student funding and security improvements. My eyes fell on the empty desks in front of me. What if I gave this local problem to my students? Using persuasive language to encourage others to adopt a budget falls squarely within my academic curriculum. By tackling this challenge, students might use content to impact the world around them. The students created a public service announcement and spoke at the county budget hearing. Months later, the budget passed, and for the first time in years, it was almost fully funded.  Read Full Story

POPULAR TOPICS
GRADE LEVELS
ABOUT US

Follow Edutopia

GEORGE LUCAS EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION

TEACHING STRATEGIES

Optimizing Station Rotations in Blended Learning

Using three stations effectively—teacher-led, online, and offline—should provide your students with plenty of ways to collaborate.By Laura LeeSeptember 20, 2019

Photo of students working at stations

©Edutopia

Interested in blending learning models?

A three-station rotation model is a valuable tool for teachers who want to integrate technology, writes former Teacher of the Year and author Caitlin Tucker on her blog. The tactic moves students through different areas of the classroom: teacher-led stations, online stations, and offline stations. While this blended learning model “creates a nice balance between online and offline work,” says Tucker, “it is easy for teachers to slip into a rut when it comes to designing their stations.” 

Tucker identifies common pitfalls and possible solutions: 

The teacher-led station: Just because a station is teacher-led doesn’t mean the teacher should do all the talking; it’s not all about direct instruction. Encourage students to engage and collaborate. Model a practice and then have students try the same practice in pairs. Or use the teacher-led station for immediate feedback on a recently completed piece of writing, completed homework, or a lab assignment, either through formal assessments or informal Q&A sessions. The teacher-led station is also a great opportunity for differentiated instruction: even if the activity is the same, give different students different instructions tailored to their particular needs. Scaffolding in small groups or moving around the group to observe students individually as they try to complete a modeled task allows teachers to cater to individual needs. 

The online station: One common pitfall in the online station is using it “exclusively for personalized practice using adaptive software or an online program.” Asking kids to work on computers or tablets in isolation can be limiting and de-motivating. Find ways to make technological integration collaborative, Tucker says, and focus on activities like designing, creating, and publishing digitally. Using technology to support project-based learning, for example, ensures that students interact with each other and not just with screens. Interactive games and quizzes where students play with each other, like Kahoot, can build knowledge while encouraging student interaction. Social media platforms can be a useful tool for engaging with experts as well. 

The offline station: The offline station is often dominated by independent work on paper. “Instead of designing collaborative tasks that allow students social learning opportunities, they are required to practice without support or peer interaction.” Like the online station, the offline station works best when students have an opportunity to engage with others and receive guidance. Art projects, STEM experiments, or in-depth discussion allow students to work together and engage in deeper learning. 

SHARE THIS STORY

FILED UNDER


TEACHING STRATEGIES

3 Ways to Boost Students’ Conceptual Thinking

Coaching students to think in terms of concepts helps them understand how to apply their learning in the future.By Carla MarschallSeptember 10, 2019

Illustration concept showing student engagement and thought process

We want our students’ learning to be enduring, enabling them to make sense of complexity now and in the future. For this to occur, we need to nudge students beyond the learning of facts and skills to uncover concepts—transferable ideas that transcend time, place, and situation.

Learning knowledge and skills is like standing in the middle of a forest, surrounded by trees: It’s easy to spot details but hard to see patterns. For students to think conceptually, they need opportunities to head up to the mountaintop, pause, and take in the entire forest. They need the chance to search for big ideas—to generalize, summarize, and draw conclusions by looking at their learning in a holistic way.Read Full Story


TEACHING STRATEGIES

A Project to Prompt Student Reflection

Researching their dream job and prepping for an interview prompts students to reflect deeply on what they learned in a year.By Stephanie RothsteinJuly 29, 2019

High school student giving presentation to his class.

Teachers think often about how best to provide students with feedback that helps them continue to learn. This past year, as I considered how to foster the skills my students would need for the following year, I created a new final project and built up new ways to provide feedback.

At Los Gatos High School, we have a four-year interdisciplinary pathway called LEAD@LG (Lead, Explore, Act, and Design at Los Gatos). I teach the ninth-grade English classes, and the students’ final project was to explore their dream job. I wanted students to have a personal job goal because supporting them in that future pursuit created authentic buy-in and allowed them to dream big. The students cared about researching the companies and analyzing the skills needed to achieve their goals.Read Full Story


LITERACY

6 Elementary Reading Strategies That Really Work

Strategies like choral reading and ear reading improve students’ reading fluency, expand their vocabulary, and increase their confidence. By Emelina MineroSeptember 11, 2019

We know that learning how to read is essential for success in school. Students need to be able to close read, annotate, and comprehend assignments and texts across all subjects.

So we looked through our archives and consulted the research to arrive at a list of strategies that could develop strong reading skills and confidence for all students—including struggling readers.Read Full Story


LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

10 Common Flexible Seating Myths

An elementary teacher who has been using flexible seating for over a decade responds to the concerns he hears most frequently from other teachers.By John S. ThomasSeptember 3, 2019A student at work in the author’s classroom

During my 14-year flexible seating journey, I’ve taught a mix of first through third grade classes, including multigrade classrooms with up to 28 students. I’ve encountered plenty of challenges, but through research and some trial and error, I’ve been able to create a sustainable flexible seating environment that is differentiated for my students’ needs.

The path has not always been straight, but when I see the impact flexible seating has on my students’ focus and learning, I’m certain the journey has been worthwhile.Read Full Story


MENTAL HEALTH

The Evolution of a Trauma-Informed School

Two years after Edutopia filmed trauma-informed practices at a Nashville school, we check in with the principal to see what has changed.By Alex Shevrin VenetSeptember 13, 2019Mathew Portell, principal at Fall-Hamilton Elementary School in Nashville, at work with a student

There is no arrival at a perfect implementation of trauma-informed practices, and no one knows this better than Mathew Portell, principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary in Nashville. Portell has been leading Fall-Hamilton’s journey with trauma-informed practices for the past several years, and Edutopia profiled one point in this journey in May 2017.

I recently heard Portell share this thought with a group of educators: “Trauma-informed education is a journey, not a checklist.” I wanted to know more about what that journey has looked like at Fall-Hamilton, so I contacted Portell to learn what’s happening at his school now.Read Full Story


SCHOOL CLIMATE

Every Student Matters: Cultivating Belonging in the Classroom

These five strategies can help ensure that students feel they belong in your classroom.By Michael DunleaSeptember 4, 2019

About a year ago, I received a text in the middle of the teaching day from the mother of a student I had taught eight years earlier as a second grader. She thanked me for always being there for her son, who had come out as gay to their family the night before. She shared that her son—now a senior in high school—mentioned me in their conversation and said I had taught him that all people have equal value in the world, a lesson that helped him face the truth of who he was.

Early elementary teachers rarely see the seeds we try to plant in our young students come to fruition, but we always hope they will grow into the people we imagine they can be. For the last 16 years, I’ve taught in an inclusion classroom where many students have learning differences that can pose a challenge to connecting with others. I’ve learned that if students feel anxious socially, they will not be open to taking academic risks, so building a culture of belonging has become my greatest priority. It is important to clarify that when I say “belonging,” I am not talking about “fitting in”—students’ individuality and uniqueness should always be valued. Belonging in the classroom means ensuring that all students feel welcomed, comfortable, and part of the school family. Read Full Story


NEW TEACHERS

How New Teachers Can Create a Welcoming Classroom

A few tips for new teachers who want to foster strong relationships with students and between students.By Beth PandolphoOctober 1, 2019

New teachers intuitively understand the need to create a welcoming community in their classrooms. A warm and responsive classroom culture is essential because, like all of us, students need to feel safe and valued in order to thrive. As the professor of education Linda Darling-Hammond has said, “When that sense of belonging is there, children throw themselves into the learning environment.”

One path to creating this kind of classroom culture is to focus on setting expectations and routines that are designed to foster relationships and a sense of safety and belonging.Read Full Story


BRAIN-BASED LEARNING

Maintaining Students’ Motivation for Learning as the Year Goes On

Neuroscience can suggest ways to keep students working toward their learning goals after their initial excitement wears off.By Judy WillisSeptember 30, 2019

It’s likely that your hard work orchestrating the first weeks of school enhanced your students’ connection to the school community and their enthusiasm for the learning to come. However, as the semester goes on and you seek to sustain that motivated momentum, you may not be able to find the same amount of prep time that you dedicated to the start of the year.

Yet even when your students’ bubbles of excitement fade, you can reboot their connections, engagement, and motivation with the help of insights from neuroscience research.Read Full Story


SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

Social and Emotional Learning in a World Language Class

Monthly visits to a nursing home taught middle school students empathy and built their confidence as they practiced their Spanish.By Laura LaverySeptember 27, 2019

As I began teaching my middle school Spanish students last year, I knew that in addition to guiding them through verb conjugations, I wanted to find a way to develop their social and emotional skills and offer them an opportunity to create positive change in our community. I got the inspiration for this when a couple of colleagues and I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary about Fred Rogers.

After a lot of reflection, I decided to introduce my students to neighbors in a nearby nursing home. In addition to giving students a context for practicing empathy, it would give them an audience for their fledging Spanish. Knowing that they would need to sing a song in Spanish for the nursing home residents, for example, could be a prod to practice more.Read Full Story


SERVICE LEARNING

Using Community Challenges for Learning

Find tips on how to collect real-world problems for your students and a framework to start and monitor their projects.By Cathleen BeachboardSeptember 27, 2019

“Why should I learn this?” “When am I ever going to use it?” “How is this information important for my life?” Students have asked these questions year after year in my classroom. They have longed to see how our content connects to the world. 

One day I received an email from the assistant superintendent saying that the proposed school budget was in danger of being rejected and he needed someone to advocate for student funding and security improvements. My eyes fell on the empty desks in front of me. What if I gave this local problem to my students? Using persuasive language to encourage others to adopt a budget falls squarely within my academic curriculum. By tackling this challenge, students might use content to impact the world around them. The students created a public service announcement and spoke at the county budget hearing. Months later, the budget passed, and for the first time in years, it was almost fully funded.  Read Full Story

POPULAR TOPICS
GRADE LEVELS
ABOUT US

Follow Edutopia

GEORGE LUCAS EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION©2019 George Lucas Educational Foundation. All Rights Reserved.Edutopia® and Lucas Education Research™ are trademarks or registered trademarks of the George Lucas Educational Foundation in the U.S. and other countries.

GEORGE LUCAS EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATIONSearch

TEACHING STRATEGIES

Optimizing Station Rotations in Blended Learning

Using three stations effectively—teacher-led, online, and offline—should provide your students with plenty of ways to collaborate.By Laura LeeSeptember 20, 2019

Photo of students working at stations

©Edutopia

Interested in blending learning models?

A three-station rotation model is a valuable tool for teachers who want to integrate technology, writes former Teacher of the Year and author Caitlin Tucker on her blog. The tactic moves students through different areas of the classroom: teacher-led stations, online stations, and offline stations. While this blended learning model “creates a nice balance between online and offline work,” says Tucker, “it is easy for teachers to slip into a rut when it comes to designing their stations.” 

Tucker identifies common pitfalls and possible solutions: 

The teacher-led station: Just because a station is teacher-led doesn’t mean the teacher should do all the talking; it’s not all about direct instruction. Encourage students to engage and collaborate. Model a practice and then have students try the same practice in pairs. Or use the teacher-led station for immediate feedback on a recently completed piece of writing, completed homework, or a lab assignment, either through formal assessments or informal Q&A sessions. The teacher-led station is also a great opportunity for differentiated instruction: even if the activity is the same, give different students different instructions tailored to their particular needs. Scaffolding in small groups or moving around the group to observe students individually as they try to complete a modeled task allows teachers to cater to individual needs. 

The online station: One common pitfall in the online station is using it “exclusively for personalized practice using adaptive software or an online program.” Asking kids to work on computers or tablets in isolation can be limiting and de-motivating. Find ways to make technological integration collaborative, Tucker says, and focus on activities like designing, creating, and publishing digitally. Using technology to support project-based learning, for example, ensures that students interact with each other and not just with screens. Interactive games and quizzes where students play with each other, like Kahoot, can build knowledge while encouraging student interaction. Social media platforms can be a useful tool for engaging with experts as well. 

The offline station: The offline station is often dominated by independent work on paper. “Instead of designing collaborative tasks that allow students social learning opportunities, they are required to practice without support or peer interaction.” Like the online station, the offline station works best when students have an opportunity to engage with others and receive guidance. Art projects, STEM experiments, or in-depth discussion allow students to work together and engage in deeper learning. 

SHARE THIS STORY

FILED UNDER


TEACHING STRATEGIES

3 Ways to Boost Students’ Conceptual Thinking

Coaching students to think in terms of concepts helps them understand how to apply their learning in the future.By Carla MarschallSeptember 10, 2019

Illustration concept showing student engagement and thought process

We want our students’ learning to be enduring, enabling them to make sense of complexity now and in the future. For this to occur, we need to nudge students beyond the learning of facts and skills to uncover concepts—transferable ideas that transcend time, place, and situation.

Learning knowledge and skills is like standing in the middle of a forest, surrounded by trees: It’s easy to spot details but hard to see patterns. For students to think conceptually, they need opportunities to head up to the mountaintop, pause, and take in the entire forest. They need the chance to search for big ideas—to generalize, summarize, and draw conclusions by looking at their learning in a holistic way.Read Full Story


TEACHING STRATEGIES

A Project to Prompt Student Reflection

Researching their dream job and prepping for an interview prompts students to reflect deeply on what they learned in a year.By Stephanie RothsteinJuly 29, 2019

High school student giving presentation to his class.

Teachers think often about how best to provide students with feedback that helps them continue to learn. This past year, as I considered how to foster the skills my students would need for the following year, I created a new final project and built up new ways to provide feedback.

At Los Gatos High School, we have a four-year interdisciplinary pathway called LEAD@LG (Lead, Explore, Act, and Design at Los Gatos). I teach the ninth-grade English classes, and the students’ final project was to explore their dream job. I wanted students to have a personal job goal because supporting them in that future pursuit created authentic buy-in and allowed them to dream big. The students cared about researching the companies and analyzing the skills needed to achieve their goals.Read Full Story


LITERACY

6 Elementary Reading Strategies That Really Work

Strategies like choral reading and ear reading improve students’ reading fluency, expand their vocabulary, and increase their confidence. By Emelina MineroSeptember 11, 2019

We know that learning how to read is essential for success in school. Students need to be able to close read, annotate, and comprehend assignments and texts across all subjects.

So we looked through our archives and consulted the research to arrive at a list of strategies that could develop strong reading skills and confidence for all students—including struggling readers.Read Full Story


LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

10 Common Flexible Seating Myths

An elementary teacher who has been using flexible seating for over a decade responds to the concerns he hears most frequently from other teachers.By John S. ThomasSeptember 3, 2019A student at work in the author’s classroom

During my 14-year flexible seating journey, I’ve taught a mix of first through third grade classes, including multigrade classrooms with up to 28 students. I’ve encountered plenty of challenges, but through research and some trial and error, I’ve been able to create a sustainable flexible seating environment that is differentiated for my students’ needs.

The path has not always been straight, but when I see the impact flexible seating has on my students’ focus and learning, I’m certain the journey has been worthwhile.Read Full Story


MENTAL HEALTH

The Evolution of a Trauma-Informed School

Two years after Edutopia filmed trauma-informed practices at a Nashville school, we check in with the principal to see what has changed.By Alex Shevrin VenetSeptember 13, 2019Mathew Portell, principal at Fall-Hamilton Elementary School in Nashville, at work with a student

There is no arrival at a perfect implementation of trauma-informed practices, and no one knows this better than Mathew Portell, principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary in Nashville. Portell has been leading Fall-Hamilton’s journey with trauma-informed practices for the past several years, and Edutopia profiled one point in this journey in May 2017.

I recently heard Portell share this thought with a group of educators: “Trauma-informed education is a journey, not a checklist.” I wanted to know more about what that journey has looked like at Fall-Hamilton, so I contacted Portell to learn what’s happening at his school now.Read Full Story


SCHOOL CLIMATE

Every Student Matters: Cultivating Belonging in the Classroom

These five strategies can help ensure that students feel they belong in your classroom.By Michael DunleaSeptember 4, 2019

About a year ago, I received a text in the middle of the teaching day from the mother of a student I had taught eight years earlier as a second grader. She thanked me for always being there for her son, who had come out as gay to their family the night before. She shared that her son—now a senior in high school—mentioned me in their conversation and said I had taught him that all people have equal value in the world, a lesson that helped him face the truth of who he was.

Early elementary teachers rarely see the seeds we try to plant in our young students come to fruition, but we always hope they will grow into the people we imagine they can be. For the last 16 years, I’ve taught in an inclusion classroom where many students have learning differences that can pose a challenge to connecting with others. I’ve learned that if students feel anxious socially, they will not be open to taking academic risks, so building a culture of belonging has become my greatest priority. It is important to clarify that when I say “belonging,” I am not talking about “fitting in”—students’ individuality and uniqueness should always be valued. Belonging in the classroom means ensuring that all students feel welcomed, comfortable, and part of the school family. Read Full Story


NEW TEACHERS

How New Teachers Can Create a Welcoming Classroom

A few tips for new teachers who want to foster strong relationships with students and between students.By Beth PandolphoOctober 1, 2019

New teachers intuitively understand the need to create a welcoming community in their classrooms. A warm and responsive classroom culture is essential because, like all of us, students need to feel safe and valued in order to thrive. As the professor of education Linda Darling-Hammond has said, “When that sense of belonging is there, children throw themselves into the learning environment.”

One path to creating this kind of classroom culture is to focus on setting expectations and routines that are designed to foster relationships and a sense of safety and belonging.Read Full Story


BRAIN-BASED LEARNING

Maintaining Students’ Motivation for Learning as the Year Goes On

Neuroscience can suggest ways to keep students working toward their learning goals after their initial excitement wears off.By Judy WillisSeptember 30, 2019

It’s likely that your hard work orchestrating the first weeks of school enhanced your students’ connection to the school community and their enthusiasm for the learning to come. However, as the semester goes on and you seek to sustain that motivated momentum, you may not be able to find the same amount of prep time that you dedicated to the start of the year.

Yet even when your students’ bubbles of excitement fade, you can reboot their connections, engagement, and motivation with the help of insights from neuroscience research.Read Full Story


SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

Social and Emotional Learning in a World Language Class

Monthly visits to a nursing home taught middle school students empathy and built their confidence as they practiced their Spanish.By Laura LaverySeptember 27, 2019

As I began teaching my middle school Spanish students last year, I knew that in addition to guiding them through verb conjugations, I wanted to find a way to develop their social and emotional skills and offer them an opportunity to create positive change in our community. I got the inspiration for this when a couple of colleagues and I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary about Fred Rogers.

After a lot of reflection, I decided to introduce my students to neighbors in a nearby nursing home. In addition to giving students a context for practicing empathy, it would give them an audience for their fledging Spanish. Knowing that they would need to sing a song in Spanish for the nursing home residents, for example, could be a prod to practice more.Read Full Story


SERVICE LEARNING

Using Community Challenges for Learning

Find tips on how to collect real-world problems for your students and a framework to start and monitor their projects.By Cathleen BeachboardSeptember 27, 2019

“Why should I learn this?” “When am I ever going to use it?” “How is this information important for my life?” Students have asked these questions year after year in my classroom. They have longed to see how our content connects to the world. 

One day I received an email from the assistant superintendent saying that the proposed school budget was in danger of being rejected and he needed someone to advocate for student funding and security improvements. My eyes fell on the empty desks in front of me. What if I gave this local problem to my students? Using persuasive language to encourage others to adopt a budget falls squarely within my academic curriculum. By tackling this challenge, students might use content to impact the world around them. The students created a public service announcement and spoke at the county budget hearing. Months later, the budget passed, and for the first time in years, it was almost fully funded.  Read Full Story

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TEACHING STRATEGIES

Optimizing Station Rotations in Blended Learning

Using three stations effectively—teacher-led, online, and offline—should provide your students with plenty of ways to collaborate.By Laura LeeSeptember 20, 2019

Photo of students working at stations

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Interested in blending learning models?

A three-station rotation model is a valuable tool for teachers who want to integrate technology, writes former Teacher of the Year and author Caitlin Tucker on her blog. The tactic moves students through different areas of the classroom: teacher-led stations, online stations, and offline stations. While this blended learning model “creates a nice balance between online and offline work,” says Tucker, “it is easy for teachers to slip into a rut when it comes to designing their stations.” 

Tucker identifies common pitfalls and possible solutions: 

The teacher-led station: Just because a station is teacher-led doesn’t mean the teacher should do all the talking; it’s not all about direct instruction. Encourage students to engage and collaborate. Model a practice and then have students try the same practice in pairs. Or use the teacher-led station for immediate feedback on a recently completed piece of writing, completed homework, or a lab assignment, either through formal assessments or informal Q&A sessions. The teacher-led station is also a great opportunity for differentiated instruction: even if the activity is the same, give different students different instructions tailored to their particular needs. Scaffolding in small groups or moving around the group to observe students individually as they try to complete a modeled task allows teachers to cater to individual needs. 

The online station: One common pitfall in the online station is using it “exclusively for personalized practice using adaptive software or an online program.” Asking kids to work on computers or tablets in isolation can be limiting and de-motivating. Find ways to make technological integration collaborative, Tucker says, and focus on activities like designing, creating, and publishing digitally. Using technology to support project-based learning, for example, ensures that students interact with each other and not just with screens. Interactive games and quizzes where students play with each other, like Kahoot, can build knowledge while encouraging student interaction. Social media platforms can be a useful tool for engaging with experts as well. 

The offline station: The offline station is often dominated by independent work on paper. “Instead of designing collaborative tasks that allow students social learning opportunities, they are required to practice without support or peer interaction.” Like the online station, the offline station works best when students have an opportunity to engage with others and receive guidance. Art projects, STEM experiments, or in-depth discussion allow students to work together and engage in deeper learning. 

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TEACHING STRATEGIES

3 Ways to Boost Students’ Conceptual Thinking

Coaching students to think in terms of concepts helps them understand how to apply their learning in the future.By Carla MarschallSeptember 10, 2019

Illustration concept showing student engagement and thought process

We want our students’ learning to be enduring, enabling them to make sense of complexity now and in the future. For this to occur, we need to nudge students beyond the learning of facts and skills to uncover concepts—transferable ideas that transcend time, place, and situation.

Learning knowledge and skills is like standing in the middle of a forest, surrounded by trees: It’s easy to spot details but hard to see patterns. For students to think conceptually, they need opportunities to head up to the mountaintop, pause, and take in the entire forest. They need the chance to search for big ideas—to generalize, summarize, and draw conclusions by looking at their learning in a holistic way.Read Full Story


TEACHING STRATEGIES

A Project to Prompt Student Reflection

Researching their dream job and prepping for an interview prompts students to reflect deeply on what they learned in a year.By Stephanie RothsteinJuly 29, 2019

High school student giving presentation to his class.

Teachers think often about how best to provide students with feedback that helps them continue to learn. This past year, as I considered how to foster the skills my students would need for the following year, I created a new final project and built up new ways to provide feedback.

At Los Gatos High School, we have a four-year interdisciplinary pathway called LEAD@LG (Lead, Explore, Act, and Design at Los Gatos). I teach the ninth-grade English classes, and the students’ final project was to explore their dream job. I wanted students to have a personal job goal because supporting them in that future pursuit created authentic buy-in and allowed them to dream big. The students cared about researching the companies and analyzing the skills needed to achieve their goals.Read Full Story


LITERACY

6 Elementary Reading Strategies That Really Work

Strategies like choral reading and ear reading improve students’ reading fluency, expand their vocabulary, and increase their confidence. By Emelina MineroSeptember 11, 2019

We know that learning how to read is essential for success in school. Students need to be able to close read, annotate, and comprehend assignments and texts across all subjects.

So we looked through our archives and consulted the research to arrive at a list of strategies that could develop strong reading skills and confidence for all students—including struggling readers.Read Full Story


LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

10 Common Flexible Seating Myths

An elementary teacher who has been using flexible seating for over a decade responds to the concerns he hears most frequently from other teachers.By John S. ThomasSeptember 3, 2019A student at work in the author’s classroom

During my 14-year flexible seating journey, I’ve taught a mix of first through third grade classes, including multigrade classrooms with up to 28 students. I’ve encountered plenty of challenges, but through research and some trial and error, I’ve been able to create a sustainable flexible seating environment that is differentiated for my students’ needs.

The path has not always been straight, but when I see the impact flexible seating has on my students’ focus and learning, I’m certain the journey has been worthwhile.Read Full Story


MENTAL HEALTH

The Evolution of a Trauma-Informed School

Two years after Edutopia filmed trauma-informed practices at a Nashville school, we check in with the principal to see what has changed.By Alex Shevrin VenetSeptember 13, 2019Mathew Portell, principal at Fall-Hamilton Elementary School in Nashville, at work with a student

There is no arrival at a perfect implementation of trauma-informed practices, and no one knows this better than Mathew Portell, principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary in Nashville. Portell has been leading Fall-Hamilton’s journey with trauma-informed practices for the past several years, and Edutopia profiled one point in this journey in May 2017.

I recently heard Portell share this thought with a group of educators: “Trauma-informed education is a journey, not a checklist.” I wanted to know more about what that journey has looked like at Fall-Hamilton, so I contacted Portell to learn what’s happening at his school now.Read Full Story


SCHOOL CLIMATE

Every Student Matters: Cultivating Belonging in the Classroom

These five strategies can help ensure that students feel they belong in your classroom.By Michael DunleaSeptember 4, 2019

About a year ago, I received a text in the middle of the teaching day from the mother of a student I had taught eight years earlier as a second grader. She thanked me for always being there for her son, who had come out as gay to their family the night before. She shared that her son—now a senior in high school—mentioned me in their conversation and said I had taught him that all people have equal value in the world, a lesson that helped him face the truth of who he was.

Early elementary teachers rarely see the seeds we try to plant in our young students come to fruition, but we always hope they will grow into the people we imagine they can be. For the last 16 years, I’ve taught in an inclusion classroom where many students have learning differences that can pose a challenge to connecting with others. I’ve learned that if students feel anxious socially, they will not be open to taking academic risks, so building a culture of belonging has become my greatest priority. It is important to clarify that when I say “belonging,” I am not talking about “fitting in”—students’ individuality and uniqueness should always be valued. Belonging in the classroom means ensuring that all students feel welcomed, comfortable, and part of the school family. Read Full Story


NEW TEACHERS

How New Teachers Can Create a Welcoming Classroom

A few tips for new teachers who want to foster strong relationships with students and between students.By Beth PandolphoOctober 1, 2019

New teachers intuitively understand the need to create a welcoming community in their classrooms. A warm and responsive classroom culture is essential because, like all of us, students need to feel safe and valued in order to thrive. As the professor of education Linda Darling-Hammond has said, “When that sense of belonging is there, children throw themselves into the learning environment.”

One path to creating this kind of classroom culture is to focus on setting expectations and routines that are designed to foster relationships and a sense of safety and belonging.Read Full Story


BRAIN-BASED LEARNING

Maintaining Students’ Motivation for Learning as the Year Goes On

Neuroscience can suggest ways to keep students working toward their learning goals after their initial excitement wears off.By Judy WillisSeptember 30, 2019

It’s likely that your hard work orchestrating the first weeks of school enhanced your students’ connection to the school community and their enthusiasm for the learning to come. However, as the semester goes on and you seek to sustain that motivated momentum, you may not be able to find the same amount of prep time that you dedicated to the start of the year.

Yet even when your students’ bubbles of excitement fade, you can reboot their connections, engagement, and motivation with the help of insights from neuroscience research.Read Full Story


SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

Social and Emotional Learning in a World Language Class

Monthly visits to a nursing home taught middle school students empathy and built their confidence as they practiced their Spanish.By Laura LaverySeptember 27, 2019

As I began teaching my middle school Spanish students last year, I knew that in addition to guiding them through verb conjugations, I wanted to find a way to develop their social and emotional skills and offer them an opportunity to create positive change in our community. I got the inspiration for this when a couple of colleagues and I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary about Fred Rogers.

After a lot of reflection, I decided to introduce my students to neighbors in a nearby nursing home. In addition to giving students a context for practicing empathy, it would give them an audience for their fledging Spanish. Knowing that they would need to sing a song in Spanish for the nursing home residents, for example, could be a prod to practice more.Read Full Story


SERVICE LEARNING

Using Community Challenges for Learning

Find tips on how to collect real-world problems for your students and a framework to start and monitor their projects.By Cathleen BeachboardSeptember 27, 2019

“Why should I learn this?” “When am I ever going to use it?” “How is this information important for my life?” Students have asked these questions year after year in my classroom. They have longed to see how our content connects to the world. 

One day I received an email from the assistant superintendent saying that the proposed school budget was in danger of being rejected and he needed someone to advocate for student funding and security improvements. My eyes fell on the empty desks in front of me. What if I gave this local problem to my students? Using persuasive language to encourage others to adopt a budget falls squarely within my academic curriculum. By tackling this challenge, students might use content to impact the world around them. The students created a public service announcement and spoke at the county budget hearing. Months later, the budget passed, and for the first time in years, it was almost fully funded.  Read Full Story

POPULAR TOPICS
GRADE LEVELS

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Amazing Literacy First!

How a Literacy-First Program Revived a School

A Title I school in the Bronx is dramatically improving student outcomes—one book at a time.By Carly BerwickMarch 28, 2019

Four second-grade boys at Concourse Village Elementary School in the Bronx are lying on a rug, kicking their legs in the air as gentle saxophone music plays over a classroom speaker. But their teacher, Mr. Lozada, doesn’t tell them to sit up straight or stop wiggling: They can wiggle all they want, as long as they focus on the day’s math lesson on skip counting.

In another part of the room, a girl moves to the whiteboard to write up her solution to a math problem and several others work on iPads, while a co-teacher and a student teacher circulate around the room to help.

At first glance, the fluid classroom structure contrasts with some of the conventional wisdom about what it takes to learn at a high-poverty public school ranked higher than nearly 96 percent of elementary schools in New York City—results similar to those for the top-performing “no excuses” charter schools where strict rules and regimens are credited with success.

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Instead, at Concourse Village, a combination of high expectations for students, a flat reporting structure that places a premium on teacher empowerment, and an innovative literacy-first approach in all subjects are helping the 361 students excel. Eighty-eight percent of students passed English and math state tests in 2018, more than 40 points higher than the citywide average, and in 2018, the school was awarded a Blue Ribbon for Excellence from the U.S. Department of Education.  

George Lucas Educational Foundation

Part of the school’s effectiveness stems from a belief that all students can learn when given access to both high-quality teaching practices and a supportive and safe learning environment, says Principal Alexa Sorden, a former teacher whose children also attend the school. Every morning, teachers greet children with hugs and handshakes as they arrive at school, scan for any signs of trouble, and intervene accordingly.

“We are located in the poorest congressional district in the nation. For a long time that was used as the excuse as to why success wasn’t happening,” said Sorden of the students, 15 percent of whom are homeless. “As a leader of a school, I don’t have conversations about whether a student has an IEP or lives in a shelter—I don’t believe those things stop you.”

GETTING ON THE SAME PAGE

The school wasn’t always a success story.

In 2013, Sorden reopened the elementary school after its predecessor was shut down for poor performance and disrepair.

“Previously, there wasn’t any consistency,” says Sorden, who grew up in nearby Washington Heights in a low-income household. “I needed everything to be aligned—from the furniture to the language—so the children could have a sense of predictability and feel safe.”SCHOOL SNAPSHOT

Concourse Village Elementary School

Grades Pre-K to 5 | The Bronx, NY

Enrollment

361 | Public, Urban

Free / Reduced Lunch

96%

DEMOGRAPHICS:

66% Hispanic33% Black1% OtherData is from the 2018-19 academic year

When the same first and second graders returned for Sorden’s first fall on campus, they were greeted by a freshly painted building, new modular furniture, and new teachers. Part of the transformation included a shift in leadership that gave teachers more autonomy. A flat leadership structure—Sorden is the only administrator on campus—encourages Concourse Village staff to learn from each other and trust that they know what’s best for their students.

Using a carefully choreographed procedure called intervisitation, Sorden pairs off teachers with complementary strengths and weaknesses. For six weeks at a time, these pairs, or “growth partners,” visit each other’s classrooms once a week for 15 minutes to observe. Afterward, they meet to offer feedback in the same format that they teach kids: TAG (tell something you like, ask a question, and give a suggestion).

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George Lucas Educational Foundation

When Lizzette Nunez, a fourth-grade English and social studies teacher, came to teach at Concourse Village she noticed that there “was a difference in the climate.”

“It wasn’t ‘Close your door.’ It was ‘We are a team; we are going to help you; we are going to work together. If I have a best practice, I am going to share it with you’,” she said.

A LITERACY-FIRST APPROACH

To establish effective practices in the school, Sorden drew on her own nine years of experience as a classroom teacher and literacy coach, when she developed an approach called Collaborative Reading, a blend of choral reading and close reading.

In the model, students read portions of new, challenging grade-level and above-grade-level texts aloud together every day to improve vocabulary and boost reading proficiency. Then, they answer questions in small groups following the MACAS method (main idea, annotationcomprehensionauthor’s purpose, and summary) to demystify the often-opaque process of analysis in a shared, safe space before trying it on their own.

George Lucas Educational Foundation

The school also emphasizes that literacy skills should be taught in all disciplines. Every class, from art to math, focuses on close reading and reflective writing to build students’ critical thinking about texts.

“I was prepared because the teachers taught me well,” says Kianna Beato, a CVES graduate and current seventh-grade student, who cites techniques such as annotation and rereading in both math and English as boosting her confidence and ability. “I knew there was nothing to be afraid of in a different school.”

In Yasmin Al-Hanfoosh’s class, Mozart is playing as third graders work in groups of six on close reading of scientific text. Al-Hanfoosh directs students to look at words that are in the prompt—“What are magnets used for?”—that are also in the text to find the main idea in the passage. When they finish, they go to a station and practice finding the main idea on their own in a new article.

In math classes, all students follow a set of five standard steps when they solve math word problems: annotate the problem; think of a plan to solve it; use a strategy to solve it; describe how it was solved using labels and math language; and finally, make connections by identifying patterns and rules.

“It’s important because their reading skills are going to improve,” explains Blair Pacheco, a math and science teacher. “They are honing in on specific words, so it’s going to help them get the gist and really understand the content of what they are reading.”

A CULTURE OF HIGH EXPECTATIONS

The focus on literacy has even extended to developing a deeper understanding and appreciation for art.

In Courtney Watson’s second-grade art class, students discussed sophisticated concepts like how color conveys mood in artist Romare Bearden’s The Block and Edward Hopper’s Railroad Embankment, and how mood connects to understanding features of rural, urban, and suburban communities. Afterward, they applied the themes to their own pieces of artwork.

“A text can sometimes be very intimidating, especially for a struggling reader or an English language learner,” said Watson, referencing the student demographics. “Art is a universal language—every child can read a piece of art.”

George Lucas Educational Foundation

This interdisciplinary approach has pushed many Concourse Village students above grade level in reading and math proficiency, including students who started at the school knowing little to no English. Notably, English language learners and students with disabilities, who number roughly a quarter of the student population, score higher than general education students on both math and English language arts state tests.

“We are a community—that’s a true statement,” says second-grade teacher Richard Lozada, who grew up near the school. “I have support; I can go to anyone. It’s making people feel very comfortable to ask what is needed and learn from each other.” 

Schools That Work

Concourse Village Elementary School

Public, UrbanGrades Pre-K to 5The Bronx, NYWhat makes this a SCHOOL THAT WORKS

In 2013, Principal Alexa Sorden, a former teacher and literacy coach, took over Concourse Village Elementary School in New York City after its predecessor was closed due to poor performance and disrepair. When the 361 students—nearly all of whom came from low-income households—returned to school that fall, they were greeted with a renovated building, new teachers, and high-quality instructional practices in every classroom.

Under Sorden’s leadership, the pre-K to 5 school has blossomed. Using a flat leadership structure—Sorden is the only administrator—teachers are empowered to learn from and support each other and share accountability for student outcomes. An innovative, literacy-first approach helps students develop foundational skills in every subject, from English language arts to math and art.

PROOF POINTS:

  • The school was ranked better than 95.8 percent of all elementary schools in New York City in 2017.
  • In 2018, 88 percent of students scored advanced or proficient on the New York State exams in both math and English language arts, more than 40 points higher than the citywide averages.
  • The school received a Blue Ribbon Award for Exemplary Performance in 2018.

Edutopia wishes to thank Accelerate Institute for helping us discover Concourse Village

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Great Books for Kids!

 
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Parenting » Book lists » Books that build vocabulary for second graders

Books that build vocabulary for second graders

Reading is the best way for your second grader to improve his vocabulary. Check out our selection of books that will help your child learn new words.

by: GreatSchools Staff

Print book list

Sneakers, the Seaside Cat

by: Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by: Anne Mortimer – (HarperCollins, 2003) 32 pages.

Sneakers goes on a trip to the seaside, where he finds many curious creatures. He discovers fish to catch in the ocean and amuses himself with playful shrimp and crabs. Anne Mortimer’s bright and beautiful illustrations portray the cat’s spirited adventure in a way that your child will surely enjoy.

Perfect for: Kids who like adventure stories.

Find Sneakers, the Seaside Cat at your local library.

Could You? Would You?

by: Trudy White – (Kane/Miller, 2007) 89 pages.

This wonderful book allows children to imagine the things they would do if they could. This is a story everyone can relate to, no matter his or her background.

Perfect for: Kids who like adventure stories.

Find Could You? Would You? at your local library.

Building With Dad

by: Carol Nevius, illustrated by: Bill Thomson – (Marshall Cavendish, 2006) 32 pages.

Children fascinated by construction sites and the resident massive equipment are bound to enjoy Carol Nevius’s new picture book. Here, the world of building becomes even more up close and personal for one young boy and his construction worker father. The boy is getting a brand-new school, and the storyline follows the work’s progress from groundbreaking all the way to the first day of class. Each page consists of a rhymed couplet, in which we’re introduced to a different facet of the job. … Nevius’s text is sweet and simple, and the boy’s feeling of pride for both his father and the school are evident. Bill Thomson’s acrylic and colored pencil illustrations are startlingly realistic — at first glance each page looks like a photograph — and will thrill young construction fans.

Perfect for: Kids who like realism.

Find Building With Dad at your local library.

Velma Gratch & the Way Cool Butterfly

by: Alan Madison, illustrated by: Kevin Hawkes – (Schwartz & Wade, 2007) 40 pages.

A study of butterflies, a trip to the Butterfly Conservatory and one specific Monarch opens a spunky little girl’s eyes to the magic of life, and she changes forever. And, the reader will too. While the metamorphosis of a butterfly may be an easy, obvious metaphor for growth and development, its use in this book is made fresh and exciting by the personality of Velma Gratch. From her “carroty curls” pulled up in springy ponytails to her “knobby knees” and “spaghetti arms” to her determination to learn important big words like “metamorphosis,” “conservatory” and “migration,” Velma is an individual, though she doesn’t know it yet. In her, both author and illustrator combine their talents to create the kind of independent, confident spirit that we hope all kids will discover in themselves.

Perfect for: Kids who like realism stories.

Find Velma Gratch & the Way Cool Butterfly at your local library.

Space Station Mars

by: Daniel San Souci – (Tricycle Press, 2005) 40 pages.

An action-packed and whimsically illustrated narrative describing the adventures of seven young boys. This is another “clubhouse” mission complete with aliens, spaceships, and secret codes, sure to tap imaginations and lead to sharing of stories. Aliens beware!

Perfect for: Kids who like fantasy stories.

Find Space Station Mars at your local library.

Look What Tails Can Do

by: Dorothy Souza – (Lerner Publications Co., 2007) 48 pages.

This book proves that a tail can be more than just a tail. The appearance and function of tails as different as the prehensile tail of an opossum to the deadly tail of a scorpion to the beautiful tail of the Central American quetzal are discussed. Simple vocabulary and close-up color photographs enhance the appeal for young readers. If this book is a hit, there are additional titles in this series (Look What Animals Can Do).

Perfect for: Kids who like animals.

Find Look What Tails Can Do at your local library.

Water Hole

by: Zahavit Shalev – (DK Publishing, 2005) 48 pages.

This book follows the daily routine of five diverse animals at a water hole on the African savannah from dawn until midnight. The pages, which include a clock indicating the time of day, are packed with facts about the eating, playing, resting and sleeping behaviors of the animals found in this particular habitat. The visually appealing photographs and the conversational style may just hook those reluctant readers. There are additional titles in the series, including Coral Reef, Mountain, Arctic, Rain Forest, and Desert.

Perfect for: Kids who like animals.

Find Water Hole at your local library.

How to Be a Baby, by Me the Big Sister

by: Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by: Sue Heap – (Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House Children’s Books, 2007) 40 pages.

A big sister explains things you can’t do as a baby and things you can do as an older child. The humorous story and illustrations help older children appreciate their accomplishments while gaining a better understanding of younger siblings.

Perfect for: Kids who like nonfiction.

Find How to Be a Baby, by Me the Big Sister at your local library.

My Senator and Me

by: Edward M. Kennedy, illustrated by: David Small – (Scholastic Press, 2006) 56 pages.

Splash, a Portuguese water spaniel, follows his owner, Senator Edward Kennedy, through a typical day on Capitol Hill, providing commentary on what goes on there. This book is a look at our legislative process that is considerably more entertaining than most, thanks in part to David Small’s humorous illustrations. Included in the book is additional information on Senator Kennedy, Splash the water spaniel (and how to contact him by email), and the process by which a bill becomes a law.

Perfect for: Kids who like nonfiction.

Find My Senator and Me at your local library.

Compost, by Gosh! An Adventure With Vermicomposting

by: Michelle Eva Portman – (Flower Press, 2002) 42 pages.

What is vermicomposting? It’s a system for turning food waste into planting soil with the help of worms. Michelle Eva Portman provides a primer on the process as an entertaining story — a young girl and her mom convert a storage box into a house for their new “pets.” The box is a vermicomposting bin, and the pets are redworms. Accompanied by adorable illustrations, Compost, by Gosh! includes a how-to section for children to try composting at home.

Perfect for: Kids who like science and nature.

Find Compost by Gosh! at your local library.

Michael Recycle

by: Ellie Bethel, illustrated by: Alexandra Colombo – (Worthwhile Books, 2008) 28 pages.

Written to celebrate Earth Day (April 22), Michael Recyclerecounts the adventures of a young superhero whose powers allow him to teach people about recycling. Kids will relate to this “green-caped crusader” and the idea that one person can make a difference.

Perfect for: Kids who like science and nature.

Find Michael Recycle at your local library

Best book series for 1st graders — ever

A great series can turn your child into a serious book lover. Here are our top picks to transform your first grader into a voracious reader.

by: Grace Montgomery

Print book list

Winnie-the-Pooh

by: A.A. Milne, illustrated by: E.H. Shepard – (Dutton, 1926) 176 pages.

The hook: Did you know that Christopher Robin and his bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, are inspired by the author’s son and his teddy bear? The tales of their adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood have been charming kids since 1926. The original book and its companion, The House at Pooh Corner, follow the bumbling Pooh, the wise Christopher Robin, the timid Piglet, the silly Tigger, and all of their animal friends through a series of small, everyday adventures. The reading level will be too challenging for most kindergartners, but the books’ themes and pacing make them appealing read-alouds for this age group.

Want to see the movie? The 1977 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the 2011 Winnie the Pooh are faithful adaptations of the original books that will especially appeal to preschoolers and kindergartners.

Perfect for: Kids who like to imagine their stuffed toys coming to life.

Find our favorites at your local library: Winnie-the-PoohThe House at Pooh Corner.

Tacky

by: Helen Lester, illustrated by: Lynn M. Munsinger – (HMH Books for Young Readers, 1990) 32 pages.

The hook: Always sporting his signature Hawaiian shirt, Tacky the penguin does things his own way. In this hilarious series, although he may be an odd bird, Tacky consistently proves to his more conservative penguin pals that he’s “a nice bird to have around.” How? By saving the day, Tacky style. Kids laugh along with the nonconformist penguin and parents love the message that it’s okay to be different.

Perfect for: Kids who march to the beat of their own drum.

Find our favorites at your local library: Tacky the PenguinTacky in TroubleTacky and the Winter Games.

Pinkalicious

by: Victoria and Elizabeth Kann, illustrated by: Victoria Kann – (HarperCollins, 2016) 40 pages.

The hook: Pinkalicious’s exuberant enthusiasm — with a little help from the magic of imagination — gets her caught up in all sorts of adventures. Whether she’s turning pink from eating too many cupcakes or going on the hunt for her missing sweet tooth, this girly girl is ready for anything. Princess lovers and devotees of the color pink will get sucked in by the bright and engaging illustrations. And young readers can grow with Pinkalicious as the books transition from picture books to an early reader series.

Perfect for: Kids who can’t get enough delicious color.

Find our favorites at your local library: PinkaliciousSilverliciousEmeraldalicious.

The Magic Treehouse

by: Mary Pope Osborne – (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1992)

The hook: This wildly popular, award-winning series of some 46 books and counting features Jack and Annie, who discover a Magic Tree House where they can pick up any book — on pirates, King Arthur’s court, ninjas, dolphins, Shakespeare, tornadoes — and enter that world. Every book is a page-turner and will teach your child an encyclopedia’s worth of world history, culture, and literature.

Perfect for: Any child who thrills at the notion of time-traveling to the greatest moments in history.

Find our favorites at your local library: Dinosaurs Before DarkEve of the Emperor PenguinBlizzard of the Blue Moon.

Frog and Toad Together

by: Arnold Lobel – (Harper Collins, 1972) 64 pages.

The hook: Frog and Toad are best friends who will do anything for each other. Your child will enjoy finding out about their escapades in five short chapters as the amphibious duo bake cookies, test their bravery and plant a garden together. If your child enjoys this chapter book, he may also like Frog and Toad All Year and Days with Frog and Toad. Newbery Honor, 1973.

Perfect for: Kids who like making friends.

Find our favorites at your local library: Frog and Toad TogetherFrog and Toad All YearDays with Frog and Toad.

Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown-ups

by: Kay Thompson, illustrated by: Hilary Knight – (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1969) 68 pages.

The hook: Sassy 6-year-old Eloise, who lives at New York’s Plaza Hotel, has been mesmerizing children with her antics for more than 60 years. You’ll barely be able to keep up with Eloise (or with the text, which does away with grammatical conventions like periods and commas), as she capers about the hotel, tormenting the staff and harrying the guests. Be forewarned: In Eloise’s world, “getting bored is not allowed.”

Want to see the movie? Kids who can’t get enough Eloise might enjoy the 2003 made-for-TV adaptations (Eloise at the Plaza and Eloise at Christmastime) or the animated series.

Perfect for: Kids who love the idea of fierce independence.

Find our favorites at your local library: Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown-upsEloise in ParisEloise at ChristmastimeEloise in Moscow.

Amelia Bedelia

by: Peggy Parish, illustrated by: Fritz Siebel – (HarperCollins, 2012) 63 pages.

The hook: Blundering maid Amelia Bedelia takes everything literally, so when she’s asked to dust the furniture or dress a chicken, you can imagine what happens. Started in 1963 by third grade teacher Peggy Parish, this hilarious series of beginning chapter books has gone through a few different illustrators and two authors, but manages to perfectly portray the happy but haphazard maid each time. And though some of the gender stereotypes may feel a bit dated, the playful language helps young readers gain confidence as they discover the difference between literal and figurative language and laugh at Amelia’s vocabulary mishaps.

Perfect for: Kids who like playing with words.

Find our favorites at your local library: Amelia BedeliaCome Back, Amelia BedeliaGood Driving, Amelia Bedelia.

The Princess in Black series

by: Sharron Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by: LeUyen Pham – (Candlewick, 2015) 96 pages.

The hook: Princess Magnolia is a proper frilly princess — until danger strikes. Then she puts on her ninja outfit and fights monsters in her top-secret guise as the Princess in Black. Funny, sneaky, and action-packed, this first book in a series for early readers has colorful illustrations and silly names (case in point: the princess’ unicorn is called Frimplepants) that poke fun at the fussy princess trope.

Perfect for: Recovering princesses.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Princess in BlackThe Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party, and The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation.

Binky the Space Cat

by: Ashley Spires – (Kids Can Press, 2009) 64 pages.

The hook: Meet Binky, a housecat with a vivid imagination. He sees himself as a space adventurer. The first story in a captivating series, this book’s visual humor will be appreciated by kids transitioning to chapter books.

Perfect for: Comic book lovers and cat whisperers.

Find our favorites at your local library: Binky the Space CatBinky Under Pressure, and Binky to the Rescue.

The Berenstain Bears series

by: Stan and Jan Berenstain – (Random House, 1983)

The hook: As one parent says, “We love these books because of the reality of life experiences they reflect in the family, community, and society at large. Funny too!” By dealing with issues like honesty, friendship, safety, and kindness, this family of bears is practically human.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Berenstain Bears and the Messy RoomThe Berenstain Bears and the Truth, and The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners.

Frances series

by: Russell Hoban, illustrated by: Garth Williams and Lillian Hoban – (HarperCollins, 2008) 48 pages.

The hook: Frances is a precocious preschool badger who doesn’t understand why she has to do silly things like go to bed, eat anything but bread and jam, or have a baby sister. But with the help of her patient parents and a few rhymes, she learns how to overcome each new challenge. This gentle series tackles small problems that feel big for little kids, like trying new foods, making friends, and falling asleep. And the lyrical language and Frances’ silly songs get young readers excited about words.

Perfect for:
 Kids who like silly songs.

Find our favorites at your local library: Bread and Jam for FrancesA Birthday for FrancesBest Friends for Frances.

Best book series for 3rd graders — ever

The power of a great book series can be like magic, transforming a reluctant reader into a true bookworm with the turn of a page.

by: Grace Montgomery

Print book list

Captain Underpants

by: Dav Pilkey – (Blue Sky Press, 1997) 144 pages.

The hook: OK, let’s get this out of the way. Potty-talk proliferates in this series, but George and Harold’s misadventures with Captain Underpants (along with alien cafeteria ladies, a bionic booger boy, and Professor Poopypants) have lured many youngsters into reading, while rolling on the floor with laughter.

Perfect for: Pre-adolescent boys who love poop jokes.

Find our favorites at your local library: Captain UnderpantsCaptain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking ToiletsCaptain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space.

Clementine

by: Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by: Marla Frazee – (Hyperion, 2006) 144 pages.

The hook: Clementine, a precocious third grader, is paying attention. Really, she is. It’s just that there are so many more interesting things to pay attention to than the teacher, like the janitor embracing the lunch lady. And she’s not skipping school because of that haircut disaster, it’s because she must have caught arthritis from Mrs. Jacobi. Clementine’s mischievous but well-intentioned antics, coupled with the lively pen-and-ink drawings in this seven-book series, will attract early readers ready for chapter books and younger readers looking for a read-aloud treat (especially fans of the Ramona books).

Perfect for:
 Kids entertained by a little mischief.

Find our favorites at your local library: ClementineClementine: Friend of the WeekClementine and the Family Meeting.

Freddy the Detective series

by: Walter R. Brooks – (Alfred A. Knopf, 1932) 282 pages.

The hook: This overlooked classic features Freddy, a poetry-spouting pig, who finds his true calling upon finding copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The language is witty and wise, and the stories of Freddy sleuthing out mysteries (a missing bunny, a dog’s stolen dinner) will appeal to a child’s sense of justice.

Perfect for: The kid who loves language and solving mysteries.

Find our favorites at your local library: Freddy the DetectiveFreddy and the Bean Home NewsFreddy Goes to Florida.

Gooney Bird Greene

by: Lois Lowry, illustrated by: Middy Thomas – (Houghton Mifflin, 2002) 96 pages.

The hook: Gooney Bird arrives in second grade in the middle of a school day, which suits her fine. She wants to be in the center of all action — but especially of all attention. Wearing colorful, creative costumes daily, Gooney Bird soon becomes the brightest — in every sense of the word — star of second grade. Her teacher, who is trying to explain the nature of good stories to her class, tolerantly allows Gooney Bird to upstage her by telling melodramatic stories that appear to be whoppers. Declaring, “I tell only absolutely true stories,” Gooney Bird enters the annals of funny young protagonists. The format of her book is excellent for transitional readers; her stories, filtered through a fine imagination, are entertaining; and they will leave readers hoping for more.

Perfect for: Attention-seekers and their wallflower admirers.

Find our favorites at your local library: Gooney Bird GreeneGooney the FabulousGooney Bird is So Absurd.

Guardians of Ga’Hoole series

by: Kathryn Lasky – (Scholastic, 2003) 240 pages.

The hook: This engrossing 16-book fantasy series follows the adventures of a group of courageous owls fighting an evil that threatens their way of life in the forest. The series kicks off with The Capture, which is told from the perspective of a barn owlet named Soren. Stolen from his nest, Soren is taken to St. Aggie’s Academy, where young owls are brainwashed and forced into slavery. Inspired by the legends of the great heroes of Ga’Hoole, Soren and his new friend Glyfie hatch a plan to escape. The books have a lot to offer voracious readers: strong messages of friendship, vivid details about owl behavior, and thrilling, suspenseful scenarios.

Want to see the movie? The beautifully animated 2010 film, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, follows the plot of the first three books in the series.

Perfect for: Kids who love the Warriors series by Erin Hunter.

Find our favorites at your local library: The CaptureThe JourneyThe Rescue

How to Train Your Dragon

by: Cressida Cowell – (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2004) 224 pages.

The hook: This humorous 15-book series follows Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, the brainy undersized son of a hulking Viking chief. He describes himself as “not a natural at the Heroism business.” Hiccup, along with the other young Vikings, must choose a dragon hatchling to train and learn to become a warrior before being initiated as an adult member of the tribe. Filled with slightly rude humor that will appeal to preadolescents (including character names like “Dogsbreath the Duhbrain” and “Snotface Snotlout,”), and rough — but funny — illustrations, this engaging series is sustained by themes about being an underdog and succeeding in ways outside the norm.

Want to watch the movie? The animated adventures How to Train Your Dragon (2010) and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) are loosely based on the book series.

Perfect for: Reluctant readers who are tickled by preteen humor.

Find our favorites at your local library: How to Train Your DragonHow to Be a PirateHow to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse.

Ivy & Bean series

by: Annie Barrows, illustrated by: Sophie Blackall – (Chronicle Books, 2006)

The hook: Ivy & Bean are opposites in nearly every way — and yet they’re the best of friends. Whether they’re transforming a dirt pile into an erupting volcano, taking up dance-to-death ballet, or trying to scare away the ghost haunting the girl’s bathroom at school, they’re imaginative and true to a 7-year-old’s sense of fun, mischief, and wonder.

Perfect for: Kids who love to let their imaginations run wild and who love stories about friendships.

Find our favorites at your local library: Ivy & BeanIvy & Bean and the Ghost that Had to GoIvy & Bean Doomed to Dance.

Judy Moody Was in a Mood

by: Megan McDonald – (Candlewick, 2000) 176 pages.

Yes, Judy is a third-grade girl but she is very much the tomboy and boys love this series as much as girls. The series does a great job of captivating unmotivated readers who are making the transition into chapter books. Children will relate to Judy’s constant dilemmas and will laugh their way through the book as Judy comes up with the most intriguing solutions to problems such as having to sit next to a kid who eats paste and a toad that pees on her!

Perfect for: Kids who like realism.

Find our favorites at your local library: Judy Moody Was in a MoodJudy Moody Gets Famous!Judy Moody Saves the World!

Judy Blume’s Fudge

by: Judy Blume – (Dutton, 1972)

The Hook: Judy Bloom’s series may depict characters from a generation who have now sprouted gray hairs, but her finely tuned tales about the emotional lives of kids make this series worth introducing to 21st century readers. Whether it’s the trouble with younger siblings or the trials of moving away, Bloom manages to make everyday kid conundrums just as riveting and intense as they are to experience. Growing from age 9 to 12, main character Peter Hatcher (except for the second in the series), offers hilarious insights into life as he suffers the embarrassments of his little brother Fudge and the irritation of his nemesis Sheila, that girl downstairs.

Perfect for: Kids who like to laugh or have annoying people in their lives.

Find our favorites at your local library: Tales of a Fourth Grade NothingOtherwise Known as Sheila the GreatSuperfudgeFudge-a-ManiaDouble Fudge.

The Loser List

by: H.N. Kowitt – (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2011) 224 pages.

The hook: When middle schooler Danny Shine finds out he’s on the loser list in the girls’ bathroom, he tries to erase his name from the list — with disastrous consequences. Sent to detention and picked on by bullies, Danny thinks his life is over until his tormentors find out he can draw. Now one of the “bad boys,” Danny has to figure out how far he’ll go to keep his new reputation. Written in a diary format highlighted with Danny’s snarky drawings, this hilarious four-book series talks about the school social hierarchy in an authentic voice that will connect with even the most reluctant readers.

Perfect for: Kids concerned about social pitfalls at school.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Loser ListThe Loser List: Revenge of the LoserThe Loser List: Jinx of the Loser.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

by: Betty MacDonald – (HarperCollins, 1947) 128 pages.

The hook: A classic from the 1950s, this five-book series has aged well. Once married to a pirate, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle now lives in an upside-down house and dispenses “cures” to typical childhood ills, including the Never-Want-to-Go-to-Bedders cure, the Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker-Cure, and the Answer-Backer cure. Without scolding or nagging, these books offer children a fantasy of an adult who truly understands the complicated troubles that afflict them.

Perfect for: For advanced readers who wish they had a magic aunt.

Find our favorites at your local library: Mrs. Piggle-WiggleHello, Mrs. Piggle-WiggleMrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic.

A Bear Called Paddington

by: Michael Bond, illustrated by: Peggy Fortnum – (HarperCollins, 2014) 176 pages.

The hook: We first meet this young, marmalade-loving bear when he arrives, alone and friendless, at Paddington Station in London from Lima, Peru. He attracts the attention of the Brown family, who take him home with them. Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their children, Jonathan and Judy, soon discover that bears, while wonderful to have in the family, are prone to all sorts of misadventures. But whether he’s overflowing the bathtub or destroying the neighbor’s watch in a flubbed magic trick, Paddington always comes out on top, his politeness and sweetness intact. With each chapter standing alone as its own story, this quaintly old-fashioned book (the first in the series) is a good choice for young readers who have made the transition to chapter books and an entertaining read-aloud for younger kids.

Want to see the movie? The 2015 live-action version featuring a computer-animated Paddington has many details from the first book in the series, plus a few plot twists and mild thrills to stretch it to a full-length feature.

Perfect for: Kids with gentle souls

Find our favorites at your local library: A Bear Called PaddingtonMore About PaddingtonPaddington Abroad.

Sarah, Plain and Tall series

by: Patricia MacLachlan – (Harper & Row, 1985) 112 pages.

The hook: After their mother dies, Anna and Caleb’s father advertises for a mail order bride. Sarah responds to the ad, and heads out from Maine to join the family on their Midwest farm. The children are apprehensive before she arrives, wondering what she’ll be like. When Sarah arrives, bringing her cat, gifts from the Maine coast, and warmth back to their desolate home, family bonding ensues. Part one of a heartwarming five-part saga.

Perfect for: Kids intrigued by pioneer families.

Find our favorites at your local library: Sarah, Plain and TallSkylarkCaleb’s StoryMore Perfect than the MoonGrandfather’s Dance.

Secrets of Droon

by: Tony Abbott, illustrated by: Tim Jessell – (Scholastic, 1999) 96 pages.

The hook: When 10-year-old Eric and his best friends, Neal and Julie, discover a rainbow staircase in his basement, they stumble into the embattled and magical world of Droon. Soon they’re battling alongside Keeah, the wizard princess of Droon, and fellow wizard Galen Longbeard against the evil Lord Sparr, who will do anything to rule Droon. It’s a mild precursor to the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings, or the Chronicles of Narnia, but be prepared for your reader to get hooked. Fortunately, the 44 books in this long-running series should satisfy even the most voracious fantasy lover.

Perfect for: Magic lovers who’d pick up a wand at the first glimpse of a rainbow staircase.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Hidden Stairs and the Magic CarpetThe Race to DoobeshThe Moon Dragon.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School

by: Louis Sachar, illustrated by: Julie Brinckloe – (Avon Books, 1978) 128 pages.

The hook: On the 30th floor of the wacky Wayside School is Mrs. Jewl’s class. Sharie falls asleep and rolls out the window. Joe counts all wrong and gets the right answer. Calvin is sent to the 19th floor to deliver a note, but there is no 19th floor — the builder forgot it. This nutty world is built on the sort of playful twists of logic that kids love.

Perfect for: Kids who like humor stories.

Find our favorites at your local library: Sideways Stories from Wayside SchoolWayside School is Falling DownWayside School Gets a Little Stranger.

The Spiderwick Chronicles series

by: Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, illustrated by: Tony DiTerlizzi – (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013) 144 pages.

The hook: Beginning with The Field Guide, this five-book series follows 9-year-old twins Jared and Simon and their older sister Mallory as they discover a hidden faerie world that is darker and more dangerous than they could have imagined. After moving into their great, great uncle’s creepy old mansion, the siblings find a dusty, handwritten book called Field Guide to The Fantastical World Around You in the attic. What follows is a series of thrilling encounters involving a secret library, a riddle-poem, fairies, goblins, and more, all depicted in easy-to-read prose and beautiful illustrations.

Want to see the movie? The 2008 film is loosely based on the entire series.

Perfect for: Budding fantasy fans.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Field GuideThe Seeing StoneLucinda’s Secret.

The Zack Files

by: Dan Greenburg, illustrated by: Jack E. Davis – (Grosset & Dunlap, 1996) 64 pages.

The hook: Zack has a knack for finding trouble. Hoping to get a cute little kitten, he accidentally adopts a talking cat who claims to be the ghost of his great grandpa. And a seemingly innocent trip to the dentist turns sinister when Dr. Silver turns into the mouthwash-guzzling Dr. Jekyll. The supernatural plots may sound like thrillers, but the silly books in this hilarious series are more full of spoofs than spooks, and they’re a great choice for reluctant readers.

Perfect for: Kids who like oddball humor.

Find our favorites at your local library: Great Grandpa’s in the Litter BoxI’m Out of My Body, Please Leave a Message My Son, the Time TravelerTell a Lie and Your Butt Will Grow.

Fall of the Beasts series

by: Eliot Schrefer – (Scholastic, 2015) 192 pages.

The world of Erdas is facing a great evil. Four children must stop it with the help of their spirit animals, legendary beasts who have been reborn to fight the darkness that threatens to take over their world.

Perfect for: New fans of fantasy.

Find our favorites at your local library: Immortal GuardiansBroken Ground, and The Return.

Secret Coders series

by: Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by: Mike Holmes – (First Second, 2015) 96 pages.

There’s a mystery at Stately Academy and three friends use their coding skills to puzzle it out. This graphic novel, the first in a series, is an entertaining read and a beginner’s guide to programming all in one. The author is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and a MacArthur Fellow, as well as a high school computer programming teacher.

Perfect for: Graphic novel lovers and aspiring programmers.

Find our favorites at your local library: Secret CodersSecret Coders: Paths & Portals, and Secret Coders: Secrets & Sequences.

Babymouse: Camp Babymouse

by: Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm – (Random House, 2007) 96 pages.

The hook: The sixth installment of the Babymouse series finds our heroine at summer camp. She doesn’t like the great outdoors, but that fact shouldn’t get in the way of her having fun, right? Babymouse has her usual daydreams of how she’ll be the best camper around, but all she finds is trouble. Babymouse’s cabin-mates, the Buttercups, soon become frustrated with her shenanigans, as she racks up nothing but demerits for her team. The illustrations are as fun and humorous as ever, in the familiar black, white and pink. Graphic novels are incredibly popular with tweens and teens, so it follows that younger kids want them as well. And those for the very young — especially for young girls — are few and far between, but gaining a foothold. Here is a well-established series that fills that void with a spirited, likable, adventurous character.

Perfect for: Kids who like humor stories.

Find our favorites at your local library: Camp BabymouseQueen of the WorldPuppy Love, The Musical

Best book series for kindergartners

A great series can transform a lukewarm reader into a little bookworm. Here are our top picks to rev up reading for your kindergartner.

by: Grace Montgomery

Print book list

Angelina Ice Skates

by: Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig – (Pleasant Company Publications, 2001) 32 pages.

The hook: When Holabird and Craig teamed up to create the first Angelina Ballerina picture book in 1983, no one could have dreamt how long this little mouse with big dreams would endure. This lovely tale about New Year’s Eve party plans gone awry doesn’t disappoint. Still filled with dancing (this time on the ice) and friendship, Angelina’s newest escapade is sure to fill your child with winter wonder.

Perfect for: Kids who like adventure stories.

Find our favorites at your local library: Angelina BallerinaAngelina Ice SkatesAngelina on StageAngelina and AliceAngelina’s Big City Ballet.

The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant

by: Jean de Brunhoff – (Random House, 1960) 56 pages.

The hook: After his mother is killed by hunters in the jungle, young Babar makes his way to the city where he meets a rich benefactress who teaches him the ways of the civilized world. When Babar returns to the jungle a sophisticated adult elephant, the other elephants make him their king. The books have some old-fashioned moments and dated messages about colonialism, but Babar’s kind, hard-working attitude and the author’s gentle treatment of darker themes (such as the death of Babar’s mother) make this colorfully illustrated series still worth reading.

Want to see the movie? Check out Babar: The Movie and the TV series, Babar, both of which capture the elephant king’s generous spirit while introducing new adventures.

Perfect for: Kids who appreciate a dapper, green-suited elephant.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Story of Babar the Little ElephantBabar the King.

The Day the Crayons …

by: Drew Daywalt, illustrated by: Oliver Jeffers – (Philomel Books, 2013) 40 pages.

The hook: A box of crayons has taken some serious abuse from their owner, Duncan, and they’ve had it! In a series of letters, each color supplies a litany of complaints, like getting used too much (red does all the heavy lifting) and not getting used enough (poor beige is only used to color wheat, and what kid actually colors wheat?). This incredibly creative concept, which is continued in an equally engaging sequel, hooks in kids and adults alike.

Perfect for: Kids with colorful imaginations.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Day the Crayons QuitThe Day the Crayons Came Home.

Bonjour Butterfly and the Fancy Nancy series

by: Jane O’Connor, illustrated by: Robin Preiss Glasser – (HarperCollins, 2008) 32 pages.

The hook: Nancy is back and fancier than ever. Once again the team of O’Connor and Glasser have swirled together another elegant Nancy tale with the glamour and humor that have characterized their past Nancy endeavors. After Nancy and her friend Bree become captivated with butterflies, the two girls decide to throw a butterfly party. Everything is going well until Nancy learns that she can’t go to the party because she has to attend her grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary party. Thoroughly convinced that she won’t have a good time, Nancy soon learns that her grandparents are indeed just as fancy as she is. Familiar sparkly cover aside, this book is sure to please current Nancy fans. Newcomers to her world will love it too and want to go back and read the rest of her “mah-velous” tales.

Perfect for: Kids who like humor stories.

Find our favorites at your local library Fancy NancyFancy Nancy: Bonjour Butterfly ,  Fancy Nancy: There’s No Day Like a Snow Day, and Fancy Nancy: Budding Ballerina.

If You Give…

by: Laura Numeroff, illustrated by: Felicia Bond – (HarperCollins, 2015) 40 pages.

The hook: If you give a mouse a cookie, you never know what might happen. That mouse might want a glass a milk, and then he may need a straw, and then who knows where the story will go. All the books in this sweet and silly series, which have won numerous awards, are written in a circular format. Kids love that the books end right where they began. The short, repetitive phrasing and energetic illustrations help young readers connect with the words.

Perfect for: Kids who can’t wait to know what will happen next.

Find our favorites at your local library: If You Give a Mouse a CookieIf You Give a Pig a PancakeIf You Take a Mouse to the Movies.

Little Bear

by: Else Homelund Minarik – (Harper & Bros., 1957) 32 pages.

The hook: Old-fashioned sweetness. Little Bear loves his Mom, Dad, Grandparents, and friends (Duck, Cat, Owl, Hen, and a little girl named Emily). While the stories are simple, they manage to steer clear of syrupy sentimentality and Maurice Sendak’s expressive pen-and ink-illustrations evoke the humor and innocence of a child’s world-view.

Perfect for: Young kids who love simple adventures.

Find our favorites at your local library: Little BearLittle Bear’s FriendA Kiss for Little Bear.

Charlie and Lola

by: Lauren Child – (Candlewick, 2003) 32 pages.

The hook: Lola is absolutely certain about what she likes (strawberry milk) and doesn’t like (tomatoes and going to school), but her older brother Charlie isn’t so sure. With unfailing patience, he uses his wily wit to convince the stubborn Lola to come around in a series that was eventually turned into a TV show. Young readers love Lola’s exaggerated speech when she makes declarations like “I will probably still be perky at even 13 o’clock,” and her imaginative antics, which are presented in scrapbook-style artwork that’s eye-catching and fun.

Perfect for: Kids who are patient (or could be more patient) with their younger siblings.

Find our favorites at your local library: I Will Never Not Ever Eat a TomatoI Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to BedI Am Too Absolutely Small for School

Madeline

by: Ludwig Bemelmans – (Viking Press, 1967) 54 pages.

The hook: “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived 12 little girls,” including Madeline, an orphan whose spunk has enchanted young readers since 1939. Beginning with the Caldecott Honor winner Madeline, the six-book series kicks off with little red-haired Madeline waking in the night at her boarding school with a terrible stomachache. But the girl who isn’t scared of tigers won’t let a case of appendicitis get her down. Kids love Madeline’s gutsy attitude and the book’s musical rhymes and quirky illustrations of 1930s Paris.

Want to see the movie? Check out the 1998 live-action adaptation, which is a charming amalgamation of many of the books in the series and stars Frances McDormand as Miss Clavel, or try the TV series Madeline and The New Adventures of Madeline.

Perfect for: Kids who love little adventures.

Find our favorites at your local library: Madeline, Madeline’s RescueMadeline in London.

Max and Ruby series

by: Rosemary Wells – (Viking Books for Young Readers, 1997) 48 pages.

The hook: Ruby, the older sister, has a leg up on just about everything. Although Max, the baby brother, can’t yet speak, read, or write — and is constantly messing-up — in the 25-plus books, he always gets what he wants (much to Ruby’s annoyance), be it the coveted chocolate chicken or the dragon shirt.

Want to see the movie? Check out the Nickelodeon series, which nicely portrays Max and Ruby’s charming sibling bond.

Perfect for: Siblings who drive each other crazy.

Find our favorites at your local library: Max and Ruby’s Bedtime BookBunny CakesMax’s Dragon Shirt.

McDuff

by: Rosemary Wells – (Hyperion Books for Children, 1997) 32 pages.

The hook: Set in the 1930s, this vibrantly illustrated series of 10 books follows McDuff, a white Scottish Terrier who escapes from a dogcatcher’s truck in search of a loving home. Though he finds one in a young couple who feed him rice pudding and sausage slices, the little dog struggles with the same sort of problems a young kid might – from dealing with a new baby in the house to causing a ruckus at a relative’s house.

Perfect for: Energetic creatures who mean well, but get themselves into harmless trouble.

Find our favorites at your local library: McDuff Comes HomeMcDuff’s Wild RompMcDuff and the Baby.

Mitchell’s License

by: Hallie Durant, illustrated by: Tony Fucile – (Candlewick Press, 2011) 40 pages.

The hook: “Mitchell was three years, nine months, and five days old when he got his license.” It was the only way his father could get him to go to bed. Instead of chasing Mitchell around the house each night at bedtime, his dad came up with a clever solution: Mitchell could drive to bed, and dad would be the car. Through rollicking illustrations, Mitchell hops into the driver’s seat (on his dad’s shoulders) and with a lead foot takes a wild spin around the house to his bedroom. The trip leaves Dad more tired than Mitchell. This book and Mitchell Goes Bowling show the lovely bond between dad and son with wit and warmth.

Perfect for: Your rambunctious, cars-and-trucks-loving preschooler.

Find our favorites at your local library: Mitchell’s LicenseMitchell Goes Bowling.

Olivia

by: Ian Falconer – (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000) 40 pages.

The hook: Olivia is a big sister, she has a dog and a cat, and she’s really good at “wearing people out” — including herself. Stark charcoal illustrations with just a splash of color, along with artwork by famous artists such as Degas and Pollock, accompany the stories of Olivia’s adventures as she torments her little brother, saves the circus, paints a mural on her bedroom wall, builds a spectacular sandcastle, forms a one-pig band, and muses about being a ballerina. The adventures of this exuberant pig perfectly capture the irrepressible energy of the preschool set. Both kids and adults appreciate the deadpan humor.

Want to see the movie? Check out the Nick Jr. show, which stays true to the stories and illustration style of the books.

Perfect for: Kids who really know how to wear themselves out.

Find our favorites at your local library: OliviaOlivia Forms a BandOlivia and the Fairy Princesses.

Pinky and Rex

by: James Howe – (Atheneum, 1996) 48 pages.

The hook: Without a heavy hand, Howe’s stories teach kids that boys and girls can be whoever they want to be. What’s more, they can solve many of the challenges that young kids face — confronting a bully, performing in a school play, or competing in a spelling bee.

Perfect for: For boys who love Pink, girls who loves dinosaurs, and kids who follow their own star.

Find our favorites at your local library: Pinky and Rex and the BullyPinky and Rex and the Just-Right PetPinky and Rex Go to Camp.

The Poppy Stories

by: Avi – (Avon Books, 1999)

The hook: Poppy is a mouse who lives with her family at the edge of a forest. If this sounds like the premise a lot of saccharine kiddy books with winsome characters whose minor adventures follow well-worn paths, well, think again. Like E.B. White and other literary giants, Avi imbues his little animals with complex characters and heartrending struggles. No spoiler alert here, but the story offers a rare fictional portrayal of death inside a family.

Perfect for: Kids ready to confront a little nail-biting drama.

Find our favorites at your local library: Poppy and ErethPoppy and RyeRagweed.

Splat the Cat

by: Rob Scotton – (HarperCollins, 2008) 40 pages.

The hook: Splat the Cat has a lot of worries. He’s not sure if the first day of Cat School is going to be any fun. And what if Santa doesn’t bring him any presents, even if he’s really, really good? And what if Spike breaks all of his toys during their playdate? Kids will relate to Splat’s fears and how he overcomes them. And the bold, engaging illustrations will bring on the giggles as Splat bumbles his way through each new experience.

Perfect for: Kids who tend to worry.

Find our favorites at your local library: Splat the CatSplish, Splash, Splat!.

Owl Diaries: Eva’s Treetop Festival

by: Rebecca Elliott – (Scholastic, 2015) 80 pages.

The hook: Eva Wingdale is a busy and ambitious owlet who wants to organize a spring festival at her school. She’s got more fun ideas than she can execute by herself and discovers that getting her classmates to help is the way to make the festival a success. The first in a series, this early chapter book is presented as a diary with cartoon-like illustrations and will resonate with kids who see the adults around them juggling their commitments.

Perfect for: Newly independent readers and future student council presidents.

Find our favorites at your local library: Eva’s Treetop FestivalEva and the New Owl, and A Woodland Wedding.

Best book series for kindergartners

A great series can transform a lukewarm reader into a little bookworm. Here are our top picks to rev up reading for your kindergartner.

by: Grace Montgomery

Print book list

Angelina Ice Skates

by: Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig – (Pleasant Company Publications, 2001) 32 pages.

The hook: When Holabird and Craig teamed up to create the first Angelina Ballerina picture book in 1983, no one could have dreamt how long this little mouse with big dreams would endure. This lovely tale about New Year’s Eve party plans gone awry doesn’t disappoint. Still filled with dancing (this time on the ice) and friendship, Angelina’s newest escapade is sure to fill your child with winter wonder.

Perfect for: Kids who like adventure stories.

Find our favorites at your local library: Angelina BallerinaAngelina Ice SkatesAngelina on StageAngelina and AliceAngelina’s Big City Ballet.

The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant

by: Jean de Brunhoff – (Random House, 1960) 56 pages.

The hook: After his mother is killed by hunters in the jungle, young Babar makes his way to the city where he meets a rich benefactress who teaches him the ways of the civilized world. When Babar returns to the jungle a sophisticated adult elephant, the other elephants make him their king. The books have some old-fashioned moments and dated messages about colonialism, but Babar’s kind, hard-working attitude and the author’s gentle treatment of darker themes (such as the death of Babar’s mother) make this colorfully illustrated series still worth reading.

Want to see the movie? Check out Babar: The Movie and the TV series, Babar, both of which capture the elephant king’s generous spirit while introducing new adventures.

Perfect for: Kids who appreciate a dapper, green-suited elephant.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Story of Babar the Little ElephantBabar the King.

The Day the Crayons …

by: Drew Daywalt, illustrated by: Oliver Jeffers – (Philomel Books, 2013) 40 pages.

The hook: A box of crayons has taken some serious abuse from their owner, Duncan, and they’ve had it! In a series of letters, each color supplies a litany of complaints, like getting used too much (red does all the heavy lifting) and not getting used enough (poor beige is only used to color wheat, and what kid actually colors wheat?). This incredibly creative concept, which is continued in an equally engaging sequel, hooks in kids and adults alike.

Perfect for: Kids with colorful imaginations.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Day the Crayons QuitThe Day the Crayons Came Home.

Bonjour Butterfly and the Fancy Nancy series

by: Jane O’Connor, illustrated by: Robin Preiss Glasser – (HarperCollins, 2008) 32 pages.

The hook: Nancy is back and fancier than ever. Once again the team of O’Connor and Glasser have swirled together another elegant Nancy tale with the glamour and humor that have characterized their past Nancy endeavors. After Nancy and her friend Bree become captivated with butterflies, the two girls decide to throw a butterfly party. Everything is going well until Nancy learns that she can’t go to the party because she has to attend her grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary party. Thoroughly convinced that she won’t have a good time, Nancy soon learns that her grandparents are indeed just as fancy as she is. Familiar sparkly cover aside, this book is sure to please current Nancy fans. Newcomers to her world will love it too and want to go back and read the rest of her “mah-velous” tales.

Perfect for: Kids who like humor stories.

Find our favorites at your local library Fancy NancyFancy Nancy: Bonjour Butterfly ,  Fancy Nancy: There’s No Day Like a Snow Day, and Fancy Nancy: Budding Ballerina.

If You Give…

by: Laura Numeroff, illustrated by: Felicia Bond – (HarperCollins, 2015) 40 pages.

The hook: If you give a mouse a cookie, you never know what might happen. That mouse might want a glass a milk, and then he may need a straw, and then who knows where the story will go. All the books in this sweet and silly series, which have won numerous awards, are written in a circular format. Kids love that the books end right where they began. The short, repetitive phrasing and energetic illustrations help young readers connect with the words.

Perfect for: Kids who can’t wait to know what will happen next.

Find our favorites at your local library: If You Give a Mouse a CookieIf You Give a Pig a PancakeIf You Take a Mouse to the Movies.

Little Bear

by: Else Homelund Minarik – (Harper & Bros., 1957) 32 pages.

The hook: Old-fashioned sweetness. Little Bear loves his Mom, Dad, Grandparents, and friends (Duck, Cat, Owl, Hen, and a little girl named Emily). While the stories are simple, they manage to steer clear of syrupy sentimentality and Maurice Sendak’s expressive pen-and ink-illustrations evoke the humor and innocence of a child’s world-view.

Perfect for: Young kids who love simple adventures.

Find our favorites at your local library: Little BearLittle Bear’s FriendA Kiss for Little Bear.

Charlie and Lola

by: Lauren Child – (Candlewick, 2003) 32 pages.

The hook: Lola is absolutely certain about what she likes (strawberry milk) and doesn’t like (tomatoes and going to school), but her older brother Charlie isn’t so sure. With unfailing patience, he uses his wily wit to convince the stubborn Lola to come around in a series that was eventually turned into a TV show. Young readers love Lola’s exaggerated speech when she makes declarations like “I will probably still be perky at even 13 o’clock,” and her imaginative antics, which are presented in scrapbook-style artwork that’s eye-catching and fun.

Perfect for: Kids who are patient (or could be more patient) with their younger siblings.

Find our favorites at your local library: I Will Never Not Ever Eat a TomatoI Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to BedI Am Too Absolutely Small for School

Madeline

by: Ludwig Bemelmans – (Viking Press, 1967) 54 pages.

The hook: “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived 12 little girls,” including Madeline, an orphan whose spunk has enchanted young readers since 1939. Beginning with the Caldecott Honor winner Madeline, the six-book series kicks off with little red-haired Madeline waking in the night at her boarding school with a terrible stomachache. But the girl who isn’t scared of tigers won’t let a case of appendicitis get her down. Kids love Madeline’s gutsy attitude and the book’s musical rhymes and quirky illustrations of 1930s Paris.

Want to see the movie? Check out the 1998 live-action adaptation, which is a charming amalgamation of many of the books in the series and stars Frances McDormand as Miss Clavel, or try the TV series Madeline and The New Adventures of Madeline.

Perfect for: Kids who love little adventures.

Find our favorites at your local library: Madeline, Madeline’s RescueMadeline in London.

Max and Ruby series

by: Rosemary Wells – (Viking Books for Young Readers, 1997) 48 pages.

The hook: Ruby, the older sister, has a leg up on just about everything. Although Max, the baby brother, can’t yet speak, read, or write — and is constantly messing-up — in the 25-plus books, he always gets what he wants (much to Ruby’s annoyance), be it the coveted chocolate chicken or the dragon shirt.

Want to see the movie? Check out the Nickelodeon series, which nicely portrays Max and Ruby’s charming sibling bond.

Perfect for: Siblings who drive each other crazy.

Find our favorites at your local library: Max and Ruby’s Bedtime BookBunny CakesMax’s Dragon Shirt.

McDuff

by: Rosemary Wells – (Hyperion Books for Children, 1997) 32 pages.

The hook: Set in the 1930s, this vibrantly illustrated series of 10 books follows McDuff, a white Scottish Terrier who escapes from a dogcatcher’s truck in search of a loving home. Though he finds one in a young couple who feed him rice pudding and sausage slices, the little dog struggles with the same sort of problems a young kid might – from dealing with a new baby in the house to causing a ruckus at a relative’s house.

Perfect for: Energetic creatures who mean well, but get themselves into harmless trouble.

Find our favorites at your local library: McDuff Comes HomeMcDuff’s Wild RompMcDuff and the Baby.

Mitchell’s License

by: Hallie Durant, illustrated by: Tony Fucile – (Candlewick Press, 2011) 40 pages.

The hook: “Mitchell was three years, nine months, and five days old when he got his license.” It was the only way his father could get him to go to bed. Instead of chasing Mitchell around the house each night at bedtime, his dad came up with a clever solution: Mitchell could drive to bed, and dad would be the car. Through rollicking illustrations, Mitchell hops into the driver’s seat (on his dad’s shoulders) and with a lead foot takes a wild spin around the house to his bedroom. The trip leaves Dad more tired than Mitchell. This book and Mitchell Goes Bowling show the lovely bond between dad and son with wit and warmth.

Perfect for: Your rambunctious, cars-and-trucks-loving preschooler.

Find our favorites at your local library: Mitchell’s LicenseMitchell Goes Bowling.

Olivia

by: Ian Falconer – (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000) 40 pages.

The hook: Olivia is a big sister, she has a dog and a cat, and she’s really good at “wearing people out” — including herself. Stark charcoal illustrations with just a splash of color, along with artwork by famous artists such as Degas and Pollock, accompany the stories of Olivia’s adventures as she torments her little brother, saves the circus, paints a mural on her bedroom wall, builds a spectacular sandcastle, forms a one-pig band, and muses about being a ballerina. The adventures of this exuberant pig perfectly capture the irrepressible energy of the preschool set. Both kids and adults appreciate the deadpan humor.

Want to see the movie? Check out the Nick Jr. show, which stays true to the stories and illustration style of the books.

Perfect for: Kids who really know how to wear themselves out.

Find our favorites at your local library: OliviaOlivia Forms a BandOlivia and the Fairy Princesses.

Pinky and Rex

by: James Howe – (Atheneum, 1996) 48 pages.

The hook: Without a heavy hand, Howe’s stories teach kids that boys and girls can be whoever they want to be. What’s more, they can solve many of the challenges that young kids face — confronting a bully, performing in a school play, or competing in a spelling bee.

Perfect for: For boys who love Pink, girls who loves dinosaurs, and kids who follow their own star.

Find our favorites at your local library: Pinky and Rex and the BullyPinky and Rex and the Just-Right PetPinky and Rex Go to Camp.

The Poppy Stories

by: Avi – (Avon Books, 1999)

The hook: Poppy is a mouse who lives with her family at the edge of a forest. If this sounds like the premise a lot of saccharine kiddy books with winsome characters whose minor adventures follow well-worn paths, well, think again. Like E.B. White and other literary giants, Avi imbues his little animals with complex characters and heartrending struggles. No spoiler alert here, but the story offers a rare fictional portrayal of death inside a family.

Perfect for: Kids ready to confront a little nail-biting drama.

Find our favorites at your local library: Poppy and ErethPoppy and RyeRagweed.

Splat the Cat

by: Rob Scotton – (HarperCollins, 2008) 40 pages.

The hook: Splat the Cat has a lot of worries. He’s not sure if the first day of Cat School is going to be any fun. And what if Santa doesn’t bring him any presents, even if he’s really, really good? And what if Spike breaks all of his toys during their playdate? Kids will relate to Splat’s fears and how he overcomes them. And the bold, engaging illustrations will bring on the giggles as Splat bumbles his way through each new experience.

Perfect for: Kids who tend to worry.

Find our favorites at your local library: Splat the CatSplish, Splash, Splat!.

Owl Diaries: Eva’s Treetop Festival

by: Rebecca Elliott – (Scholastic, 2015) 80 pages.

The hook: Eva Wingdale is a busy and ambitious owlet who wants to organize a spring festival at her school. She’s got more fun ideas than she can execute by herself and discovers that getting her classmates to help is the way to make the festival a success. The first in a series, this early chapter book is presented as a diary with cartoon-like illustrations and will resonate with kids who see the adults around them juggling their commitments.

Perfect for: Newly independent readers and future student council presidents.

Find our favorites at your local library: Eva’s Treetop FestivalEva and the New Owl, and A Woodland Wedding.

 

Parenting » Book lists » Books that build vocabulary for second graders

Books that build vocabulary for second graders

Reading is the best way for your second grader to improve his vocabulary. Check out our selection of books that will help your child learn new words.

by: GreatSchools Staff

Print book list

Sneakers, the Seaside Cat

by: Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by: Anne Mortimer – (HarperCollins, 2003) 32 pages.

Sneakers goes on a trip to the seaside, where he finds many curious creatures. He discovers fish to catch in the ocean and amuses himself with playful shrimp and crabs. Anne Mortimer’s bright and beautiful illustrations portray the cat’s spirited adventure in a way that your child will surely enjoy.

Perfect for: Kids who like adventure stories.

Find Sneakers, the Seaside Cat at your local library.

Could You? Would You?

by: Trudy White – (Kane/Miller, 2007) 89 pages.

This wonderful book allows children to imagine the things they would do if they could. This is a story everyone can relate to, no matter his or her background.

Perfect for: Kids who like adventure stories.

Find Could You? Would You? at your local library.

Building With Dad

by: Carol Nevius, illustrated by: Bill Thomson – (Marshall Cavendish, 2006) 32 pages.

Children fascinated by construction sites and the resident massive equipment are bound to enjoy Carol Nevius’s new picture book. Here, the world of building becomes even more up close and personal for one young boy and his construction worker father. The boy is getting a brand-new school, and the storyline follows the work’s progress from groundbreaking all the way to the first day of class. Each page consists of a rhymed couplet, in which we’re introduced to a different facet of the job. … Nevius’s text is sweet and simple, and the boy’s feeling of pride for both his father and the school are evident. Bill Thomson’s acrylic and colored pencil illustrations are startlingly realistic — at first glance each page looks like a photograph — and will thrill young construction fans.

Perfect for: Kids who like realism.

Find Building With Dad at your local library.

Velma Gratch & the Way Cool Butterfly

by: Alan Madison, illustrated by: Kevin Hawkes – (Schwartz & Wade, 2007) 40 pages.

A study of butterflies, a trip to the Butterfly Conservatory and one specific Monarch opens a spunky little girl’s eyes to the magic of life, and she changes forever. And, the reader will too. While the metamorphosis of a butterfly may be an easy, obvious metaphor for growth and development, its use in this book is made fresh and exciting by the personality of Velma Gratch. From her “carroty curls” pulled up in springy ponytails to her “knobby knees” and “spaghetti arms” to her determination to learn important big words like “metamorphosis,” “conservatory” and “migration,” Velma is an individual, though she doesn’t know it yet. In her, both author and illustrator combine their talents to create the kind of independent, confident spirit that we hope all kids will discover in themselves.

Perfect for: Kids who like realism stories.

Find Velma Gratch & the Way Cool Butterfly at your local library.

Space Station Mars

by: Daniel San Souci – (Tricycle Press, 2005) 40 pages.

An action-packed and whimsically illustrated narrative describing the adventures of seven young boys. This is another “clubhouse” mission complete with aliens, spaceships, and secret codes, sure to tap imaginations and lead to sharing of stories. Aliens beware!

Perfect for: Kids who like fantasy stories.

Find Space Station Mars at your local library.

Look What Tails Can Do

by: Dorothy Souza – (Lerner Publications Co., 2007) 48 pages.

This book proves that a tail can be more than just a tail. The appearance and function of tails as different as the prehensile tail of an opossum to the deadly tail of a scorpion to the beautiful tail of the Central American quetzal are discussed. Simple vocabulary and close-up color photographs enhance the appeal for young readers. If this book is a hit, there are additional titles in this series (Look What Animals Can Do).

Perfect for: Kids who like animals.

Find Look What Tails Can Do at your local library.

Water Hole

by: Zahavit Shalev – (DK Publishing, 2005) 48 pages.

This book follows the daily routine of five diverse animals at a water hole on the African savannah from dawn until midnight. The pages, which include a clock indicating the time of day, are packed with facts about the eating, playing, resting and sleeping behaviors of the animals found in this particular habitat. The visually appealing photographs and the conversational style may just hook those reluctant readers. There are additional titles in the series, including Coral Reef, Mountain, Arctic, Rain Forest, and Desert.

Perfect for: Kids who like animals.

Find Water Hole at your local library.

How to Be a Baby, by Me the Big Sister

by: Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by: Sue Heap – (Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House Children’s Books, 2007) 40 pages.

A big sister explains things you can’t do as a baby and things you can do as an older child. The humorous story and illustrations help older children appreciate their accomplishments while gaining a better understanding of younger siblings.

Perfect for: Kids who like nonfiction.

Find How to Be a Baby, by Me the Big Sister at your local library.

My Senator and Me

by: Edward M. Kennedy, illustrated by: David Small – (Scholastic Press, 2006) 56 pages.

Splash, a Portuguese water spaniel, follows his owner, Senator Edward Kennedy, through a typical day on Capitol Hill, providing commentary on what goes on there. This book is a look at our legislative process that is considerably more entertaining than most, thanks in part to David Small’s humorous illustrations. Included in the book is additional information on Senator Kennedy, Splash the water spaniel (and how to contact him by email), and the process by which a bill becomes a law.

Perfect for: Kids who like nonfiction.

Find My Senator and Me at your local library.

Compost, by Gosh! An Adventure With Vermicomposting

by: Michelle Eva Portman – (Flower Press, 2002) 42 pages.

What is vermicomposting? It’s a system for turning food waste into planting soil with the help of worms. Michelle Eva Portman provides a primer on the process as an entertaining story — a young girl and her mom convert a storage box into a house for their new “pets.” The box is a vermicomposting bin, and the pets are redworms. Accompanied by adorable illustrations, Compost, by Gosh! includes a how-to section for children to try composting at home.

Perfect for: Kids who like science and nature.

Find Compost by Gosh! at your local library.

Michael Recycle

by: Ellie Bethel, illustrated by: Alexandra Colombo – (Worthwhile Books, 2008) 28 pages.

Written to celebrate Earth Day (April 22), Michael Recyclerecounts the adventures of a young superhero whose powers allow him to teach people about recycling. Kids will relate to this “green-caped crusader” and the idea that one person can make a difference.

Perfect for: Kids who like science and nature.

Find Michael Recycle at your local library

Best book series for 1st graders — ever

A great series can turn your child into a serious book lover. Here are our top picks to transform your first grader into a voracious reader.

by: Grace Montgomery

Print book list

Winnie-the-Pooh

by: A.A. Milne, illustrated by: E.H. Shepard – (Dutton, 1926) 176 pages.

The hook: Did you know that Christopher Robin and his bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, are inspired by the author’s son and his teddy bear? The tales of their adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood have been charming kids since 1926. The original book and its companion, The House at Pooh Corner, follow the bumbling Pooh, the wise Christopher Robin, the timid Piglet, the silly Tigger, and all of their animal friends through a series of small, everyday adventures. The reading level will be too challenging for most kindergartners, but the books’ themes and pacing make them appealing read-alouds for this age group.

Want to see the movie? The 1977 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the 2011 Winnie the Pooh are faithful adaptations of the original books that will especially appeal to preschoolers and kindergartners.

Perfect for: Kids who like to imagine their stuffed toys coming to life.

Find our favorites at your local library: Winnie-the-PoohThe House at Pooh Corner.

Tacky

by: Helen Lester, illustrated by: Lynn M. Munsinger – (HMH Books for Young Readers, 1990) 32 pages.

The hook: Always sporting his signature Hawaiian shirt, Tacky the penguin does things his own way. In this hilarious series, although he may be an odd bird, Tacky consistently proves to his more conservative penguin pals that he’s “a nice bird to have around.” How? By saving the day, Tacky style. Kids laugh along with the nonconformist penguin and parents love the message that it’s okay to be different.

Perfect for: Kids who march to the beat of their own drum.

Find our favorites at your local library: Tacky the PenguinTacky in TroubleTacky and the Winter Games.

Pinkalicious

by: Victoria and Elizabeth Kann, illustrated by: Victoria Kann – (HarperCollins, 2016) 40 pages.

The hook: Pinkalicious’s exuberant enthusiasm — with a little help from the magic of imagination — gets her caught up in all sorts of adventures. Whether she’s turning pink from eating too many cupcakes or going on the hunt for her missing sweet tooth, this girly girl is ready for anything. Princess lovers and devotees of the color pink will get sucked in by the bright and engaging illustrations. And young readers can grow with Pinkalicious as the books transition from picture books to an early reader series.

Perfect for: Kids who can’t get enough delicious color.

Find our favorites at your local library: PinkaliciousSilverliciousEmeraldalicious.

The Magic Treehouse

by: Mary Pope Osborne – (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1992)

The hook: This wildly popular, award-winning series of some 46 books and counting features Jack and Annie, who discover a Magic Tree House where they can pick up any book — on pirates, King Arthur’s court, ninjas, dolphins, Shakespeare, tornadoes — and enter that world. Every book is a page-turner and will teach your child an encyclopedia’s worth of world history, culture, and literature.

Perfect for: Any child who thrills at the notion of time-traveling to the greatest moments in history.

Find our favorites at your local library: Dinosaurs Before DarkEve of the Emperor PenguinBlizzard of the Blue Moon.

Frog and Toad Together

by: Arnold Lobel – (Harper Collins, 1972) 64 pages.

The hook: Frog and Toad are best friends who will do anything for each other. Your child will enjoy finding out about their escapades in five short chapters as the amphibious duo bake cookies, test their bravery and plant a garden together. If your child enjoys this chapter book, he may also like Frog and Toad All Year and Days with Frog and Toad. Newbery Honor, 1973.

Perfect for: Kids who like making friends.

Find our favorites at your local library: Frog and Toad TogetherFrog and Toad All YearDays with Frog and Toad.

Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown-ups

by: Kay Thompson, illustrated by: Hilary Knight – (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1969) 68 pages.

The hook: Sassy 6-year-old Eloise, who lives at New York’s Plaza Hotel, has been mesmerizing children with her antics for more than 60 years. You’ll barely be able to keep up with Eloise (or with the text, which does away with grammatical conventions like periods and commas), as she capers about the hotel, tormenting the staff and harrying the guests. Be forewarned: In Eloise’s world, “getting bored is not allowed.”

Want to see the movie? Kids who can’t get enough Eloise might enjoy the 2003 made-for-TV adaptations (Eloise at the Plaza and Eloise at Christmastime) or the animated series.

Perfect for: Kids who love the idea of fierce independence.

Find our favorites at your local library: Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown-upsEloise in ParisEloise at ChristmastimeEloise in Moscow.

Amelia Bedelia

by: Peggy Parish, illustrated by: Fritz Siebel – (HarperCollins, 2012) 63 pages.

The hook: Blundering maid Amelia Bedelia takes everything literally, so when she’s asked to dust the furniture or dress a chicken, you can imagine what happens. Started in 1963 by third grade teacher Peggy Parish, this hilarious series of beginning chapter books has gone through a few different illustrators and two authors, but manages to perfectly portray the happy but haphazard maid each time. And though some of the gender stereotypes may feel a bit dated, the playful language helps young readers gain confidence as they discover the difference between literal and figurative language and laugh at Amelia’s vocabulary mishaps.

Perfect for: Kids who like playing with words.

Find our favorites at your local library: Amelia BedeliaCome Back, Amelia BedeliaGood Driving, Amelia Bedelia.

The Princess in Black series

by: Sharron Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by: LeUyen Pham – (Candlewick, 2015) 96 pages.

The hook: Princess Magnolia is a proper frilly princess — until danger strikes. Then she puts on her ninja outfit and fights monsters in her top-secret guise as the Princess in Black. Funny, sneaky, and action-packed, this first book in a series for early readers has colorful illustrations and silly names (case in point: the princess’ unicorn is called Frimplepants) that poke fun at the fussy princess trope.

Perfect for: Recovering princesses.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Princess in BlackThe Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party, and The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation.

Binky the Space Cat

by: Ashley Spires – (Kids Can Press, 2009) 64 pages.

The hook: Meet Binky, a housecat with a vivid imagination. He sees himself as a space adventurer. The first story in a captivating series, this book’s visual humor will be appreciated by kids transitioning to chapter books.

Perfect for: Comic book lovers and cat whisperers.

Find our favorites at your local library: Binky the Space CatBinky Under Pressure, and Binky to the Rescue.

The Berenstain Bears series

by: Stan and Jan Berenstain – (Random House, 1983)

The hook: As one parent says, “We love these books because of the reality of life experiences they reflect in the family, community, and society at large. Funny too!” By dealing with issues like honesty, friendship, safety, and kindness, this family of bears is practically human.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Berenstain Bears and the Messy RoomThe Berenstain Bears and the Truth, and The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners.

Frances series

by: Russell Hoban, illustrated by: Garth Williams and Lillian Hoban – (HarperCollins, 2008) 48 pages.

The hook: Frances is a precocious preschool badger who doesn’t understand why she has to do silly things like go to bed, eat anything but bread and jam, or have a baby sister. But with the help of her patient parents and a few rhymes, she learns how to overcome each new challenge. This gentle series tackles small problems that feel big for little kids, like trying new foods, making friends, and falling asleep. And the lyrical language and Frances’ silly songs get young readers excited about words.

Perfect for:
 Kids who like silly songs.

Find our favorites at your local library: Bread and Jam for FrancesA Birthday for FrancesBest Friends for Frances.

Best book series for 3rd graders — ever

The power of a great book series can be like magic, transforming a reluctant reader into a true bookworm with the turn of a page.

by: Grace Montgomery

Print book list

Captain Underpants

by: Dav Pilkey – (Blue Sky Press, 1997) 144 pages.

The hook: OK, let’s get this out of the way. Potty-talk proliferates in this series, but George and Harold’s misadventures with Captain Underpants (along with alien cafeteria ladies, a bionic booger boy, and Professor Poopypants) have lured many youngsters into reading, while rolling on the floor with laughter.

Perfect for: Pre-adolescent boys who love poop jokes.

Find our favorites at your local library: Captain UnderpantsCaptain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking ToiletsCaptain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space.

Clementine

by: Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by: Marla Frazee – (Hyperion, 2006) 144 pages.

The hook: Clementine, a precocious third grader, is paying attention. Really, she is. It’s just that there are so many more interesting things to pay attention to than the teacher, like the janitor embracing the lunch lady. And she’s not skipping school because of that haircut disaster, it’s because she must have caught arthritis from Mrs. Jacobi. Clementine’s mischievous but well-intentioned antics, coupled with the lively pen-and-ink drawings in this seven-book series, will attract early readers ready for chapter books and younger readers looking for a read-aloud treat (especially fans of the Ramona books).

Perfect for:
 Kids entertained by a little mischief.

Find our favorites at your local library: ClementineClementine: Friend of the WeekClementine and the Family Meeting.

Freddy the Detective series

by: Walter R. Brooks – (Alfred A. Knopf, 1932) 282 pages.

The hook: This overlooked classic features Freddy, a poetry-spouting pig, who finds his true calling upon finding copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The language is witty and wise, and the stories of Freddy sleuthing out mysteries (a missing bunny, a dog’s stolen dinner) will appeal to a child’s sense of justice.

Perfect for: The kid who loves language and solving mysteries.

Find our favorites at your local library: Freddy the DetectiveFreddy and the Bean Home NewsFreddy Goes to Florida.

Gooney Bird Greene

by: Lois Lowry, illustrated by: Middy Thomas – (Houghton Mifflin, 2002) 96 pages.

The hook: Gooney Bird arrives in second grade in the middle of a school day, which suits her fine. She wants to be in the center of all action — but especially of all attention. Wearing colorful, creative costumes daily, Gooney Bird soon becomes the brightest — in every sense of the word — star of second grade. Her teacher, who is trying to explain the nature of good stories to her class, tolerantly allows Gooney Bird to upstage her by telling melodramatic stories that appear to be whoppers. Declaring, “I tell only absolutely true stories,” Gooney Bird enters the annals of funny young protagonists. The format of her book is excellent for transitional readers; her stories, filtered through a fine imagination, are entertaining; and they will leave readers hoping for more.

Perfect for: Attention-seekers and their wallflower admirers.

Find our favorites at your local library: Gooney Bird GreeneGooney the FabulousGooney Bird is So Absurd.

Guardians of Ga’Hoole series

by: Kathryn Lasky – (Scholastic, 2003) 240 pages.

The hook: This engrossing 16-book fantasy series follows the adventures of a group of courageous owls fighting an evil that threatens their way of life in the forest. The series kicks off with The Capture, which is told from the perspective of a barn owlet named Soren. Stolen from his nest, Soren is taken to St. Aggie’s Academy, where young owls are brainwashed and forced into slavery. Inspired by the legends of the great heroes of Ga’Hoole, Soren and his new friend Glyfie hatch a plan to escape. The books have a lot to offer voracious readers: strong messages of friendship, vivid details about owl behavior, and thrilling, suspenseful scenarios.

Want to see the movie? The beautifully animated 2010 film, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, follows the plot of the first three books in the series.

Perfect for: Kids who love the Warriors series by Erin Hunter.

Find our favorites at your local library: The CaptureThe JourneyThe Rescue

How to Train Your Dragon

by: Cressida Cowell – (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2004) 224 pages.

The hook: This humorous 15-book series follows Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, the brainy undersized son of a hulking Viking chief. He describes himself as “not a natural at the Heroism business.” Hiccup, along with the other young Vikings, must choose a dragon hatchling to train and learn to become a warrior before being initiated as an adult member of the tribe. Filled with slightly rude humor that will appeal to preadolescents (including character names like “Dogsbreath the Duhbrain” and “Snotface Snotlout,”), and rough — but funny — illustrations, this engaging series is sustained by themes about being an underdog and succeeding in ways outside the norm.

Want to watch the movie? The animated adventures How to Train Your Dragon (2010) and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) are loosely based on the book series.

Perfect for: Reluctant readers who are tickled by preteen humor.

Find our favorites at your local library: How to Train Your DragonHow to Be a PirateHow to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse.

Ivy & Bean series

by: Annie Barrows, illustrated by: Sophie Blackall – (Chronicle Books, 2006)

The hook: Ivy & Bean are opposites in nearly every way — and yet they’re the best of friends. Whether they’re transforming a dirt pile into an erupting volcano, taking up dance-to-death ballet, or trying to scare away the ghost haunting the girl’s bathroom at school, they’re imaginative and true to a 7-year-old’s sense of fun, mischief, and wonder.

Perfect for: Kids who love to let their imaginations run wild and who love stories about friendships.

Find our favorites at your local library: Ivy & BeanIvy & Bean and the Ghost that Had to GoIvy & Bean Doomed to Dance.

Judy Moody Was in a Mood

by: Megan McDonald – (Candlewick, 2000) 176 pages.

Yes, Judy is a third-grade girl but she is very much the tomboy and boys love this series as much as girls. The series does a great job of captivating unmotivated readers who are making the transition into chapter books. Children will relate to Judy’s constant dilemmas and will laugh their way through the book as Judy comes up with the most intriguing solutions to problems such as having to sit next to a kid who eats paste and a toad that pees on her!

Perfect for: Kids who like realism.

Find our favorites at your local library: Judy Moody Was in a MoodJudy Moody Gets Famous!Judy Moody Saves the World!

Judy Blume’s Fudge

by: Judy Blume – (Dutton, 1972)

The Hook: Judy Bloom’s series may depict characters from a generation who have now sprouted gray hairs, but her finely tuned tales about the emotional lives of kids make this series worth introducing to 21st century readers. Whether it’s the trouble with younger siblings or the trials of moving away, Bloom manages to make everyday kid conundrums just as riveting and intense as they are to experience. Growing from age 9 to 12, main character Peter Hatcher (except for the second in the series), offers hilarious insights into life as he suffers the embarrassments of his little brother Fudge and the irritation of his nemesis Sheila, that girl downstairs.

Perfect for: Kids who like to laugh or have annoying people in their lives.

Find our favorites at your local library: Tales of a Fourth Grade NothingOtherwise Known as Sheila the GreatSuperfudgeFudge-a-ManiaDouble Fudge.

The Loser List

by: H.N. Kowitt – (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2011) 224 pages.

The hook: When middle schooler Danny Shine finds out he’s on the loser list in the girls’ bathroom, he tries to erase his name from the list — with disastrous consequences. Sent to detention and picked on by bullies, Danny thinks his life is over until his tormentors find out he can draw. Now one of the “bad boys,” Danny has to figure out how far he’ll go to keep his new reputation. Written in a diary format highlighted with Danny’s snarky drawings, this hilarious four-book series talks about the school social hierarchy in an authentic voice that will connect with even the most reluctant readers.

Perfect for: Kids concerned about social pitfalls at school.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Loser ListThe Loser List: Revenge of the LoserThe Loser List: Jinx of the Loser.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

by: Betty MacDonald – (HarperCollins, 1947) 128 pages.

The hook: A classic from the 1950s, this five-book series has aged well. Once married to a pirate, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle now lives in an upside-down house and dispenses “cures” to typical childhood ills, including the Never-Want-to-Go-to-Bedders cure, the Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker-Cure, and the Answer-Backer cure. Without scolding or nagging, these books offer children a fantasy of an adult who truly understands the complicated troubles that afflict them.

Perfect for: For advanced readers who wish they had a magic aunt.

Find our favorites at your local library: Mrs. Piggle-WiggleHello, Mrs. Piggle-WiggleMrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic.

A Bear Called Paddington

by: Michael Bond, illustrated by: Peggy Fortnum – (HarperCollins, 2014) 176 pages.

The hook: We first meet this young, marmalade-loving bear when he arrives, alone and friendless, at Paddington Station in London from Lima, Peru. He attracts the attention of the Brown family, who take him home with them. Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their children, Jonathan and Judy, soon discover that bears, while wonderful to have in the family, are prone to all sorts of misadventures. But whether he’s overflowing the bathtub or destroying the neighbor’s watch in a flubbed magic trick, Paddington always comes out on top, his politeness and sweetness intact. With each chapter standing alone as its own story, this quaintly old-fashioned book (the first in the series) is a good choice for young readers who have made the transition to chapter books and an entertaining read-aloud for younger kids.

Want to see the movie? The 2015 live-action version featuring a computer-animated Paddington has many details from the first book in the series, plus a few plot twists and mild thrills to stretch it to a full-length feature.

Perfect for: Kids with gentle souls

Find our favorites at your local library: A Bear Called PaddingtonMore About PaddingtonPaddington Abroad.

Sarah, Plain and Tall series

by: Patricia MacLachlan – (Harper & Row, 1985) 112 pages.

The hook: After their mother dies, Anna and Caleb’s father advertises for a mail order bride. Sarah responds to the ad, and heads out from Maine to join the family on their Midwest farm. The children are apprehensive before she arrives, wondering what she’ll be like. When Sarah arrives, bringing her cat, gifts from the Maine coast, and warmth back to their desolate home, family bonding ensues. Part one of a heartwarming five-part saga.

Perfect for: Kids intrigued by pioneer families.

Find our favorites at your local library: Sarah, Plain and TallSkylarkCaleb’s StoryMore Perfect than the MoonGrandfather’s Dance.

Secrets of Droon

by: Tony Abbott, illustrated by: Tim Jessell – (Scholastic, 1999) 96 pages.

The hook: When 10-year-old Eric and his best friends, Neal and Julie, discover a rainbow staircase in his basement, they stumble into the embattled and magical world of Droon. Soon they’re battling alongside Keeah, the wizard princess of Droon, and fellow wizard Galen Longbeard against the evil Lord Sparr, who will do anything to rule Droon. It’s a mild precursor to the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings, or the Chronicles of Narnia, but be prepared for your reader to get hooked. Fortunately, the 44 books in this long-running series should satisfy even the most voracious fantasy lover.

Perfect for: Magic lovers who’d pick up a wand at the first glimpse of a rainbow staircase.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Hidden Stairs and the Magic CarpetThe Race to DoobeshThe Moon Dragon.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School

by: Louis Sachar, illustrated by: Julie Brinckloe – (Avon Books, 1978) 128 pages.

The hook: On the 30th floor of the wacky Wayside School is Mrs. Jewl’s class. Sharie falls asleep and rolls out the window. Joe counts all wrong and gets the right answer. Calvin is sent to the 19th floor to deliver a note, but there is no 19th floor — the builder forgot it. This nutty world is built on the sort of playful twists of logic that kids love.

Perfect for: Kids who like humor stories.

Find our favorites at your local library: Sideways Stories from Wayside SchoolWayside School is Falling DownWayside School Gets a Little Stranger.

The Spiderwick Chronicles series

by: Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, illustrated by: Tony DiTerlizzi – (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013) 144 pages.

The hook: Beginning with The Field Guide, this five-book series follows 9-year-old twins Jared and Simon and their older sister Mallory as they discover a hidden faerie world that is darker and more dangerous than they could have imagined. After moving into their great, great uncle’s creepy old mansion, the siblings find a dusty, handwritten book called Field Guide to The Fantastical World Around You in the attic. What follows is a series of thrilling encounters involving a secret library, a riddle-poem, fairies, goblins, and more, all depicted in easy-to-read prose and beautiful illustrations.

Want to see the movie? The 2008 film is loosely based on the entire series.

Perfect for: Budding fantasy fans.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Field GuideThe Seeing StoneLucinda’s Secret.

The Zack Files

by: Dan Greenburg, illustrated by: Jack E. Davis – (Grosset & Dunlap, 1996) 64 pages.

The hook: Zack has a knack for finding trouble. Hoping to get a cute little kitten, he accidentally adopts a talking cat who claims to be the ghost of his great grandpa. And a seemingly innocent trip to the dentist turns sinister when Dr. Silver turns into the mouthwash-guzzling Dr. Jekyll. The supernatural plots may sound like thrillers, but the silly books in this hilarious series are more full of spoofs than spooks, and they’re a great choice for reluctant readers.

Perfect for: Kids who like oddball humor.

Find our favorites at your local library: Great Grandpa’s in the Litter BoxI’m Out of My Body, Please Leave a Message My Son, the Time TravelerTell a Lie and Your Butt Will Grow.

Fall of the Beasts series

by: Eliot Schrefer – (Scholastic, 2015) 192 pages.

The world of Erdas is facing a great evil. Four children must stop it with the help of their spirit animals, legendary beasts who have been reborn to fight the darkness that threatens to take over their world.

Perfect for: New fans of fantasy.

Find our favorites at your local library: Immortal GuardiansBroken Ground, and The Return.

Secret Coders series

by: Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by: Mike Holmes – (First Second, 2015) 96 pages.

There’s a mystery at Stately Academy and three friends use their coding skills to puzzle it out. This graphic novel, the first in a series, is an entertaining read and a beginner’s guide to programming all in one. The author is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and a MacArthur Fellow, as well as a high school computer programming teacher.

Perfect for: Graphic novel lovers and aspiring programmers.

Find our favorites at your local library: Secret CodersSecret Coders: Paths & Portals, and Secret Coders: Secrets & Sequences.

Babymouse: Camp Babymouse

by: Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm – (Random House, 2007) 96 pages.

The hook: The sixth installment of the Babymouse series finds our heroine at summer camp. She doesn’t like the great outdoors, but that fact shouldn’t get in the way of her having fun, right? Babymouse has her usual daydreams of how she’ll be the best camper around, but all she finds is trouble. Babymouse’s cabin-mates, the Buttercups, soon become frustrated with her shenanigans, as she racks up nothing but demerits for her team. The illustrations are as fun and humorous as ever, in the familiar black, white and pink. Graphic novels are incredibly popular with tweens and teens, so it follows that younger kids want them as well. And those for the very young — especially for young girls — are few and far between, but gaining a foothold. Here is a well-established series that fills that void with a spirited, likable, adventurous character.

Perfect for: Kids who like humor stories.

Find our favorites at your local library: Camp BabymouseQueen of the WorldPuppy Love, The Musical

Best book series for kindergartners

A great series can transform a lukewarm reader into a little bookworm. Here are our top picks to rev up reading for your kindergartner.

by: Grace Montgomery

Print book list

Angelina Ice Skates

by: Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig – (Pleasant Company Publications, 2001) 32 pages.

The hook: When Holabird and Craig teamed up to create the first Angelina Ballerina picture book in 1983, no one could have dreamt how long this little mouse with big dreams would endure. This lovely tale about New Year’s Eve party plans gone awry doesn’t disappoint. Still filled with dancing (this time on the ice) and friendship, Angelina’s newest escapade is sure to fill your child with winter wonder.

Perfect for: Kids who like adventure stories.

Find our favorites at your local library: Angelina BallerinaAngelina Ice SkatesAngelina on StageAngelina and AliceAngelina’s Big City Ballet.

The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant

by: Jean de Brunhoff – (Random House, 1960) 56 pages.

The hook: After his mother is killed by hunters in the jungle, young Babar makes his way to the city where he meets a rich benefactress who teaches him the ways of the civilized world. When Babar returns to the jungle a sophisticated adult elephant, the other elephants make him their king. The books have some old-fashioned moments and dated messages about colonialism, but Babar’s kind, hard-working attitude and the author’s gentle treatment of darker themes (such as the death of Babar’s mother) make this colorfully illustrated series still worth reading.

Want to see the movie? Check out Babar: The Movie and the TV series, Babar, both of which capture the elephant king’s generous spirit while introducing new adventures.

Perfect for: Kids who appreciate a dapper, green-suited elephant.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Story of Babar the Little ElephantBabar the King.

The Day the Crayons …

by: Drew Daywalt, illustrated by: Oliver Jeffers – (Philomel Books, 2013) 40 pages.

The hook: A box of crayons has taken some serious abuse from their owner, Duncan, and they’ve had it! In a series of letters, each color supplies a litany of complaints, like getting used too much (red does all the heavy lifting) and not getting used enough (poor beige is only used to color wheat, and what kid actually colors wheat?). This incredibly creative concept, which is continued in an equally engaging sequel, hooks in kids and adults alike.

Perfect for: Kids with colorful imaginations.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Day the Crayons QuitThe Day the Crayons Came Home.

Bonjour Butterfly and the Fancy Nancy series

by: Jane O’Connor, illustrated by: Robin Preiss Glasser – (HarperCollins, 2008) 32 pages.

The hook: Nancy is back and fancier than ever. Once again the team of O’Connor and Glasser have swirled together another elegant Nancy tale with the glamour and humor that have characterized their past Nancy endeavors. After Nancy and her friend Bree become captivated with butterflies, the two girls decide to throw a butterfly party. Everything is going well until Nancy learns that she can’t go to the party because she has to attend her grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary party. Thoroughly convinced that she won’t have a good time, Nancy soon learns that her grandparents are indeed just as fancy as she is. Familiar sparkly cover aside, this book is sure to please current Nancy fans. Newcomers to her world will love it too and want to go back and read the rest of her “mah-velous” tales.

Perfect for: Kids who like humor stories.

Find our favorites at your local library Fancy NancyFancy Nancy: Bonjour Butterfly ,  Fancy Nancy: There’s No Day Like a Snow Day, and Fancy Nancy: Budding Ballerina.

If You Give…

by: Laura Numeroff, illustrated by: Felicia Bond – (HarperCollins, 2015) 40 pages.

The hook: If you give a mouse a cookie, you never know what might happen. That mouse might want a glass a milk, and then he may need a straw, and then who knows where the story will go. All the books in this sweet and silly series, which have won numerous awards, are written in a circular format. Kids love that the books end right where they began. The short, repetitive phrasing and energetic illustrations help young readers connect with the words.

Perfect for: Kids who can’t wait to know what will happen next.

Find our favorites at your local library: If You Give a Mouse a CookieIf You Give a Pig a PancakeIf You Take a Mouse to the Movies.

Little Bear

by: Else Homelund Minarik – (Harper & Bros., 1957) 32 pages.

The hook: Old-fashioned sweetness. Little Bear loves his Mom, Dad, Grandparents, and friends (Duck, Cat, Owl, Hen, and a little girl named Emily). While the stories are simple, they manage to steer clear of syrupy sentimentality and Maurice Sendak’s expressive pen-and ink-illustrations evoke the humor and innocence of a child’s world-view.

Perfect for: Young kids who love simple adventures.

Find our favorites at your local library: Little BearLittle Bear’s FriendA Kiss for Little Bear.

Charlie and Lola

by: Lauren Child – (Candlewick, 2003) 32 pages.

The hook: Lola is absolutely certain about what she likes (strawberry milk) and doesn’t like (tomatoes and going to school), but her older brother Charlie isn’t so sure. With unfailing patience, he uses his wily wit to convince the stubborn Lola to come around in a series that was eventually turned into a TV show. Young readers love Lola’s exaggerated speech when she makes declarations like “I will probably still be perky at even 13 o’clock,” and her imaginative antics, which are presented in scrapbook-style artwork that’s eye-catching and fun.

Perfect for: Kids who are patient (or could be more patient) with their younger siblings.

Find our favorites at your local library: I Will Never Not Ever Eat a TomatoI Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to BedI Am Too Absolutely Small for School

Madeline

by: Ludwig Bemelmans – (Viking Press, 1967) 54 pages.

The hook: “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived 12 little girls,” including Madeline, an orphan whose spunk has enchanted young readers since 1939. Beginning with the Caldecott Honor winner Madeline, the six-book series kicks off with little red-haired Madeline waking in the night at her boarding school with a terrible stomachache. But the girl who isn’t scared of tigers won’t let a case of appendicitis get her down. Kids love Madeline’s gutsy attitude and the book’s musical rhymes and quirky illustrations of 1930s Paris.

Want to see the movie? Check out the 1998 live-action adaptation, which is a charming amalgamation of many of the books in the series and stars Frances McDormand as Miss Clavel, or try the TV series Madeline and The New Adventures of Madeline.

Perfect for: Kids who love little adventures.

Find our favorites at your local library: Madeline, Madeline’s RescueMadeline in London.

Max and Ruby series

by: Rosemary Wells – (Viking Books for Young Readers, 1997) 48 pages.

The hook: Ruby, the older sister, has a leg up on just about everything. Although Max, the baby brother, can’t yet speak, read, or write — and is constantly messing-up — in the 25-plus books, he always gets what he wants (much to Ruby’s annoyance), be it the coveted chocolate chicken or the dragon shirt.

Want to see the movie? Check out the Nickelodeon series, which nicely portrays Max and Ruby’s charming sibling bond.

Perfect for: Siblings who drive each other crazy.

Find our favorites at your local library: Max and Ruby’s Bedtime BookBunny CakesMax’s Dragon Shirt.

McDuff

by: Rosemary Wells – (Hyperion Books for Children, 1997) 32 pages.

The hook: Set in the 1930s, this vibrantly illustrated series of 10 books follows McDuff, a white Scottish Terrier who escapes from a dogcatcher’s truck in search of a loving home. Though he finds one in a young couple who feed him rice pudding and sausage slices, the little dog struggles with the same sort of problems a young kid might – from dealing with a new baby in the house to causing a ruckus at a relative’s house.

Perfect for: Energetic creatures who mean well, but get themselves into harmless trouble.

Find our favorites at your local library: McDuff Comes HomeMcDuff’s Wild RompMcDuff and the Baby.

Mitchell’s License

by: Hallie Durant, illustrated by: Tony Fucile – (Candlewick Press, 2011) 40 pages.

The hook: “Mitchell was three years, nine months, and five days old when he got his license.” It was the only way his father could get him to go to bed. Instead of chasing Mitchell around the house each night at bedtime, his dad came up with a clever solution: Mitchell could drive to bed, and dad would be the car. Through rollicking illustrations, Mitchell hops into the driver’s seat (on his dad’s shoulders) and with a lead foot takes a wild spin around the house to his bedroom. The trip leaves Dad more tired than Mitchell. This book and Mitchell Goes Bowling show the lovely bond between dad and son with wit and warmth.

Perfect for: Your rambunctious, cars-and-trucks-loving preschooler.

Find our favorites at your local library: Mitchell’s LicenseMitchell Goes Bowling.

Olivia

by: Ian Falconer – (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000) 40 pages.

The hook: Olivia is a big sister, she has a dog and a cat, and she’s really good at “wearing people out” — including herself. Stark charcoal illustrations with just a splash of color, along with artwork by famous artists such as Degas and Pollock, accompany the stories of Olivia’s adventures as she torments her little brother, saves the circus, paints a mural on her bedroom wall, builds a spectacular sandcastle, forms a one-pig band, and muses about being a ballerina. The adventures of this exuberant pig perfectly capture the irrepressible energy of the preschool set. Both kids and adults appreciate the deadpan humor.

Want to see the movie? Check out the Nick Jr. show, which stays true to the stories and illustration style of the books.

Perfect for: Kids who really know how to wear themselves out.

Find our favorites at your local library: OliviaOlivia Forms a BandOlivia and the Fairy Princesses.

Pinky and Rex

by: James Howe – (Atheneum, 1996) 48 pages.

The hook: Without a heavy hand, Howe’s stories teach kids that boys and girls can be whoever they want to be. What’s more, they can solve many of the challenges that young kids face — confronting a bully, performing in a school play, or competing in a spelling bee.

Perfect for: For boys who love Pink, girls who loves dinosaurs, and kids who follow their own star.

Find our favorites at your local library: Pinky and Rex and the BullyPinky and Rex and the Just-Right PetPinky and Rex Go to Camp.

The Poppy Stories

by: Avi – (Avon Books, 1999)

The hook: Poppy is a mouse who lives with her family at the edge of a forest. If this sounds like the premise a lot of saccharine kiddy books with winsome characters whose minor adventures follow well-worn paths, well, think again. Like E.B. White and other literary giants, Avi imbues his little animals with complex characters and heartrending struggles. No spoiler alert here, but the story offers a rare fictional portrayal of death inside a family.

Perfect for: Kids ready to confront a little nail-biting drama.

Find our favorites at your local library: Poppy and ErethPoppy and RyeRagweed.

Splat the Cat

by: Rob Scotton – (HarperCollins, 2008) 40 pages.

The hook: Splat the Cat has a lot of worries. He’s not sure if the first day of Cat School is going to be any fun. And what if Santa doesn’t bring him any presents, even if he’s really, really good? And what if Spike breaks all of his toys during their playdate? Kids will relate to Splat’s fears and how he overcomes them. And the bold, engaging illustrations will bring on the giggles as Splat bumbles his way through each new experience.

Perfect for: Kids who tend to worry.

Find our favorites at your local library: Splat the CatSplish, Splash, Splat!.

Owl Diaries: Eva’s Treetop Festival

by: Rebecca Elliott – (Scholastic, 2015) 80 pages.

The hook: Eva Wingdale is a busy and ambitious owlet who wants to organize a spring festival at her school. She’s got more fun ideas than she can execute by herself and discovers that getting her classmates to help is the way to make the festival a success. The first in a series, this early chapter book is presented as a diary with cartoon-like illustrations and will resonate with kids who see the adults around them juggling their commitments.

Perfect for: Newly independent readers and future student council presidents.

Find our favorites at your local library: Eva’s Treetop FestivalEva and the New Owl, and A Woodland Wedding.

Best book series for kindergartners

A great series can transform a lukewarm reader into a little bookworm. Here are our top picks to rev up reading for your kindergartner.

by: Grace Montgomery

Print book list

Angelina Ice Skates

by: Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig – (Pleasant Company Publications, 2001) 32 pages.

The hook: When Holabird and Craig teamed up to create the first Angelina Ballerina picture book in 1983, no one could have dreamt how long this little mouse with big dreams would endure. This lovely tale about New Year’s Eve party plans gone awry doesn’t disappoint. Still filled with dancing (this time on the ice) and friendship, Angelina’s newest escapade is sure to fill your child with winter wonder.

Perfect for: Kids who like adventure stories.

Find our favorites at your local library: Angelina BallerinaAngelina Ice SkatesAngelina on StageAngelina and AliceAngelina’s Big City Ballet.

The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant

by: Jean de Brunhoff – (Random House, 1960) 56 pages.

The hook: After his mother is killed by hunters in the jungle, young Babar makes his way to the city where he meets a rich benefactress who teaches him the ways of the civilized world. When Babar returns to the jungle a sophisticated adult elephant, the other elephants make him their king. The books have some old-fashioned moments and dated messages about colonialism, but Babar’s kind, hard-working attitude and the author’s gentle treatment of darker themes (such as the death of Babar’s mother) make this colorfully illustrated series still worth reading.

Want to see the movie? Check out Babar: The Movie and the TV series, Babar, both of which capture the elephant king’s generous spirit while introducing new adventures.

Perfect for: Kids who appreciate a dapper, green-suited elephant.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Story of Babar the Little ElephantBabar the King.

The Day the Crayons …

by: Drew Daywalt, illustrated by: Oliver Jeffers – (Philomel Books, 2013) 40 pages.

The hook: A box of crayons has taken some serious abuse from their owner, Duncan, and they’ve had it! In a series of letters, each color supplies a litany of complaints, like getting used too much (red does all the heavy lifting) and not getting used enough (poor beige is only used to color wheat, and what kid actually colors wheat?). This incredibly creative concept, which is continued in an equally engaging sequel, hooks in kids and adults alike.

Perfect for: Kids with colorful imaginations.

Find our favorites at your local library: The Day the Crayons QuitThe Day the Crayons Came Home.

Bonjour Butterfly and the Fancy Nancy series

by: Jane O’Connor, illustrated by: Robin Preiss Glasser – (HarperCollins, 2008) 32 pages.

The hook: Nancy is back and fancier than ever. Once again the team of O’Connor and Glasser have swirled together another elegant Nancy tale with the glamour and humor that have characterized their past Nancy endeavors. After Nancy and her friend Bree become captivated with butterflies, the two girls decide to throw a butterfly party. Everything is going well until Nancy learns that she can’t go to the party because she has to attend her grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary party. Thoroughly convinced that she won’t have a good time, Nancy soon learns that her grandparents are indeed just as fancy as she is. Familiar sparkly cover aside, this book is sure to please current Nancy fans. Newcomers to her world will love it too and want to go back and read the rest of her “mah-velous” tales.

Perfect for: Kids who like humor stories.

Find our favorites at your local library Fancy NancyFancy Nancy: Bonjour Butterfly ,  Fancy Nancy: There’s No Day Like a Snow Day, and Fancy Nancy: Budding Ballerina.

If You Give…

by: Laura Numeroff, illustrated by: Felicia Bond – (HarperCollins, 2015) 40 pages.

The hook: If you give a mouse a cookie, you never know what might happen. That mouse might want a glass a milk, and then he may need a straw, and then who knows where the story will go. All the books in this sweet and silly series, which have won numerous awards, are written in a circular format. Kids love that the books end right where they began. The short, repetitive phrasing and energetic illustrations help young readers connect with the words.

Perfect for: Kids who can’t wait to know what will happen next.

Find our favorites at your local library: If You Give a Mouse a CookieIf You Give a Pig a PancakeIf You Take a Mouse to the Movies.

Little Bear

by: Else Homelund Minarik – (Harper & Bros., 1957) 32 pages.

The hook: Old-fashioned sweetness. Little Bear loves his Mom, Dad, Grandparents, and friends (Duck, Cat, Owl, Hen, and a little girl named Emily). While the stories are simple, they manage to steer clear of syrupy sentimentality and Maurice Sendak’s expressive pen-and ink-illustrations evoke the humor and innocence of a child’s world-view.

Perfect for: Young kids who love simple adventures.

Find our favorites at your local library: Little BearLittle Bear’s FriendA Kiss for Little Bear.

Charlie and Lola

by: Lauren Child – (Candlewick, 2003) 32 pages.

The hook: Lola is absolutely certain about what she likes (strawberry milk) and doesn’t like (tomatoes and going to school), but her older brother Charlie isn’t so sure. With unfailing patience, he uses his wily wit to convince the stubborn Lola to come around in a series that was eventually turned into a TV show. Young readers love Lola’s exaggerated speech when she makes declarations like “I will probably still be perky at even 13 o’clock,” and her imaginative antics, which are presented in scrapbook-style artwork that’s eye-catching and fun.

Perfect for: Kids who are patient (or could be more patient) with their younger siblings.

Find our favorites at your local library: I Will Never Not Ever Eat a TomatoI Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to BedI Am Too Absolutely Small for School

Madeline

by: Ludwig Bemelmans – (Viking Press, 1967) 54 pages.

The hook: “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived 12 little girls,” including Madeline, an orphan whose spunk has enchanted young readers since 1939. Beginning with the Caldecott Honor winner Madeline, the six-book series kicks off with little red-haired Madeline waking in the night at her boarding school with a terrible stomachache. But the girl who isn’t scared of tigers won’t let a case of appendicitis get her down. Kids love Madeline’s gutsy attitude and the book’s musical rhymes and quirky illustrations of 1930s Paris.

Want to see the movie? Check out the 1998 live-action adaptation, which is a charming amalgamation of many of the books in the series and stars Frances McDormand as Miss Clavel, or try the TV series Madeline and The New Adventures of Madeline.

Perfect for: Kids who love little adventures.

Find our favorites at your local library: Madeline, Madeline’s RescueMadeline in London.

Max and Ruby series

by: Rosemary Wells – (Viking Books for Young Readers, 1997) 48 pages.

The hook: Ruby, the older sister, has a leg up on just about everything. Although Max, the baby brother, can’t yet speak, read, or write — and is constantly messing-up — in the 25-plus books, he always gets what he wants (much to Ruby’s annoyance), be it the coveted chocolate chicken or the dragon shirt.

Want to see the movie? Check out the Nickelodeon series, which nicely portrays Max and Ruby’s charming sibling bond.

Perfect for: Siblings who drive each other crazy.

Find our favorites at your local library: Max and Ruby’s Bedtime BookBunny CakesMax’s Dragon Shirt.

McDuff

by: Rosemary Wells – (Hyperion Books for Children, 1997) 32 pages.

The hook: Set in the 1930s, this vibrantly illustrated series of 10 books follows McDuff, a white Scottish Terrier who escapes from a dogcatcher’s truck in search of a loving home. Though he finds one in a young couple who feed him rice pudding and sausage slices, the little dog struggles with the same sort of problems a young kid might – from dealing with a new baby in the house to causing a ruckus at a relative’s house.

Perfect for: Energetic creatures who mean well, but get themselves into harmless trouble.

Find our favorites at your local library: McDuff Comes HomeMcDuff’s Wild RompMcDuff and the Baby.

Mitchell’s License

by: Hallie Durant, illustrated by: Tony Fucile – (Candlewick Press, 2011) 40 pages.

The hook: “Mitchell was three years, nine months, and five days old when he got his license.” It was the only way his father could get him to go to bed. Instead of chasing Mitchell around the house each night at bedtime, his dad came up with a clever solution: Mitchell could drive to bed, and dad would be the car. Through rollicking illustrations, Mitchell hops into the driver’s seat (on his dad’s shoulders) and with a lead foot takes a wild spin around the house to his bedroom. The trip leaves Dad more tired than Mitchell. This book and Mitchell Goes Bowling show the lovely bond between dad and son with wit and warmth.

Perfect for: Your rambunctious, cars-and-trucks-loving preschooler.

Find our favorites at your local library: Mitchell’s LicenseMitchell Goes Bowling.

Olivia

by: Ian Falconer – (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000) 40 pages.

The hook: Olivia is a big sister, she has a dog and a cat, and she’s really good at “wearing people out” — including herself. Stark charcoal illustrations with just a splash of color, along with artwork by famous artists such as Degas and Pollock, accompany the stories of Olivia’s adventures as she torments her little brother, saves the circus, paints a mural on her bedroom wall, builds a spectacular sandcastle, forms a one-pig band, and muses about being a ballerina. The adventures of this exuberant pig perfectly capture the irrepressible energy of the preschool set. Both kids and adults appreciate the deadpan humor.

Want to see the movie? Check out the Nick Jr. show, which stays true to the stories and illustration style of the books.

Perfect for: Kids who really know how to wear themselves out.

Find our favorites at your local library: OliviaOlivia Forms a BandOlivia and the Fairy Princesses.

Pinky and Rex

by: James Howe – (Atheneum, 1996) 48 pages.

The hook: Without a heavy hand, Howe’s stories teach kids that boys and girls can be whoever they want to be. What’s more, they can solve many of the challenges that young kids face — confronting a bully, performing in a school play, or competing in a spelling bee.

Perfect for: For boys who love Pink, girls who loves dinosaurs, and kids who follow their own star.

Find our favorites at your local library: Pinky and Rex and the BullyPinky and Rex and the Just-Right PetPinky and Rex Go to Camp.

The Poppy Stories

by: Avi – (Avon Books, 1999)

The hook: Poppy is a mouse who lives with her family at the edge of a forest. If this sounds like the premise a lot of saccharine kiddy books with winsome characters whose minor adventures follow well-worn paths, well, think again. Like E.B. White and other literary giants, Avi imbues his little animals with complex characters and heartrending struggles. No spoiler alert here, but the story offers a rare fictional portrayal of death inside a family.

Perfect for: Kids ready to confront a little nail-biting drama.

Find our favorites at your local library: Poppy and ErethPoppy and RyeRagweed.

Splat the Cat

by: Rob Scotton – (HarperCollins, 2008) 40 pages.

The hook: Splat the Cat has a lot of worries. He’s not sure if the first day of Cat School is going to be any fun. And what if Santa doesn’t bring him any presents, even if he’s really, really good? And what if Spike breaks all of his toys during their playdate? Kids will relate to Splat’s fears and how he overcomes them. And the bold, engaging illustrations will bring on the giggles as Splat bumbles his way through each new experience.

Perfect for: Kids who tend to worry.

Find our favorites at your local library: Splat the CatSplish, Splash, Splat!.

Owl Diaries: Eva’s Treetop Festival

by: Rebecca Elliott – (Scholastic, 2015) 80 pages.

The hook: Eva Wingdale is a busy and ambitious owlet who wants to organize a spring festival at her school. She’s got more fun ideas than she can execute by herself and discovers that getting her classmates to help is the way to make the festival a success. The first in a series, this early chapter book is presented as a diary with cartoon-like illustrations and will resonate with kids who see the adults around them juggling their commitments.

Perfect for: Newly independent readers and future student council presidents.

Find our favorites at your local library: Eva’s Treetop FestivalEva and the New Owl, and A Woodland Wedding.

 

 

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