Tried and True Picture Books for Teaching

books teaching Aug 08, 2018

Every summer I clean out and purge all of my books. It's a difficult task because I love them all. Many books are like good friends. But, I have limited real estate on the shelves. Sometimes I need to make room for some new finds that fulfill a teaching purpose or need for students better than an older book. Sometimes I have an older book that does the best job for me, so I get rid of a newer one. Hard choices, but necessary. 

Part of what I am doing is staying focused in my purpose in teaching and coaching. Having too much can be overwhelming and decision making becomes harder. Being thoughtful in my library makes me more efficient and directed. 

How do you choose the books you teach with and what deserves shelf space in your teaching library?

There are so many wonderful picture books coming out every year. It can be a bit overwhelming. However, we need to remember there are older books that are just as wonderful. Perhaps it's time to walk away from the next shiny thing for a minute and inventory/repurpose what we currently have. 

Here are some of my old favorites:  

Letters and Mail

String Bean's Trip to the Shining Sea by Vera B. Williams

The Jolly Postman Or Other People's Letters by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Thank You Mr. Faulkner by Patricia Polocco

Dear Teacher by Amy Husband (excuse letters)

Click Clack Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

Dear Mrs. LaRue by Mark Teague

The Day the Crayons Quit by Brew Daywalt (letters of complaint)

Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin

Mailing May by Michael O. Tunnell (while this tale is not written in letter format, it is a true, and unusual, story about mail)

Xo, Ox: A Love Story by Adam Rex 

Judgement, Empathy and Friends

Any Gerald and Piggie Story from Mo Willums

The Hundred Dresses by Elenor Estes

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Me First by Helen Lester (taking turns)

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman

Fairy Tales Revisited

The Mermaid by Jan Brett (and many other Jan Brett versions of fairy tales)

The True Story of The Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka

The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas

Honestly, Red Riding Hood Was Rotten by Trisha Speed Shaskan

Prince Cinders by Babette Cole

The Rough-Faced Girl by Rafe Martin 

The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Cilmo

Cinderella's Other Shoe by Phillipa Rae (from the shoe's perspective) 

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch (a princess who rescues herself)

The Frog Prince Continued by Jon Scieszka

Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young


Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

Lily's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

My Teacher Sleeps in School by Lettie Weiss

The Art Lesson by Tomie de Paola (problem solving)


All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan (ends and new beginnings)

Sidewalk Circus by Paul Fleischman (seeing the everyday differently)

The Gardner by Sarah Stewart (A book about figuring out how to find and bring joy where we are right now.)

I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff (persuasive writing)

When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach

Chester by Melanie Watts (author arguing with a character)


Grammar Tales (There's a whole series.)

Punctuation Takes a Vacation by Robin Pulver

Word Choice

An A From Miss Keller by Patricia Polocco (giving our words wings)

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant (creating mood and painting a picture)

The Night I Followed the Dog (active verbs and specific nouns)

Cloud Dance by Thomas Locker (painting a picture with words; also great for teaching about clouds and weather)

Can I be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings (persuasive letters)

The Word Collector by Peter H. Renolds


Alphabet Adventure by Audrey Wood

Body Battles by Rita Golden Gelman (making non-fiction exciting)

Grody's Not So Golden Rules by Nicole Rubel (also great for talking about class expectations/creating your own rule books)

The Frog Principal by Stephanie Calmenson (being funny without going too far)

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds (changing voice- showing growth)

Cinderella's Other Shoe by Phillipa Rae (perspective)

The Secret Knowledge of Grown-ups by David Winsewski (writing detective or mystery stories as well)

Sentence Fluency

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka 

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long

Book! Book! Book! by Deborah Bruss (using quotes naturally)

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes (varied lengths)


Click Clack Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin (bank and forth negotiation)

The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey (chronological order)

The Mystery of Eatum Hall by John Kelly (giving clues to move the mystery along)

Stand Tall, Mary Lou Mellon by Patty Lovell (using a refrain)

Black and White by David Macaulay (non-linear story)

Point of View

Who is Melvin Bubble? by Nick Bruel

Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne


Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Flemming

Ben's Trumpet by Rachel Isadora (black and white vs. color)

The Three Little Pigs by David Wiesner (unusual design or layout)

Alphabet Adventure by Audrey Wood

Easy to Make Pop-ups by Joan Irvine

The Mitten by Jan Brett (using a boarder to tell part of the story or give clues)

Books About Books and Reading

We're in a Book! by Mo Willems

The Fantasic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by Kelli DiPuccio 

Alfred Zector Book Collector by William Joyce

The Library by Sarah Stewart

Let Me Finish by Minh Le

Wolf! by Becky Bloom

A Book by Mordecai Gerstein (a book with different genres)

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book? by Lauren Child

Note: All of the books listed fit in several categories and can be used to teach many different things. These are just a few suggestions to get you started. 

Happy reading,



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