Virginia Readers' Choice Picture Books: 4 Types and How to Use Them

Picture books are great for reading aloud and helpful for teaching various skills and strategies. These picture books will make lessons more exciting!

The Virginia Readers' Choice selections for 2020-2021 are out and bound to be fun reads! Each book has its own merit to be used in the classroom. From read-alouds to mentor text, you can find easy ways to use the books throughout your school day.

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Below you will find easy ways to use the Virginia Readers' Choice books in your classroom, library, or home.

Books That Teach Lessons

Do you and your students remember Rabbit and Bear in Tops and Bottoms? Well, they are back again in The Donkey Egg. This time Fox convinces Bear that a watermelon is actually a donkey egg. Bear does everything he should do to care for an egg before it hatches. Rabbit comes by to visit and ends up helping in the end. Rabbit helps Bear realize that Fox tricked him, so they work together to help trick Fox.

Janet Stevens does a marvelous job telling a new trickster tale that will appeal to students time and time again. I love how she includes tidbits of information about time as the time passes with Bear and the "donkey egg".

When Grandma Give You a Lemon Tree

 Have you ever received a gift you didn't want? What about your child? I remember when my daughter received a gift she didn't want when she was little. She made rude comments about it, and we had to have a long talk about how to react when you get that gift you didn't really want.

But what happens when Grandma gives you a lemon tree? The young girl in When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L. B. Deenihan reminds children that we can make the best of even the gift no one ever wanted. She shows us how to take care of the lemon tree and watch what happens as the tree grows and produces fruit. In the end, we find that a lemon tree is the gift that keeps on giving and becomes the "best gift ever". What a great reminder to our children (and even ourselves) as we learn the importance of all the gifts we receive.

There are no Bears in This Bakery

Muffin the cat is keeping watch over the bakery at night when something strange happens in There Are No Bears in This Bakery by Julia Sarcone-Roach. As Muffin is prowling at night, he hears a sound in the bakery. As he gets "on the case", he finds a small bear cub eating in the bakery. He says, "the bear smelled like old socks, cinnamon, and adventure." Muffin watched the bear cub eat and eat, until he heard another sound. He then saw an enormous bear - Mama Bear! What happens when Mama Bear finds her bear cub in the bakery? And what about the bakers?

There Are No Bears in This Bakery is full of figurative language that will help students experience the story in different ways. I love how it helps the reader really hear, see, and smell what is going on in the story.

Carl and the Meaning of Life
Have you ever felt like you weren't needed in any part of life? Carl the worm wonders why he is needed in the forest in the book Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman. He realizes that the other animals have such big jobs in the forest, but he feels like he is too little to be a part of the bigger picture. As he goes around trying to find his meaning in life, he neglects his digging and burrowing in the ground. He and the other animals find that now the forest is in need of some serious help, as the ground is hard and nothing is growing. Carl then realizes that even the smallest creature can have a large impact.

This story really helps us understand not only that we all have a purpose in life. No matter how small that purpose is, it can have a large impact. It's also great for science lessons to help teachers show students how every part of the ecosystem has important impacts in the world.

Celebrating Diversity

2020 has been one interesting year! And it is a year where we all need to think about the cultures around us. These Virginia Readers' Choice picture books make it easy to have conversations with children about our diverse world and how we can work with others to show understanding and love for everyone.

 Yuyi Morales has painted a beautiful picture of what it is like to become an American citizen in her book Dreamers. She tells her own story of how she brought her child over to the United States and realizes that things are very different. Through simple words in both English and Spanish, we learn that understanding the language and the laws make it difficult to assimilate to this new world. But when she walks into the library, she finds a new world opened up to her. She begins to read, learn the language, and find her way in this new world. This beautifully illustrated picture book helps to tell her story and be an inspiration to anyone trying to find their way in a new place.

This year we have seen images of people protesting peacefully, many times including those of children. As a parent,  I fear for my children and want to protect them from the dangers of the world. But children have voices and want their messages to be heard.

Back in the 1960's Civil Rights Movement, many adults feared they would lose their jobs if they went out to peacefully protest for their rights. Instead, their children stepped up to march on their behalf. Let the Children March tells the story in such a beautiful way about how our nation's African American children took a stand for their own rights, even at an early age. 

Click here for lesson ideas for Let the Children March, along with a freebie, just for you.

World War II was quite a time in history. We know so much about times such as Pearl Harbor and D-Day but know very little of other occurrences during the War. The intriguing story of the Japanese pilot Nubuo Fujita helps us better understand how forgiveness is everything.

During World War II, Fujita was ordered to drop bombs over part of Oregon. When he did, he missed the town but hit a small wooded area. The citizens had no clue what had happened. Once they figured out what had happened, they came up with a unique plan. Instead of reprimanding Fujita, they found him and use him as a hero. He saved this small town simply by making a mistake!

From this, Fujita came back to apologize for his mistake and an instant friendship was formed, one that continued for many years. Thirty Minutes Over Oregon teaches more than just history; it teaches us to forgive, even when we are hurt.

Feel Good Books

I love a great "feel good" book, and our kids need to read them as well. There are days when we just feel down and out and need something to brighten our day. These books do just that!

The simple picture book, I Need a Hug by Aaron Blabey, shows how even the smallest of creatures needs some affection at some point. A spiky porcupine simply needs a hug from his friends, but they are all too scared to give him one. Finally, he finds an unlikely friend who needs some affection too. 

It reminds us all that when we are down, sometimes comfort comes in the most unexpected ways and friends. 

Who doesn't love glitter? Ok, let me rephrase that, what child doesn't love glitter? OK, I take that back, there are some of us who just don't want to deal with glitter, but it really does make the world a shinier place.

In the fun book, Just Add Glitter, the young girl takes on a rainy day with all of the glitter she can find. In the end, she realizes that it is way too much, but the fact that she and her cat shine is enough to make everything better. What I love about this book is that feeling of glitter on each page. What fun!

Books That Teach

Have you ever wondered what happens to all the animal dung (poo) at the zoo? I'm sure your kids have wondered the same thing. Jane Kurtz tells young and old what happens to it in her book What Do They Do With All That Poo? The book highlights how animals go poo and what they do with it to help them survive. And then goes on to tell how scientists use animal dung to learn more about animals and how they live.

I love the way she has two parts on each page. At the top is a simple explanation of what they animal does with its own poo and then gives more detailed information about that. This book is perfect for students and adults of any age as they learn about a most unusual subject - poo!

What young child doesn't love trains? Skila Brown has written the poems in Clackety Track for a fun way to learn about trains. The poems include different styles that tell about different types of trains and things that trains do. The fun illustrations add to the poems and are sometimes even a part of the poem. 

Students of all ages will love reading these poems that have a fun rhythm with a fun theme!

Raise your hand if you love to teach about animal adaptations! When I taught science in third grade, this was one of my favorite units. I would always use this to incorporate some research skills in the language arts blocks. And the students LOVED it! The kids loved learning about the cheetah, lion, and dolphins, but what about the zorilla, okapi, or the hoatzin? Yeah, those are hard to find, right?!

Melissa Stewart has really shown readers a great amount about different animals and how they can survive in the world. We all know that skunks really stink, but did you know that a tiny zorilla smells bad too? This keeps its predators away. There are so many other animals shown in the book Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers. Students will LOVE learning about some new and favorite animals and their quirky adaptations!

Picture books are great for reading aloud and helpful for teaching various skills and strategies. These picture books will make lessons more exciting!

Join me on my blog for more fun ways to use picture books in your lessons!


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