Picture Book Read Alouds to Launch Reader's Workshop

What read alouds are your MUST READS during the first few weeks of school? I have quite a few favorite picture books for launching reader’s workshop. My main goal when I launch my reader’s workshop is to encourage and help students establish a “love of reading.” I read aloud tons of picture books that include characters who have varying relationships with reading. These carefully chosen read alouds inspire discussions about the kind of reading life I want students to develop this school year and develop students’ perspective and understanding of the gift that living a literate life truly is.

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Aunt Chip and the Triple Creek Dam Affair, Patricia Polacco
(All time favorite for my Building a Reading Life unit!) What happens to a town when a t.v. tower comes along? Books become furniture, props, and pot-hole fillers. Can Aunt Chip, the town's old librarian bring Triple Creek back to life with a love of story, books, and the printed word?

I use Aunt Chip as a read aloud during Day 1 and Day 2 of my Building a Reading Life Unit. In the first lesson, we discuss times when reading was the “worst” for us. During the second lesson, we discuss why we should be readers.

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Thank You, Mr. Falker, Patricia Polacco
I'm sure you are familiar with this one, but Patricia Polacco was a struggling reader herself. Mr. Falker was a teacher who made a difference in her reading life by encouraging and helping her breakthrough as a reader. We are sure to have at least a few students in our classroom who can relate to Patricia’s struggles with reading!

The Bee Tree, Patricia Polacco
When Mary-Ellen gets tired of reading, grandfather shows her how to follow the bees to a tree with honey. He tells her, "Just like we ran after the bees to find their tree, so you must also chase these things adventure, knowledge, and wisdom through the pages of a book!"

More than Anything Else, Marie Bradby
During Emancipation, Booker T Washington pursues learning to read. This reminds me of one of my favorite reading quotations from Frederick Douglass—"Once you learn to read, you will forever be free!" Using this read aloud and quotation during my Building a Reading Life unit, we discuss how reading can be a source and form of freedom. Students come up with their own ideas related to how reading can bring them more freedom and empowerment.

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That Book Woman, Heather Henson
During a time when Pack Horse librarians traveled the Appalachian Mountains sharing books with children, “That Book Woman” shows up at Cal’s door again and again, making a reader out of the most uninterested child. I love this story because it offers a juxtaposition between a child who LOVES to read (Cal’s sister) and a child who GROWS TO LOVE reading. I am sure that any student in your classroom can find themselves in the feelings and emotions of one of these two characters!

The Wretched Stone, Chris Van Allsburg
The Wretched Stone entrances everyone when it is found. The men on this ship turn into monkeys and have a hard time thinking and remembering anything after watching the wretched stone for hours. (This is a great book for making inferences and discussing figurative vs literal--the wretched stone is a figurative television. Re-read the book after figuring this out to show students all the things Chris Van Allsburg says about the "wretched" television. Pull this book back out later to discuss figurative vs literal and symbolism!)

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Richard Wright and the Library Card, William Miller
What if you didn't have the right to get a library card? What if a love of reading was something you had to pursue with perseverance and at the risk of being caught and arrested or worse?! Our students don't know how blessed they are to have parents and teachers who try to instill in them a love of reading and who help them pursue reading, no matter their struggles. (Set in the 1920's segregated south, Richard Wright eventually learns to read and becomes a writer.)

The Librarian of Basra, Jeanette Winter, and Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq, Mark Alan Stamaty
When Alia, a librarian and lover of books, is caught in the war zone of Iraq, her love of reading transcends her fear of danger. She saves 30,000 books from being destroyed. These two books tell the same story, but Alia's Mission is more of a graphic novel. I love using one of these read alouds to again impart to students how easily the gift of reading is extended to them and to help them see that this is not the case world-wide.

The Wednesday Surprise, Eve Bunting
This book has a twist. The granddaughter and grandmother read together every week. Throughout the book, you may be thinking the granddaughter is learning to read, but at the end you find out she has been teaching the grandmother how to read. Great for discussing illiteracy.

Amber on the Mountain, Tony Johnston
Another story set in Appalachia. Anna comes along and teaches Amber how to read.

The Library, Sarah Stewart
Elizabeth is a true bibliophile, so much so that her house is overflowing with books. Eventually, she has to figure out what to do with all of her books. This is a quick read in poetic form. It’s an easy read aloud to squeeze in at some point during back to school week!

Please Bury Me in the Library, J Patrick Lewis (poetry)
Mix up your love of reading discussions and read alouds with a little poetry. Some of my favorites from this book are "Are You a Book Person?" and "Please Bury Me in the Library."

list of books for launching reader’s workshop

If you want to surf the whole list of books I recommend for launching reader’s workshop and helping your students develop a love of reading, I've compiled them all here into a list on Amazon.

about the building a reading life unit

I hope you LOVE LOVE LOVE teaching students to become readers as much as I do. I especially love to turn my struggling, apathetic readers into READERS for life and I find that spending the first 2-4 weeks of my reader’s workshop with my “Building a Reading Life Unit” helps me turn most of my students into wild readers right away. I truly hope you are ready for whatever challenges your readers have in store for you this year!

You can find mini-lessons, sample anchor charts, anchor chart parts, student journal pages, and quotation posters in the Launching a Reading Life Unit Kit .

CLICK ANY IMAGE BELOW TO HEAD TO THE FULL "Building a Reading Life" Kit for Launching Reader’s Workshop.

You can also get the first mini-lesson for Building a Reading Life sent to your inbox by joining the Tarheelstate Teacher newsletter and sharing your email below!

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