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The Best Classroom Book List Ever

By Meghan Everette on January 18, 2013
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

I don’t know about you, but I hate January. No, really. I hate it. You go back to school with a mild sense of refreshment only to plunge head first into serious content and spring test-prep in the midst of cold and rainy days that mean no outdoor P.E. So, to break up the serious discussions we’ve been having about close reading and the Common Core, I asked my coworkers about the books that they actually love to teach and why.

The answers are as diverse as you might expect from a faculty with fresh faces, seasoned professionals, and eclectic personalities. But you know what I noticed? Every single teacher lit up with the possibilities involved picking a favorite book, and without fail, they had a hard time narrowing down their list to one selection. Doesn’t that say a lot about us as teachers? So here is the world’s best classroom book list in the history of teaching to liven up your January and your bookshelf!


Whipping Boy Readers

The Whipping Boy

by Sid Fleishman

Use this tale from the Dark Ages to teach history, rich vocabulary, comparison and contrast, context clues, prediction, and more. I love pairing The Whipping Boy with Knights and Castles for a nonfiction look into the past. My class even celebrates our learning with a Whipping Boy Day!


 Extension Activity | Discussion Guide | Activity Sheet


Charlotte's Web


Charlotte’s Web

by E. B. White

Mrs. Miller uses Charlotte’s Web to introduce her 3rd graders to novels while teaching friendship at the start of the year. Crayola’s Dream-Makers Language Arts guide, available on Crayola's site, includes a Web of Synonymous Words activity to do while you read.


Explore Charlotte’s Web | Discussion Guide | Activity Sheet


A Wocket in my Pocket


Anything Dr. Seuss!

Yes, that is broad, but Mrs. Laubenthaul has decorated her whole kindergarten classroom in honor of the great works of Dr. Seuss. She uses classics like One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to teach rhyming words and sight words, but older students can learn about exaggeration from works like And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street or about goal setting from Oh, the Places You’ll Go!


Extension Activities | Middle School Seuss | Birthday Printable


Stone Fox

Stone Fox

By John Reynolds Gardiner

Cause and effect and character traits are key concepts Ms. George uses while teaching Stone Fox. The novel is short enough to not overwhelm young readers, but deep enough for great text-ploration!


Discussion Guide | Vocabulary Activity | Lesson Plan


The Night Before Christmas

by Clement Clarke Moore

Mrs. Jackson uses this classic and well-known tale to teach older students similes and metaphors. In the holiday spirit? Use the lyrics from "You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" to drive home the metaphors. Have students illustrate the figurative language for a fun holiday hallway.


Extension Activity | Printable Activities | Holiday Book Celebration


Because of Winn Dixie

Because of Winn-Dixie

by Kate DiCamillo

Mrs. Bullard uses Opal, Franny, and the gang to teach monitoring comprehension strategies and friendship lessons. I start the year with a Winn-Dixie lapbook each year, which gets students working hard and enjoying a novel all at once.


Winn-Dixie Lapbook | Interactive Website | Unit Guide



by Jerry Spinelli

Fitting in seems to be a common theme in many of our favorite stories, and Loser is no different. While teaching empathy, students in Mrs. Irby’s class learn summarizing and comprehension strategies. A great book for small groups and literary circles, Loser shows that each student can be a hero, even if they are a little different.


Lesson Plan | Discussion Guide | Extension Activity

All the Places to Love

All the Places to Love

by Patricia MacLachlan

Books that inspire great writing are so useful in the classroom. Mrs. Norwood uses All the Places to Love as a jumping-off point for writing about the places we love in our lives. A great story, it inspires great writing, and students open up personally through their expository writing.


Six-Trait Plan | Expository Writing Printable | Writing Prompts


The Rainbow Fish

The Rainbow Fish

by Marcus Pfister

Mrs. Winter’s 1st graders enjoy the classroom classic The Rainbow Fish while learning about good character, how to treat others, and being good classmates at the start of each year. The art connections are obvious and give your walls some bling.


Copycat Lesson | Fish Connections | YouTube Video

My Mouth is a Volcano

My Mouth Is a Volcano!

by Julie Cook

and Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie

by Laura Rankin

Sometimes, you can’t just pick one. Mrs. McInnis uses My Mouth Is a Volcano! and Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie to teach life skills, such as not interrupting and telling the truth with her 1st graders.


Discipline Article | Fix Interruptions


The Watson's Go To Birmingham

The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963

by Christopher Paul Curtis

I love teaching The Watsons because of the historical significance, humor, and connections that my students make with the text. I teach visualization with the Wool Pooh by reading the descriptions and having them draw what they imagine the Wool Pooh to look like. We also write our own mock newscasts from that fateful day in 1963. It’s a lesson that sticks with students long after the novel is back on the shelf.


Reading Guide (PDF) | Author's Note | Mini Lesson

The Enormous Crocodile


The Enormous Crocodile

by Roald Dahl

Prediction is taught through a fun and easy book in Mrs. Anez’s 4th-grade class. The Enormous Crocodile is available as a video book for added bite for your lesson!


Teaching Prediction | Active Reading Organizer | Lesson Plan


No, David!

No, David!

David Shannon

While No, David! is traditionally for very young readers, Mrs. Rider says even older students need to know it is ok to make mistakes! Teach inferences by telling what happened in the illustrations and defend your answers using evidence from the “text” as an introduction to answering open-ended questions.


Extension Activities | Writing Lesson | Making Inferences

Mr. George Baker

Mr. George Baker

by Amy Hest

Mr. Baker teaches students the importance of reading, but Mrs. Seltzer also uses the book as a lesson on the number 100. Mr. Baker is a centenarian and fits in perfectly with the 100th day of school, too!


 Teacher’s Guide | 100th Day Resources

Satchel Paige

Satchel Paige: Don't Look Back

by David A. Adler

The baseball great teaches more than an inspiring black history lesson. Mrs. Gray uses Satchel Paige to teach sequencing. A beautifully illustrated picture book worthy of great older readers, this book combines baseball, history, and civil rights all in one.


Official Site | Baseball Printables | Baseball Math

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

Would a school be complete without this sing-song introduction to the alphabet? Mrs. Campbell uses this upbeat number to teach letter recognition and as a transition into rhyme. Keep the fun going as students grow, too. Mrs. Laubenthaul’s students celebrate achievements with a rousing “Chicka Chicka Boom BOOM” cheer.


Lesson Plan | Activities | Video

Number the Stars

Number the Stars

by Lois Lowry

There is an obvious history lesson in Number the Stars, but our 5th grade students learn much more when reading this historical fiction piece. Sequence of events and character traits are two of the great discussions that stem from this award winner.


Discussion Guide and Extension Activity | Literature Guide

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

by Eric Carle

Mrs. Ederer’s young students read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to learn counting and the days of the week. Older students use the familiar story to guide them as they learn about metamorphosis. Even 5th graders have used the ravenous worm to do compounding math problems and figure out what he would eat in a month or a year.


Activity Plan | Lesson Ideas | Carle Video

Once Upon a Dime

Once Upon a Dime

by Nancy Kelly Allen

Books teaching math concepts are commonplace, but Mrs. Amick makes money and adding decimals come alive in the math lab with the fairy tale Once Upon a Dime. A history bonus: All of the animals are named for famous U.S. presidents and historical figures.


Class Activities | Money Printables

Thank you, Mr. Falker

Thank You, Mr. Falker

by Patricia Polacco

Mrs. Nonnemacher uses Thank You, Mr. Falker, an anti-bullying book that teaches about the differences between people and learning styles, to generate an anchor chart on ways to become a good reader. It breaks the ice with both students and parents about how we really learn to read.


About the Author | Lesson Plan | Book Guide

Mr. Peabody's Apples

Mr. Peabody’s Apples

by Madonna

Mrs. Lowe uses Mr. Peabody’s Apples to remind students about inferences and to teach the importance of telling the truth and choosing words carefully. Madonna reads the book in a YouTube video if you don’t have the text. Use the apple theme with Johnny Appleseed Day to round out your apple-reading.


Lesson Plan | Johnny Appleseed Activities



by Louis Sachar

Sometimes difficult writing techniques can be taught through an engaging story, which is the case with Holes. Stories within stories and flashbacks are just two of the many concepts taught through this engaging novel. Throw in the movie when you are done and compare and contrast the two for a fun Friday that’s sure to please your readers!


Teacher’s Guide | Interactive | Author Site

Walter the Farting Dog

Walter the Farting Dog

by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray

The first time I saw Walter in the bookstore, I laughed and laughed. A college professor warned me that the book was inappropriate for the classroom. You know what? My kids love it, they get it, and with it, they are interested in reading. If that’s inappropriate, oh well! I use it to get reluctant readers moving, but it is a great story for mapping out narratives and setting up writing prompts.


Book Guide | Gross Science

Magic School Bus

The Magic School Bus series

Is there anything the Frizz can’t do? Every grade level in our school mentioned the Magic School Bus series. Some used the series for teaching specific science skills; others used the text features rampant in the picture books. I’ve done twin-text pairings with nonfiction books, and students have made information posters from them. If you could only purchase one complete series, you couldn’t go wrong with Mrs. Frizzle and the gang.


Teaching Resources | Official Website | Facebook Fan Page



Maybe “best ever” was an exaggeration, but it is a pretty remarkable and diverse list with something for everyone. What is your favorite? And what did I forget to include? Share your best bets for classroom books!

Comments (8)

Dexter the Tough by Margaret Peterson Haddix ; Finding Buck McHenry by Alfred Slote ; True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by AVI; Weasel by Cynthia DeFelice, and my favorite ever The Man who Loved Clowns by June Rae Wood.

Oh, anything AVI is so great. There is a St. Nicholas book that I adore that's AVI!

The Tale of Despereaux

I know our third graders do Desperaux as a read-aloud. I love DiCamillo!

Frindle is a wonderful book to read in 4th grade. I also did a book called Champ about a one-legged dog. The kids read it as a class and discussed it in groups. When we were done, they gave it a standing ovation!

I don't know Champ, but if it got a standing ovation, I need to check it out! Thanks for the recommendation!

I kinda agree with the Walter book being inappropriate, but this is a GREAT list. Do you think we could get one by grade level? :D

I think with Walter, as all books, you have to know your kids. For me it works, but I know some rooms where it wouldn't. I'd love to do a breakdown by grades! Great plan!

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