From Unit Plan: Creating a Reading Community in Your Classroom

Below are three different book lists that correspond to the three lessons in this unit. Each list serves a different purpose in my classroom, but all books are used to build and strengthen the classroom reading community.

Suggested Read-Aloud Books for Lesson 1

In this section, I have chosen books that I use to highlight and celebrate reading in my classroom. To build an effective reading community in your classroom, it is important that you read books aloud to your students that demonstrate the power and enjoyment of reading.

The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco

Mary Ellen is tired of reading, so she and her Grandpa take a break to find a bee tree by chasing bees through the countryside. At the end of the story, Grandpa drops a bit of honey on a book's cover and tells Mary Ellen to compare its sweetness to that which is found inside: "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!"

Classroom Tip: I use this book to emphasize virtues of reading. When students are recommending books to others, it is important that they are able to articulate what makes their chosen book so great.

More Than Anything Else by Marie Bradby

This story is about the life of young Booker T. Washington. Living in a West Virginia settlement after emancipation, nine-year-old Booker works from dawn to dusk. Although his stomach rumbles, his real hunger is his intense desire to learn to read. Finally, he finds someone to teach him his letters, and it's as if he's reborn. He will read, and he'll teach others to read.

Classroom Tip: I use this book to help students understand the power and enjoyment of reading and how reading can change one's life.

Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller

Richard Wright grew up in the segregated South of the 1920s. After gaining access to the public library with the help of a white coworker, a new world of books was opened up for him, eventually inspiring him to become a writer.

Classroom Tip: I use this story to demonstrate to students that reading is a privilege and should be shared with others.

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

Polacco shares her childhood triumph over dyslexia and discovery of reading through the eyes of a fifth-grade girl named Trisha. Trisha endures the cruel taunts of classmates who call her "dumb," and falls behind in her studies. But the encouragement and efforts of a new fifth grade teacher, Mr. Falker, help her finally learn to read.

Classroom Tip: I use this book specifically to help my struggling students realize that learning to read takes time. Since children internalize critical comments made by others and suffer for their differences, this also makes all students aware of the importance of respecting fellow readers in the reading community, regardless of their reading ability.

Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora

This is a story about a librarian who teaches a migrant boy to love books. She introduces him to stories about dinosaurs, horses, and American Indians and allows him to take books home where he shares them with his parents, grandfather, and brother.

Classroom Tip: This book is great to read when you are introducing student recommendations because it is the suggestions of the librarian that help Tomas realize the power and enjoyment of reading.

Suggested Professional Books for Lesson 1

I chose to include one book on persuasive writing to help you teach your students to persuade their fellow readers when writing their book recommendations and their book commercials. Student advertisers must learn how to persuade their classmates if they hope to convince others in the reading community to read the books they are promoting.

Persuasive Writing: Mini-Lessons, Strategies, and Activities by Tara McCarthy

This book provides teachers with mini-lessons and strategies for helping students become more successful when writing with the intention of persuading their audience. There are specific lessons on analyzing commercials and writing convincing editorials.

Suggested Professional Books for Lesson 2

In this section, I have included professional books that provide teachers with creative ways for students to share what they are reading with their classmates. My lesson focuses on students acting as book critics and writing reviews, but there are certainly many other ways students can present the books that they have read to their peers. All activities are intended to celebrate reading and build a reading community in your classroom.

24 Ready-to-Go Genre Book Reports: Engaging Activities With Reproducibles, Rubrics, and Everything You Need to Help Students Get the Most out of Their Books Reports by Susan Ludwig

This professional book includes original ideas for creative book reports that help kids reflect meaningfully on fiction, nonfiction, mystery, biography, and historical fiction.

Better Than Book Reports: More Than 40 Creative Responses to Literature by Christine Boardman Moen

This resource provides fresh ideas for alternatives to traditional book reports including art projects, press conferences, and many more original ideas.

Beyond Book Reports: 50 Totally Terrific Literature Response Activities That Develop Great Readers and Writers by Michelle O'Brien-Palmer

This book is a collection of original "read and respond" activities that go beyond the traditional book report. All activities are intended to develop students' critical-thinking skills and extend their comprehension.

Suggested Books for Lesson 3

Lesson 3 demonstrates how to establish class book awards in your classroom. Before creating your own book awards, it is important to look at some familiar children's books that have received distinguished awards. I read aloud many of the books in the following list to help my students study the criteria used to determine notable book awards including the Caldecott Medal, the Newbery Medal, and the Coretta Scott King Award before we decide upon our own class book awards.

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
This popular folktale was awarded Booklist Best of the '80s, The Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Illustration, Caldecott Honor Book, and the Coretta Scott King Award.

Award Winners for Grades K–2: 30 Books (Various Authors)
This collection of 30 books includes a variety of Caldecott Medal winners from years past.

  • The Adventures of Beekle
  • Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse
  • Big Mean Mike
  • Birds
  • A Cool Drink of Water
  • Dear Mr. Blueberry
  • Detective LaRue
  • Firefly July
  • Fish Is Fish
  • Freight Train
  • The Gingerbread Man
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • Goodnight Moon
  • I Stink!
  • Interrupting Chicken
  • Little Mouse Gets Ready
  • Make Way for Ducklings
  • Manfish, A Story of Jacques Cousteau
  • My Name Is Yoon
  • Nat Geo: One World, One Day
  • No, David!
  • Not a Box
  • On a Beam of Light, A Story of Albert Einstein
  • The Paperboy
  • Perfect Square
  • Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
  • Say Hello to Zorro!
  • Underground
  • Wemberly Worried
  • What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?

Award Winners for Grades 3–5: 30 Books (Various Authors)
This collection of 30 books provides teachers with a variety of award-winning books to enhance their classroom libraries with rich and influential literature.

  • Barnum's Bones
  • The Buffalo Are Back
  • Bunnicula
  • Charlotte's Web
  • Crow Call
  • The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins
  • Dreaming of America
  • The Escape of Oney Judge
  • Flora & Ulysses
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  • Granddaddy's Gift
  • Henry's Freedom Box
  • The Homework Machine
  • The Hundred Dresses
  • In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
  • Jabberwocky
  • Kubla Khan
  • Martin's Big Words
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle
  • The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail
  • My Father's Dragon
  • Pablo Neruda
  • Ramona Quimby, Age 8
  • Rosa
  • Ruth and the Green Book
  • Tsunami!
  • The Whipping Boy
  • Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the True Story of an American Feud
  • The Year of the Dog


Newbery Collection Grades 4–6: 12 Books (Various Authors)
This collection of 12 books includes a variety of Newbery Medal winners.

  • Because of Winn-Dixie
  • Bud, Not Buddy
  • Call It Courage
  • Dear Mr. Henshaw
  • Flora & Ulysses
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  • Miracles on Maple Hill
  • The One and Only Ivan
  • Sounder
  • The Tale of Despereaux
  • The Whipping Boy
  • Wringer