Tuesday, September 23

What to Read to a Second Grader

Today, I have a rather fantastic book list of ten good read-aloud books for second graders (in no particular order).

I have a friend who is a teacher and asked for book recommendations. I asked what grade and, uh-oh, it’s second. Second and third grade are hard for me because that age is kind of the stuck in the middle of easy readers and juvenile--and thus, generally, in between Caldecott and Newbery awards. The easy chapter books are good for the kids to try and read on their own, but what should a teacher study as a class? Or a parent read aloud? Well, after some thought, this is what I came up with.

Duck for President
Written by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin (2004)

The democratic process! Humorous and informational, yet short and sweet, Duck for President goes into all the joys and heartbreaks of a democratic election. It also lends itself to some fantastic activities, such as making a campaign poster, hosting a class election (for a person in office or some classroom policy), and sharing thoughts on what a kid might like to do as president. Really, I just love Cronin's duck books.

The Empty Pot
Written and illustrated by Demi (1990)

It is time for the Emperor to choose a successor. Quite the opposite of the book above...but that's the point; it's a chance to look into another culture (and other government systems). Plus, it is a fantastic look into different morals: honesty, bravery, dedication. And it'd just be plain old fun to plant some flowers together after reading it. 

Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Written by Louis Sachar (1978)

Okay so there's not really any educational value with this book, but it IS hilarious. Get the kids (and you) to laugh! Also, the chapters are stand-alone(ish) short stories, so it's is easy to break up over several readings (while skipping over anything you need to, as well--I'll admit some of them are weird). Really, it's on this list because it's a favorite of mine.

Written by Deborah and James Howe (1979)

Honestly, everyone needs a little scare in their read-aloud repertoire. Bunnicula fits the bill perfectly: just enough mystery, just enough weird, and a great ending. Talk with your kids about what elements make it scary, and how they're resolved. At 98 pages, you may have to devote several readings to it, but that just keeps the suspense going! Perfect for October. Plus, there's more in the series if kids want to try them on their own.

The Day the Crayons Quit
Written by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (2013)

There are so many things you can do with this book. A pack of crayons writing passionate letters? Heck yes! First, emotion study. Each crayon is writing for a different reason--because they feel upset/happy/embarrassed about their current situation. Examine each reason together! Second, letters. Talk about the structure of a letter and have the kids write a letter back to one or more of the crayons. Third, resolution. Did Duncan do the right thing? What would you do to solve some of the problems? Really, it's just an all-around fun book. Read one letter or read them all, it's a great read aloud.

Tales of the Time Dragon
Written and illustrated by Robert Neubecker (2014)

Picture Magic Tree House but easier. Yes, they are technically easy readers, but they're still chalk-full of good information. You see, this librarian has a time-traveling dragon that helps kids learn about different periods of time. It's a great introduction into historical events or time periods, and if they like it, then it's a sure bet they'll enjoy Magic Tree House on their own.

Charlotte's Web
Written by E. B. White, illustrations by Garth Williams (1952)

I feel like this one is more like a placeholder for all the classics or award-winners you could use. It is rather expected and encouraged to read some sort of amazing classic book to kids, right? They're award-winners for a reason, right? They're an important part of literary culture. I do enjoy Charlotte's Web in particular, partly because I was introduced to it as a first grader. I remember drawing and coloring a scene from the book, life-sized, on butcher paper. A fun activity with most any book!

If It Rains Pancakes: Haiku and Lantern Poems
Written by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Andy Rowland (2014)

Not to dethrone Shel Silverstein as the favorite poetry read aloud, but I think Brian Cleary has some AWESOME books that should be shared with kids. Of particular educational value are all of his Words are CATegorical books. In this case, I'm recommending If It Rains Pancakes and other "Poetry Adventure" books, because they are all targeted at getting young kids to try out poetry themselves. He gives great examples, both funny and serious. They're easy to read aloud because, well, they're poems. Read one, read the whole book! You decide.

Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum
Written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy (2010)

It's the true story about how bubble gum was invented. And it's nice and short. Not only is it a fun introduction into non-fiction books, it's a good way to get kids' imagiantions running. What sort of things do they want to invent? Have kids design their own invention. You can make it easier by telling them to invent some kind of candy, or give them completely free reign and tell them to invent anything they want. The story is also a good example of hard work and determination.

Written and illustrated by Brian Floca (2013)

The newest Caldecott and another fun non-fiction book all about the transcontinental railroad. Just remember that you have to make a lot of sound effects. Better yet, get a train whistle. It is a fun look into history, especially how people used to get around. I bet those people couldn't guess we'd be getting around on planes now! Have fun with your kids imagining how we might get around in the future. Or just have some fun with a train track and some trains.

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