Yvonne offers a list of books to consider with your elementary students.
By Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura tell the story of her childhood, growing up when the Midwestern United States was being settled by white people. She describes things that her parents did and stories of things that happen to her and her sisters. Occasionally I have skipped or shortened long descriptive passages for younger students.
By Patricia St. John
When Dani was born, his mother died and his sister Annette raised him with the help of her father and grandmother. When an accident leaves Dani crippled, Annette vows never to forgive Lucien for his part in it. Lucien has his own battles to face and bravely chooses to make things right by risking his life to talk to a doctor who may be able to help Dani. A beautiful story of forgiveness and God’s work in a person’s heart and life experiences. The book is a bit advanced for some first graders.
By Thornton W. Burgess
These books are full of life lessons put into story form and played out by animals that talk and reason. Those who do wrong are punished and those who are kind are rewarded in these delightful books. Some animals help each other and others try to outsmart another in order to have a tasty meal.
By Alice Dalgliesh
Young Jonathan has been told that there are no bears on Hemlock Mountain. But when he goes over the mountain to fetch a large cooking pot for his mother, he notices that the snow is starting to melt. He thinks, “Spring! Bears!” He falls asleep at his aunt’s house and when he starts back, it is growing dark. He bravely starts out and soon finds that there are bears on Hemlock Mountain! To stay safe, he crawls under the large pot. A bit later, he is rescued by his father and uncles—and they all look forward to having bear steak for dinner.
By Gloria Repp
When Kuri and his family embrace the Christian faith, the witch doctor tells them that their yams will not grow because they have not prayed to the spirits when they planted them. Will God be big enough to protect the yams? When Kuri is bitten by a poisonous snake, is that because the spirits are angry? But God cares for Kuri and his family. In the end, when they eat the delicious yam soup, they say with conviction, “Behold, God is Mighty!”
By Mabel O’Donnell
Set in Friendly Village, this book contains three main stories: Jim and his pony that he was afraid of, Billy who wants a dog but his mother does not, and Bobby who had measles and had to stay in bed when the circus came to town. In the end, Jim learns to enjoy riding his pony, even finding out how to make him buck. Billy got a dog that his mother was happy for him to have. Bobby got to see the circus “go to sleep” and ate supper with the clowns. This book is on a slightly lower level than most of the others and is perfect for first grade near the beginning of the year.
By Roald Dahl
Charlie is a very poor boy who loves chocolate but only gets it occasionally for his birthday. When Willie Wonka announces that several free tickets to tour his factory are hidden in chocolate wrappers, he buys one whenever he can—and happens to get a ticket!! He and grandfather tour the factory along with four other very spoiled children. Virtue is rewarded and vice is punished in this highly imaginative tale.
By Richard and Florence Atwater
Mr. Popper is a very poor painter who struggles to make ends meet for their family. He is delighted when his friend, Admiral Drake, sends him a penguin for a pet. This penguin becomes depressed after a while, so they get another one—and then there are ten babies. At wits end to provide for his family and the penguins, Mr. Popper trains the penguins to go on stage. They are a great success! In the end, Admiral Drake takes the penguins (and Mr. Popper for the trip) back to the North Pole where they belong.
By Marguerite Henry
Paul and Maureen want a pony, but not just any one will do. At Pony Penning Days the wild ponies are chased off the island where they live and onto the mainland where some of them are sold. After escaping capture many times, this year the Phantom is rounded up with the others because she has a small colt. Paul and Maureen make up their minds to buy them both. After various mishaps, they manage to do this. But the Phantom is not happy living in a pen. Even though she has been gentled, she still is not tamed. So, Paul allows her freedom and happiness, back on the island of the wild things while her colt, Misty, stays with them.
By Mildred A. Martin
A wonderful collection of stories taken from various places in the world. A map at the beginning of each story shows where the story took place. Many stories are of God’s wonderful provision for His children, some of them miraculous.
By Mary Elizabeth Yoder
A collection of character-building stories about children. Most of the settings are Mennonite families and homes, making the stories easy for many children to relate to. Some of the stories are obviously from “Grandmas’ day” where things are done differently than we do them now, but the lessons still apply.
By Sharon M. See
Gently written stories of martyrs and those who suffered for their faith during the Protestant Reformation or earlier. These simple stories are written with a young audience in mind, kindergarten
or first grade or younger. The book includes a beautiful pencil illustration with each story. I found these stories to be good exposure to students of how Christians lived in a different time and place.
By Mary McDonald
Stories of God’s care for His people, many of them taking place in recent years in India. From the witch doctors who could not harm the missionaries to the student who learned to speak English to the karate master who could not break a coconut, your students will see God’s power and His personal love for individuals in these stories.
By Eileen Christelow
It summer vacation and the five little monkeys complain that they are bored. Mama gets them to clean up the house and pick berries before Grandma Bessie arrives. What a surprise when the house is messy again when Grandma Bessie walks in! Mama’s response to their question of who did it, “Whoever did has plenty to do.” Wonderful, imaginative pictures!
By Helen Lester
Tacky lives with five other penguins in the icy land of the north. His friends are neat, careful and polite. Tacky is not. But when hunters come to the “land of the pretty penguins,” Tacky’s uniqueness saves the penguins from the hunters. In the end, the other penguins decide that “Tacky was an odd bird but a very nice bird to have around.”
By Jan Brett
A traditional Ukrainian folktale, beautifully illustrated by the author. Nicki wants his new mittens knitted with white yarn, but Baba is afraid that he will lose them in the snow. When he insists, she makes them for him. Sure enough, he does lose one. First a mole finds it and burrows inside. Then a rabbit, a hedgehog, an owl, a badger, a fox and a bear each squeeze inside. Baba’s knitting is stretched, but holds fast. Last of all a mouse comes and settles onto the bear’s nose. This tickles the bear and he sneezes, sending all of the animals flying out of the mitten! Nicki finds his lost mitten, but he and Baba can’t understand why this mitten is so much bigger than the other.
By Patricia Polacco
Mary Ellen is tired of reading, so Grandfather takes her on a chase to find a bee tree. As they race along, others join them including “Klondike Bertha,” three traveling musicians, baby Sylvester, and a herd of goats. When they find the bee tree, they scoop out some of the honey and bring it home. Grandfather puts some honey on a book and has Mary Ellen taste it. “There is such sweetness inside of that book too!” he says. “. . .adventure, knowledge and wisdom. But these things do not come easily. Just like we ran after the bees to find their tree, so you must also chase these things through the pages of a book!” And Mary Ellen learns to love to read.
By Rudyard Kipling
Set in India, Rikki is a baby mongoose that is found and adopted by an English family. Teddy, their young boy, loves Rikki and feeds and plays with him. Nag and Nagaina, the cobras who live in the garden, want nothing more than for the people and Rikki to leave so they can be masters of the house and gardens. With the help of other animals around the house and his own hunting nature, Rikki finds and kills these dangerous enemies. A fast-paced, exciting read!
The copy I have is adapted and beautifully illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.
By Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese
Ping, a small yellow duck, lives with his mother and father and extended family in China. Each day they leave the boat to eat along the shores of the Yangtze River. Every evening, the boat master calls and the ducks return to the boat for the night. The last duck to go up the ramp and onto the boat gets a spank on the back. One evening Ping realizes that he will be last—so he hides. The next day is full of adventures as he tries to find his way home. By evening, he has found the boat, but realizes that he will be last again! This time, he takes his punishment because he is so glad to be back safe with his family.
By Ginnie Hofman
On his birthday Andy receives a package in the mail from his grandmother! When he opens the box, he is disappointed to find a teddy bear inside. He kicks it aside. That night he dreams that he goes to teddy bear town, where he is put into a box by a grandmother teddy bear and delivered to a boy teddy for his birthday. The boy teddy is disappointed to receive Andy for a birthday present and kicks him aside. When Andy begins to cry, the boy teddy is sorry. He and Andy play together and have a fun time. When Andy wakes from this dream, he decides to love his birthday teddy bear after all.
By Stan and Jan Berenstain
A very simple book with few words and fun pictures. I often start my first graders out on this one, reading it to them initially so they have an idea what some of the more difficult words are. The story is about a bear on a bike and what happens when he meets other bears on wheels, ending in a terrific smash up—but the bear on the bike comes out unscathed.
By Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Another very simple book to read about a dog and his adventures and mischievousness. The pictures are very nice, colorful and warm.
By Dr. Seuss
These books are longer and more complicated, though again the vocabulary is very simple. Many of the words are one-syllable words that students can sound out. The books have fun, imaginative pictures.
By Syd Hoff
These books work well toward the end of first grade. Syd Hoff has written a number of easy read books that children will enjoy. Imaginative pictures and interaction between children and animals.
By Joan Heilbroner
A fun story about a horse that was allergic to roses. His sneezes caused trouble wherever he went—until at last one giant sneeze saves the day and cures him of his allergies to roses.
By Harry J. Baerg
These two books, along with a book by the same author about a moose, are great beginning chapter books. They have beautiful, realistic pictures and follow the adventures of an animal through its life. The portrayal of animals is realistic with information about how these animals live.