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5 Ways Books Can Make Your Classroom a Happier Place

It’s that time of year again. You’re soaking up the summer sun and (hopefully) indulging in some of the things that make you happy. But chances are, there’s a little voice telling you it’s time to start planning for the new school year.

One of the best ways to get back into the swing of school is to plan your reading list. But with so many great stories to choose from, narrowing your list can be hard. So this year, try building a reading list to help create a happier classroom. Because who wouldn’t want that? Building a reading list doesn’t just mean choosing the right number of books. It means choosing stories that leave lasting impressions.

The right books can transform your students into a community of readers who share a common story. And that common story is the key to creating a happy classroom.

image showing a young boy holding some books in his hands and one book on his head
Here are five ways that you can use books to transform your classroom into a happier place:

#1 Choose Books that Showcase Diversity

Classrooms today are more diverse than ever. So what better way to embrace that diversity than with a diverse set of books? Try to intentionally pick stories that expose students to a wide variety of cultures, beliefs, family structures, abilities, etc. Then use the characters as an opportunity to help students understand and empathize with people who might have different experiences from their own. Here are some books that showcase diversity:

  • A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni

  • Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

  • Oliver Button Is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola

  • Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell

#2 Make Stories “Safe Spaces”

Once you have a diverse set of books, you can use the characters in those books to help students respect and value one another’s differences. Fiction creates a safe space to talk about the differences students will see in the real world without singling anyone out. They are also a great opportunity to showcase differences as strengths. In short, you can make stories safe spaces. Here are some stories that create “safe spaces” for conversation:

  • A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

  • Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting

  • Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

  • The Memory String by Eve Bunting

  • Train to Somewhere by Eve Bunting

#3 Use Books to Build Classroom Community

When the whole class is captivated by a story, it’s kind of magical. Eyes light up. Students try to guess what will happen next. They debate about the character’s actions. It’s a great opportunity to bring everyone together and teach them how to communicate respectfully and express different opinions. Here are some books to help build community:

  • First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

  • Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard

  • Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook by Michael Garland

  • Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

  • Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane de Groat

#4 Come Back to Stories throughout the Year

If a story is memorable, you can come back to it at any point in the year. If your class reads a story about a bully, you already have a conversation starter when bullying arises in the classroom. If you pick a story about overcoming an obstacle, you bet your students will remember it and want to talk about it when they face their own challenges. Good literature is a valuable teaching tool long after the story ends. Here are some stories that you’ll want to come back to throughout the year:

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

  • Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

  • Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell

  • The Summer My Father Was Ten by Pat Brisson

  • Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne

#5 Share Books that Make Everyone Smile

Reading is fun! Some of the most memorable characters are the ones that make us laugh. So why not use books to provide positive reading experiences for your students? When all of your students share happy memories, you’ll create a bond that is sure to make your classroom a happier place. Here are some fun reads:

  • Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

  • Arnie the Doughnut by Laurie Keller

  • Baloney, Henry P. by Jon Sciezka

  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

  • The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Sciezka

  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Bonus: Teaching Tip

Now that you’ve used your books to create a happy classroom community, you can repurpose them for instruction. Because your students will already be familiar with the stories, you’ll be able to easily focus on comprehension strategies, word work, or vocabulary. Browse the Resource Library for lesson plans and teaching resources that you can pair with all the books mentioned in this post.

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