Narrative writing will be present in all of your elementary school classrooms. Starting in Kindergarten, students will be writing (or telling) stories about themselves. Each year as students’ skills progress, they will be able to improvise and create elements of narrative stories from their imagination.
The process of learning to write narrative stories will begin early and take repetition and practice. Read alouds are excellent resources for this because most read alouds are written in narrative form. So, students will not only benefit from the creative elements and vocabulary, but they will also benefit from repeated exposure to the narrative structure. While there are thousands of books that could be used, I have chosen 10 that are excellent mentor texts for your narrative writing unit.
Below, all the links to books are affiliate links to Amazon!
This sweet and simple story is a great mentor text for narrative writing! Especially for your younger students! Friday is this young boy’s favorite day. Every Friday, he and his dad have breakfast at their favorite diner. They look forward to their ritual all week long. But, it’s not just the yummy pancakes that make this ritual special. The leisurely stroll that he and he did take through the neighborhood feels like a special time, too. Many of your students may have ordinary rituals that feel special to them. This book is a great way to point out that we can find stories and sentiment in everyday things.
Link: Every Friday
You may have read this precious story by Julie Brinckloe. Fireflies! is about a young boy who catches a jar full of fireflies. He is so proud and loves their light, how it shines like the moon. He feels like having a jar of fireflies is like having his own slice of moonlight. However, as time goes on, he notices that the fireflies lights begin to dim. It is then, when he realizes that he needs to set them free. I love using this story as a mentor text for narrative writing because it makes students think about memories that taught them something. These kinds of stories make for powerful writing pieces and it allows us all to learn more about one another.
Owl Moon is another go-to mentor text. This is a beautifully written story about a father and daughter who go owling in the snowy woods. They walk silently through the trees, calling out for an owl, but with no answer. They don’t speak, just hope to hear a return call from an owl. Sometimes, they hear a responding hoot. Sometimes, they don’t. Jane Yolen has poetically depicted the love and companionship that can be created between a father and a child. There is also a wonderful tie to nature and its connection to humankind that can spark creative ideas in your student writers.
Link: Owl Moon
You and your students will love this Donald Crews story. The story describes the family’s trip by train to their Bigmama’s house in Florida. Not only will your students be inspired by Crew’s use of sensory details, describing the sights and sounds of his trip, but they will also build connections to the memories we make when spending time with family. You’ll love hearing the stories that students come up with of their own trips to visit family.
I will never have a list of narrative mentor texts with including Patricia Polacco. She is the absolute queen of narrative writing. All of Polacco’s stories are written from her own experiences or the experiences of people in her life. Not only are the illustrations beautiful, but the care and attention she pays to minute details create exquisite tales. Chicken Sunday tells the story of a young Russian American girl who was initiated into a neighbor’s family. The young girl and her African American brothers’ wanted to buy their gramma Eula a beautiful Easter hat. But, even with good intentions, there was a misunderstanding. The kids learn just how they can pay for the hat that Eula has been wanting. This is a gorgeous story of family, unconventional, but full of love and acceptance.
Link: Chicken Sunday
When I Was Young in the Mountains
When I Was Young in the Mountains tells the tale of a young girl growing up in the Appalachian Mountains. This book is great for describing a setting, even if it may be different from your students’ surroundings. You can see the events in the story are all connected to the time and place where the girl is growing up. Details of a grandfather coming home covered in coal, jumping in the dark watering hole, running around barefoot playing in the foothills of the mountains, all helping the reader understand the young girl’s life. This book is a good mentor text for narrative writing, in that, it shows that we can all have different experiences, but still grasp the memories and lessons learned in the way we are growing up.
If your students love roller coasters or even love the idea of roller coasters, maybe never having been on one, this book is for you. This is an exciting story of a roller coaster, with a line of riders eagerly waiting for their turn. With a rider in line who has never ridden a coaster before, a hilarious range of emotional reactions is displayed. The story details the zipping, zooming, turning, and swerving of a roller coaster ride and will make your students remember a time they have felt such exhilaration. OR it will make them hope to one day ride a roller coaster themselves! I like the style of writing for this narrative writing mentor text. It makes the story thrilling, with each page making you want to read more. Teach your students the power of engaging your reader with this great book!
Link: Roller Coaster
Last Stop on Market Street
How can you not love this precious story of CJ and his grandmother? Each Sunday, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town after church. One day, like many children do, CJ begins to question why things are the way they are. How come do they ride the bus, instead of owning a car? Why do they always get out in the dirty part of town? Why doesn’t he have what the other kids have? But, each time he asks a question, his grandmother answers with encouragement and care. She helps CJ see that perspective is all you need to find the beauty and fun in your everyday life. For any of your students who have a special bond with a family member, this story is going to spark great narrative story ideas!
Enemy Pie is another perfect mentor text for your narrative writing unit. There is a new kid in the neighborhood who is ruining the perfect summer. This young boy was ready to let his summer be ruined by his new “enemy number one,” until his dad teaches him the best way to get rid of enemies: Enemy Pie. The only thing is, that part of the secret recipe is spending the entire day playing with the enemy first! The endearing tale of worst enemy turned best friend will help teach students about kindness, acceptance, and friendship. And, your students can write stories of how their best friends came into their lives!
Link: Enemy Pie
Almost all kids have some stuffed animal, blanket or trinket that is precious to them. Knuffle Bunny is that to Trixie. One day, Trixie and Knuffle Bunny join dad on a trip to the landromat. The story, of course, leads to the misplacement of Trixie’s special bunny, and the eventual blaming of “everything goes wrong when Dad’s in charge.” The illustrations in the story show black and white comparisons to the expressive, colorful imaginations of Trixie, showing what she thinks is happening to her poor Knuffle Bunny. Students can use this story as a story board for telling their own tales of something that went wrong, but turned out to be just a-okay!
Link: Knuffle Bunny