When we’re teaching students how to understand fictional reading, it is essential for them to learn how to look for messages or morals in the story. In fact, with many fictional stories, the author’s point is to relay some sort of central message or theme. Today’s list of read alouds includes my favorite books to teach central message!
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The Tortoise and the Hare
The first book on our list is a retelling of a classic story. This story is well-known to children and adults, which makes it a great place to start when teaching central message. Students will likely know that this is the story of a rabbit who rushes through things and thinks that because he is fast, he doesn’t have to try very hard. They will likely know that the tortoise, although slow, takes a steady pace and ends up winning the race. Coincidentally, they will probably know that the message in the story is “Slow and steady wins the race.” So, when you are starting your instruction with central messages or morals, it is a great time for you to use a book like this one. This Janet Stevens version of the story is beautifully illustrated and engaging!
Next, we have another book that is a great stepping stone when teaching central message. Enemy Pie will make your students think about what the main character learned from the events in the story. 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.
Link: Enemy Pie
Ant and Grasshopper
The fable of Ant and Grasshopper is another well-known story. This version is the perfect book for teaching central message, as it doesn’t just focus on the lesson that Grasshopper learns. Ant spots Grasshopper out on the lawn, carefree as he plays the fiddle and enjoys the beautiful day. Ant cannot believe how foolish this is and carries on in the very serious task of collecting food for the upcoming winter. Only, Ant begins to enjoy himself while hearing the catchy tunes coming from Grasshopper. When winter comes and Grasshopper is without food and shelter, Ant invites him into his home and shares his food. Grasshopper still learns his lesson about preparing oneself, but Ant also learns that music and dancing, and laughter are important parts of life, too!
A Bad Case of Stripes
This lovely story can be used for many things. However, the lesson that Camilla Cream learns is so important, that I had to include it in this list of books to teach central message. If you don’t own a copy of this book, I highly recommend picking one up. Camilla Cream loves lima beans but doesn’t want to be different from her peers, who don’t enjoy them. So, she hides this part of herself. One morning, she wakes up with a “bad case of stripes,” where she turns into whatever is around her; stripes, stars, polka dots, etc. Many doctors and experts come around to try to find out what has happened to poor Camilla, but cannot find a cause. It isn’t until a sweet woman suggests Camilla eats lima beans that she is cured. Camilla learns that it is best to be oneself.
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun
Have you read Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun? This story is about a sweet girl named Lucy, who has big, curly hair and eats fun food combinations! Unfortunately, she is teased about these things at school. Specifically, she is teased by a boy named Ralph. Lucy wants to disregard the taunting and be brave, but she can’t seem to. Her grandpa reminds her to treat people with kindness, anyway. So, when Ralph runs into some trouble on the playground, Lucy is able to show how people really should treat one another. This book is great for central message because both Ralph and Lucy learn an important lesson.
The Name Jar
The Name Jar is another book that can be used for a variety of reading skills! This book is perfect for older students, as it has more prose and complex vocabulary. Unhei has moved far from home and is new to her school. People keep mispronoucing her name, so she decides to pick a new one that is easier to say. Her classmates try to help by putting name suggestions in a jar for her to choose from. But, with the help of a new friend, she comes to realize that her own Korean name is the best name for her.
Mr. Peabody’s Apples
Another book that is great for older students, Madonna’s Mr. Peabody’s Apples shows us just how much damage a simple rumor can cause. Mr. Peabody is a well-liked teacher and coach in the small town of Appleton. On his way to practice one day, a young boy sees Mr. Peabody grab some apples from the market and leave without paying for them. Instead of going to Mr. Peabody to get the truth, he tells others and the news is spread around town, making everyone believe that Mr. Peabody is a thief. After the message gets back to Mr. Peabody, he takes the boy aside to help him understand the events, coincidentally, teaching him a very valuable lesson.
Chrysanthemum is a story about acceptance. This story is about a sweet girl who absolutely loves her name until she starts school. Her new “friends” tease and taunt her, making her question her own acceptance and self-esteem. Teaching a valuable lesson about compassion and kindness, Chrysanthemum is a great read-aloud for younger students who are learning central message!