Using mentor text in your writing lessons is crucial because it gives students a clear example to follow. Mentor texts are pieces of writing that students can learn from and imitate. Ultimately, mentor texts help students develop their own writing skills, gain confidence, and find their unique voice as writers.
I have compiled a list of my favorite mentor texts for narrative and opinion writing lessons. Below, all the links to books are affiliate links to Amazon!
Narrative Writing Mentor Text Suggestions:
1. Every Friday
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.
3. Owl Moon
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.
5. Chicken Sunday
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
6. 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.
7. Roller Coaster
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
8. 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!
9. Enemy Pie
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
10. Knuffle Bunny
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
Opinion Writing Mentor Texts
1. Red is Best
Kathy Stintson gets it right with this color story. Red is Best is a perfect introduction to opinion writing, and is great for younger learners. This is the story of a young girl, Kelly, who loves the color red. Kelly’s mom doesn’t quite understand that Kelly’s red mitts make better snowballs, or that she can take big steps in her red rain boots. Kelly would rather drink from her red cup, too. Because juice tastes better in the red cup, than the green cup. This is a great mentor text for opinion writing because it is clear and simple. It is also engaging and gets kiddos thinking about their favorite things and why they love them!
Link: Red is Best
2. I Wanna Iguana
I Wanna Iguana is an excellent mentor text for opinion writing. This story is told through letters between Alex and his mother as Alex tries to convince her to let him have an iguana. Not only does the format provide students with great examples of opinion letters, but it also is a topic they may connect with.Many kids understand the struggle in convincing their parents to get a pet. Alex’s letters have sensible reasons, like his commitment to feeding and cleaning the cage. But, they also have hilarious anecdotes from Mom, like how will he get someone to marry him when he has a 15-foot long iguana in his house? Kids will find the letters and negotiations hilarious, the illustrations imaginative and the opinion structure as a great example!
Link: I Wanna Iguana
3. The Perfect Pet
Similar to the last story, The Perfect Pet will be a great book for kiddos to relate to. In this book, Elizabeth wants a pet, badly. She would take any pet, in fact! She’d like a horse, a dog, a cat, or even a turtle. Unfortunately, her parents are not on board. So, they get her a cactus instead. A great thing about this book is that Elizabeth is determined to find the perfect pet, so she spend the rest of the book finding reasons and evidence for why different pets would be just right. And, eventually, they find one! With humor and great reasoning examples, this book is the perfect opinion writing mentor text!
Link: The Perfect Pet
4. I Wanna New Room
If you loved I Wanna Iguana, you will love this book. A sequel, Alex and his brother Ethan are forced to share a room now that the new baby has arrived. Alex does not like sharing a room with his little brother, who he thinks is a nightmare. So, Alex begins his letter-writing campaign, in an attempt to convince his parents that he needs his own room. Although his first set of persuasive letters for an iguana were successful, he cannot convince his dad to expand the house so that he can have his own room. But, they do come up with an alternative plan. This is a good mentor text for opinion writing because it shows that not all persuasions and requests are plausible.
Link: I Wanna New Room
In Earrings! the main character is desperate to get her ears pierced. She loves earrings, of all kinds. They are amazing! They are beautiful! She NEEDS them. This may be the right story to start your opinion writing with, as you can relate it back to things that they are desperate to have! Judith Viorst always writes stories that entertain. So, add this one to your collection of opinion writing mentor texts!
6. My Teacher for President
My Teacher for President is another homerun mentor text for opinion writing. In the story, Oliver’s class has been learning about the presidency. After hearing about the things that are involved in the president’s job, Oliver decides that his teacher is the perfect candidate for president. My favorite part of this book is the illustrations. They show Oliver’s teacher going through a typical school day, contrasted with her carrying out presidential duties. Use this book to kickstart a _________ For President writing piece and your students can write and illustrate their own!
Link: My Teacher for President
7. Hey, Little Ant
This book is a different type of mentor text. This thought-provoking book makes you stop and think about respect for living things. Originally, this was a song about a conversation between a little girl and a tiny ant, and what happens in this “To Squish or Not to Squish?” story will help spark conversations with your students. So, although it may not be formatted in the way an opinion writing piece would be, you can definitely start developing opinions about important topics, like caring, kindness, respect, etc. That is what makes this a great mentor text for opinion writing!
Link: Hey, Little Ant
8. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
How can we have a list of best books with a Mo Willems book? This story is near and dear to many of our young readers’ hearts. So, why not use this to help our readers become writers? As you probably know, a bus driver takes a break from his bus route and the pigeon wants to take his place! He begs, pleads. He tries to convince them that he can drive the bus with all of the antics of a young child’s tantrum. Use this book as a mentor text for opinion writing, taking note of the best, and WORST, ways to get what you want!
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