I wish it were spring, I wish it were spring, I wish it were spring… As the days grow longer and the sun peeks out more often, those of us who live in colder climates echo this refrain until we can, at last, pack away our down coats and don our gardening gloves. We can’t wait to take kids outside for recess again and see the green sprouts burst through the ground. And finally… it’s here!
I’m wishing you a happy spring by highlighting a text set about wishes and a few picture books to plant in your classroom that will grow your students’ thinking about the value of libraries, books, and stories.
Make a Wish
If your students are interested in wishes and wishing traditions, read aloud a page or two a day of Roseanne Thong’s book Wish: Wishing Traditions Around the World (2008) where readers learn wishing customs from 15 different countries. After reading, invite students to share or write about how and when they make wishes.
Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld offer a more light-hearted book about wishes. Their book Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish (2019) shares rules of making a birthday wish. To add to the fun, most rules are followed by a rib-tickling “unless you are a…” exception from the animal world.
To continue with the theme of wishes, introduce readers to Carmela who, on her eighth birthday, learns from her older brother that she can make a wish when she blows on a dandelion. Carmela spends the day imagining possible wishes until her dandelion is crushed. In the heart-warming ending of Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson (2018), Carmela’s brother takes her to a dandelion field to make her wish. If your children enjoy Carmela Full of Wishes, Matt and Christian are also the author and illustrator of Last Stop on Market Street (2015), one of the 101 featured picture books in The Ramped-Up Read Aloud.
To round out your text set about wishes, add Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld’s I Wish You More (2015) where readers are wished, among other things, more stories than stars.
Plant a Story
One of my favorite picture books about teaching young children is Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden by Edith Pattou (2001). At the beginning of each year, the principal hands the teacher, Mrs. Spitzer, a packet of seeds. She lovingly nourishes her seeds until they sprout just as we nurture the young learners in our classrooms.
I believe that the most powerful ways to nourish readers is with an endless flow books and stories — and so does Arlo, the main character in The Book Tree by Paul Czajak (2018). In this story, the mayor thinks that books are dangerous because, “They act like seeds, which grow into ideas, and ideas turn into questions.” After tearing up all the books and throwing them to the wind, a sprout springs from where a page is buried. With every story Arlo writes and reads aloud, the sprout slowly grows into a book tree and the townspeople rediscover the joy of reading. In the end, when the mayor asks if books changed the town, Arlo replies, “The book was just the seed.” The Book Tree could lead to a conversation about seed ideas in writing or about the books have changed the way children see themselves or the world around them.
In the 1920s, Pura Belpré shared her abuela’s stories from Puerto Rico with the children who gathered at her feet in the New York Public Library. As Pura told and published her stories, she planted seeds that changed many young readers’ lives. When you read aloud Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar (2019), you will be planting seeds for children who also have stories to tell. Stories like the one Yuyi Morales told in the 2019 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Dreamers. Yuyi’s luminous story shows how libraries, books, and librarians can change lives.
As Yuyi writes in the author’s note, “Through books we can find our path and purpose.” I couldn’t agree more! When you read aloud books like these, you light the paths that children might take to fulfill their wishes and dreams. Happy Spring! Happy Reading!
Picture Books Discussed in this Post
Escobar, Illus.). New York: HarperCollins.
Francisco, CA: Chronicle.