It is not news to RCLS parents that reading to children and reading by children have benefits far beyond language development. Simple storybooks––even narratives not designed to explicitly educate–– have the power to teach children not just new words, but also to lay the groundwork for scientific concepts, social and historical ideas, and ethical and moral constructs. Then, even after a foundation of information and skills is laid, the older child benefits from the practice of reading in ways that range from an expanded vocabulary to improved concentration to a stronger moral sense. Books matter. Literacy matters––not just for literacy, itself, but because of the myriad of ways literacy serves to shape a heart, mind, and life.
This is why you’ll find best-in-class tools and programs at RCLS to foster literacy. Here are just a few of these:
· Saxon Phonics program in Grades K-2––a favorite, tried-and-true, systematic method and materials for language arts development. Phonics lessons and spelling lists along with a high-frequency word lists consume much of our early readers’ school day.
· A line-up of quality literature all the way through 8th grade. RCLS students start at Stellaluna. They end with Shakespeare.
· Loyola Press Voyages in English in Grades 3-8––a comprehensive reading, grammar, and writing set of materials that facilitates an understanding of language and its power to inform, entertain, and persuade.
· Classroom read-alouds in every grade. We’ve written about the value of reading aloud before. Even big kids benefit from hearing narrative read aloud to them.
· A beautiful library. There are more than 14,000 titles in the RCLS library. What a delightful place this is in our school.
· Bi-annual book fairs. The Scholastic Book Fair is held in the fall around the time of our annual Hallelujah Carnival and again in the spring on the week of Field Day.
It is this last “tool”––the Scholastic Book Fair––that we are promoting now. The Book Fair benefits RCLS students twice––first because it is an opportunity to purchase new books of their own, and then because 25% of a student’s purchase is credited back to the school library for its shelves. It’s a win-win, and just before a colder season when we all likely are to be home more often than usual, we think it’s a particularly good time to stock up on books.
Not sure what to buy for your emerging or increasingly more sophisticated reader? The Book Fair site offers a number of search tools that can help you find titles for a particular age or interest, but we’ll get you started with a list of recommended reads.
Recommended Titles for Preschool-Grade 2 Readers
Scholastic offers innumerable picture books for the youngest readers. The recommended titles here are generally intended to capture the wonder of the seasons, particularly fall and winter, too-soon to arrive here in Minnesota. These are titles that will delight child and parent alike––perfect material for cuddling on a cold November day. Start with these, but be sure to dig around in Scholastic for many more fantastic titles, most of which are not fall- or winter-related.
These titles are listed roughly in order of age-appropriateness, with the first few titles being best for the PreS/PreK/K-1 crowd, and the last for the 1st-2nd-grade readers. Second-grade readers may also enjoy some of the first titles in the second list.
It’s Christmas, David! David Shannon
In this sequel to Caldecott winner No, David!, the title character entertains with his escapades at Christmas time. David can surely turn Christmas upside down, so there is plenty of silliness here to entertain the emerging reader, but there are great, detailed illustrations, too, to delight parent and child, alike.
The Leaves on the Trees, Thom Wiley
“Based on the classic song, "The Wheels on the Bus," The Leaves on the Tree explores all types of trees making the magical transformation from the green leaves of summer to fascinating foliage of fall.”
A Season of Sight Words, Shannon Penney
This collection of petite books includes “simple stories with colorful illustrations” that help children “recognize and read some of the most frequently used words in the English language.” Think of these as bite-size opportunities to offer your child to practice reading aloud to you.
PK-1 Bob Books Sets
The Bob Books are admittedly not seasonal. In fact, they are timeless, but these are a great purchase anytime for the PreK/Kindergarten-Grade 1 bunch. The Bob books have helped many thousands of children learn to read over the past many years.
There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow, Lucille Colandro
The lady who swallowed a fly has now swallowed snow, it appears. “Delightful sound effects and fun-to-say words, like tinkle, crunch, and yummy, are written out as part of the comic pictures, providing a great way for the youngest readers to participate in the read-along fun.
Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving, Dav Pilkey
Children engage best when new information is presented in the context of what is familiar. In this case, Twas the Night Before Christmas is adapted for Thanksgiving. A trip to a turkey farm gives a group of children the opportunity to meet the farm and his flock. “As the trip comes to an end, the children leave the farm with full hearts—and suspiciously big, bulging, turkey-sized bellies—reminding people and poultry alike that there is much to be thankful for.”
The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats
This Caldecott medal title is a classic children’s book that makes much of the wonder of childhood––and snow. “When Peter wakes up one winter morning, he sees it immediately. Snow! Everything outside his window is covered—and transformed—by new-fallen snow.”
Winter is Here, Kevin Henkes
“Snow falls, animals burrow, and children prepare for the wonders winter brings. Caldecott Medalist and award-winning author Kevin Henkes’s striking text introduces basic concepts of language and the unique beauty of the winter season. Laura Dronzek’s expressive paintings beautifully capture the joyful wonders of winter.”
Owl Moon, Jane Yolen
Considered a classic, this magical story illuminates the wonder of a cold, snowy, moonlit father-daughter adventure. When the young girl’s “father stops and gives out a great horned owl's call, […] will an owl answer?
Great Joy, Kate DiCamillo
This is this Minnesota author’s first picture book. A “timeless story of compassion and joy,” Great Joy imagines the story of young Frances, who notices an organ grinder and monkey, apparently homeless, outside her window just before Christmas. This is a poignant read for a season in which generosity might be encouraged.
Recommended Titles for 3rd-8th -Grade Readers
Perhaps there is a time and place for books that come from series such as Captain Underpants and The Babysitter’s Club––you’ll find plenty of those options at Scholastic––but we are partial to the kinds of story that stick with and shape their juvenile readers. Courage, faith, kindness, perseverance: these are the character qualities and values that underlie the titles you see hear. We think our 3rd-8th graders can never have too many models for such an approach to life.
Again, these are listed roughly in order of age-appropriateness, with the first titles being best for the younger readers in this age group.
Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Is there a 2nd-5th grade Minnesota girl (and her mother) out there who have not read this beloved title? If so, get it now––and Scholastic has it! In fact, you can buy just this title or the boxed set of all the Little House books.
Like the Willow Tree, Lois Lowry
This story is about a young girl and her brother who are orphaned during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. Hmm…we aren’t sure this is the best time to read such a tale, but it is, nonetheless, a story of courage and resilience, and every childhood should overflow with such examples.
Holes, Louis Sachar
“Crime and punishment is the story of Stanley Yelnats’s life—as in punished for a crime he did not commit!” This is a popular read is part mystery, part coming-of-age for the middle-grade reader.
Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly
This is a powerful read for the juvenile reader, and the only purely non-fiction title on this list. The true story concerns “the African American female mathematicians at NASA who helped put a man on the moon.” I find this story to be inspiring on so many levels since character (and work ethic) counts, even in the midst of terrible injustice. When your student is done reading the book, consider the movie, as well.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
I have to be careful not to include the Narnia books in every recommended reading list that we publish, but they’re really just that good. You know the story—“English schoolchildren battle dark magic in this sweeping fantasy about an alternate world stuck in an endless winter.” The story of Aslan, Lucy, Peter, and the rest is as timeless (read: eternal)––and inspiring––as it gets. You can buy the whole Narnia series from Scholastic. Winter seems to me a good time to dig into this timeless treasure.
Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
The original Grimm’s Fairy Tales are included here––most familiar and some less-so for the modern reader. The magic and myth of these tales have much to teach a middle-grade reader, who will be acquainted with the basic storyline of these tales which have been adapted for children’s books and Disney movies innumerable times.
Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt
“This deeply affecting novel presents the richly imagined and tantalizing tale of a young girl who stumbles upon a spring whose waters grant eternal life.” It is a classic title and thoughtful narrative that has populated middle-grade classrooms for decades.
Hattie Big Sky, Kirby Larson
For years, sixteen-year-old Hattie's been shuttled between relatives. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she courageously leaves Iowa to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim near Vida, Montana….Despite many hardships, Hattie forges ahead, sharing her adventures with her friends--especially Charlie, fighting in France--through letters and articles for her hometown paper.
Sounder, William H. Armstrong
“The death of a devoted dog and his black master in the rural 19th-century South leaves the man's son a hard but hopeful legacy of stoicism, resilience, and self-independence.” This Newbery title is an important read with beautiful writing and moving storytelling, but its challenging themes may demand discussion with a parent who is reading along.
Now, it's time to shop! You have until November 4 to shop the RCLS Scholastic Book Fair, where you'll find books, games, and more. Scholastic will ship orders directly to your home, and, again, 25% of your purchase is granted as credit to the RCLS library so that we may buy MORE books for our great library. Click on the image below or over to rcls.net to get started.
*All quoted text is taken from Scholastic, which, in most cases, offers a fuller synopsis of the titles than is included here. You’ll find these titles and more at RCLS’s online Scholastic Book Fair. The book fair is posted on the Virtual Hallelujah Carnival page under Current Families at rcls.net .