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Principals Favorite
Read-Aloud Books


Education Worlds Principal Files principals have compiled a long list of favorite read-aloud books. If youre looking for good ideas so you can take an active role in promoting reading in your school, of if youre looking for new ideas for your old list, the titles below will serve as a nice starting point.

by Margaret Willey
In this delightful takeoff on Jack and the Beanstalk, a child outsmarts a giant. I love using different voices -- doing the giant in a big, booming, blustery manner and Beatrice in a sweet little British accent. And it is always fun to see a girl in the heroine role, too. (Marcia Wright, principal)
From Amazon: What happens when a very little girl makes a bet with a very large giant? Part of a Clever Beatrice series.

Join the Conversation

Many principals love to take time to demonstrate their love of reading by reading aloud to students. Are you a principal who takes time to model a love of reading in that way? Do you have a favorite read-aloud book or two that you particularly like to share with students?

Please take a moment to share the book(s) that you love to read aloud. You might even share a word or two about why you love that book and why you take time to read aloud.

Thanks 1,000,000 for helping to create a list of great read-alouds that other principals might use to get started or to flesh out their own lists!

Click here to share your favorite read aloud

by Doreen Cronin
I like this book, which was recently selected by the National Association of Elementary School Principals as the recipient of the organizations Principals Read Aloud Award. (Jason Bednar, principal)
From Amazon: Farmer Brown has a problem. His cows like to type. All day long he hears Click, clack, MOO. Click, clack, MOO. But Farmer Brown's problems really begin when his cows start leaving him notes...

by Debby Boone
This book offers a great way to introduce the Thanksgiving season, and it helps children realize that they have much for which to be thankful. Many times, Ill even create a blessing list on paper so the children can list their blessings. It helps them to take their eyes off themselves and to literally count their blessings. (Karen I. Hodges, principal)
From Amazon: Playful words and delightful artwork from Debby Boone and husband Gabri Ferrer spark young children's imaginations and give parents a colorful way to show how their little one is their very own special blessing.

by Sharon Creech
I start this chapter book and let my third- and fourth-grade teachers finish it. (Joan Pinkerton, principal)
From Amazon: Twelve-year-old Rosie and her best friend, Bailey, don't always get along, that's true. But Granny Torrelli seems to know just how to make things right again with her interesting stories and family recipes. It's easier to remember what's important about love, life, and friendship while Granny Torrelli makes soup.

by Audrey Penn
I often read this book to my kindergarten students on their first day of school. The story helps reassure them that mom is always thinking about them. I give each child a little sparkly heart sticker after I read it to remind them to tell their moms and dads about the story when they get home. (Addie Gaines, principal)
From Amazon: In this contemporary classic, Chester Raccoon seeks love and reassurance from his mother as he ventures out into the world to attend his very first day of school.

by Patricia Polacco
Patricia Polacco's wonderful new book, The Lemonade Club, deals with the topic of cancer in both children and adults with tenderness and grace. (Jim Thompson, principal)
From Amazon: Everyone loves Miss Wichelmans fifth-grade class -- especially best friends Traci and Marilyn. Thats where they learn that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade! They are having a great year until Marilyn must battle leukemia. A tough road of chemotherapy lies ahead. In a surprising and unexpected turn, the whole fifth-grade class figures out a way to say were with you. In true Polacco fashion, this book turns lemons into lemonade and celebrates amazing life itself.

by Virginia Lee Burton
This wonderful book helps children learn about the changing seasons. It also teaches that change can be difficult and sometimes even sad. The fact that the little house is happy in the end helps children sense that change is inevitable and usually not a bad thing. (Karen I. Hodges, principal)
From Amazon: The little house stood in the country, with trees and fields around her, and with the birds and flowers and children for company. In the distance twinkled the lights of the big city, and the little house wondered what it would be like to live there. One day steam shovels dug a road in front of the little house, and soon she was surrounded by houses and stores. Then tall skyscrapers rose on either side of her, elevated trains roared past her, and a subway shook the ground under her foundations. She longed for a glimpse of the stars and the scent of apple blossoms, but she was caught by the big city. Then, when she was so old and shabby that nobody wanted to live in her, she had an unexpected chance to escape. A Caldecott Honor book.

by Patricia Polacco
Mr. Lincoln's Way is about a school principal who helps a young man develop racial tolerance by befriending him and enlisting his help with a special project in the school. The book demonstrates to students that principals care deeply about their learning, but that developing compassion and understanding are also important. (Bridget Morisseau, principal)
From Amazon: Mr. Lincoln is the coolest principal ever. He knows how to do everything, from jumping rope to leading nature walks. Everyone loves him... except for Eugene Esterhause. "Mean Gene" hates everyone who's different. He's a bully, a bad student, and he calls people awful, racist names. But Mr. Lincoln knows that Eugene isn't really bad -- he's just repeating things he's heard at home. Can the principal find a way to get through to "Mean Gene" and show him that the differences between people are what make them special?

by Chris Van Allsburg
I love reading The Polar Express to students. I keep a bell hidden in my lap as I read and then ring it secretly at the end of the book. The students ooh and aah. Its wonderful to see the magic of innocence in the students eyes. (Kathy Crowley, principal)
From Amazon: One couldn't select a more delightful and exciting premise for a children's book than the tale of a young boy lying awake on Christmas Eve only to have Santa Claus sweep by and take him on a trip with other children to the North Pole. And one couldn't ask for a more talented artist and writer to tell the story than Chris Van Allsburg, who won the 1986 Caldecott Medal for this book.

by Mike Thaler
Especially with younger students, the principalship is a bit of a mystery, and this book helps clear it up. (Bonita Henderson, principal)
From Amazon: The only thing scarier than having to go the principal's office is finding out that the principal is the former "Teacher from the Black Lagoon". This is a humorous sequel to the bestseller, The Teacher from the Black Lagoon." Part of the Black Lagoon series.

by Beverly Cleary
This is my all-time favorite chapter book to read aloud to younger children. There are times when I cant stop laughing as I read it. The students understand the humor as well. (Kathy Crowley, principal)
From Amazon: Ramona is off to kindergarten, and it's the greatest day of her life. So why is she sitting on the bench while the rest of the students play a game of Gray Duck? Laughs and minor upsets abound in an enormously popular story starring the one and only Ramona Quimby. Part of the Ramona series.

by Sean Covey
This book is being used as the primary focus of the middle school advisement program at our school. For that matter, all three of the Covey -- Stephen and Sean -- books are fundamental to preparing students and adults for personal effectiveness. I recommend the second Stephen Covey book for Principal Study Groups. (Frank Hagen, principal)
From Amazon: Being a teenager is both wonderful and challenging. In an entertaining style, Covey provides a step-by-step guide to help teens improve self-image, build friendships, resist peer pressure, achieve their goals, get along with their parents, and much more. In addition, this book is stuffed with cartoons, clever ideas, great quotes, and incredible stories about real teens from all over the world.

by Judith Byron Schachner
One of my first-grade teachers got me started on the Skippyjon Jones books. The first time I read one, it was so funny and I kept cracking up so much that it was hard to read. (Addie Gaines, principal)
This little book takes only 15 minutes to read aloud. It is about a Siamese cat who thinks he is a Chihuahua and uses his power of imagination to battle a bumble bee, which turns out to be his birthday piata in the closet. For multicultural appeal, there are plenty of opportunities in the story to try out your best Mexican accent. When I read this book, I bring with me maracas, castanets, a poncho, and a sombrero. I do a fiesta dance when I get to that part in the story, and the students and I take a siesta when we get to that part of the story. I have read the story with just about every grade level and it has been a hit with them all. (George Guy, principal)
From Amazon: Make room for Skippyjon Jones, a Siamese kittenboy who can't resign himself to being an ordinary cat. Having a time-out in his room, he resorts to his imagination. Taking on the superhero persona of the great Spanish sword fighter Skippito, he has the adventure of his life, and readers are invited along. Zany, wild, and over-the-top, this utterly original book truly begs to be read aloud. Part of the Skippyjon Jones series.

by Ogden Nash
I love to read to students, and if I am given a choice I have one book in particular that I love to read: The Tale of Custard the Dragon. I have it memorized, and I use different character voices as I read it. I believe that reading this story helps excite students about poetry as they have a bit of fun. There is a sequel, and I will sometimes read that to the same class a couple weeks later. (Gretchen Schlie, principal)
From Amazon: Do you remember brave Belinda and her "realio, trulio, little pet dragon"? Artist Lynn Munsinger has rejuvenated the poem with her chuckle-inducing illustrations of no-nonsense Belinda and the cowardly green and purple dragon Custard. Belinda was a brave role model for young girls back when females weren't encouraged to stand up for themselves, and Custard's hidden reserve of strength has no doubt inspired children for several generations. Hooked on Custard? The next adventure unfolds in Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight, which followed this popular picture book.

by Patricia Polacco
This is a wonderful book that shows students who are struggling readers that they are not alone, and that with perseverance and the dedication of teachers and a principal they will succeed. For stronger readers, hearing this story helps them develop empathy and understanding toward their peers who may be struggling. (Bridget Morisseau, principal)
From Amazon: Patricia Polacco is now one of America's most loved children's book creators, but once upon a time she was a little girl named Trisha starting school. Trisha could paint and draw beautifully, but when she looked at words on a page all she could see was jumble. It took a very special teacher to recognize little Trisha's dyslexia: Mr. Falker, who encouraged her to overcome her reading disability. Patricia Polacco will never forget him, and neither will we.

by Deborah Lee Rose
By the end of the book, my kindergarten students are reading this one with me because of its repetitive nature. (Joan Pinkerton, principal)
From Amazon: On the first day of kindergarten, my teacher gave to me...the whole alphabet from A to Z! Drawing on the rhythm and rich repetition of the familiar carol The Twelve Days of Christmas, this book is a welcoming introduction to school. Upbeat text celebrates the new adventure of school, and hilariously detailed illustrations showcase kindergarteners that every child, teacher, and parent will recognize with glee. Youngsters will enjoy singing along as the teacher's gifts accumulate, building to the twelfth day -- the day the new students settle in and discover they love school. As an added bonus, this book teaches both cardinal (one, two, three) and ordinal (first, second, third) numbers.

by Jim Grant
I usually read this one to my kindergarten students during their occupation-theme week and then let them ask me questions about my job. (Addie Gaines, principal)
This is a quick read-aloudNot only is it a great read-aloud for children, but I have used it as a read-aloud at parent workshops and when I facilitate professional development with pre-service administrators. (Bridget Morisseau, principal)
From Amazon: This book is about principals who unselfishly devote enormous amounts of time and energy to make our schools better places for children. A companion to What Teachers Do When No One is Looking, which makes a nice gift for student teachers or helpful colleagues.

by Max Lucado
This book does such a good job helping kids understand that their value is not determined by the number of trophies theyve won or by the types of talents they possess. Its nice to see a book with the message that each individual is uniquely valuable. The kids who might not be considered cool need to know that all value is not based upon how well they compare to the stars. Likewise, the students earning all the recognition need to know several things, one being that their special gifts are not what make them special. (Steve Whewell, principal)
From Amazon: Wemmicks do the same thing every day -- they stick gold stars or gray dots on one another. The pretty ones, those with smooth wood and fine paint, always get stars. So do the talented ones. Others, though, who can do little or who have chipped paint, get ugly gray dots. Punchinello is one of the latter. In this delightful children's tale, children will love hearing how Eli the woodcarver helps Punchinello understand how special he is -- marks and all. It's a vital message for children everywhere: that God cherishes them just as they are.

Principal Contributors" to This Article

The following members of Education Worlds Principal Files" team shared their thoughts and read-aloud book ideas in this article.
  • Jason Bednar, principal, Owen Elementary School, Naperville, Illinois
  • Joe Corcoran, principal, Harriet Gifford Elementary School, Elgin, Illinois
  • Kathy Crowley, principal, Ponderosa Elementary School, Merdian, Idaho
  • Larry Davis, principal, OakLeaf K-8 School, Middleburg, Florida
  • Addie Gaines, principal, Kirbyville (Missouri) Elementary School
  • George Guy, principal, Fleetwood School, Mount Laurel, New Jersey
  • Frank J. Hagen, principal, Saint Michaels (Maryland) Middle/High School
  • Bonita Henderson, assistant principal (retired), Cincinnati (Ohio) Public Schools
  • Karen I. Hodges, principal, Brockton (Massachusetts) Christian School
  • Michael McNeece, principal, Stern Enhancement School, Greenville, Mississippi
  • Bridget Morisseau, principal, William Winsor School, Greenville, Rhode Island
  • Joan Pinkerton, principal, Kent Primary School, Carmel, New York
  • Gretchen Schlie, principal, Yongsan International School of Seoul (Korea)
  • Teri Stokes, principal, Weatherly Heights Elementary School, Huntsville, Alabama
  • Jim Thompson, principal (retired), Wolcott Street School, LeRoy, New York
  • Steve Whewell, principal, Victory Christian School, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Marcia Wright, principal, Clinton (Michigan) Elementary School

To explore other practical articles from the Principal Files series, go to our Principal Files Archive.
Click here to learn how you might contribute to a future "Principal Files" article.

Article by Gary M. Hopkins
Education World®
Copyright © 2009 Education World

Originally published 04/07/2008
Last updated 03/20/2009