Books for Substitute Teachers: Children’s Books to Buy
Sometimes the regular teacher does not plan enough for a class period, or the class just zips through an activity. From personal experience, I have learned that it is not wise to give students free rein of the classroom (young students in particular). The way students act in the classroom reflects on your ability to effectively manage a classroom. Having books to read to students gives you a back up plan, as well as a possible reward for good behavior.
While it is true that many elementary teachers have their own supply of books in the classroom, it is nice to share some of your favorite stories with children. Not only will you be more familiar with the text, if you own the book, you will be able to bring it with you to every job assignment.
Picture books are perfectly suited for younger children (Kindergarten to Grade 2) because there are plenty of pictures for students to look at. However, picture books are great to read at any grade (K-12). The wonderful thing about picture books is that they often have a moral that you can tie into the day’s lessons, such as being kind to others. For older students, these short stories can be read to help students learn about the structure of a story (beginning, middle, end), or for inspiration for an upcoming project.
Below are some of my favorite picture books to bring.
Harold and the Purple Crayon
Crockett's Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon speaks to artists of all ages and artists-in-the-making. The main character, Harold, uses his magic purple crayon to not merely draw, but to create a world around him. Explore the world of Harold and his creations with your students to discover what can happen when you pick up a simple crayon. Share with students the joys of imagination and of doodles that surprise even the artist.
The Robert Munsch books are classic children’s stories that have remained timeless because of their storylines and fun characters. As a teacher, it is fun to read these stories out loud to students, because of the superbly-drawn illustrations and wonderful characters that you can make come to life for your students—changing your voice for the many different characters is especially fun.
The paperback versions of these stories are excellent to put into a bag because they are thin and light. The stories below are well written with great illustrations.
Paperback or Hardcover?
Each type has its pros and cons. Paperback books are lighter, thinner and often cheaper than their hardcover counterparts. As a result, you will be able to bring more books with you into the classroom (if you so choose). However, paperback books are also more fragile since they are more prone to having their covers ripped and bent.
Yes, hardcover books are expensive, but often outlive their softcover versions. They also tend to be easier to hold when reading out loud to students. Keep in mind that hardcover short story collections will be quite heavy with the binding. Single stories rarely have this issue. Unfortunately, these books do take up more space in your bag, so you will most likely not be able to take that many books with you when you teach. Of course, you can also see this as an opportunity to bring a different favorite with you each time.
Although picture books can be read to all age groups, sometimes you want a story that is a bit longer. If you are only subbing at a school for one day, it is a good idea to pick a book or story that you will be able to finish for the students that day.
Sideway Stories from Wayside School
Louis Sachar’s Sideway Stories from Wayside School is a collection of 30 stories about the students and teachers at Wayside School. This is a fun book to read with students. What’s so fun about a book about school? Wayside School is unlike many schools—the builders made a mistake. Instead of 30 classrooms on the main floor, the school has 30 floors with one classroom per floor. The stories are short (2-3 pages per story), so you will decide how many stories you have time to read during the school day. The stories will be most enjoyed by grades 3 to 6; however, older students may enjoy them just as much.
If you enjoy the series, you can also buy Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger and Wayside School is Falling Down for further stories about the characters. Or, you can buy the boxed set of all 3 books.
Note: The illustrators of the individual books are not the same as the illustrator of the boxed set. Check the cover of the book before purchasing to make sure you like the illustrator's work. The stories themselves are great either way.
Magic Tree House
Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series is a fun collection of books to share with students. The main characters, Annie and Jack, stumble across a tree house filled with books. Whenever they begin reading a book, the magic tree house starts spinning (reminds me of The Wizard of Oz) and sends the two kids on adventures to the age of the dinosaurs, Roman times, Egypt, Japan, the moon, and many more places. The chapters are short and include at least one picture. The books typically have 10 chapters. If you have a contract or are subbing at a school for a few days, you could read 1 or 2 chapters a day—maybe even one before lunch and one before home time.
There are many books in the series, so you may want to choose a topic that students are studying or are interested about. And, if you have no idea where to start, you could always start with the first book. However, each book does introduce the Magic Tree House to readers in the first chapter. Overall, these books are a fun read and students will most likely learn something new as well. These books are probably best for grades 3 to 6.
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