Read Aloud Preschool Books Teaching Gratitude, Thanksgiving
November marks the end of the harvest season and is a time for everyone to reflect on the things they have to be thankful for: our lives, our freedom, our families. Here are my selections for the Thanksgiving Holiday. There are more than a few books about turkeys, pilgrims, turkey pilgrims (no, I'm not making that up), and gratitude. You can probably put together three or more days' worth of storytime or circle time programs using these recommended children's books.
Recommended Children's Picture Books About Gratitude and Being Thankful
- The Firefighter's Thanksgiving by Maribeth Boelts written in short rhyming text depicts a station full of devoted firefighters and their Thanksgiving day, which is filled with preparations at the station house for a Thanksgiving meal that keeps getting interrupted by emergency calls. Most of them are minor, but after a big blaze, one of the firefighters is injured and although the fire fighters miss their big meal, they realize just how thankful they are to be safe and sound. This book gives a person pause to stop and think about all of the people who sacrifice time with their own families to keep us safe in our neighborhoods. And the story is filled with excitement and a little bit of humor, so it is an excellent storytime selection.
- P.K. Hallinan has written a huge number of holiday and family-themed children's books with an upbeat and gentle vibe. I like Hallinan's books. I'm Thankful Each Day by Hallinan is written from a child's point of view reflecting on the things he is thankful for.
- Feeling Thankful by Shelley Rotner Full color-pictures and easy-to-understand text make this concept book appropriate for teaching gratitude.
- Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback. Joseph the humble, but resourceful Tailor uses his old overcoat in so many ways, recycling it first into a jacket, then into a vest and eventually into a necktie. This attitude of caring for what we own and using it to its fullest is in itself a unique way to show gratitude. This book is a Caldecott Winner.
- Feast for 10 by Kathryn Falwell is a counting book, a book about food, and a book about sharing a feast around a family dinner table. The food cooked in this feast is a baked chicken, not a turkey, but the warm family atmosphere makes it an appealing addition to a Thanksgivingthemed story hour.
- The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood, is a book I recommend with a caveat. This book isn't really written for kids, in my opinion. It is a lovely large-format book with zen-like artwork that has a reflective theme. But this book doesn't really have a plot and it may not hold the attention of preschool readers. However, if you need a child-length art book to read to a gathering of adults at your next Thanksgiving meal, the message in this picture book is divine, and absolutely worth sharing. So what of of the secret mentioned in this story? The secret of saying thanks is that we are happy because we are thankful, not thankful because we are happy. Esoteric? Yes, a bit too much, perhaps, but a nice thing to remember and share in a family setting on Thanksgiving day.
- Thanksgiving Is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland and Sonja Lamut and The Most Thankful Thing by Lisa McCourt and Cyd Moore are two more selections in the thankful category.
Turkey-Themed Children's Books
- In Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano and Lee Harper, a trepidatious turkey tries to hide in plain sight on the farm. But none of the other animals are convinced as turkey attempts to mimic each and every other animal on the farm by disguising himself to look like the other animals. Turkey's attempts at camoflauge hit a snag when the farmer and his wife realize turkey is missing and start looking for alternate sources of meat. This silly story ends with a solution that even Turkey can eat. I really like this humorous and original take on an overdone Thanksgiving day theme. This story approaches the "turkey on the run" Thanksgiving plot with an extraordinary amount of creativity, thanks to a great collaboration between the author and the illustrator.
- Turkey Surprise by Peggy Archer features a hunted turkey and the two Pilgrim brothers who have been assigned to bring him home for the the Thanksgiving feast. One of the brothers has compassion on the bird whose days are numbered, though, and using their wits and their well-developed hiding skills, they come up with another plan to save the day, the feast, and the turkey's neck. This story has a much-used theme for Thanksgiving day children's stories but the plot is delivered well in this story book.
- Another book about turkeys in danger on Thanksgiving day is A Plump and Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman and Jeff Shelly. A canny turkey outwits the townspeople who are trying to make him their next meal.
- Yet another one in this category is Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr and Laura Rader.
- You'll want to gobble up I'm a Turkey by Jim Arnosky. This book uses the words from Arnosky's folk song as the text of his story. The music is included in a CD included at that back of the book. This musical story book teaches about wild turkeys and could be used to bring some music and motion into your library story hour.
- In need of some Thanksgiving counting books? 10 Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnston and Richard F. Deas and Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon will get you started counting birds.
- Over the River: A Turkey's Tale by Derek Anderson. This unusual twist on a familiar song features a turkey family and their adventures on their way to Grandmother's house on Thanksgiving day.
Thanksgiving Holiday Stories
- In November by Cynthia Rylant is an illustrated poem that ushers in winter with the warmth and comfort of a chill autumn evening by the fire. As animals prepare to hibernate, the seasons change and the earth gives way to wintertime, In November ends with a nod to Thanksgiving, where people are good to each other, and give thanks for the blessings at hand and the babies in their arms. This is a book that any family could read at a Thanksgiving gathering. In a library story hour, adults would enjoy it as much as the children. My three year old found the story and images comforting.
- Another book by Cynthia Rylant is The Relatives Came. This story depicts a large extended family of hillbilly relatives from Virginia visiting in the summer one June. While technically a summer story, this is such a good selection for all of the family gatherings that happen in November, I had to include it. One memorable line from this book pretty much sums it up, "Then it was into the house and so much laughing and shining faces and hugging in the doorways. You'd have to go through at least four different hugs to get from the kitchen to the front room. Those relatives!:" This books is a Caldecott Honor recipient. This would also be a sweet book to send to faraway family until you meet again.
- A young girl named Charity starts coming down with an itchy case of chicken pox on Thanksgiving day, just when her parents, her aunt, and her cousin are all getting ready to go to Nana's house for dinner. Now it looks like the poor girl will miss out on her favorite holiday feast. And to make matters worse, the weather has taken a turn and Charity's family will be snowed in. But in a surprising turn, Nana saves the day, choosing family over a case of the pox. Turkey Pox by Laurie Halse Anderson. Nana and her friends come with a turkey surprise to make Charity feel better. This is heartwarming and original story for Thanksgiving, and it captures the spirit of family warmth that Thanksgiving celebrates.
- Over the River and Through the Wood with illustrations by David Catrow uses the words by nineteenth century poet Lydia Child in a zany ride through New York City just as the Macey's Thanksgiving parade is beginning. A family car travelling on Thanksgiving is full of disgruntled and anxious parents and fighting siblings. They don't even know when the baby is flung out the window and taken for a wild ride on a parade balloon high above Manhattan. This is a hilarious book that may be lost on some preschoolers, but it is worth doing a little explaining. I highly recommend this one. It is in the vein of "That's Good, That's Bad" by Marjorie Cuyler, without the schizophrenic plot twists.
- 'Twas The Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey is a continuation of this author's series of holiday parody books based on Parody of Clement C. Moore's poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
- How to Bake an American Pie by Karma Wilson and Raul Colon. (ISBN 0689865066 Ages 6 and Up) Reviewers say "syrupy text" but "sweet illustrations" celebrate the ingredients that make America beautiful. It's hard to go wrong with Karma Wilson, though. She is the author of Hilda Must Be Dancing and stories such as Bear Snores On.
- Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White (ISBN 1591128315, Ages 5 and up) is one of my favorite children's stories for fall. This story about Esmerelda and her cat and their prolific pumpkin patch is equally appropriate for Halloween or Thanksgiving. Though the story features some Jack-O'-Lanterns, Esmerelda shares her pumpkin bounty with the neighbors in a Thanksgiving-style feast.
- Another one about turkeys, I know. Gus the Pilgrim Turkey is the story of a turkey who leaves his home and way of life far behind him so he can be safe. He takes an arduous journey on a ship and comes to a strange new world inhabited by people (I mean penguins) who are not quite like himself. However, they welcome him to their home and include him in their feast. This story parallels the story of the Pilgrims who left the Old World for the New World and will help younger children understand how the Pilgrim story ties into the Thanksgiving holiday, which sometimes, forgive the pun, seem worlds apart. This story is just begging for a Venn Diagram!
- Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie is a Thanksgiving-themed version of the familiar song to the tune of I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. This book in rhyming text by Alison Jackson is on the edge of what I personally consider appropriate for classroom sharing, but I believe you should be the judge. I am usually up for a good ride on the zany side, but this one is a little bit too dark for me. This story depicts an old lady growing to grotesque proportions as she eats everything in sight until she is finally bigger than the giant Thanksgiving day parade balloons. This book is anchored in fantasy but almost a little too weird for me.
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