What to read?

Linda Smith

As any library or bookstore patron knows, sometimes it’s
difficult to determine which of the thousands of books on the
shelves to reach for. But the plethora of books also means there
has to be at least one to appeal to every child’s sense of
As any library or bookstore patron knows, sometimes it’s difficult to determine which of the thousands of books on the shelves to reach for. But the plethora of books also means there has to be at least one to appeal to every child’s sense of imagination.

Here, principals from three local schools offer five of their favorite books to read to children. The selection is as diverse as the kids in their schools, ranging from a book about a cockroach to one about a soccer player.

Linda Smith

Principal of R.O. Hardin Elementary School

in Hollister

• “Crickwing,” by Janell Cannon. “This is a delightful story about a cockroach with a crooked wing who finds that creativity can be a great resource to help others. One of the things that I particularly like about this story is that it shows that someone who is lonely or different can be a great friend. It also stresses that we all have something to offer in life, no matter who we are.”

• “My Life With The Wave,” by Catherine Cowan and Mark Buehner. “This is based on a story by Nobel Prize laureate Octavio Paz. This book is very inspirational for helping students venture into creative writing. The book is about a boy who befriends a wave at the beach and brings it home. The story follows the activities of the wave, in a personified manner, at home and how this affects the family. At the end of the story, the boy sees clouds and wonders what it would be like to bring home a cloud. This is also a great book for discussing emotions.”

• “Heckedy Peg,” by Audrey Wood. “This is a fun book for any children from about 4 years old up to about 4th grade. The students love the illustrations as well as the story. My own daughters loved this one.”

• “The Gift of the Crocodile: A Cinderella Story,” by Judy Sierra. “I enjoy using various books on a theme for students to enjoy and to compare. This is a very different version of Cinderella that takes place in the Spice Islands. The fairy godmother turns out to be a crocodile. It is a fun book to read, and the students really enjoy it, too.”

• “Wolf!” by Becky Bloom. “This is a fun book for primary students, but I have also used it with intermediate students to prompt creative writing. It is a fun story where no one seems afraid of the wolf. Rather, they are very intent on their studies at school.”

Tammy Gabel

Principal of Antonio Del Buono Elementary School in Gilroy

• “Hooray for Diffendoofer Day,” by Dr. Seuss and Jack Prelutsky. “This book is about a school that needs to perform well on the upcoming big test. If the students don’t do well, then the school will get shut down and the kids will have to go to school in ‘dreary Flobber Town.’ The kids were anxious before taking the test, but they found out it was all about the things they already knew, because their teachers taught them how to think. In the end, the kids saved the school. I like this book because it talks in a humorous and positive manner about the pressures both kids and teachers feel about state testing.”

• “Lunch Money,” by Carol Diggory Shields. “This author is actually a librarian in Salinas. I like this book because it is a collection of poems about school. One of her poems is called ‘The Code,’ meaning ‘The Cold.’ This poem is written as if the author has a cold in her nose.”

• Little House on the Prairie Series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder: “I selected this entire series because it was a personal favorite of mine as a child. I read each book from cover to cover and the entire series multiple times. I have always wanted to be a farmer!”

• “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” by Major Henry Livingston Jr., formerly believed to be by Clement Clarke Moore. “I loved the book – actually a long poem – as a child as well. Every Christmas my mom would read to us this book. As adults, my sister would read this book to the preschool kids she worked with. After she passed away a couple of years ago, my nephew has continued the tradition of reading this book at Christmastime in honor of my sister. I now have multiple copies of this book. I enjoy looking at how different artists interpret and illustrate the poem.”

• “Shiloh,” by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. “This book is a Caldecott award-winning book. My boys have loved this book. In fact, they showed the movie to my husband, their daddy, and it ended up with us getting a new dog. This book is about a boy and the dog he rescues from an abusive environment; the special bond they form; and the adversity they face together.”

Kathleen Masner

Principal of El Toro Elementary School in

Morgan Hill

• “Charlotte’s Web,” by E.B. White. “E.B. White is a great author who knows how to paint a picture with words. He is inspiring to all children in that he holds friendship as a special gift given from one to another.”

• “Chrysanthemum,” by Kevin Henkes. “Students treasure this book because the author is able to convey the importance of dignity and respect. The main character loved life until she started school and her peers teased her about her name. Chrysanthemum soon learned to treasure her name and who she was as a little girl.”

• The Magic Treehouse series, by Mary Pope Osborne. “These books incorporate fiction with science. Our children read through the entire series and seem to gravitate to books that are in a series.”

• “Julie Foudy: Soccer Superstar,” by Jeff Savage. “I have found that many of our students enjoy reading nonfiction. The students enjoy reading about sports figures, and Julie earned the Olympic gold medal in the 1996 games in soccer.”

• “The Memory String,” by Eve Bunting. “Eve Bunting is one of the most beloved authors for books for primary and intermediate students. This story is about a family with a history of treasures that belonged to family members. Students can identify with the characters and understand how these treasures are cherished and what happens when a treasure – part of the memory string – is missing.”

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