books, Literacy, Passion, picture books, students

Great Picture Books to Spark Imagination

Whether it is to become less lonely, to find a friend, or to simply create – imagination is a huge theme of many amazing picture books at the moment. Behold some of my new, and not so new, favorites for inspiring students to use their imagination.  Beware; these tend to spark great conversations.


What to Do With a Box by Jane Yolen and Chris Sheban is excellent in its simplicity.  Think of all of the things we can do with just a cardboard box.

Frida and Bear Play the Shape Game by Hanne Bartholin is sure to inspire doodlers and anyone else who just wants to draw.  I loved how my own daughter right away wanted to do exactly what the characters in the book did.

An Artist’s Alphabet by Norman Messenger is stunning.  I would love to see what types of letters kids would create after reading this book.


I don’t know how I could have left off Peter Reynolds’ Creatrilogy from this list.  The godfathers of all creativity books these are must haves in your classroom library.

Box by Min Flyte and illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw is a fun read with its fold out and flaps.  Yet the message is powerful, again, think of all of the things we can do with just a few items and out imagination.

Poppy Pickle: A Little Girl with a Big Imagination by Emma Yartlett is such a fun ride.  I love poring over the pictures to see all of the mischief that happens.  What a great way to talk about what we can imagine.

It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton is another great mentor text.  I wonder what students would have come in the mail if they could and what the consequences would be.

Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead is a beautiful example of what happens when we are trying to write a story but seem so very stuck.  What a great book to share when we discuss writing process, how to find inspiration, and how to look for stories.

Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers packs quite the punch on the theme of friendship, loneliness, and also what the power of finding a friend can be.  I love how it also shows what can happen with determination and once we feel we find our place in the world.  I love how it is not just the “real” people that can use their imagination to fit in.

A common theme of many of these picture books is how visually stunning they are.  Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler speaks of a boy and what happens when he explores beyond the pond.  I love the vastness of the book and the journey he goes on.

I almost wrote a picture book post on powerful books about loneliness because I wanted to share the beauty of this book Lenny and Lucy written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead somehow.  While that post will be written at some point, I also think this picture book fits quite nicely here.  Lenny and Lucy is about using your imagination to conquer your problems, and that is a powerful message indeed.  On a side note; Erin E. Stead is a contender for the Global Read Aloud 2016 picture book study!

Again the power of an imaginary friend and how having someone no one else can see cam become a problem.  I love the book We Forgot Brock by Carter Goodrich because of the friendship it portrays.

the illustrations in Imagine A World by Rob Gonsalves are astounding.  I loved reading this with my own children as well as with my 7th graders because of their reactions.  This definitely sparks ideas in students!

I love Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes by Jeanette Winter for how it can inspire children to use their imagination when it comes to making and creating.  By taking seemingly simple things and turning them into works of art, Mr. Cornell changed the world of art.


Draw! by Raul Colon is a masterpiece when it comes to explaining how an artist mind works.  I love seeing the reaction when students get to the final page and discover what the meaning behind the book is.

Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Boris Kulikov is a book I turn to for many things; theme, perseverance, conflict, and also imagination, because it si only with imagination that the father of the book solves his problem.

How can your imagination save the most boring story?  I love the message of Battle Bunny written by Jon Sciezka and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matthew Myers.  And I also love the students’ reaction when they first start to read it, someone always comes to report that the book has been defaced.

Only their imagination can save the kids in Chalk by Bill Thomson.  Another great wordless picture book to add to your collection.

Both Journey and Quest by Aaron Becker speak to the power of a girl’s imagination and the adventure that can unfold.  I also love how these books challenge my students’ imagination as they try to decipher what is really going on.

There are a few of our favorite books to spark imagination.  Please add those I missed in the comments.

To see the lists of other favorite books and picture books, please see the collection here.

books, Literacy, Passion, Reading

The Books That Flew Off Our Shelves First Quarter

I love watching my new crop of students develop their reading love.  While some come to me as voracious readers, others are more hesitant, still searching for that one book that will convince them that maybe reading is not quite as terrible as they thought it was.  Whatever the case, there are a few books that have been flying off our shelves since the moment they were book talked.  Here they are in no particular order.

MINrS by Kevin Sylvester has been a hit with a broad group of students.  This action packed new series is great for the kids that are eagerly awaiting a new series they can become invested in.

I just introduced The Nest by Kenneth Oppel a week ago and this book is the book all of my students want to read.  So much so that I have already gotten another copy of the book.  This creepy tale is also a Global Read Aloud contender for 2016.

We love Raina Telgemeier, who doesn’t?  So with her re-imaging of the Babysitters Club a whole new generation of kids are discovering these classic tales from Ann M. Martin.

If you have not added Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan to your library yet, your students are missing out.  Both copies have been checked out since the first day of school because of the fantastic storytelling in this book.

The students all know of my deep admiration for the work of Jason Reynolds by now because I cannot stop talking about this book, All American Boys written by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds.  This is also a Global Read Aloud contender.

I loved The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands and keep gushing about this new must-read series to anyone who will listen.

The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black flew off my shelves, so it is no wonder that the sequel to the book The Copper Gauntlet does as well.  The series is such a great add to our library.

Another favorite in our classroom is another Jason Reynolds book When I Was the Greatest.  A powerful tale that seems so deceptively simple but is anything but.

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen continues to be a must read.

I am not sure I can write this post without mentioning the amazing Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  I am using it as our Global Read Aloud book and the students cannot wait for me to read more.  Several have also asked to read it on their own.

There are also some “older” staples that continue to fly off our shelves.

Who can go wrong with getting kids hooked on The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen?

The Maze Runner by James Dashner continues to be one of our top reads.

Divergent by Veronica Roth seems to be overtaking The Hunger Games this year.

I love that The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate continues to be so well loved, now if I could only find my copy of Crenshaw.

What has been flying off of your shelves?

PS:  Stay tuned for a post on our favorite picture books this quarter.

being a teacher, books, Literacy, Passion

Some Rules We Need to Break In Our Reading Classrooms

image from icanread

We seem to be run by the rules of what came before us.  We seem to be trying to uphold traditions that were started all in the spirit of becoming better reading teachers.  And yet, I think it is time for us to break some rules, to become reading warriors, and to speak up and say no; this is not what reading will look like in our classroom.  This is not the reading experience that my students will have, this is not what will make students fall in love with reading.  So I present you with some rules that seem to perpetuate much of our reading instruction and encourage you to break them just like I have and so many others before me.

Rule number 1:  You must read X number of pages before you abandon a book.

I used to enforce this; give it 30 pages, give it 50, then I read the False Prince and I told them to keep reading to page 88 where it gets so, so so good.  But that is not how adult readers read.  I sometimes abandon books after a chapter, after a page, after a paragraph.  I listen to the voice inside that tells me that there is just something wrong, that this book is slowing down my reading love and that it is not the right fit at this particular moment.  In our classroom, we practice free book abandonment, but we also reflect on why we are giving up on a book.  It offers students a wonderful chance to learn more about their own reading identity.  So when we see a child serial hop from book to book, don’t stop them, instead ask them why.  And when they tell you that they don’t like the book, ask them why again.

Rule number 2:  You must read a book from every genre.

I used to have students read books from certain genres so that they had been exposed to them all, and yet, most students hated it.  So now instead I make sure that our book shopping is varied, that I book talk many genres, and also that they have access to many genres.  There is no requirement to read outside of a genre, but only gentle recommendations.  We need to celebrate the students that have identified themselves as lovers of a certain genre, after all we do as adults, rather than force them into thinking that somehow they are not true readers because they are not exposing themselves.

Rule number 3:  You must fill out a reading log.

My biggest problem (and I have several!) with reading logs is that it inherently shows students that we do no trust them.  By asking them to record how much they have read outside of our classrooms, we are telling them that their word is not enough.  When we ask parents to sign, our message is even stronger; you may have said this but I only know it is true because your parents agreed to sign this.  Is that really what we want to tell our students?  And as a parent who has forged her signature on a summer reading challenge, I can tell you, I would do it again if it means that my child does not have to distill her love of reading books into minutes or pages.  Her reading love deserved better than that.

Rule number 4:  Reading is only something you do with your eyes.

I used to tell students that for a book to count for their book challenge that it had to be read.  And reading means they do it with their eyes.  Now I know that reading can also be auditory, whether by listening to an audio book or being read aloud to.  That students can still experience a deep connection with a text even if their eyes have not processed it, and that audio books level the playing field for so many of our students who feel like they are bad readers.  Reading is many things, let’s make sure that in our rush to define it, we do not alienate the students that need alternative methods the most.

Rule number 5:  You must only read books at your level.

Levels were never meant to confine or define a child, but instead meant as a tool for a teacher to select text for guided reading instruction.  Yet our obsession with placing children in boxes has made levels prevalent in our schools and in the minds of students.  If our goal is to create students who identify as readers outside of our classrooms then they need to know themselves as readers.  They need to know what they prefer, what they can read, and also what type of book they need at that very moment.  That changes based on their life, and not just their growth, just like it does for us adults.  Having students select books based on a level robs them of the chance to figure this out, and in turn, counteracts everything we are trying to teach them.

Rule number 6:  You are too old to read this book.

If I only read books that fit my age then I would never read a YA or children’s book again, and that goes for our students as well.  Reading books that may be too young is a way for students to relax, to build confidence, and to read a book they feel like reading.  How often does our helpful rules really just hinder a child from reading?

Rule number 7:  You must create something after you finish a book.

When I finish a book, I often hand it to a friend.  Sometimes I book talk it to my class, sometimes I write a review, other times I quietly place it in a bin.  I do not write a journal entry, I do not create a book report, nor do I make something to show off the theme.  When students finish a book they should have an opportunity to discuss the book, to recommend it to a classmate, to share their love of it with the world, if they want.  They should not have to choose from a long list of projects to prove that they, indeed, did read it.

Rule number 8:  Picture books are for little kids.

Every day, almost, we read a picture book in our classroom.  In fact, picture books are  serious business here, as I use them to teach students how to infer, how to closely read, how to think deeply about a text and then be able to discuss it with others.  We use them as mentor texts as we work on our writing craft.  We use them as we build our community.  And yes, we use them because picture books make the world a better place and they remind students that reading is meant to be fun and magical.  A student told me the other day, “Mrs. Ripp, I am not so sure picture books are for little kids anymore…”  And I knew exactly what he meant, because a text that rich should not just be reserved for young kids.

Rule number 9:  Graphic novels are not real books.

Graphic novels can be just as complex as the hardest chapter books.  In our classroom, graphic novels can be a lifeline; a way to reach the kid that swears they will never love reading, a way to reach a child that cannot get through a chapter book.  I have students using graphic novels to find the signposts from Notice and Note at the moment.  I have students finally connecting on a deep level with a book that happens to be in the format of a graphic novel.  I am so thankful to all of the authors out there creating these magnificent books that prove once again to my students that great books do not just look like one thing.

Rule number 10:  You must reward reading.

Reading is it’s own reward to quote the fantastic Teri Lesesne.  The minute you attach a reward to reading you have diminished the act of reading itself.  Think hard about the stickers, the prizes, the special events based on pages read and instead find a way to celebrate the very act of reading by getting more books, by finding more time to read.

Rule number 11:  You must not judge a book by its cover.

I do it all the time.  We all do.  What we need to teach kids though is that covers are not the only way we should judge a book.  That even if a book has a terrible cover, which some amazing books truly do, that they then should move on to checking it in other ways; by reading the back, by skimming a few pages, by asking a friend.  For students to see us as reading role models we must not hide the true habits we have but instead celebrate them and share what we do.  Students do not need to see how we pretend adults pick books, instead they should see how we really pick books, and that includes judging a book by its cover.

I could have gone on, but these are the rules that stood out to me.  I shudder at how many of these I have had in my own classroom and am grateful to the people that have shown me a better way.  We can create classrooms where students fall in love with reading, the choice is ours.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) just came out!

advice, aha moment, being a teacher, being me, Passion, students

Who It’s Really For

I could say that I am an amazing teacher.  That what I do is not something others could do.  That the way I connect with kids is a special talent that only I have developed, and that if you buy my book you could perhaps learn how to teach just like me, that some of my amazing “me-ness” will surely go your way.  I could say that I have discovered the one way to be great and all you have to do is try to be more like me.

But I would be lying. (And making a fool out of myself in the process).

Because there are days when I am not so great.  There are children that I do not connect with.  There are moments when no matter what I try it all falls apart and one of my teammates steps in and saves the day.  Saves the lesson.  Saves the student.  I am a better teacher because of those I teach with.  I am a better teacher because of the students that teach me.

You see, being a teacher is not about us.  It is not about the great things that we can do.  It is not about all of the things that we will teach.  It is not about what will work best for us, nor how we will change the world.  It is about the kids.

It is about what they will do.  What they will learn.  How they will change our world.  How I get to be a part of the process but I am only as great as my students.

And we seem to forget that at times.  We seem to forget it when we share the stories that do not highlight what our students are doing, but instead what we have done.  When we advocate not what is best for children, but what is best for ourselves and hope that children may benefit as well.  When we teach the way we would like to learn, and forget to ask the students what they need.

It is a balance and it is hard to keep at times.  I know I am guilty like so many others.  Yet, in this public way, I renew my promise to keep it about the kids.  To keep it about what they need, what they want, and what they dream for.

I am not the greatest teacher, I have so much to learn, and I cannot forget that.  We must remember what we are doing all of this for, because it is not for us, it is for them.  And that is how it should always be.  May we never forget that.  May I never forget that.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) just came out!

being a teacher, being me, books, Literacy, Passion

This One Book

Cross-posted from Mrs. Ripp Reads

On Sunday night, I cried in my airplane seat.  I held the book in my hands and cried not because it was sad, but because it was so true.  Because the words I had just finished reading made me think about my own privilege, about the conversations Brandon and I will never have to have with our son, Oskar.  About the thousands of boys whose everyday life can be changed in a single second.  And how I have no idea what to do about it other than continue to ask questions, continue to have the conversations in our classroom, and continue to place books like this in the hands of my students even if they make me feel so incredibly uncomfortable.  Because this book should do exactly that.  And not only that, it should make us weep at the society that we live in and the ways that we perceive each other.  It should make us angry and ashamed.

So today, I handed the book to another teacher and then promptly ordered another copy.  I know that for some of my students it is too mature, but for others it will be the book that they pass on from kid to kid.  It will be the book that makes them question the society that we live in, and for that I am so grateful.  We need books like this.  We need to cry in our airplane seats more often at the injustice that we participate in.

Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s masterpiece All American Boys is a Global Read Aloud contender for 2016 because the world needs to be in on this conversation.  Go read it.  Please.

being a teacher, being me, books, Passion

Win A Signed Copy of My Book!

I am packing right now, on my way to the Mt. Lebanon school district in Pennsylvania, where I get to have the immense honor of working with their elementary staff for a whole day.  My focus for the day is, of course, all about creating passionate learners – everything I have written about in my book, and I cannot wait to see the thinking, discussion, and ideas that will happen.  I always get so inspired working with other teachers as well, what a great way to spend a Monday.

In the spirit of learning from others, I thought it would be great to give away a physical copy of my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  I will even sign the winning copy!  All you have to do to enter is leave a comment and tell me why you would like to read the book.  (Your email does not need to be included as long as you put it in the comment box).  I will pull a winner this Friday night, October 9th and will then send you the book.

So what is my book about?  Here is the excerpt from the back.

Would you want to be a student in your own classroom? In Passionate Learners: How to Engage and Empower Your Students, author Pernille Ripp challenges both novice and seasoned teachers to create a positive, interactive learning environment where students drive their own academic achievement. You’ll discover how to make fundamental changes to your classroom so learning becomes an exciting challenge rather than a frustrating ordeal. Based on the author’s personal experience of transforming her approach to teaching, this book outlines how to:

• Build a working relationship with your students based on mutual trust, respect, and appreciation.

• Be attentive to your students’ needs and share ownership of the classroom with them.

• Break out of the vicious cycle of punishment and reward to control student behaviour.

• Use innovative and creative lesson plans to get your students to become more engaged and intellectually-invested learners, while still meeting your state standards.

• Limit homework and abandon traditional grading so that your students can make the most of their learning experiences without unnecessary stress.

And what are people saying about the book? Passionate Learners- How to Engage and Empower Your Students (9781138916920)- Pernille Ripp- Books.clipular

I hope you love the book!