Read-Alouds for the Last Day

What do you read to your class on the last day of school? I always put so much energy into that last choice. I wanted a book that would celebrate the community we had built, the friendships we had made, the values we had discussed . . . and at the same time, I wanted a book with a rich story or intriguing characters or beautiful illustrations—one the children would really enjoy.

Although this seems like a lot to ask for in one book, there are many that fit the bill. I want to share a few I’ve tried and some I’ve recently discovered, plus some ideas for discussion topics or follow-up activities. I’ll be interested to hear what choice you make (or made) this year and why you chose the book you did!

Amos and Boris, by William Steig. In this picture book, Amos, a mouse, and Boris, a whale, become friends after Boris rescues Amos from near disaster at sea. Later in life, Amos has a chance to return the favor. This is an inspiring book about what it takes to be a friend.

Activity Ideas: As a class, discuss what friends have meant to you this year. Or, individually, write about and illustrate how someone in the class “saved” or was kind to you.

Courage, by Bernard Waber. The author examines courage in all its dimensions: from the “awesome kinds” of courage that trapeze artists need, to the “everyday kinds” such as the courage a child needs to jump off the high dive.

Activity Idea: Reflect on courageous decisions made or courageous things done during the year. Then, think about times when courage might be needed in the future and what that might look like.

My Best Friend is as Sharp as a Pencil and Other Funny Classroom Portraits, by Hanoch Piven. In answer to his grandmother’s endless questions about what his school life is like, the narrator comes up with unique and touching descriptions of his teacher (she talks in a “voice as sweet as candy”) and classmates. Piven uses real objects from the classroom (magnetic letters, rubber bands, paper clips, etc.) to create collage images portraying the members of the class.

Activity Idea: Assign each student a classmate. Each child writes a complimentary description of their classmate and illustrates the writing using the techniques from the book.

Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker, by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Nneka Bennett. This is a beautiful picture book biography of Sarah Breedlove Walker, a woman who rose from very humble beginnings (her parents were former slaves, and she was orphaned at seven) to become a millionairess and philanthropist.

Activity Ideas: Use this book to launch a discussion encouraging your students to pursue their own dreams and make the most of their lives. Or, have students write letters to their future selves, explaining what they hope they have accomplished or what they are like.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas. In this classic picture book, a young boy, Wilfrid Gordon, lives next door to a nursing home and has made friends with the residents, especially Miss Nancy. When he learns that Miss Nancy has lost her memory, he tries to figure out what memory is. In the process, he helps Miss Nancy remember some of her past.

Activity Idea: Your class and you could go on a scavenger hunt around the classroom or school and find places, objects, drawings or photos that will help them remember the special moments or people of this year.

Wish: Wishing Traditions Around the World, by Roseanne Thong and illustrated by Elisa Kleven. The author explores wishing customs around the world, such as the Irish custom of making a wish while trying to blow all the seeds off a dandelion in one breath.

Activity Idea: After reading the book, try a few of the traditions while making your own wishes for the future.

City Dog, Country Frog, by Mo Willems, illustrated by Jon Muth. A take-off on the traditional city mouse, country mouse story, this book has a city dog and a country frog becoming friends and enjoying each other across the seasons. During winter, they play “memory games” and remember special times they have had together.

Activity Idea: Play your own memory games with your class to remember special times across the year, especially those related to friendship.

Enjoy your last few days or weeks of school!

Margaret Berry Wilson is the author of several books, including: The Language of Learning, Doing Science in Morning Meeting (co-authored with Lara Webb), Interactive Modeling, and Teasing, Tattling, Defiance & More.

Tags: Language Arts, Last Weeks of School