Read-Alouds to Inspire Hopes and Dreams

By now you probably know how much I love children’s books! Here are some that would be perfect for launching a discussion of hopes and dreams—the first step in the Responsive Classroom approach to creating classroom rules with students. Last winter I shared a few read-aloud ideas in a post about revisiting hopes and dreams in the new year. Any of those books would work equally well at the start of the year, and here are some more ideas:

Big Al by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Yoshi. Big Al is a large, scary-looking, but very nice fish who wants to make friends. All the little fish are scared of him until the day when he has a chance to prove how kind he is. If you use this book, you could have an underwater display for students’ hopes and dreams, featuring Big Al and the smaller fish to remind your students of the story that launched their own goal-making.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. A young boy named Liam discovers an almost dead garden in the midst of his dull, gray city. With water and attention, he brings it back to life, and the garden slowly spreads to the rest of his city. A hopes and dreams discussion based on this book could begin with students thinking about their talents, what they might accomplish during the year, and what sort of classroom environment they’ll need to nurture their talents and reach their goals.

The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Brian Selznick. The true story of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, who as a young boy became enchanted with dinosaurs and grew up to be the first person to make full-scale models of them. This book is especially strong for launching hopes and dreams because Hawkins faced so many setbacks along the way, but he never gave up. You could refer to those setbacks throughout the year when students or your class are having trouble working towards their hopes and dreams.

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small. During the Depression, Lydia Grace Finch is sent from her family’s farm to live with her uncle, a baker, in the city. She uses her talent for gardening to beautify her new surroundings and bring a smile to the face of her hardworking uncle. Lydia brought seeds with her on the train; you could talk about children’s hopes and dreams as being seeds that will grow as the year progresses.

Matthew’s Dream by Leo Lionni. Matthew, a young mouse, struggles to answer the age-old question: What does he want to be when he grows up? His dilemma is solved while visiting an art museum. He wants to be an artist. After writing about what they want to accomplish in the school year ahead, children could mimic Leo Lionni’s style in an artistic rendering to accompany their writing.

Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy. With simple but engaging text and cartoon-style pictures, McCarthy tells the story of an accountant, Walter Diemer, who despite knowing “lots about math but not much about gum” went on to invent bubble gum. The book shows how he persisted despite early failures, and you could encourage your students to think about obstacles they might encounter in trying to meet their hopes and dreams—and how they will overcome those.

This School Year Will Be the Best! by Kay Winters, illustrated by Renée Andriani. A student imagines possibilities for the school year ahead. Some are practical and possible. Others are more fanciful. (“We’ll have a chocolate fountain at lunch!” “We’ll take a field trip to someplace really cool.” “We’ll have SKATEBOARD day.”) Your class will be able to relate to all of them, and you could use the book as a springboard for what will make this school year the best for them. For a display, you could use the cover design with a large “This school year will be the best” in the middle with small pictures of children accomplishing their hopes and dreams all around it.

Walk On!: A Guide for Babies of All Ages by Marla Frazee. A funny “how-to” picture book for babies learning to walk that has lessons suitable for anyone setting a goal or starting out on a new adventure in life. Students can write about their hopes and dreams using the sentence frame, “Just as a baby is determined to walk, I am determined to __________________.”

However you decide to launch your hopes and dreams process, be sure to make it as meaningful as possible for your students. Revisit students’ goals throughout the year, help students make plans for how to accomplish them or assess progress, and make new hopes and dreams if need be.

To learn more about using students’ hopes and dreams in the process of creating classroom rules, check out  resources in the “Rule Creation” category on this website and the book Rules in 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: Classroom Rules, Hopes and Dreams/Learning Goals, Middle of the Year, Revisiting Rules