There are some AMAZING books out there to drive out the winter doldrums. Books about winter wonderlands and snow-filled adventures. Here is where I’m going to summarize what are some of my favorite books to read in winter. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if I’ve missed any of what you would consider the best winter read alouds, let me know in the comments below!
A Caldecott-winning wordless book from Matthew Cordell. The entire time the reader thinks that the child will be attacked by the wolves. Even with no words, the illustrator shows all of the emotion of the child and the wolves with little more than their eyes. A really heart-warming story about helping others even if you think those you are helping will not understand or even hurt you.
This is a really fun autobiography that John Rocco wrote about a crazy blizzard that happened during his childhood. It left his town buried for a week. Things were fine until the food and hot chocolate started to run out. It took the young boy who was fascinated by the arctic to find a solution to the problem and bring back supplies for his neighborhood. Blizzard by John Rocco is great for a unit on community or problem-solving. What’s best? It’s also available in Spanish under the title Tormenta de nieve.
This is a story about a boy who one day decides that he is going to go find a “wish tree.” His brother and sister tell him that they don’t exist, but his trusty friend Boggan (a toboggan) helps him along the way. Kyo Maclear makes Boggan “speak” with the sound it makes along the snow. The Wish Tree is another great book about community as the boy learns along the way that sometimes helping your friends can help you solve your own problems and help you make your wish come true.
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What better book for winter or learning about snow than the biography of the man who photographed and studied snowflakes? Snowflake Bentley tells the story of Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley who was the son of a farmer. He was fascinated by snowflakes and he was the first person to photograph snowflakes. This is a classic book for winter and learning about perseverance and pursuing your passion. Snowflake Bentley would be a great read aloud for a community, investigation, or biography unit.
Annabelle’s town is a dull black and white sea town covered in snow until one day she happens upon a box of yarn. With the yarn she knits herself a colorful sweater, but she still had more yarn. She knits more sweaters for her neighbors and classmates and even for animals, mailboxes, and houses! Slowly but surely, this one girl changes her town into something beautiful and vibrant. Extra Yarn is a perfect book for examining author’s message and how it is conveyed through the illustrations. I love to read this book before Christmas also to teach my kids about the magic of giving. My bilingual brain also loves that it’s available in Spanish as Hilo sin fin.
As the sun set on the shortest day of the year, early people would gather to prepare for the long night ahead. They built fires and lit candles. They played music, bringing their own light to the darkness, while wondering if the sun would ever rise again. A great story to read for the winter solstice written by Newbery Medal winner Susan Cooper!
The Mitten and The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett
Is it winter if you don’t read at least ONE Jan Brett story? Her illustrations are amazing for predicting and foreshadowing. The Mitten tells the classic tale of the lost mitten that increasingly large animals climb into for warmth until a tiny mouse makes all of them fall out. A classic “straw that broke the camel’s back” story.
The Three Snow Bears tells an arctic version of the Goldilocks and the Three Bears fairy tale. Both of these stories are folktales and fairy tales and are great as part a of a study on folktales or fractured fairy tales. To be honest, though, there are enough Jan Brett books that you could do a complete author study on her.
All penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York City find a mate, make a nest, and then have an egg to care for. All of them except two penguins: Silo and Roy. Two male penguins. They pair up, build a nest, but they don’t have an egg to care for until the zookeepers find an egg without anyone to care for it. They care for it, and they have Tango. The only penguin with two dads.
This is a remarkable true story of the chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo. And Tango Makes Three is perfect for having conversations about family and that that doesn’t always mean a mom and a dad. It’s also great because it’s available in Spanish as well: Con Tango son tres.
This book is the book that I always go to for teaching figurative language. Jane Yolen fills this book with similes, metaphors and personification that make it perfect for teaching them to your students. The book talks about a night of a full moon when a girl accompanies her dad walking in the woods trying to find an owl.
Their efforts are rewarded at the end when they come across a great horned owl. The illustrations add to the story and show many of the other animals in the woods. All of this illuminated by the light of an owl moon.
This isn’t your traditional winter story in that sense, but it’s a great book for this time of year when kids are coming back to school with new clothes and stories of new toys. This story is about a boy named Jeremy who really wants a pair of the new shoes that everyone has, but his grandmother can’t buy them. By a miracle, though, they find a pair at a thrift store, but they’re too small. Jeremy insists on getting them even though they’re far too small.
There’s another boy, though, who is like Jeremy and he needs new shoes. When Jeremy’s grandmother buys him new boots for winter he gives the other boy “those shoes.” Those Shoes, also in Spanish as Esos zapatos, is a perfect book for talking about want vs. need and community.
My students LOVE this book for our unit about arctic animals. I read this every year when I was in first grade, though, it is rather long. Every time polar bears come up in my now fourth grade class, one kid will mention Knut. It tells the story of the baby polar bear Knut born in Zoo Berlin and Tomas, the zookeeper who hand raised him. The kids love learning about and seeing how Knut grew and learned. Sadly, and this is thankfully not in the story, Knut died suddenly when he was very young from a brain abnormality. Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World is a student favorite and it has a plethora of text features that make it perfect for a non-fiction unit. What puts this firmly on my list of the best winter read alouds is that it is also in Spanish!
Brave Irene by William Steig
Brave Irene is Irene Bobbin, the dressmaker’s daughter. Her mother, Mrs. Bobbin, isn’t feeling so well and can’t possibly deliver the beautiful ball gown she’s made for the duchess to wear that very evening. So plucky Irene volunteers to get the gown to the palace on time, in spite of the fierce snowstorm that’s brewing– quite an errand for a little girl.
But where there’s a will, there’s a way, as Irene proves in the danger-fraught adventure that follows. She must defy the wiles of the wicked wind, her most formidable opponent, and overcome many obstacles before she completes her mission. A great book about perseverance and grit!
Conclusion: What are your favorite winter read alouds?
Are you upset that I didn’t include A Snowy Day in my list? Should I have included another book on this list of the best winter read alouds? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to read a new book!
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