As every good elementary teacher knows, using mentor texts for teaching reading skills is not only fun, but important! Mentor texts bring a level of experience, examples, and modeling that regular ‘lessons’ just can’t do! One of the best skills to use mentor texts with is theme in literature! I’ve gathered some of my favorite mentor texts for teaching theme in literature just for you! I hope you find a new favorite to add to your classroom library!
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Teaching theme using picture books is truly the way to go! I hope you find some new classroom favorites in my recommendations. Feel free to click on the titles to take you right to Amazon to grab any of the books that you need! You can also check out this blog post on tips for teaching theme in the classroom!
Theme of Confidence
Rot The Cutest in the World: If you haven’t read this book yet, you’ll thank me for introducing it to you! This story is about a ‘cute’ potato who has a tremendous amount of confidence in himself. He ends up entering a contest for who is the cutest in the word. All of the other contestants (a pink kitty, cute little jellyfish, and a bunny) are all skeptical of why he is even entering the contest. Rot starts to doubt himself for a bit and tries to be like the others, but ends up loving himself even more and proceeds with the contest. You’ll have to read it to find out who wins! 😉
This is perfect book for teaching the theme of confidence. There is so much evidence throughout the story to support the theme. Students should have no issues identifying and discussing the them which makes this the perfect book for helping introducing the process of identifying theme.
Theme of Acceptance
Spork: Just stop for a second to oooh and ahh at this adorable title and cover. I mean, it’s a book about a SPORK! This super cute book is all about a young spork who is struggling to find his place in the world. Everyone around him seems to have their identify all figured out but Spork is struggling. After trying a few different things, he stumbles upon a new experience that others around him struggled with and that fits him just right!
This book is perfect for teaching the theme of acceptance. Not necessarily acceptance of others, but of yourself and finding your purpose! This book is relatable in so many ways and I hope you love it as much as I do!
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Theme of Honesty
The Empty Pot: If you haven’t read The Empty Pot, stop what you’re doing and order it right now! This is a beautiful story about a young character who takes on a challenge from the emperor to grow flowers from seeds given to all of the children in the land. The character, already a successful gardener, is confident they can do a great job. But after weeks and week of trying, is unsuccessful and has to present an empty pot back to the emperor. There’s a fun twist at the end that you’ll have to read about to find out!
This book is perfect for teaching the theme of honesty! This character does the right thing and is honest to the emperor when so many others around him were not. And by doing so he gets rewarded in return! Definitely give this book a find and use it ASAP!
Theme of Happiness
Weslandia: I have to admit, the first time I read this book, I didn’t like it and was confused. But I always give books more than one chance. After reading it a second time, and to my students) I got a deeper understanding and appreciation for the book. The book is about this young boy who is very different. His parents are worried about him and the neighborhood kids make fun of him. But does he care? Nope! Over the summer, he creates this whole new world for himself in the backyard and is exactly who he is supposed to be.
This book is perfect for teaching the theme of happiness! The main character exudes happiness but in a less obvious way. It’s not about smiling and bragging, but being comfortable in your own skin and being who you were meant to be.
Theme of Respect
Three Hens and a Peacock: Such an adorable story and one that even adults can relate to! Have you ever heard the phrase “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side?” That’s what this book is all about! The farm has an unexpected guest (the peacock) who brings in all sorts of visitors to the farm. While the farmer loves it, because the visitors all buy from his farm stand, the chickens do not. They feel the peacock is getting all of the praise and for doing little to no work. The peacock feels back for not contributing much. So they decide to switch places! I’m sure you can guess how that turned out!
The theme of this book is respect. We don’t know what it’s like for others. We don’t know the ins and outs of the demands of their jobs and their life and sometimes we judge too quickly.
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