Beyond the Book

I LOVE books! I hoard books, I reference books. I am a book junkie!  I love to read, learn and tell stories with the children. Using books as provocations is an excellent starting off point for the unscripted classroom and the emergent curriculum. I thought I would begin to share some of the books I have used in my class that turned the simple act of “reading a book” into an engaging, creative, thought-provoking lesson beyond my expectations.  Please note, all books listed have so much to offer in literacy, math, language, pretend play and more.  These are just a few ideas to get you started.

The Day the Crayons Quit | Crayons have feelings too. The colors are tired of being used all the time for every drawing.

the day the crayon quit

The first year I read this story, the children immediately wanted to write letters to their favorite crayons asking them not to quit. They even used “neglected” colors to create drawings to help defend their plea! Their letters were heartfelt and visually persuasive. In fact, some of the children found new color favorites to use from just listening to the story.

This year I wanted to do it differently. I placed a tray of crayons in the middle of the floor. After the story, the children chose their favorite color. I asked them to see who else in the class favored the same color. They sorted themselves into color groups and began to discuss their findings. “Was green still green if it was a lighter green?”  “Can they be together?” “That isn’t the same red as my red.” “That orange is different.” (Imagine the multicultural lesson from this thread!)  We decided that all the shades of one color could be combined into one group. That’s when the real collaboration began.  They were tasked to find items all over the room to color match. Nothing was off-limits: if the color matched (and the item wasn’t nailed to the floor) they could bring it to their group. After a while with lots of “stuff” in their color piles, the children asked, “what can we do now?”  I paused for a moment (thinking to myself, maybe incorporate some number sequencing or patterning) but one child spoke up and said, “I know! Let’s make something with it.” Letting go of my math lesson, I said, “sure, I love this idea!’ So they did. Each design was unique and all of their creations revolved around an intricate story, from princess palaces to garbage dumps.  One boy in the blue group made a water pump from his blue water bottle that shot out water on to blue paper that went into the blue lego elevator into the blue pile of garbage!  Loving all that I was hearing and wanting to capture the moment, I documented their group stories with a 45 sec video. I later posted excerpts on Instagram for families.  In review of the day, we were amazed and delighted how this unscripted lesson turned out. It was also totally different than the previous years class. Both ideas were effective learning tools and the children stayed engaged throughout the process.


The Perfect Square | An out of the box thinking book based on a square and lots of imagination. A square is not always just a square.


I love the premise of this book and wanted to see where the children would go with it.  After reading it at circle time, the children were delighted in all that a square could be.  Some understood the deeper meaning that a “square” can be so much more than just a “square.” Here are some of their creations after our group discussion. I love the descriptions and the thought process.

IMG_1265 IMG_1264 IMG_1262

Good Sports | A wonderful rhyming book about different sports from football to roller skating. Great visuals and child-friendly rhyming make this a wonderful read for all ages and extends prior knowledge. It also helps that its authored by Jack Prelutsky and Chris Raschka.


In this one, we decided to create a graph with our favorite sports.  After reading and discussing, the children went to the art center and drew their sport. We found once they drew one, there was always another favorite to draw. (Children at this age have a hard time with favorite being singular and not plural). At the end of the day, we made a giant graph on our bulletin board. We assigned number totals and reviewed our math literacy.



The Big Orange Splot | All the houses on the street are the same color, one day there is a big orange splot on Mr. Plumbean’s roof so he decides to change the color of his house and be different.


I use this book in the beginning of every year to empower the children to be creative and independent. The ultimate goal is to not follow the crowd, but honestly that’s a stretch for Pre-K. However, it’s a beginning and it opens the door to many discoveries about themselves and their friends. This book was presented to me in a masters education class on art and creativity.  After the professor read the book, she asked us to create our dream house.  I loved the idea and brought it back to the classroom.  I opened up the art center and pulled everything out for the children to use.  All materials were placed on a utility table.  We taught the children to respect their work space as well as their peers workspace. They could use any of the materials they wanted but they had to be mindful of the space and use as needed.  They worked slowly, thoughtfully and with purpose to create their “princess” “spaceship” and “lollipop” houses.  They had free range of all art supplies and loved it. When they were done, we asked them to describe their homes and we documented their responses for display.

I have also used this same activity on Back To School night with parents. It was such a success. Parents got so involved with the project we were not able to accomplish anything else that night!  Needless to say, I don’t use that book any more!! I use The Perfect Square instead :)… still time constraints but less open-ended and the parents usually create a message for their child using the squares.  The children cherish their parents work the next day and it creates lots of class discussions.

As a quick add on here are a few more books I love to read to the class: (Please note there is a link to amazon for convenience).

1 to 20 Animals Aplenty

Little Smudge


Z is For Moose

The Sleepy Little Alphabet

PaperBag Princess

What are your favorite Beyond the Book activities?

6 thoughts on “Beyond the Book

  1. This is awesome Nan, love where these books took the learning. No doubt this year will take you to a new place. Terrific books as well. I am interested now to look at a few books with a fresh set of eyes and see what happens.


  2. Just read your blog! Brilliant! I learned so much because I didn’t know about these books or that some of the activities I saw on on your bulletin boards originated from these books. Especially loved the crayons. Great job.

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

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