“I Cried So Many Times:” Favorite Reads from a Children’s Literature Course

For their final exam, the preservice elementary teachers in my Children’s Literature course compile and present their Top 10 lists for the semester. This is a course with no required texts but fairly intense independent reading requirements. I love seeing what they’ve read and what they’ve loved–and it’s easily one of the best assessments I’ve ever cooked up for a college course. Top 10 lists feel fun, low pressure, low stakes, but I glean a lot of helpful data through their lists, which are snapshots of how widely they’ve read and how deeply they’ve experienced literature over the semester.

Usually, the top 10 lists are full of picture books but this group surprised me by falling in love with chapter books and middle-grade novels and reading and sharing them voraciously–especially those heartprint books that touch a reader deeply. “I cried so many times” was the frequent refrain during their presentations–and they meant those tears to be a serious compliment!

Here are the ten titles that showed up most frequently on their individual top 10 lists. One of the things that pleases me most about this list is that I haven’t even read two of the books on it. Students were reading, sharing, book talking, recommending to each other and spreading the book love without me–which is exactly what we want to see in a thriving community of readers.

long way down.jpeg

After I book talked Long Way Down, it made the rounds. For many students, it was their first verse novel. They appreciated the structure, the hook, and the window into a lived experience different from their own.

one and only ivan

I shared the book trailer for The One and Only Ivan, which is such a lovely advertisement for this story. Several students also booktalked it in class.  I can always count on The One and Only Ivan to show up many times on these lists.

restart korman

Gordon Korman’s Restart has such a great hook that it’s an easy booktalk and easy sell. I book talked this one and loaned out my library copy for the semester. It was one of the surprise standouts in their reading this semester.
youre welcome universe.jpeg

You’re Welcome, Universe is one of the two books on this list that I haven’t read yet–and this one I haven’t read because it’s been checked out nonstop since I purchased a copy of our classroom library after it won a Schneider Family Award. Now that it’s finally checked in, I get to read it!

sunny side up

Most students came into the class thinking they didn’t like graphic novels, but books like Sunny Side Up convinced them that graphic novels are awesome. This is one I booktalked briefly and then students took over, reading it in a day and booktalking it next class. I think most of the class read this one and the sequel.

out of my mind

Another perennial top 10 favorite in my Children’s Lit courses, Out of My Mind is one that gave them all the feels. I booktalked it once and then never saw it again for the rest of the semester because as soon as it was checked in, it was checked back out.

sure signs of crazy.jpeg

I also haven’t read Sure Signs of Crazy yet. There was a collective jaw drop when the first student book talked this one and then read the first page aloud. I don’t know if I’ll ever read this one–I like quiet books without so much trauma!–but I’m going to follow my student’s lead and read the first page aloud as a book talk.


Wonder didn’t need much help from me this semester with the release of the movie. Many students who had seen the movie wanted to read the book, so I purchased an extra copy for our little lending library.

one for the murphys

One for the Murphys is another book that everyone falls in love with every semester. I usually book talk it at the beginning of the semester, and later in the semester share this wonderful story from Katherine Sokolowski’s classroom, which sparks renewed interest in the title.

book of mistakes.jpeg

And hands down the number one title for Children’s Lit in Spring 2018 was Corinna Luyken’s The Book of Mistakes–the only picture book to make the class Top 10. Students loved, loved, loved this book so much, and they were OUTRAGED that it did not win at least a Caldecott Honor. They will forever feel that Luyken was ROBBED.

Stay tuned tomorrow for their top 5 takeaways from the course!










14 responses to ““I Cried So Many Times:” Favorite Reads from a Children’s Literature Course”

  1. Scott Avatar

    Corinna Luyken was robbed.

  2. tbreitweiser Avatar

    A great list of books never gets old. I find new titles and get to revisit titles I love in my mind!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love listening to their presentations–book lists are always fun!

  3. elsie Avatar

    This is truly a window into the students’ reading lives. Hopefully they will continue to be voracious readers as they begin their careers in classrooms. Looking forward to the next list.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I hope they will continue reading too. Our final conversation was about summer reading plans–and everyone had them–which makes me very happy!

  4. Shari Daniels Avatar

    Love this. Thank you for sharing, Elisabeth! I might be stealing that assessment idea. 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So much about their reading for this course is revealed through those lists and how they talk about the books they chose.

  5. Amanda Potts Avatar

    What a great list! Now I have a few to add to my own list – and maybe read-aloud for my own children!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I am so glad you found a few to add to your list. I saw several students in class busily writing down titles during the presentations! I have a few that I wrote down too.

  6. […] I shared the favorite reads in a Children’s Literature course I teach for preservice elementary teachers. Today, […]

  7. carwilc Avatar

    I haven’t read RESTARTED or either of the ones you said were new to you. I can’t wait for June!

  8. […] Children’s Literature students shared their Top 10 lists for the […]

  9. Kellee Moye Avatar

    I have groups of kids that would DEFINITELY agree with your students on The Book of Mistakes!

  10. […] Mulally Hunt’s One for the Murphys is one of my preservice teachers’ favorite reads each semester. I book talk it once at the beginning of the semester, and then it’s passed […]

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