19 Read Alouds for Teaching Central Message

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“What lesson can we learn from the story?” When it comes to teaching the central message, choosing the story is my favorite part. Over the years I’ve compiled a list of tried and true tales, as well as some NEW titles to use when teaching central message. Keep reading for 19 read alouds for teaching central message and be sure to check out #1, #4, #11, and #13.

Central Message Book 1- Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman (aff)

I will read this EVERY year to my students. It is a MUST, trust me! 🙌🏽 Grace loves stories, especially ones told by her grandmother. She tries out for a role in a class play, despite the comments from her peers. Amazing Grace is wonderful for teaching students the importance of following their dreams and being confident in who they are.

2- The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (aff)

🔥Choose courage.🔥 

Two words with one HUGE meaning for students. The Name Jar demonstrates how to have the courage to be yourself. Unhei is new to her school and uncomfortable with her name. Through a series of events, she gains the courage to be herself and to appreciate her unique name. 

3- Two Bad Ants 🐜 by Chris Van Allsburg (aff)

Instead of following orders, two ants decide to stay behind and rummage through a new and mysterious world. What they’ll soon learn is, places aren’t always as they seem. Will they learn their lesson and follow directions from here on, or will something else happen? 

Central Message Book 4- Those Shoes 👟 by Maribeth Boelts (aff)

What we need is more important than what we want, am I right? (Also, easier said than done!) In this heartwarming tale, Jeremy is determined to have the shoes that “everyone else has”. Warm boots, sore feet, and a new friend help teach Jeremy the importance of focusing on what you “need” versus what you “want”. This story will make you feel all the feels.

Central Message Book 5- Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun🍝🌭 by Maria Dismondy (aff)

A story with a central message tied to being brave and choosing kindness, Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun warms the hearts of students as much as a warm hot dog. Lucy is different in the eyes of her classmate, Ralph. He teases her repeatedly, what should she do? I love reading this one to my students and discussing other food combinations that they enjoy! (Chicken noodle soup🍲 with nacho cheese Doritos anyone?)

6- The Bad Seed 🌱 by Jory John (aff)

In The Bad Seed, the Bad Seed has been bad for as long as he can remember. Can he change? He’s got a bad attitude, bad manners, and a bad temper. Will he change his ways? A perfect story for teaching about positive change.

7- The Couch Potato by Jory John (aff)

This guy is L A Z Y. Sits all day long. Everything is within his reach from the couch. In this story, our Couch Potato learns the importance of balancing screen time and playtime. (mic drop 🎤) A great follow-up activity is to have the students write about how they could balance screen time and playtime, so as not to become couch potatoes. 🥔

Central Message Book 8- Chrysanthemum🌼 by Kevin Henkes (aff)

Growing up, I had a “hard to pronounce” last name. I’ll never forget the time my 7th grade English teacher abbreviated my last name to the first three letters HOE (not kidding, it was mortifying). I can totally relate to Chrysanthemum and her struggles in this story. With a central message on being confident in your name or treating each other with kindness, Chrysanthemum is a great addition to your beginning of the year read-alouds. (Or any time of year for that matter.)  

9- Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae (aff)

Gerald the giraffe wants to dance but with his long legs and boney knees, it poses a great challenge. (Are we talking about my husband?) This story will teach young readers about going for their dreams and the power of perseverance. Not to mention the epic dance battles that could ensue. 

Central Message Book 10- The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig (aff)

Teaching about kindness? The Invisible Boy has a lovely message about choosing kindness. Brian feels unseen amongst his peers. When a new student arrives, Brian is the first to lend a kind gesture. Through this act of kindness, the new boy, Justin, feels welcome and Brian finds out he’s not invisible. 

Moral of the Story – This center includes 16 stories, 16 cards, and 1 writing mat.
After reading through different scenarios, the students will determine the moral of the story.

11- Dazzling Travis by Hannah Carmona (aff)

An inspiring tale for all students, Dazzling Travis is a story about being confident in who you are! Travis likes what he likes and doesn’t let anyone dull his shine. Whether it’s armor and tiaras one day, ballet and sports the next, Travis is who he is! This is a perfect read aloud for our generation of students! 

Central Message Book 12- The Lost Lake by Allen Say (aff)

Be prepared to have a story tug at your heartstrings. A father and his son seem to be disconnected. Can a trip to the “lost lake” fix their relationship? This story is great for discussing how characters change and the importance of spending time with family. 

13- The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach (aff)

Be patient! How many times are you reminding kids to be patient? Try telling a very impatient caterpillar that they have to wait two weeks to metamorphosize…TWO WEEKS!?! Can the caterpillar learn to be patient? Read it to see and then be sure to share it with your students when you teach the central message.

14- The Little Butterfly That Could by Ross Burach (aff)

Well, now that the Impatient Caterpillar has completed metamorphosis, he faces his next battle…migrating! Will he be able to make it the full 200 miles? Can he take a plane? Nope. The Little Butterfly That Could teaches students about persistence, and the ability to complete seemingly impossible tasks.

Central Message Book 15- The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?🍪 by Mo Willems (aff)

“No way! Why does HE get a cookie? That’s not fair!”-Pigeon

In my best Scar impersonation, “life’s not fair is it…” I love reading this story to younger students (particularly Pre-K) because I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, “THAT’S NOT FAIR!” Can you relate? 

16- The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone (aff)

A tale about “reaping what you sow.” No one wants to help, yet EVERYONE wants the cake! None of the Red Hen’s friends lend a helping hand so, in the end, she enjoys the cake solo. A perfect story to teach the importance of working for what you want (and not being lazy). 

Central Message Book 17- Honk! by Pamela Dunkin Edwards (aff)

A unique story about going for your dreams! Mimi the swan loves the ballet and longs to be on the stage with the other ballerinas. With a central message about dreaming big, this story is sure to win over your students. 

18- The Rainbow Fish🌈 by Marcus Pfister (aff)

The rainbow fish has the most beautiful scales in the whole ocean but also wants friends. When tasked with giving away his scales, will he do it? With a message about sharing, this story is ideal for primary grades! 

Students will read the passage, “All About Penguins“, then using the provided graphic organizer, they will write the main idea and three key details.

19- Any of Aesop’s Fables by Aesop (aff)

The Lion and the Mouse (aff), The Ant and the Grasshopper (aff), The Vain Jackdaw (aff), The Tortoise and the Hare (aff), any of Aesop’s Fables are great to add to your read alouds for teaching central message. 

My goal is that you’ll be able to incorporate at least one read aloud from this list into your Central Message lessons. Have any suggestions for additional read alouds? Be sure to leave them in the comments? 

Written By – Heather Wagoner

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Welcome! I’m Emily, Founder of Education to the Core. We are all about helping K-2 teachers by providing unlimited access to affordable printables for every subject area.