Themed stories are a fantastic way to build a student’s vocabulary knowledge. A combination of shared book reading and guided play is said to encourage deep vocabulary knowledge. A student’s semantic network is powerful in supporting a child’s reading ability and is acquired slowly over time. According to the National Reading Panel, vocabulary is a predictor of later decoding and reading comprehension abilities. Vocabulary knowledge is not something that can be acquired one by one rather it is the building of concepts that support one another. New words are better retained by when exposed to semantically related words. (Hadley, 2018).
Below are my favorite seasonally-themed books that you can implement in your own practice to help build a depth of knowledge within your student. I personally love picking themes that are relatable to my students so they can draw from their own experiences. Also, give yourself permission to use these books longer than a session or two as multiple exposures will help in building those semantic networks and adding to existing networks as well.
Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring – A brother and sister explore nature while taking a walk through their town and observing the seasonal changes. This spring-themed picture book can be used to target predicting, inference, describing, and retelling as well as s-blends.
Tops and Bottoms – A comical story of a lazy Bear and the smart Hare who tricks Bear into sharing his wealth. Students can work on vocabulary, answering -wh questions, problem-solving, same/different, and inference.
In the Tall Tall Grass – Your young student will enjoy this picture book about a caterpillar and the animals that live within the tall, tall grass. Students will be able to work on descriptive words, rhyming, and categories.
Jabari Jumps – With this, students will learn about overcoming their fears, patience, determination, and safety in the water as they watch Jabari build up the courage to jump off the diving board.
Camping Spree with Mr. Magee – Mr. Magee and his dog, Dee, are plunged into an unexpected adventure while camping. A comical picture book with colorful illustrations that will be perfect for sequencing, comparing/contrasting, and vocabulary.
Planztilla Goes to Camp – Plantzilla is back and this time he is heading to camp with his owner, Mortimer. This summer and camp-themed book allow students to target inferencing, grammar, story retelling, and narrative comprehension.
Too Many Pumpkins – This colorful story is about Rebecca Estelle, her dislike of pumpkins, and how she makes the people around her happy with the unexpected growth of her very own pumpkin garden. This book can be paired with a pumpkin craft or other pumpkin themed activities. Students can discuss other things that can be grown in a garden as well as the plentiful descriptive words that can be introduced with this heartwarming story!
Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn – While this story might be short on words, a myriad of language and articulation can still be targeted by pulled from the beautiful and vibrant colors of the illustrations. The student can work on describing visual narrative, sequencing, and inferring on the character’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions while watching the young girl and the season changing around her.
A Plump and Perky Turkey – The townspeople of Squawk Valley want to enjoy a turkey for their Thanksgiving meal. Peter is a turkey that is too smart to fall into their trap! This book can be paired with a turkey craft and other Thanksgiving themed activities.
The Halloweiner – A fun and comical must have for Halloween that your students will no doubt enjoy. The author, Dav Pilkey, is dyslexic and speaks open about his childhood struggles with ADHD and dyslexia. He decribed these experiences as oftentimes isolating.
Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter – Similar to Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn, a brother and sister explore nature and how it changes from autumn to winter.
A Snowy Nap – The winter-themed story book that looks at Hedgie’s desire to enjoy the beauty of winter and his resistance to hibernating for the winter. Students will enjoy the illustrations and the rich language opportunities while you target comparing/contrasting, predicting, cause/effect, stating main idea, and story retell.
Bear Stays Up for Christmas – A continuation of the Bear Books Series, but with a Christmas twist. It is Christmas time and Bear is hibernating for the winter. His friends attempt to keep him away to celebrate the fun activities that Christmas brings.
Our students with poor vocabulary skills will acquire new vocabulary at a slower rate due to less cohesive and less efficiently structured semantic networks. Therefore, themed books with repeated reading are the perfect way to link and strengthen concepts together (Hadley, 2018).
Hadley, E. B., Dickinson, D. K., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2018). Building Semantic Networks: The Impact of a Vocabulary Intervention on Preschoolers’ Depth of Word Knowledge. https://doi.org/10.1002/RRQ.225