Picture Books to Teach Summarizing in the Classroom

Picture Books to Teach Summarizing in the Classroom

Teach summarizing in your classroom with this collection of picture books as inspiration. Use them to teach how to find the most relevant parts of a story and dismiss what is irrelevant.

Picture Books to Teach Summarizing in the Classroom

Why Use Picture Books to Teach Summarizing?

Summarizing is like retelling, but requires determining the most important details of a text. It helps your students determine the central idea and supporting details of what they are reading.

Using picture books to teach summarizing means you and your students can work together to find the most important parts of a book. You can model how to identify key information and pick out important details helping your students omit irrelevant information from their summary.

Dismissing irrelevant information means your students need to understand the concepts: characters, setting, plot events and problem and solution.

It will also help if your students are confident in retelling and sequencing before focusing on teaching summarizing.

Help your students identify the most important parts of a story by using this prompt to teach summarizing:
Somebody: Who is the main character?
Wanted: What did the main character want?
But: What was the problem?
So: How was the problem solved?
Then: How did the story end?

Benefits of Summarizing

  • Summarizing improves memory for what has been read.
  • Identifying the most important details, along with supporting details.
  • Reducing a large selection of text to improve understanding.
  • Summarizing is important in different academic areas.

Questions to Use with Books to Teach Summarizing

  • What is the main idea of the text/story?
  • What information friend the text is important to support the main idea?
  • What information from the text is irrelevant?
  • What happened after [event]?
  • What was the first/last thing that happened in the story?
  • What does [character] do during different parts of the story?
  • What actions and reactions took place in the story?
  • What are the most important parts of the story?

FREE Graphic Organisers

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Picture Books to Teach Summarizing

Any fiction picture book can be used as a mentor text to teach summarizing, but here are some ideas.

After the Fall by Dan Santat

A retelling of Humpty Dumpty from the egg’s perspective. Promotes perspectives, a growth mindset, perseverance, and courage as Humpty Dumpty conquers his fear of heights.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

Send a message to your students that everyone is welcome, no matter their race, religion, gender, culture or background. Use on the first day of school to discuss inclusion, kindness, empathy, acceptance and community.

111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl by Rina Singh

Sundar Paliwal valued gender equality, but his village only celebrated the birth of boys. He resigned from his job and became the leader of Piplantri. Sundar persuaded the villagers to celebrate the birth of girls by planting 111 trees. Over time, these trees provided food, water and the opportunity for women to earn their own living.

Use to promote environmental awareness, sustainability, gender equality, social development, community, responsibility and cooperation.

Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed

Bilal worries about what his friends will think when they help him and his father cook a traditional Daal dish. Use to discuss cultural differences, patience, community, making connections and asking questions.

Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems

Piggie and Gerald think creatively to include their new friend in a game of catch. Promotes problem-solving, fairness and relationships skills.

A Day's Work by Eve Bunting

Francisco helps his grandfather find work by lying that he is a gardener. They are hired by Ben to work on his garden but they pull out all the plants instead of the weeds. Abuelo returns the next day to complete the job correctly before he takes his wages.

Promotes responsible decision-making, honesty, integrity and trust.

Don't Touch My Hair! by Sharee Miller

Aria gets assertive when people touch her hair wherever she goes. Help children understand the need to ask permission and not crossing personal boundaries.

Use to discuss respect, confidence, self-esteem, and assertiveness.

Drawn Together by Minh Lê

A young boy and his grandfather lack a common language and struggle to communicate, leading to confusing, frustrating and silent meetings. When they discover their love of art they communicate with each other through art rather than words.

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

A boy’s life changes for the worse when Jeremy Ross moves to town. He is Jeremy’s enemy. Dad’s advice is to make an enemy pie, but it will only work if he spends the whole day with his enemy. They end up having so much fun the boy doesn’t need the pie.

Use to discuss kindness, conflict resolution, bullying, and problem-solving.

Flotsam by David Wiesner

A young boy loves the jar full of fireflies he has just caught, but when their light starts dim he sets them free to keep them alive.

Use to discuss visualizing, summer, inference, making connections, freedom, first-person narration, responsible decision-making.

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams

In a Peshawar refugee camp, both Lina and Feroza find a matching sandal. They build a friendship and share the sandals, wearing them on alternate days. Lina and her mother are chosen to emigrate to America and gives the sandal to Feroza. But Feroza hands it back telling Lina they will share the sandals again one day.

Promotes a sense of belonging, compassion, friendship and social awareness.

The Hard-Times Jar by Ethel Footman Smothers

Emma Turner loves books. As she can’t afford one she saves her money from picking apples and puts it in her mama’s hard-times jar. When she is ready to start school, she is met with a wonderful surprise. Reinforces themes of reading, determination, self-management and immigration.

Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! by Mem Fox

Harriet has a series of naughty mishaps that tests her mother’s patience. But Harriet and her mum know that they love each other no matter what. 

Promotes forgiveness, self-management and manners.

The Honest-to-Goodness Truth by Patricia C. McKissack

Libby has been telling the absolute truth since her mama told her, “Tell the truth and shame the devil.” When everyone gets mad at her she realises that there is a right way to tell the truth.

Read to discuss honesty, integrity, and trust.

Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell by Selina Alko

Born in Canada, Joni Mitchell expressed her creativity through music and painting as a child, despite suffering from polio. She sang her songs in Toronto and then moved to New York and then California. She inspired a generation with her deeply emotional and personal songs. Joni Mitchell wrote a famous song about Woodstock because she was unable to attend.

The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter

When war comes to Iraq, librarian Alia Muhammad Baker worries about her library and its books. With the help of the community, she starts to move the books to her own home. Through Alia's courage and perseverance, much of the library collection is saved before the library burns down.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport

A biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., using quotes from his important speeches to tell the story of his life. The book includes a timeline and further resources to learn about this influential man. 

Use to discuss black history, civil rights, segregation, freedom, courage, integrity and activism.

Monsoon Afternoon by Kashmira Sheth

A boy asks everyone in his family to join him outside in the Indian monsoon rain. Everyone is busy, except for the boy’s Dadaji, grandfather. They enjoy the afternoon, noticing how the environment has changed once the rain stops. The ants have vanished; the peacocks are dancing, and the banyan leaves shine. Promotes family and cultural traditions and intergenerational relationships.

The Napping House by Audrey & Don Wood

Entering the napping house we see grandma, a child, a dog, the pet cat and a mouse all asleep on a bed. That is until a wakeful flea bites the mouse and starts a chain reaction that wakes everyone up.

Use to teach cause and effect, recurrent patterns and sequencing.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

It's pouring with rain and a girl wants to play computer games. She rushes outside when he mother tries to take the game off her, only for her to drop it in a freezing cold pond. Despite her disappointment, she explores the surrounding nature feeling like “the whole world seemed brand new as if it had been created right in front of me.”

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey

Pig the Pug was greedy and selfish in almost every way. He lived in a home with his dachshund friend, Trevor, but selfish Pig refused to share his toys with Trevor. Pig soon learns a painful lesson when he gets his just deserts.

Promotes positive behaviour, integrity responsibility and self-management.

Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole

Princess Smartypants did not want to get married, so when she sets her suitors a task they all failed except for Prince Swashbuckle. Princess Smartypants kisses his cheek, turning him into a toad. She was never bothered again.

Promotes themes of independence, gender roles and problem-solving.

Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall

When Leo donates his bike to a charity it is taken to Africa where it is used to carry goods to market and as an ambulance that travels on the rough terrain to patients in need.

Read to promote gratitude, cause & effect, social awareness and responsible decision-making.

The Red Bicycle by Jude Isabella

When Leo donates his bike to a charity it is taken to Africa where it is used to carry goods to market and as an ambulance that travels on the rough terrain to patients in need.

Read to promote gratitude, cause & effect, social awareness and responsible decision-making.

Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

A teacher helps a young girl see beyond her scary feeling for her neighbourhood. She looks for beauty in her community with the help of her neighbours. Her beautiful journey helps her feel happy and hopeful.

Promotes a sense of community, poverty, responsibility and hope.

Sparrow Girl by Sara Pennypacker

In 1958, the Chinese government ordered the eradication of all sparrows. They were blamed for destroying the nation's wheat crop, but their disappearance brought on a plague of locust. A determined Ming Li, rescues seven sparrows. She cares for, and then frees the birds, saving her village from a devastating famine.

Promotes cause & effect, compassion, inquiry and a growth mindset.

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant

In the late 1800s, Horace Pippin drew anyone around him. He filled notebooks while fighting during WWI, but when he was shot, he could not create his art. Through practice and patience, Horace regained the use of his arm and started creating art again.

Use to teach overcoming adversity, perseverance, a growth mindset and determination.

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed A City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins

Over 100 years ago, Katherine Olivia Sessions started a movement to transform the desert town of San Diego into a garden-filled oasis. Today, her parks and garden can still be found all over this green city. This biography reflects on the ideas of following your dreams and staying strong in the face of adversity.

Tuesday by David Wiesner

A small fish wearing a hat admits “this is not my hat”. He stole it from a big fish. A fish who is soon on the hunt for his hat and the dishonest fish. The fish, sure it will get away with the crime, is unaware that the big fish is searching for his hat. The last we hear of the little fish is him swimming into the reeds with the big fish following behind.

Promotes honesty, integrity, conflict and responsible decision-making.

The Umbrella Queen by Shirin Yim Bridges

The women in Noot’s Thai village paint traditional umbrellas. She joins in this tradition, but she adds her own ideas to the umbrellas. Her family depends on the money and they cannot sell her unique designs. When the king arrives, Noot’s umbrellas catch his eye, and he crowns her the umbrella queen.

Wangari Maathai by Franck Prevot

The inspiring Wangari Maathai started a movement in Africa to prevent deforestation. She encouraged African women to plant trees leading to thriving farms and communities. She then gave seedlings to men, school children and even soldiers.

The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter

Follow Jane Goodall as she becomes the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees and how she has dedicated her life to save them from extinction. Jane Goodall is also an environmentalist, conservationist and humanitarian.

The Way Home in the Night by Akiko Miyakoshi

A mother rabbit carries her young bunny home on a dark night. The little bunny observes people talking on the telephone, cooking, having a party, closing shops and saying goodbye. After her father tucks her into bed the bunny falls asleep wondering about her neighbours.

We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Penelope Rex's first day of school doesn't quite go as planned when she eats her classmates. Unsurprisingly, the other children are scared of her. She finally learns a lesson which helps her understand how her classmates feel.

Promotes empathy, self-management and making friends.

Weslandia by Paul Fleischman

A young boy called Wes creates his own sustainable civilisation called Weslandia. Reinforces themes of inquiry, identity and environmental responsibility.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

A boy named Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge lives next to an old people’s home. His favourite resident is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper. When Wilfrid finds out she has lost her memory he goes on a journey to discover what memories are so he can help Miss Nancy find hers.

Promotes a sense of community, friendship, compassion and different perspectives.

Willy the Champ by Anthony Browne

Willy is quiet, enjoys reading and listening to music. His attempts to play sports are ridiculed, but a bullied Willy discovers he has the courage to stand up for himself. Promotes themes of bullying, courage and self-esteem.

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What Next?

Do you have any favourite books to teach summarizing with your students? Let me know. 

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Picture Books to Teach Summarizing in the Classroom

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