Looking for fun and effective picture books to teach story retelling in the classroom? These picture books are engaging, great for students of all ages and levels, help improve comprehension, and provide a helpful tool for retelling stories.
Why Use Picture Books to Teach Retelling a Story?
Retelling is a foundational reading skill. It involves identifying the important parts of the story in order, including characters, setting, problem and solution. Retelling develops sequencing skills, print concepts, descriptive vocabulary, thinking skills, and visualisation techniques.
Picture books are a great way to help students learn how to retell stories. They offer colourful illustrations, engaging stories, and creative characters that help children focus and stay engaged.
Teaching retelling skills through picture books can help your students remember stories better and develop language, comprehension, and creativity with their vibrant illustrations, understandable language, and imaginative characters.
Retelling a Story Strategies
There are a couple of retelling strategies many teachers use.
1. Use the transitional words first, then, next, after that and finally/lastly. This vocabulary helps students focus on the order of events.
2. Story maps help students focus on the most important story elements, including determining the principal characters, setting, problem, and solution.
Prompts and Questions to Use When Retelling a Story
- Retell the story in your own words.
- Retell the most important events in the story from the beginning, middle and end.
- Retell the most important events in order.
- Who was the story about?
- How did the story begin?
- What happened at the beginning?
- When did the story happen?
- What was the setting(s)?
- What happened next? Then what happened?
- What’s happened to [character] so far?
- What did [character] do next?
- What did [character] do after [event/action]?
- What was the [character’s] problem?
- How did [character] solve the problem?
- How did the story end?
FREE Activities for Teaching Comprehension Skills
Would you like some free graphic organisers for teaching comprehensive skills, including retelling?
Fill out the form below for the FREE activities to be sent to your inbox.
Click the image to the left to explore the full pack of resources to teach retelling and sequencing.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything through them, I will get a small referral fee, and you will support me and my blog at no extra cost, so thank you! You can find more information here.
Picture Books to Teach Retelling a Story
Many picture books in your classroom or school library will work for teaching retelling. Don't forget wordless picture books. They encourage students to focus on storytelling and comprehension rather than ‘remembering' the text when retelling a story.
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.
Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems
Piggie and Gerald think creatively about including their new friend in a game of catch. Promotes problem-solving, compromise, fairness and relationships skills.
Chalk by Bill Thomson
Three children use their imagination to create real-life objects after finding magic chalk. This wordless picture book promotes creativity, friendship, responsible decision-making, creative thinking, problem-solving and retelling.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Chrysanthemum loves her name, but she gets teased for its uniqueness on her first day of school. When her music teacher reveals she is naming her baby Chrysanthemum, everyone wants to change their name to a flower.
Promotes identity, friendships and self-management.
Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
Farmer Brown’s cows type him a letter demanding electric blankets. They go on strike when he refuses their demands. Duck takes an ultimatum from Farmer Brown to the cows, and they agree to exchange the typewriter for the blankets. But, the next day, Farmer Brown gets a note from the ducks demanding a diving board for their pond!
Read to discuss communication, persuasion, activism, knowledge, problem & solution, fairness, and resourcefulness.
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.
Read to discuss communication, open-mindedness, identity, and making connections.
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
When Jeremy Ross moves to town, a boy’s life changes for the worse. He is Jeremy’s enemy. Dad advises making 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.
Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe
A young boy loves the jar full of fireflies he has just caught, but he sets them free to keep them alive when their light starts dim. Use to discuss visualizing, summer, inference, making connections, freedom, first-person narration, and responsible decision-making.
Flotsam by David Wiesner
A young boy discovers an old camera on a beach. When he develops the images, they are not what he expected. He discovers an underwater world he didn’t know existed. One photo shows a child holding a photo of another child, who is also holding a photo of a child and so on. They all returned the camera to the beach for someone else to discover its magic.
Read this wordless book to discuss inference, making connections, and interpretation.
Goldilocks and Just One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson
A bear takes shelter in an empty apartment in Snooty Towers. He tastes some food, but it is too soggy or too crunchy. He sits on the cat and bursts a beanbag chair. When the family return, the bear recognises the mummy. It is Goldilocks all grown up!
Compare and contrast with the original Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Hike by Pete Oswald
This wordless book shows a father and child for a day in the mountains. They spend the day hiking, planting a tree, throwing snowballs and taking photographs. They return home and look through a photo album of different generations of the family enjoying nature.
Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia O'Hara
Hortense tries everything to leave her shadow behind. Finally, she escapes it by slamming the window to cut it off. When the shadow returns to scare off bandits, Hortense realises her shadow is indispensable to who she is.
Journey by Aaron Becker
This is the first of two books great for retelling a story by Aaron Becker. A lonely girl escapes into a mysterious world and witnesses an evil emperor capture a majestic bird. With courage, the girl outsmarts the emperor's army to set the bird free.
Journey is a wordless picture book that promotes confidence, perseverance, problem-solving, risk-taking and creative thinking.
Koala Lou by Mem Fox
This is the first of two books great for retelling a story by Mem Fox. Koala Lou worries when her busy mother forgets to tell her how much she loves her. She sets out to win the Bush Olympics to win back her mother's love. She doesn't win but realises she has never lost her mother's love.
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 community's help, she moves the books to her own home. Through Alia's courage and perseverance, much of the library collection is saved before the library burns down.
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
A mouse is captured by a lion who unexpectedly gives the mouse its freedom. When hunters trap the lion, the mouse bravely gnaws through the rope and returns the lion’s good deed by setting him free.
This wordless picture book promotes gratitude, cause and effect, kindness and courage.
Little Red by Bethan Woollvin
Little Red comes across a wolf, but she's not scared. As she continues her journey to Grandma’s house, the wolf rushes to the house and eats Grandma. Little Red looks through the window to see the badly disguised wolf. Rather than a huntsman coming to her rescue, Little Red saves herself. Compare and contrast with the original Little Red Riding Hood.
Lon Po Po by Ed Young
A mother leaves her three daughters at home while she visits her mother, Po Po. A wolf visits the sisters, and the younger one lets it in. The two older sisters have to devise a plan to escape and kill the wolf. Compare and contrast this Chinese version of Little Red Riding Hood with other versions.
Me and You by Anthony Browne
In Anthony Browne’s version of Goldilocks, we discover the motivation behind her visit to the Bear’s house. Alone and living in a disadvantaged area, she comes across a bright and inviting home. As she goes inside, we see events from the perceptive of the bears, giving the reader the chance to compare both sides of the story.
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
Mufaro's two daughters react differently to the King's search for a wife – one is aggressive and selfish, the other kind and dignified. The king disguises himself to learn the true nature of both girls and chooses Nyasha, the kind and generous daughter, to be the queen.
This African folktale promotes themes of jealousy, vanity and kindness.
Over the Shop by JonArno Lawson
This is the first of two books great for retelling a story by JonArno Lawson. A little girl and her grandmother live and work in their general store. The grandmother is unsure of renting a shabby apartment to an interested couple. The girl intervenes, and the couple brings the building to life with optimism and hard work. Their positivity spreads, and the grandmother slowly accepts the couple as part of the family.
Read this wordless book to discuss acceptance, different perspectives, open-mindedness, assumptions, and a positive attitude.
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Princess Elizabeth saves her fiancé Prince Ronald from a dragon, only for him to tell her to clean herself up and look like a princess. Elizabeth happily skips into the sunset by herself.
Promotes gender roles, independence, self-esteem and strong female characters.
Pool by JiHyeon Lee
A boy stands in his goggles and dives into a pool full of people. He meets a girl who shows him the way to a forest of fish and plants. They play with the fish and watch a whale before it leads them to break cover in the busy pool.
This wordless book promotes relationship skills and creativity.
The Princess and the Pea by Rachel Isadora
During a terrible storm, there was a loud knock on a palace door. A young woman enters from the rain and is given a bed for the night. After an uncomfortable night sleeping on forty mattresses on top of a pea, the royal family knows she is a real princess. Compare and contrast with the original The Princess and the Pea.
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
Princess Smartypants did not want to get married, so when she set 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.
Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson
This is the second of two books great for retelling a story by JonArno Lawson. A girl picks colourful flowers poking up through the cracks in the pavement. She places her flowers on a dead sparrow, a sleeping man and into a dog’s collar. She places flowers in her mother’s hair and a few on her brother’s head at home.
This wordless book promotes kindness, generosity, making a difference and inference.
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 could not create his art when shot. 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.
A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker
This is the second of two books great for retelling a story by Aaron Becker. A girl grieves the loss of her dog Sascha in this wordless picture book. The family goes on holiday, but without Sascha, it won’t be the same. The girl finds a golden stone in the ocean and can only imagine how it got there. She takes it home to mark her beloved dog’s grave.
Promotes resilience, self-reflection, cause and effect and compassion.
The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas
Three little wolves head out into the world to build new study homes. But these houses are no match for the big bad pig. The wolves have to be innovative to outwit the pig.
Use to compare and contrast with other versions of the Three Little Pigs and discuss creative thinking, bullying, different points of view, and forgiveness.
Tough Boris by Mem Fox
This is the second of two books great for retelling a story by Mem Fox. Boris von der Borch is like all pirates, tough, mean and greedy. But a young boy discovers a softer side when the pirate’s pet parrot dies. Use in the classroom to discuss gender stereotypes, making connections, word choice, and drawing conclusions.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
The reader gets to decide who is telling the truth in this fractured fairy tale of The Three Little Pigs. The wolf insists he was just trying to borrow some sugar to make a birthday cake for his poor old granny.
Promotes different perspectives, persuasion and honesty.
Wallpaper by Thao Lam
A young girl is too shy to approach other children when she moves to a new house. She picks at the layers of wallpaper in her bedroom and discovers a mysterious world. She plays with imaginary friends and is chased by a monster she finds is not to be feared. Back in her bedroom, she has the courage to say hello to the children playing outside.
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, schoolchildren and even soldiers.
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 that helps her understand how her classmates feel.
Promotes empathy, self-management and making friends.
The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse by Mac Barnett
When a wolf swallows a mouse, he thinks his life is over, only to discover a duck who has made himself at home. When a hunter decides to kill the wolf, the pair must cooperate and bravely decide to save their lives.
Promotes themes of cooperation, courage, problem-solving and creative thinking.
Of course, you will have picture books to teach retelling in your classroom or school library. This is just a collection of books that will hopefully spark some ideas for other books you can use in your classroom.
Here are a few videos you can use with your students that go through how to retell a story.
1 thought on “Incredible Power of Picture Books to Teach Retelling”
What a lovely, brilliant, amazing article of yours. Cant wait to read more on this regarding this topic. Thanks!