Thirteen years ago I was assigned to a student teaching position in Kindergarten at Windsor Hills Elementary School in Putnam City, a suburb of Oklahoma City. It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget, but one of the moments that stands out to me was the day my assigned classroom’s wonderful veteran teacher told me what she wanted me to use as my theme to teach when my professor came to evaluate me as I taught that roomful of 20 young children in late October. She said one word – ‘monsters.’
She had always used that as her theme for this particular week and so that was the theme she wanted me to use, as well. I was crushed. As a boy, I was scared to death of monsters and spent many creepy nights sleeping outside my parent’s bedroom in my Battlestar Galactica sleeping bag.
Now here I was faced with having to create a five-day curriculum for little girls and boys about the one thing that surely sent them fleeing on most nights – monsters! To make a long story short, it went wonderfully well (this was one great teacher and I trusted her) and I had the time of my life. We used the puppets of Where the Wild Things Are and learned Monster tunes for Kids that my daughters and I made up at night and I taught to the children the next morning in circle time. We completed math lessons with monsters and wrote stories and talked about scary monsters and funny monsters and fears and worries and everything in between. The whole room was a monster wonderland! I also collected quite a variety of great children’s books with monster themes during that semester of my life. Here are a few of our favorite short read-alouds to celebrate some reading time with your little ones during this especially monstrous week of the year:
1. Ten Creepy Monsters by Carey Armstrong-Ellis (Harry N. Abrams, 2012) – Julie Roach and School Library Journal reviewed the book for Preschool to Grade 2 and wrote, “When ten creepy monsters meet beneath a pine tree, they get into all sorts of trouble that helps readers count backward from ten to one…After the second to last monster-a vampire-rushes off in the sunrise, readers are left with one monster hurrying home. An abandoned mask, strewn candy, and a sleeping boy tell the rest of the story. Fun for Halloween or for counting anytime.”
2. Monster Mischief by Pamela Jane (2001, Scholastic) – This is a wonderfully inventive book of creative monsters visiting a monster home to trick or treat for Halloween. This quote from the book sums up the fun, “On Halloween, for trick or treat, five monsters mixed a stew to eat of which they never ate a bite, because their stew ran off that night. A few, I know, are glad of that – spider, lizard, frog and bat!”
3. Haunted Halloween: A Choose Your Own Adventure Book #37 by Susan Sanders (1986, Bantam-Skylark) – If you grew up in the 1980’s in America, this was the hottest series on the bookshelf. It is still around and still exciting and interesting and interactive. If you don’t remember how it works, the reader reads a few pages and then at a key point in the story there are two questions at the bottom of the page. You must choose your own adventure at this point, sometimes for good and sometimes for not! These are so much fun and your kids need to be reading them – there are many choices so I was happy that we had this one for Halloween week here at Father Knows Books! In this book, “it is halloween night and you’ve been invited to a costume party at an old, spooky mansion.”
4. Monster Pops Counting 123: How Many Monsters Can You See by Gill Davies (2002, Parragon Publishing) – “Discover a pop-up surprise on each page as you enjoy a monstrously good counting rhyme.” This book is super for preschool and Kindergartners, as well…and who doesn’t love a pop-up book!
5. The Teeny Tiny Ghost by Kay Winters (1997, Scholastic) – a wonderful children’s picture book with a great read-aloud style and wonderful illustrations by Lynn Munsinger. It is the story of a “timid teeny tiny ghost. He lived in a teeny tiny house with two teeny tiny black cats.” He is scared of scary stories and hides when he hears himself say “boo!” When his friends come for a surprise costume party, things indeed take a turn for the better.