20 Best Books for the Classroom, Chosen by Primary Teachers
It’s Libraries Week once again, and people up and down the country are sharing their favourite books to inspire, teach and bring joy this October. In the spirit of the occasion, we asked the PlanBee team and primary teachers across the country to share their best books for the classroom to compile an online must-have stack of books for KS1 and KS2. Here’s a rundown of what they recommended, along with lesson plans and activity ideas to keep young audiences engaged.
Best book for the classroom, chosen by primary teachers
‘The Day The Crayons Quit/Came Home’ by Drew Daywait - KS1.
This playful and imaginative book about an angry box of colourful crayons will have your class laughing and playing with their crayons in a whole new way. During the first instalment, the crayons have had enough and are bickering with each other. In the sequel to the best-seller, ‘The Day The Crayons Came Home’, the set are lost, forgotten and broken, but plan a comeback! A favourite mentioned by a number of our primary teachers which your kids will love.
Source: Penguin Random House
‘Traction Man is Here!’ by Mini Grey - KS1
This popular book series by Mini Grey turns an average home into the setting for a series of adventures between the combat-boot-wearing Traction Man and his boy owner. Capers include the Mysterious Toes in the bath and the Lost Wreck of the Sieve while his owner does the washing up. This book invites you into the world of children’s play brilliantly.
Source: Penguin Random House
‘The Bog Baby’ - by Jeanne Willis and Gwen Millward - KS1
The prolific writer, Jeanne Willis, penned her first story aged 5. She has now written more than 80 titles and has won numerous awards. She teamed up with illustrator Gwen Millward to create The Bog Baby: a tale about a curious creature found by two sisters in a magic pond. The book is an exercise in reminiscing about a childhood event and how to write an engaging narrative for primary-level readers.
Source: World Of Books
‘Jampires’ by Sarah McIntyre - KS1
Create a Halloween atmosphere in the classroom all year round with the spooky tale of ‘Jampires’, aimed at children aged 3-5. The Jampires, which are little creatures discovered by a boy called Sam, take readers on a very sweet adventure ‘through the star-speckled blue’ to Jampire Land which is filled with confectionery of all shapes and sizes. A charming tale that’s just a little bit silly!
‘Babette’ by Clare Turlay Newberry - KS1
A classic tale for today’s classroom, ‘Babette’ is being reissued for another generation of story lovers to enjoy. All animal lovers will enjoy the story of a little kitten on big adventures. Teachers and parents alike may remember this as a childhood favourite, which is as good now as it was during its release back in 1942.
‘Beegu’ by Alexis Deacon - KS1
The charming illustration and captivating story of a little creature lost on Earth wins high praise from teachers for its uplifting message that small acts of kindness can have lasting effects. A great book to accompany a KS1 Education for Social Responsibility lesson plan about kindness, like our Being Kind to You and Me mini scheme.
Source: World Of Books
‘There’s A Snake In My School’ by David Walliams - KS1
This funny picture book for children three years and over comes from Britain’s best-selling children’s author David Walliams. It follows the day in the life of a school on bring your pet to school day. Miranda, who loves to be different, decides to bring in her pet snake to the dismay of her fraught teacher. Be warned: your class may want to follow suit after this reading session!
‘The Bear and the Piano’ by David Litchfield - KS1
One day, a bear stumbles across a strange object: a piano. Over time, he learns how to play the instrument and the beautiful tunes can be heard across the forest. Eventually, the bear heads to New York to become a star. Plenty of teaching ideas have been inspired by this book, including creating colourful posters to promote the bear in New York, retelling the story from the bear’s point of view and writing instructions on how to play the piano.
‘Grandad’s Secret Giant’ by David Litchfield - KS1
The same author which brought us ‘The Bear and the Piano’ describes a grandson who doesn’t believe his grandad when he tells him that there’s a giant living in town. He remains stubborn until he sees the giant for himself, which leads him to question whether the giant is misunderstood. A classic tale of ‘never judge a book by its cover’, your young class will love the colourful illustrations, its uplifting ending and rich descriptions.
Source: Literacy Shed
‘The Tunnel’ by Anthony Brown - KS1
What’s through the tunnel? Plenty of children will relate to this tale about a brother and sister who don’t get along, but find their sense of adventure and friendship. One unexpected day, the brother crawls through a mysterious tunnel and the two must find their way back somehow, through dense forest and other obstacles. The story encourages hours of imaginative unravelling that’ll involve the whole class.
‘Jolly Postman’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg - KS1
This colourful picture book follows a jolly postman as he cycles through town, delivering letters to an array of familiar creatures - including a letter from Goldilocks to the three bears apologising for the mistakes she made while staying at their house. An imaginative book which brings together classic fairy tales from around the world in a cohesive and playful way, - it’s sure to stimulate plenty of discussion in the classroom.
‘The Storm Whale’ by Benji Davies - KS1
At its heart, ‘The Storm Whale’ is a charming and engaging tale about friendship. A little boy and his father live by the sea with only cats for company. One day, the boy finds a small whale washed up on the beach and decides to take it home to look after. Eventually, the whale is discovered in the bath and the boy is persuaded to take the whale back to the sea where it belongs. The narrative is both emotional and heart-warming and the beautiful illustrations provide great prompts for discussion - ideally for Years 1 and 2.
Best book for the classroom, chosen by the PlanBee team
Pyjama Jones by J A Jennings - KS2
Kids - aimed at ages 9-11 - will love this action-packed adventure story which discovers hidden civilisations close to home. A brilliant book to link with Ancient Egypt primary resources as it focuses on a group of survivors from Ancient Egypt who have made their home underground over the millennia.
‘Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore’ by W. E. Joyce - KS2
Remember to show students the short animation which accompanies this popular book to inspire their own fantastic flying stories. Each page in this surreal and uplifting book holds a new surprise, making it a great resource to complement your creative writing and art primary lesson plans.
‘The Book with no Pictures’ by BJ Novak - KS1 & KS2
Fill in the blanks with this popular BJ Novak book. If you thought that a book without pictures would be dull, think again. Everything in the book must be read aloud, no matter how silly or ridiculous the word, making it brilliant to read aloud to younger children and a great story for making older children see the power of words and writing for an audience.
‘Angry Arthur’ by Hiawyn Oram - KS1
From acclaimed author, Hiawyn Oram, comes the tale of a boy called Arthur, who, like most boys and girls, becomes angry when his mother doesn’t let him stay up late. He creates angry thunderstorms and hurricanes before the storm calms and he drifts off to sleep. A fun way to explore familiar emotions before bedtime with a young class.
‘Heart in a Bottle’ by Oliver Jeffers - KS1
This book breaks down the challenging reality of loss, and what happens when we lock away loss, for primary-aged children. Oliver Jeffers tackles life’s darkest moments for children in a gentle, intelligent and imaginative way by following the journey of a little girl who loses her father, with brilliant illustrations along the way.
‘Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus’ by Mo Willems - KS1
This engaging, prize-winning picture book by Mo Willems tells the story of a pigeon who tries to whine, fib and flatter in order to drive a bus. Told through bold and colourful pictures, entirely in speech bubbles, ‘Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus’ requires plenty of audience participation!
‘The Wolves In The Walls’ by Neil Gaiman - KS2
Neil Gaiman’s books are brilliant for slightly older children. The award-winning ‘The Wolves In The Walls’ is known for its strong female voice and artwork which pushes the boundaries of graphic design for children. We recommend this book for a Year 3 class, which is sure to inspire their own creepy stories.
‘The Graveyard Book’ by Neil Gaiman - KS2
Make this book reading a regular fixture at the end of the day. Slightly older children will appreciate the slightly more mature themes featured in the book, which centres around ghosts, ghouls and mortality.
Have we missed your best books?
Join the conversation. Tell us your best books to read with your class by using our @PlanBee tag and #LibrariesWeek hashtag on Twitter and we’ll update the list!
“One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” - Malala Yousafzai