10 Picture Books to Teach Summarizing and Retelling in 2023

A highly effective way to teach summarizing and retelling to elementary students is to read aloud a picture book that lends itself to teaching this reading strategy. Reading aloud a picture book facilitates a learning experience where you can model how to use summarizing and retelling to better understand the text and engage students in their learning by asking related questions. Below is a list of 10 picture books for teaching summarizing and retelling. Check out the full list, as well as the teaching resources that go with them!

10 Picture Books to Teach Summarizing and Retelling

Below are 10 picture books for teaching summarizing and retelling.

1. The Other Side by Jacqueline Woods

This summer, the fence that separated the two sides felt longer to Clover. Clover’s mom told her she cannot cross the fence because it separates where the white people and black people lived. But each day, she saw a white girl playing and sitting on the fence. Eventually, these two become friends and hope for days when the fence will be taken down. This story lends itself to the skill of retelling, as there are clear characters and a setting, as well as a beginning, middle, and end. Check out these The Other Side activities!

The Other Side book and activitiesLaxmi's Mooch activities and book cover

2. Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand

Laxmi never gave much thought to the hair above her lip. That is, until when pretend playing with her friends, they said she should be a cat. Laxmi wanted to be a chicken, not a cat, but her friends said she had the whiskers for it. She ran home and asked her parents for answers. This story provides a clear problem and solution, making it a great resource for teaching the skill of retelling. Check out these Laxmi’s Mooch activities!

3. Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale

Clark is a shark and gets really excited when he is at school! He talks really loudly, plays really hard, gets overly excited, and has a hard time making good choices. His classmates start to be annoyed with him. Clark’s teacher Mrs. Inkydink teaches him that being excited is okay but we have to remember to stay cool at school. This story lends itself to teaching retelling as the students can identify the characters, setting, problem, and solution. Check out these Clark the Shark activities!

Clark the Shark book coverDo Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library book cover

4. Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library by Julie Gassman and Andy Elkerton

There are many rules to follow when visiting the library: no running, no shouting and you must take care of the books. However, the most important rule that everyone must follow is not to bring a dragon to the library. Students can practice summarizing this story and retelling why dragons are not allowed in libraries. Check out these Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library activities!

5. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

At bedtime, grandpa told a tall tale bedtime story, inspired by pancake breakfast… In the town of Chewandswallow, there was a main street, a school, and lots of pets and all meals came from the sky. Life in the town was wonderful, that is, until the weather took a turn for the worse. This story is a great resource for students to practice retelling, as there are many steps to identify in the plot! Check out these Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs activities!

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs book coverElmer book and activity

6. Elmer by David McKee 

Elmer is not elephant colored, he is patchwork. So when Elmer goes to a berry bush, he gets the idea to cover himself with the juice. But will this help him fit in with the others? This story is a great resource for teaching students about problems and solutions when it comes to character development and identity. Check out these Elmer activities!

7. Everyone Loves Cupcake by Kelly Dipucchio 

Cupcake was perfect in every way, but eventually people thought she was too perfect. She sought out Cookie, who gave her advice: just be yourself. Cupcake embraced this advice and shouted that she hates birthday parties and that her frosting isn’t even her real color! This story allows students to practice identifying the characters, setting, problem, and solution in a fun and cupcake-filled way! Check out these Everyone Loves Cupcake activities!

Everyone Loves Cupcake book coverFatima's Great Outdoors book and activity

8. Fatima’s Great Outdoors by Ambreen Tariq

One weekend, Fatima’s family picked her from school and tried a new American pastime: camping! They drove to a state park, built their tent, cooked dinner, and slept under the stars. This story beautifully intertwines Fatima’s Indian family cultures, backgrounds, and challenges providing great practice for retelling! Check out these Fatima’s Great Outdoors activities!

9. Listening with My Heart by Gabi Garcia

Esperanza finds a heart-shaped rock and tells herself to listen with this heart for everything she does. Using the rock, she rescues a kitten and is friendly to others. When her rock breaks, Esperanza is forced to give herself some compassion as well. Having a clear beginning, middle, and end, students can retell the story of Esperanza and her journey with the rock. Check out these Listening with My Heart activities!

Listening with my Heart book coverKamala and Maya's Big Idea book cover

10. Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea by Meena Harris

Kamala and Maya had the great idea of turning the courtyard in their building into a playground. After all, it wasn’t being used and it would give the children a place to play. However, the landlord kept saying no. That is, until more people helped! The neighbors, children and landlord were all impressed with Kamala and Maya and what they were able to accomplish. This story shows the resilience of these two characters and how they changed a problem into a solution. Check out these Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea activities!

In closing, we hope you found this list of picture books to teach summarizing and retelling helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in these posts:

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