Cover of book How to Read a Story by Kate MessnerThe Common Core introduces informational and explanatory writing to children as young as kindergarten. How do you explain how to books to kindergarteners? Most of the titles on the shelves of the library are going to be more technical or involved than is appropriate for such young readers.

Here’s the solution! This charming “how to” book is likely to become a staple mentor text for those very young elementary school classes and will probably make its way into older classrooms as well. I would have loved to have had this book as a reference in fourth grade before I wrote that essay on how to make a sandwich!

In the book, Kate Messner walks the reader through the ten steps to reading a book. Her writing is clear and straightforward–as you’d expect from an explanatory text–but within her numbered list, we get tantalizing, whimsical hints about another story, the book being read, about a princess, a dragon, and a robot. The technical, even dry process of explanation is lightened by the whimsy. Perhaps someday soon an enterprising fourth grader will write an essay called, “How to Write a Story,” and give us the whole story.

Mark Siegel’s illustrations add a light, fun, cartoony touch.

This website has a great story on how one class used this book. Don’t miss the wonderful kids’ illustrations in Part 3!

How to Read a Story, by Kate Messner, illustrated by Mark Siegel. Chronicle Books: 2015