Read Alouds: Male Characters

If you're looking to add more male leads to your picture books collection,  I've curated a list of newer (2017 +), diverse texts that have been positively reviewed from sources like Kirus, Booklist, Publisher's Weekly and SLJ.


I've personally read each one of these gems and below you'll find my summaries that support their themes. Each title listed offers a strong male character and a heartwarming, upbeat message that's perfect for a bedtime or classroom discussion.

  • David Jumps In by Alan Woo (2020) - The first day of school and a brand new school! David wishes he had some friends as he watches other kids play at recess together. David discovers that asking others to play can be scary but rewarding. A great school story for playing at recess and including others.
    Woo, Alan. David Jumps In. Kids Can Press, 2020.

  • When Grandpa Gives You A Toolbox by Jamie L.B. Deenihan (2020) - When a little boy receives an undesired gift from Grandpa, he learns that his toolbox has the powers to help others, bring people together and in the end... build what he really wanted and more. A very cute read with a total maker mindset.
    Deenihan, Jamie L.B. When Grandpa Gives You a Toolbox. Sterling Children's Book, 2020.
  • The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes (2019) - Follows a royal and exciting account of a little King's first day of Kindergarten! It's told in a charming and fun way that will leave littles excited about their first year in school.
    Barnes, Derrick. The King of Kindergarten. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019. 

  • The One Day House by Julia Durango (2017) - Young Wilson has a long list of "one day" fixes for his elderly neighbor, Gigi's, house. But One Day turns into NOW when the neighbors volunteer and help him with this fixer upper of an idea to help out Gigi. It offers bold examples of kindness and volunteering!
    Durango, Julia. The One Day House. Charlesbridge, 2020.
  • The Bagel King by Andrew Larsen (2018) - When a Sunday bagel tradition comes to a halt, Eli learns his grandfather slipped and fell. Will Eli be able to join forces with the neighbors and surprise his grandpa, Zaida with their bagel tradition? We learn it's more than just a bagel Sunday.
    Larsen, Andrew. The Bagel King. Kids Can Press, 2018.

  • Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall (2017)  - Jabari is ready for his first big jump off the diving board... or is he? While at the pool, Jabari's dad offers, a nervous Jabari,  some advice that helps him overcome his fear so he can make a splash. A great text for making connections about overcoming fears or growth mindset.
    Cornwall, Gaia. Jabari Jumps. Candlewick Press, 2017. 

  • Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (2018) - One day when Julian and Nana see beautiful mermaids, Julian sees himself as one. At home, he gathers items to dress-up like the beautiful  mermaids he had seen... and Nana walks in on him. She embraces Julian and takes him to see other mermaids like him. An amazing and impactful read about acceptance!
    Love, Jessica. Julian is a Mermaid. Candlewick Press, 2018.
  • The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee (2020)Told using Dragons and Kings, One a late night, Daniel unexpectedly gets to join his parents at their night time janitorial job, "The Paper Kingdom". While there, Daniel sees his hard-working family clean up after the dragons and the King. The text pays tribute to hard-working families and inspiring change to all the future Kings and Dragons out there.
    Rhee, Helena Ku. The Paper Kingdom. Random House, 2020.
  • Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka (2017) Inspired by word around him, Niko loves to draw but his friends and family don't always see what he tries to convey until one day he meets his new neighbor,  Iris. With her help, Niko discovers that his type of art evokes feelings in others. 
    Raczka, Bob. Niko Draws a Feeling. Carolhoda Books, 2017. 

  • Teddy's Favorite Toy by Christian Trimmer (2018) - One morning, Teddy accidentally breaks his favorite doll, Bren-da and is unable to fix her before school. Bren-da's fate becomes worse when Mom accidentally tosses her into the trash...  Mom goes to great lengths to save Bren-da but will she be able to reunite Teddy and his doll? A great text for talking gender stereotypes.
    Trimmer, Christian. Teddy's Favorite Toy. Atheneum Books, 2018.
  • It's Not A Bed, It's a Time Machine by Mickey Rapkin (2019) -  A boy scared of bedtime, that's reminded to be brave, imagines his bed is a time machine transporting him and his stuffed toy, Floppy, to dreamland adventures. Super cute if you have a little one displaying some bedtime fears!
    Rapkin, Mickey. It's not a bed, It's a time machine. Macmillan Publishing Group, 2019.

  • It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton (2019) - Liam loved mail so much that he started making written requests to his mailbox. As all the goodies piled up,  Liam realized he has too much for just himself and decides that giving his mail to other kids is just as exciting as receiving it.
    Clanton, Ben. It Came in the Mail. Simon and Schuster, 2019. 

Small Group Tool: Batons

If there's one teaching "tool" that I can't pass up at Bullseyes's Playground every season, it's the light up batons! I've been collecting them since 2018 and have certainly become a small group must have for my kiddos and here's why...


  • They bring that extra layer of engagement and movement to the teacher table.
  • They make phonics fluency and warm-ups feel like a GAME. 
  • They're so adaptable, you can truly "smash" anything... picture cards, mats, index cards, flash cards and I'm sure so much more.
  • They help offer variety to our normal routine of magnetic letters or matching cards. 
                                                                                                               Phonics, Crab SMASH

I've used the batons in a variety of ways for word work and letter practice at the small group table. The most low-prep and efficient way that I've found is... in a game mat format & giving oral directions like saying, find the picture that starts with the /m/ sound. Another easy-breezy way, that requires NO cutting, is using those coveted magnetic letters. Hold it up, slap it to a cookie sheet and you're good to go on making its sound and smashing the answer. 



Sight word review AKA sight word RACING... We generally learn 2-3 sight words per week, so I like to combine 2 weeks worth of words for a small group warm up. Prior to scattering, the kids and I spell and read the words. Then, I'll just randomly call a word that's part of the assortment and the kids race trying to be the first to smash it. 



Letter fun! I feel this particular mat gets used the most often and in a variety of ways. Again, I'm all about low-prep, so I like to mix it up with showing magnetic letters for upper/lowercase matching, saying letter names, making the sounds, or using picture cards to practice initial sounds. No matter which way, my kiddos know to find the letter and smash it.





No batons, wands? No problem, have your kiddos flip over an unsharpened pencil and use the eraser or pencil topper part.  Then, TEST IT OUT with this VOWEL freebie mat.