The Missouri Reader Vol. 42, Issue 1 - Page 46



Figure 1 - Ryan's Pic Collage

The Value of the Optimal Learning Model


Heather Johnson


Classroom CloseUP

Raving Reviews

A look at today's best trade books & professional books

The first couple years of teaching my class had a bad case of, “I can’t find anything I want to read.” Despite having bins of award winners, popular series, and some funny picture books, my humble library struggled to keep my students satisfied. My initial attempts to



Groovy Joe- Ice Cream and Dinosaurs

● Author: Eric Litwin,

● Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld

● Grade Level: K-3

● Independent Reading Level

2nd Grade

● Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

● Genre: Fiction

Groovy Joe is a story about a dog who loves his doggy ice cream. I love Groovy Joe because he is a positive role model for our students. In this story, Joe is eating his doggy ice cream when his dinosaur friends come over and want some too. Everything is fine until they run out of ice cream! What will Joe do?

Groovy Joe is an excellent book, especially for young readers! One of the things I love about the book is the repetitive, rhyming text. The repetitive text makes this book a great choice for our emerging readers because it is easy to catch on. My other favorite part about the book is that it has a song to go with it!

I teach music grades K-2, so this book is the perfect addition to our music room. Not only is the rhyming text great for our young readers, but it’s also great for practicing steady beat too! Language and rhythm go hand-in-hand and it is my goal as a music teacher for my students to not only grow as musicians during their time spent with me in music class, but to grow as readers too.

Kara Stein teaches K-2 music in Bonne Terre, Missouri. She is in the master's program for Literacy at Missouri State University.

Thelma the Unicorn

Author: Aaron Blabey

● Scholastic Australia, 2015

● Grade Level Equivalent- K-3

● Independent Reading Level- 2-3

● Rating: 4 stars

● Genre- Fiction

Thelma the Unicorn is a story about a young pony’s dream about becoming a fashionable unicorn. Her best friend tried to convince her she was perfect just the way she was, but Thelma compared herself to the other beautiful ponies, but she just was not satisfied. A simple wish turned into reality. She quickly discovered that being a unicorn was overrated. The life of stardom was too much to handle. She longed to have her own life back, so she ditched the sparkles and fame, realizing that she was much happier just the way she was.

We thoroughly enjoyed this book. Blabey writes about being happy with who you are. This is especially important to young readers who may already be feeling the pressure to match up to their peers. With the rhyming words, impressive vocabulary, and brilliant illustrations, this book is a must read! Pretending to be something you’re not is a lot harder than it looks!

Amber Bowler and Kara Malley are currently elementary teachers, grades 3-5, for Springfield Public Schools. They are both in the Master's program with Missouri State University and are both on track to receive a Master's degree in Literacy in May.

Inside Out & Back Again

• Author: Thanhha Lai, 2011

• Appropriate grade level: 3-5

• Guided reading level: U

• Rating: 4 stars

• Genre: Historical fiction

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai is a story about a young girl’s journey as she travels from Saigon, Vietnam, to Alabama. Há is only ten years old when her family is forced to move to the United States because of the Vietnam War.

After her family is forced to flee Saigon, they traveled by boat to the United States. On the boat, they faced sickness, starvation, and depression. Once Há’s family arrived in the United States, they were sponsored by an American family from Alabama.

Throughout the story, Há has a difficult time transitioning from the Vietnamese culture to the American culture. She constantly gets teased by her peers at school and yearns to go back to Saigon. Throughout this time, Há misses her father immensely as he was a soldier labeled as missing in action.