Diving Deeper into Characters – My Favorite Read Alouds

February 15, 2017

Looking at how characters change throughout a story. Comparing characters. Completing a character study. These are some of my favorite skills to teach in my first grade classroom! I wanted to share some of my go-to read aloud books for teaching these skills!


When I teach character changes I love using:
Julius, The Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes:
This story is about a young mouse, Lily, who gets a new younger brother. I have my students really pay attention to how Lily acts and feels at the beginning of the story and we watch her feelings and actions evolve as the story continues. This story takes a turn when someone else says mean things about baby Julius. Your young students will clearly see how Lily responds and they will use their inferring skills to determine how her feelings have changed.
My Sister Gracie by Gillian Johnson:
This was a newer book to me, but I found it at my school one day and it ended up being just perfect for character changes. It is very similar to Julius, The Baby of the World in its story line. In this story, a dog, Fabio, gets his world turned upside down when his parents adopt another puppy. Fabio, had all sorts of hopes and expectations before he met his new sibling and my students love to watch his feelings change as the story goes on. Since the plot of this story and Julius are so similar, they are great to compare and contrast with one another at the end!


When teaching character comparisons, there are 2 classic books I love to use:
Frog & Toad Together by Arnold Lobel:
This collection of short stories is a must have in any primary classroom. The two main characters play off one another and compliment one another really well. They both react differently in all sorts of situations and their friendship is something special! You can really use any of the short stories in this collection to compare and contrast the two characters. I will usually start by describing all the character traits of Frog and then repeating the same with Toad. We then have a lengthy discussion about if we believe Frog and Toad’s character traits allow them to have a good friendship.
Toot & Puddle by Holly Hobbie:
This is another classic story which has many follow up stories after their original adventure. Toot and Puddle have many different interests and in this story they actually are very far away from one another throughout most of the story. As we read about their separate adventures, we discuss what their interests say about them as characters and compare their thoughts, actions, feelings and dialogue. I also love to ask my students to dig deeper and compare themselves to the characters. We discuss which character we think we are more alike and give evidence from the text to support our opinions.


After I have taught character changes and character comparisons, I like to have a complete character study of a main character in a story. We talk about who the character is, all their inner and outer traits. We discuss the character’s personality (their thoughts and actions) and we discuss the ways a character may or may not develop throughout a story. Do they grow? Do they change?


My favorite character study books are:
Brave Irene by William Steig:
This story is about a young girl who completes and errand for her mother even when it is very, very difficult to do so. As we read this story we have great discussions about why Irene is doing what she is doing and what is says about her as a character. Irene is very persistent and we can see if she evolves throughout her enduring process. We also like to discuss if Irene’s mother’s opinion changes of her daughter as well.
Koala Lou by Mem Fox:
This sweet book is about a koala whose mother loves her very much but as Koala Lou gets older she seeks her mom’s attention even more. She comes up with a plan to get her mother’s attention and as we read we study her thoughts and actions to see how they change throughout the story. *Spoiler alert* at the end of this book Koala Lou loses the games she had been training for and it teaches her a valuable lesson. This is a great opportunity to teach your students the lesson of losing gracefully and that sometimes you will try your hardest and do your best and still lose.


You can grab any of the above books on Amazon here:

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

I also created  COMPLETE read aloud lessons and response sheets for all of the above books (and more). If you want to check those out, just click the image below and you can try a FREE lesson:
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