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Top 10 Read Alouds for Elementary Makerspaces

I am so excited to have stumbled upon some AMAZING picture books for my elementary Makerspace over the past couple years! There is nothing quite like kicking off Makerspace time or a STEM challenge with a captivating read aloud to encourage our students to make meaningful connections with text and inspire them to play, explore, invent, and create. (Read more about my classroom Makerspace HERE.) I’m always on the lookout for new titles to add to our Makerspace library! Here are the common themes and characteristics to watch for as you’re browsing Online or your local bookstore:

Let’s count down my current Top Ten Read Alouds for Elementary Makerspaces! Thank you so much to my brilliant Instagram “maker friends” (@primaryscouts, @iteacherlauren, @teachergolz and MANY more inspiring teachers) for bringing these beautiful picture books into our classroom library and helping us “set the stage” for making! Also, check out my Top Ten Read Alouds for Elementary STEM for more picture book ideas!

Top 10 Makerspace Picture Books

About the Book:

Oh, Molly Lou. Who hasn’t fallen in love with her after reading Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon? Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell is a companion book that helps us fall in love with her all over again. Molly Lou’s grandmother shares stories of her youth, playing with twigs, flowers, and household junk to create her own toys and games. When a new girl moves in next door and is stuck in the world of store-bought toys, Molly Lou shows her that the best thing to play with is a huge imagination. The story line is sweet and simple, proving that kids don’t need fancy devices and toys to “make their own fun.”

Why I Love It:

Molly Lou’s unique, self-assured character is so easy for kids to identify with and admire. This book is perfect to kick off outdoor engineering and imaginative play as days get warmer in the spring and summer. In an age when parents are pressured to overindulge and buy the next hottest toys on the market for their kids, I love how this book encourages kids (and parents too!) to get “back to the basics” and use their imaginations to create their own playful experiences.

The Perfect Follow-up Maker Activity:

Let your students experience the joy and wonder of engineering in the outdoors! Give them large ziplock baggies and head outside to collect found items from nature. Allow them to use their materials to create toys, games, nature scenes, and other inventions. Make sure to check out my Outdoor Discovery STEM Bins to bring the magic of engineering in the great outdoors to your students!

About the Book:

The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier is a delightfully modern spin on The Little Red Hen with Ruby as the master engineer of a backyard fort. Her brothers refuse to help her with her project and doubt her abilities, but she proves them wrong by building and creating every element of the fort by herself. The boys make amends in the end by adding a mailbox, flowers, and paint so that they can all play in the fort together and enjoy a cookie feast.

Why I Love It:

Girl Power! Diverse characters! Inclusiveness! Collaboration! This book packs all these qualities and more into a story that plays off of a classic folktale, not to mention provides a beautiful portrayal of the engineering design process in action. From blueprints to tests and improvements, Ruby demonstrates perseverance, self-discipline, and even some forgiveness and compassion in the end. This one is a MUST for your library, y’all.

The Perfect Follow-up Maker Activity:

Katie King and I are cooking up a special edition Storybook STEM unit for this book very soon, but until then, just consider the possibilities! From blanket forts to box forts to pillow forts, the only limit is your students’ imaginations! They can even create mini-forts and tents for action figures or stuffed animals using any STEM Bin engineering material.

About the Book:

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds has been a classroom favorite for many years, inspiring budding artists to “make their mark” and sign their name to own their creations. It’s about a girl named Vashti who doesn’t believe in herself as an artist until her teacher encourages her to “make a mark and see where it takes you.” Vashti’s little dot opens a beautiful world of self expression and confidence in her art, inspiring others to make their mark on the world.

Why I Love It:

All students can identify with Vashti as they attempt to overcome personal struggles and achieve the courage to try new things. This book is not limited to visual arts as students are inspired to “make their mark” through music, dance, drama, engineering, science, technology….even leadership and social justice. A worldwide celebration of International Dot Day provides a wonderful platform for classrooms to participate in Dot Day activities.

The Perfect Follow-up Maker Activity

Celebrate International Dot Day with your students by integrating dot activities all across your curriculum!  Our special edition of Storybook STEM for The Dot allows students to explore the science (and magic!) of color chromatography and learn how to measure the diameter, radius, and circumference of circles. Katie King created some amazing ELA activities to practice retelling, idioms, and vocabulary. You can also use this free dot coloring page from Quiver and download the free Quiver app to bring an amazing world of augmented reality to your students’ dots!

About the Book:

Whoosh! by Chris Barton is kid-friendly autobiography that tells of Lonnie Johnson’s accidental invention of the legendary Super Soaker water gun for kids. Lonnie shared that he “wanted to be an engineer before I knew what an engineer was.” He demonstrated persistence and a passion for problem solving that became the cornerstone of his successful career.

Why I Love It:

I’m a HUGE fan of inventor books, especially ones that feature inspiring, modern-day black inventors such as Lonnie Johnson! Lonnie is an innovative entrepreneur who proved that with perseverance, hard work, and creativity, you truly can create something to make the world more awesome. Kids will be immediately inspired to invent and test their own toys and projectile devices.

The Perfect Follow-up Maker Activity

Have your students create their own projectile toys! This Pom Pom Blaster is a force and motion favorite from our Engineering Storybook STEM pack. Students can use either pool noodle pieces or cups to create their blaster, then test the accuracy by hitting targets to earn points. This challenge is a great application for potential and kinetic energy.

About the Book:

Hands by Lois Ehlert was recently shared with me by a sweet Instagram friend (Thank you, Rachel @rayzimm!) and is about a child who is inspired by her mother and father’s work with their hands. She watches them sew, paint, and build, and when she is given a special place to work and a little encouragement, she uses her hands to make her own creations.

Why I Love It:

I love all of Lois Ehlert’s work and this book is no exception! Her bold illustrations and unique paper-cutting methods bring the story to life. The child’s parents serve as wonderful role models for her creativity. This is a wonderful book to demonstrate different methods of making and inspire even the littlest makers.

The Perfect Follow-up Maker Activity:

Have students use their “Hands” to create a monthly Maker Mat project!  My open-ended creative choice boards are themed seasonally and are perfect to use with Makerspaces, STEM Bins, or even home projects. I have my Maker Mats enlarged as poster-size in my classroom so that my students always have creation ideas in front of them. You can also integrate technology with a variety of suggested apps and websites.

About the Book:

Made by Maxine by Ruth Spiro is about a little girl who’s always tinkering, creating, and inventing, especially contraptions for her pet goldfish, Milton. Maxine says “If I can dream it, I can make it!” She is faced with a new problem when her school holds a Pet Parade and Maxine’s goldfish can’t be “walked” like the other students’ pets. She sets to work creating a rolling device to carry her fish, and her invention ends up being the hit of the parade!

Why I Love It:

This book truly encourages students to seek creative ways to solve problems around them.  It also has a wonderful theme of growth mindset as Maxine tests and improves her design multiple times before achieving success.

The Perfect Follow-up Maker Activity:

Hold a “Pet Parade!” Have students decorate balloons like animals and create simple parade floats with toy cars and yarn. (lesson found in our Kindergarten Storybook STEM Bundle) This is a wonderful application of pushes and pulls for younger learners. If you have driving robots, students can also attach animal balloons with tape or plastic cups and program their floats through the parade!

About the Book:

How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk is a smart and creative way to introduce students to the basics of coding. He compares introductory coding methods – sequencing, conditions, and loops – to the steps of building a sandcastle in a simple, kid-friendly way that is appropriate for even the youngest learners.

Why I Love It:

This is the first and only picture book that I use to introduce the basics of coding to my students. How to Code a Roller Coaster is also coming to our library very soon!) After reading this book to my students, even my Kindergartners are able to understand basic coding terms as we apply them to apps and websites.  It features a black little girl as the main character, encouraging representation in the fields of coding and informational technology.

The Perfect Follow-up Maker Activity:

This book is PERFECT to kick off the Hour of Code in December! After reading this book, my students play Hop Scotch Coding to actively experience sequencing, conditions, and loops.  They work in teams to create different sequences of code on the floor and then take turns following them. After this activity, I introduce unplugged coding lessons and coding apps such as Kodable and Box Island.  Check out my Coding for Little Kids blog post to read more about coding in my classroom!

About the Book:

My #3 read aloud for Makerspaces has been a favorite in my classroom for a few years now for so many reasons!  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer is the true story of young William, who was faced with frightening circumstances as his village of Malawi in Africa was faced with devastating drought. At the age of 14, William miraculously engineered a functioning windmill using spare parts from the junkyard, supplying life-saving water and electricity to his village.

Why I Love It:

  This book features a remarkable black engineer who defied unbelievable odds, using self-discipline and innovation to save his village.  It is an awe-inspiring true story that provides a natural springboard for discussions with our students about the true purpose of engineering – to create something to improve our world. I always get emotional when sharing this book with my students! Check out his Ted Talk to see William tell his story.

The Perfect Follow-up Maker Activity

Have your students create simple windmill models to learn about wind energy and the importance of renewable energy. (lesson found in Engineering Storybook STEM pack) This book can also be easily applied to my Wind-Powered Maze STEM Challenge.

About the Book:

With my Hands: Poems About Making Things by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is a very recent addition to my Maker book collection, and I absolutely loved reading it to my students to kick off our first week of Makerspace! This book features beautiful poems about different types Makers, as well as a variety of tools and mediums for making.

Why I Love It:

All students have favorite forms of making and many forms that they’ve not yet tried! From collage to clay sculptures to painting, students are sure to find their favorite maker methods in this poetry book and will be inspired to try new ones.

The Perfect Follow-up Maker Activity:

Set up a variety of weekly Maker Stations to allow your students to explore different creative challenges and mediums! My Maker Stations are differentiated for K-1st and 2nd-5th and feature 40 different activities that incorporate engineering, art, science, music, and more.  Each Maker Station recommends simple supplies, provides QR code resources for students, and includes a matching student recording sheet.

About the Book:

This book quickly moved to the number 1 spot on my list after I read it to my students for the first time! Be a Maker by Katey Howes shines a spotlight all different kinds of makers from artists to musicians, engineers to entrepreneurs. It shows a community of makers joining together to build a playground. The book ends perfectly with this quote: “Ask yourself this question as the sun begins to fade: in a day of making choices, are you proud of what you made?”

Why I Love It:

I love how this book allows all our students to see themselves as makers in their own unique ways. The pages are filled with diverse and special needs characters, teaching our students that anyone and everyone is welcome in our Makerspace and has gifts and talents to share with the world. If you read ANY book to your little makers this year, make it this one!

The Perfect Follow-up Maker Activity:

What better way to encourage our kids to be makers than to provide them with the time, space, and materials to create in a classroom Makerspace?! Check out THIS BLOG POST for tons of starting points, and also check out my comprehensive Makerspace Starter Kit to make your set up and management a snap!

I hope you love these Makerspace books as much as I do and are excited to share them with your students!

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