Looking for children’s books about teachers? This list celebrates the inspirational teachers who dedicate their lives to making a difference.
Children’s Books About Teachers Who Change Lives
As we ease into the summer and reflect on our children’s past school year, it is the teacher who makes the difference between a great year and a mediocre or worse year. I am sure that I am not alone in sending up prayers to get particular teachers for my kids next year.
This list is an homage to the exceptional teachers everywhere who dedicate their lives to making a difference. And they absolutely do! One day, one of their students may even write about their exception teacher as in the case of a few of the books selected below.
ps Special thanks to the exceptional teachers I and my children have had. You know who you are!
The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco
After spending the summer with her artist grandmother, Trisha knows she wants to be an artist, too. She’s thrilled when her sketches get her into Miss Chew’s special art class at the high school. A substitute teacher tells her she’s wasting time on art when she should be studying – but fortunately, this is one battle that Miss Chew and Trisha are up for!
This true story shows just how important a teacher can be in a child’s life – and celebrates the power of art itself.
I love pretty much any book by Patricia Polacco and she shares her life, slice by slice, through her books. My kids and I knew that her teacher Mr. Falker (see #10) helped her overcome her dyslexia to learn to read, and her principal, Mr. Lincoln, helped turn a bully around.
It wasn’t until The Art of Miss Chin that we also learned how her art teacher played a formative role in her life. This picture book is a tribute to art, art teachers, and to teachers who change lives every day! I need to send a copy to my oldest’s now retired art teacher!
Dotty by Erica S. Perl
Ms. Raymond, Ida’s teacher, understands about imaginary pets because she has one herself! Ida is very shy and her imaginary pet, Dotty, is a great source of comfort and companionship at school. When her classmates outgrow their imaginary friends, Ida continues to bring Dotty to school every day.
When Ida gets teased about Dotty, Ms. Raymond knows just what to do. Ida has a kindred spirit in Ms. Raymond that validates the importance of imagination!
Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by London Ladd
This true story is set in Mississippi in the mid-1800s when it was illegal for enslaved people to learn to read or write. Lilly Ann Granderson, an enslaved woman, started a midnight school to share her knowledge. The punishment was servere to both Lilly Ann and her students if she was caught — thirty-nine lashes with a whip. Lilly Ann taught hundreds of enslaved people to read and write, and some used this precious knowledge to escape to freedom. Others started secrect schools of their own. [picture book biography, ages 7 and up]
10. The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
Based on the true story of Agnes Sutterfield who came to a remote village in Alaska in 1948 to teach in a one-room schoolhouse. Her students could survive in the wilderness but most didn’t know how to read or write.
Her ability to connect with her students and create a curriculum that they could relate to makes her a life-changing teacher! In real life, one of her students becomes the first Alaskan native to be accepted to Medical School in England. [chapter book, ages 8-12]
9. My Face to the Wind: The Diary of Sarah Jane Price, A Prairie Teacher by Jim Murphy
This novel is set in the 1800’s in Broken Bow, Nebraska which is part of the wild, wild west. Fourteen-year-old Sarah Jean Price must take over the one-room school-house where her father was hired to teach but dies unexpectedly.
Written in a diary format, we read about Sarah’s challenges and her ultimate success as she develops into an exceptional teacher. [chapter book, ages 8-12]
8. Yoko by Rosemary Wells
Mrs. Jenkins, Yoko’s teacher, is featured in many of the books in the Yoko and Friends series. She is a wonderful teacher as shown in this book, where she must figure out a way to keep Yoko’s classmates from teasing her about her Japanese lunch.
Mrs. Jenkins is up to the task though it keeps her up late at night fretting until she thinks of a solution. [picture book, ages 4-8]
7. The Secret School by Avi
14-year-old Ida fills in secretly when the teacher in their one-room school-house suddenly leaves and threatens closure of the school. Ida has always wanted to be a teacher and she’s completely up to the arduous task. This is one of my fourth grader’s favorite books of all time! [chapter book, ages 8-12]
6. Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard
When Miss Nelson is missing and the class is way behind in their work, a scary substitute teacher turns up to whip things into shape. Children will love the surprise ending. [picture book, ages 4-8]
5. Don’t Say Ain’t by Irene Smalls
New York public schools were first integrated in 1957 and this picture book portrays the difficulty for exceptionally talented African-American children to bridge the two worlds of their advanced, integrated school with their colloquial inner city home.
Dana, the little girl in the story, is assisted in learning this precarious balancing act from her teacher. [picture book, ages 6-10]
4. Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Mr. Slinger is such a wonderful teacher that everyone in his class wants to be a teacher when he or she grows up. Especially Lily. But when Lily brings in her new purple plastic purse and can’t follow the rules, she gets in trouble and is furious with Mr. Slinger.
The way Mr. Slinger handles this makes every parent want a “Mr. Slinger” to be our child’s teacher! [picture book, ages 4-8]
3. A Nickel, A Trolley, A Treasure House by Sharon Reiss Baker
This is a true story about a young boy who is shown a world of possibilities by his kind teacher. And to think opening up a world of possibilities takes only a nickel, a trolley, and a treasure house. And an exception teacher! Don’t forget that part! [picture book, ages 6-10]
2. Ida B. … And Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster and Possibly Save the World by Katherine Hannigan
Sometimes teachers can change lives in quiet ways such as by being exceptional listeners to their students as is the case with Ida B. who is reeling from her mother’s cancer, the abrupt change from being homeschooled to being back at public school, and the loss of some beloved trees. [chapter book, ages 8-10]
1. Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
This book is an homage to Polacco’s teacher who discovered her dyslexia and helped her to overcome it. And this book would be the perfect gift to an amazing, life-changing teacher that we are fortunate to have in our lives. [picture book, ages 6-12]
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.