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The 15 Books Pre-K Teachers Need Most — Plus a Match from PNC Grow Up Great®!


Books are an essential part of any pre-K or Head Start classroom, helping little learners flex those growing literacy muscles while going on adventures big and small. PNC Grow Up Great® has long supported those adventures and more, with this year marking 15 years of early childhood education support.

Two years ago, PNC helped us expand our platform to all Head Start classrooms, and since then, have supported thousands of classrooms across their markets. This year they’re back to support even more pre-K and Head Start students. Not only are PNC branches hosting in-person book drives, but the PNC Foundation is also matching donations to eligible pre-K and Head Start classroom project requests in areas where PNC operates.

To celebrate 15 years of Grow Up Great and kick off this year’s match offer, we did a little digging in our data to uncover the 15 books that pre-K teachers have requested most this school year.

1. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

This 1963 Caldecott Medal winner brings a winter day in the city to life through beautiful collage illustrations. One of the first children’s books to feature a child of color, The Snowy Day is a perfect addition to a diverse classroom library. As Mrs. Snodgrass says in her request, “Help me give my students books for their classroom library which are culturally relevant to them and allow them to see themselves in the book.”

2. Maybe Something Beautiful by Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

Maybe Something Beautiful tells the definitely beautiful true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, and shows how art can bring a community together. Ms. Collins in Chicago requested the book to do just that in her classroom: “Exploring issues of community, diversity, and transformation, this book will play off of our current Social-Emotional Learning initiative. With this book specifically we hope to inspire our students to beautify our community through mural work, just like the main character in the book.”

3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Is any pre-K book list complete without The Very Hungry Caterpillar? From days of the week to the cycle of metamorphosis, this book is so packed with things to learn that it’s no wonder it has stayed a classic.

4. I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Saying goodbye to little ones at the end of the year can be hard! “At the end of the year,” writes Ms. Wolf, “I want to give my students something they will have to remember the incredible times we had together in our class.” I Wish You More captures everything we hope for the people we love.

5. Little Mouse Meets Santa by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Claire Schumacher

Teachers like Mrs. J know that literacy thrives when students can read at home as well as in class, and the holidays are the perfect moment to celebrate that idea. In her project for holiday books she writes, “I want to reinforce the love of reading by providing my students with books they can take home and read with their family members.”

6. The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems

Mrs. Sparta puts it best: “Our kids are obsessed with Mo Willems books, but really who isn't.” From Willems's comedic drawings to his memorable characters, it’s no wonder so many teachers get help from Pigeon to make kids giggle while they learn!

7. Our Apple Tree by Görel Kristina Näslund, illustrated by Kristina Digman

This whimsical tale of an apple tree throughout the year shows the seasons and the way nature changes with them, making it the perfect addition to any unit on the outside world around us.

8. Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

A great children’s book can teach so much more than new words. Mrs. Nicholls requests science-focused books lke Leaf Man because they “allow students to build their literacy skills, and engage in science concepts while learning about things they enjoy!

9. The Mitten by Jan Brett

With over 34 million copies sold since it was first published 30 years ago, The Mitten is a winter story time staple. Brett’s intricate illustrations make this a book worth coming back to again and again — you’ll find new details with each read!

10. Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by James Dean and Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean

You might not remember Pete the Cat from your childhood, but he’s quickly becoming a modern classic! Ms. Illuminati shared why she requests books featuring this cool kitty: “They love Pete the Cat because many of the books have a musical aspect to it. They love to sing as I read the story, and Pete the Cat doesn't get frustrated or easily upset, which is a skill I try to teach my students.”

11. How to Read a Story by Kate Messner, illustrated by Mark Siegel

The first step to unlocking a love of reading is showing kids how fun reading can be! This step-by-step picture book makes reading stories feel easy and simple for preschoolers, and shows how you can even do it with a friend.

12. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr., John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom remains a teacher and student favorite for learning the alphabet. Filled with music and rhythm, there’s a reason we all remember this book (and its beat!) so fondly.

12. Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? By Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle

Another classic that we all remember from childhood, Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? is the perfect book for helping kids with animal and color identification. It’s a classroom library staple for many, with teachers returning to it year after year.

14. Trick-or-Treat on Milton Street by Lisa Bullard, illustrated
by Joni Oeltjenbruns

“We start our class off by reading a story that relates to our thematic unit or a holiday that is approaching,” says Ms. Lee. Whether it’s Halloween or Valentine’s Day, holiday-themed books are a great way to celebrate in class — without worrying about the sugar rush!

15. The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Natasha Wing and Julie Durrell

Teachers and parents alike know that change and transition can be tough on little ones (and on us grown ups too!). Mrs. Morrison requests The Night Before Kindergarten for her students on their pre-K graduation. She says, “This gives the students and parents an opportunity to bond while reading and having an open discussion about what is to come.“

Feeling inspired? Teachers, find out if you qualify for the PNC Grow Up Great pre-K match and request the books, manipulatives, and other resources your pre-K or Head Start classroom needs.

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