Mentor Texts for Teaching Central Message

Mentor Texts for Teaching Central Message - Long Pin

The Central Message in a story is usually not directly stated, so students really have to use their inference skills. This means it’s one of the trickier reading skills for students to master.

Because central message can be so tough to grasp, it’s super important to choose strong mentor texts, and give students a ton of practice.

Keep reading for 10 of my all-time favorite mentor texts for teaching Central Message.

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you purchase through one of these links, The Teacher Next Door, LLC receives a few cents on the dollar. This commission directly supports us as a small business and ensures that we can continue to create high-quality content for upper elementary teachers, like yourself! As always, the products shared are tried, true, and tested. Enjoy!

1. The Hard Times Jar

Emma, the daughter of poor migrant workers, loves books and dreams of owning one. Because her family has no money for extra things, Emma decides to start saving up to hopefully be able to buy her own book. When Emma finds out she has to go to school instead of working, her plan is ruined…or is it?


2. Mr. Peabody’s Apples

Mr. Peabody’s Apples takes place in a small U.S. town in 1949. Everyone’s favorite elementary teacher, Mr. Peabody, is suddenly the subject of a fast-spreading rumor…would he really take apples without paying? Luckily, the wise Mr. Peabody is able to put the rumors to rest- while also teaching an important lesson about the power of gossip.


Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon


3. Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon

This is an absolutely delightful book about having confidence, even when others try to put you down. Little Molly Lou Melon isn’t the best singer, the tallest 1st grader (in fact, she’s the shortest!), or the most coordinated kid, but she sure is confident! When Molly Lou and her family move to a new town, her confidence is put to the test. Molly Lou stays true to herself, and continues to live by the advice given to her by her beloved grandmother.



4. The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town

Dirk Yeller is a dangerous outlaw and is known for causing all kinds of trouble! He can’t stop itchin’ and twitchin’ and jumpin’ and rattlin’! When he comes to town one day, everyone is scared of him except one small boy who knows just how to help Dirk. This story delivers an important message about the power of a good book and a friend!




5. The Tree Lady

This is a true story of how one woman, Kate Sessions, used her passion for plants to make big changes to all the parks in the city of San Diego.  This book’s powerful message about believing in yourself, persevering, and following your dreams is sure to inspire your young readers!



6. These Hands

Little Joseph knows his grandpa can do just about anything! He plays the piano, throws a mean curveball, AND can tie a triple bowline knot in just 3 seconds!  What he can’t do is bake bread at the Wonder Bread factory in the 1950s and 1960s- the bosses say white people won’t want to eat bread that was made by African American hands. Joseph learns how, by joining their hands together, people can fight this discrimination.


7. Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun

This uplifting book is all about love, courage, and positivity! Her classmate Ralph never misses a chance to tease  Lucy about being different.  When Ralph needs her help one day,  Lucy has to decide if she wants to get revenge or have the courage to be her true self.


8. The Empty Pot

Based on an old Chinese folktale, this story follows Ping, a young boy who has a natural talent for growing things. When the emperor has a plant growing contest, however, Ping is the only child present who has an empty pot. When the emperor reveals he had cooked the seeds, however, it is revealed that Ping is the only honest gardener!


Enemy Pie Mentor Text

9. Enemy Pie

This story deals with bullying, kindness, and friendship, all things that most kids find themselves dealing with at some point. When a new kid moves to town and is not very kind, the boy decides he is his number one enemy! The boy’s dad helps him make an “enemy pie.” Through this experience, he ends up learning that the best way to get rid of an enemy is to make them your friend!


10. Fables

Fables are one of the best ways to teach Central Message. Not only are they classic stories, but they were also specifically written to teach a lesson. This means they tend to have clear central messages that students can pinpoint. Bonus… they’re short enough that kids can practice finding the central message of several fables in one day!



Are you on the hunt for more resources to work on Central Message with your students? Check out these resources:

Digital Reading Unit 3rd Grade Fiction Central Message

Central Message Traditional Literature Reading Center for 3rd Grade

Central Message Reading Assessments for 3rd Grade


Interested in even more ideas for teaching central message using mentor texts? Take a look at these posts!


Thanks so much for stopping by!


The Teacher Next Door - Creating upper elementary resources that target standards for busy teachers


You might also like...

The Teacher Next Door - Creating upper elementary resources that target standards for busy teachers

Hi, I’m Jenn, CEO and owner of The Teacher Next Door!

I know that you strive to be an effective upper elementary teacher while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

In order to do that, you need resources that are impactful,
yet simple.

The problem is that most resources and curriculums out there are far from simple. The pages upon pages of daily lesson plans are just plain overwhelming.

At TTND, we believe teachers should be living their lives outside of the classroom, and not spend hours lesson planning and searching for resources.

We understand that now, more than ever, teachers need space to be themselves which is why we create and support teachers with timesaving tips and standards-aligned resources.

Want access to TTND's Free Resource Library? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll email you the exclusive password!





* Please note: If your school has strong email filters, you may wish to use your personal email to ensure access.

Cookie Consent Banner by Real Cookie Banner