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