Build Your Stack: Picture Books Are Our Coteachers - National Council of Teachers of English
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Build Your Stack: Picture Books Are Our Coteachers

This blog post was written by NCTE members Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere. It’s part of Build Your Stack,® an NCTE initiative focused exclusively on helping teachers build their book knowledge and their classroom libraries. Build Your Stack® provides a forum for contributors to share books from their classroom experience; inclusion in a blog post does not imply endorsement or promotion of specific books by NCTE.


Each August there’s excitement in the air for us: hanging on to those last moments of summer, thinking about a new school year, and anticipating August 10th—our annual celebration of Picture Book 10 for 10! It’s not an official holiday and yet we feel excited to see what will be unwrapped on social media platforms.

Picture Book 10 for 10 is a day when we encourage teachers to share their ten must-have picture books. If you are reading this, then you most likely love picture books as much as we do and understand the struggle in picking out just ten!

Mandy began blogging in April 2010; in July of 2010 she shared some thinking after reading Cathy’s professional book, More Than Guided Reading. Cathy saw the post and left a positive, thoughtful comment. Mandy was so surprised that the author, a mentor she looked up to, had discovered her little space! Each day that week Mandy shared one picture book that was new to her from Cathy’s book. Later in the week, Cathy messaged Mandy via Twitter and asked what her favorite must-have picture books were. If you’ve ever been caught off guard with a positive surprise, then you can image the excitement felt by Mandy, the new blogger!

So that’s how we, Mandy and Cathy, started talking via Twitter. Before long we wondered if other teachers would want to join us, and they did. Each year the participation has grown. Each year the members who participate varies. There’s no signing up. There’s no commitment. There’s flexibility, with a day before and a day or two after for sharing.  For some participants the list represents all-time must-have favorites; others play around with a theme. It’s really become fascinating to see how and why people choose  the ten books for their lists.

With changes in technology, the way we have hosted the event has changed a bit over time. We currently take turns hosting the event on one of our blogs. We ask people joining to leave us a link and a short description in the comments section. We’ve used the the hashtag #pb10for10 every year; a simple search can pull sharing moments from participants. A few years in, we were asked about hosting a Nonfiction Picturebook 10 for 10; we now do that six months later in February, using the hashtag #nf10for10.

There’s always so much chatter August 10th and February 10th, with library requests being filled, book budgets expanding, and shopping carts filling up fast. Pulling together a collection of ten picture books is quite a reflective process. It also opens us up to learn more about each other and about the things that are tugging at our heartstrings in the moment. It’s fun to see books that repeat and how many books are new to participants. It’s quite honestly a dangerous day or two of book love!

We hope you will consider joining us. Use the hashtag to discover new books for yourself and for the students you share a classroom with. Picture books are our coteachers; let’s discover some new best friends together!


Books for the First Two Weeks

Here we’re sharing Mandy’s “Picture Book Ten for Ten” blog post from this past August 2020—a list of books that seem perfect for the movement we’ve been in experiencing this year with attendance models.

Today. I’m starting the year teaching in a hybrid model. I will have half of my students physically at a time and half of my students working virtually. In two weeks, I will physically be with my students five days. Last week I had my yearly physical and got some really sound advice from my doctor for returning to school and being safe. He also predicted we’ll be closed within two weeks. Yikes, I started my appointment with no anxiety. This whole season of life is strange and I have to say after I worked through my doctor’s point of view and brainstormed some ways to keep myself healthy I found a focus for my sharing this year.

I hope to be able to read these books in person with my students. I miss the natural responses in a group setting.  These are books I had at home and ones I feel could anchor our year together. It’s going to be a year of patience, grace, acceptance, flexibility, and like no other. I wish you all a safe new school year and hope you can use picture books to help you and your community come together.

Count on Me by Miguel Tanco might be one of my new favorite books—oh my goodness! A book about passions and how they are different for each other. It’s also about accepting a passion others may not always understand—math! This is a wonderful book celebrating the ways we can see math in our lives.


The Hike by Alison Farrell will encourage readers to get outside, move, notice, and write. Yes, an activity we can do during these uncertain times and be safe.


I Am a Warrior Goddess by Jennifer Adams and Illustrated by Carme Lemniscates can be a wonderful guide for asking young readers to finish their own I Am statements.


I Believe I Can by Grace Byers and Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo is a book celebrating the big possibilities of children. This is a beautiful book representing children from different backgrounds.  The author plays with words and empowers the reader.


Jack’s Worry by Sam Zuppardi shows readers how a worry can fester and grow, changing colors until we share it with someone. Talking to others is so important as we embrace new things.


Just Ask by Sonia Sotomayor and Illustrated by Rafael Lopez created a beautiful book to help readers understand a variety of health concerns their friends or family members may have. Another wonderful book to help readers feel empowered.


Layla’s Happiness by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and Illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin is the perfect book to help us focus on what happiness is for each of us. School is going to be different this year and we can still celebrate the things that make us happy.


Lulu the One and Only by Lynnette Mawhinney and Illustrated by Jennie Poh is a gift for all children. A multiracial family shows readers how to focus on who we are; not what we are. Readers are introduced to the idea of a power statement. We all need a power statement.


The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld is a book about sitting with each other. It’s a book about waiting. It’s a book about subtle kindness and patience. We may not need quick solutions this year—we will need grace.


Ruby’s Worry by Tom Percival lets readers know others have worries too and talking about them helps them diminish some. We can live with our worries.






Mandy Robek currently teaches second grade in Columbus, Ohio and can be found @mandyrobek on Twitter. 

Cathy Mere is an elementary instructional specialist in Hiliard, Ohio and can be found @cathymere on Twitter.




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