10 Best Mentor Texts to Use for Reading and Writing Lessons

upper elementary mentor texts


If there is one teaching aide that I cannot live without it would be picture books.

I lean on picture books often in my classroom. I love to read picture books to help me teach reading and writing strategies, engage students in social-emotional learning lessons, celebrate holidays and seasons, get students critically thinking about math topics and strategies, build classroom community, bring diversity to my classroom, and so much more!

When faced with a tricky classroom situation, new concept, lesson, or objective I have been known to say, "There's a picture book for that." See what I mean?


10 Best Mentor Texts to Use for Reading and Writing Lessons



The only problem I have faced when it comes to sharing my favorite picture books with my students is time. There is never enough time to read all the books!


To make the most of the time that I do have, I like to use one book many ways.  


By doing this, I am able to make the most of the time that I have for my mini-lessons and the time that I have with my students, even during reading and writing conferences.


Using previously read picture books allows students to focus on the skill or objective I am focusing on in that moment. That means that students do not have to worry about taking in the whole story and comprehending it as a cold read. They are already all warmed up to the book we are revisiting and can focus on the mini-lesson at hand.


This is why I highly recommend using previously read picture books in your classroom again and again.


These amazing ten picture books will become your new favorite mentor texts since you can use them again and again for teaching BOTH reading strategies and writing strategies. One read, many revisits, so much learning! #teacherwin


Be sure to grab a free printable guide to these books and lesson topics that they align with at the bottom of this post.


10 Best Mentor Texts to Use for Reading and Writing Lessons

1. Owl Moon

Owl Moon, written by Jane Yolen is a quick read told by a young child narrator. It tells the story of a night of owling wit their dad.

Reading Lens:

  • Understanding character feelings and traits
  • Making predictions
  • Summarizing short texts

Writing Lens:

  • Writing small moments
  • Writing personal narratives
  • Using figurative language and onomatopoeia 


10 Best Mentor Texts to Use for Reading and Writing Lessons


2. Knots on a Counting Rope

Knots on a Counting Rope written by Bill Martin Jr tells the story of an intimate talk between a Native American boy and his grandfather. With a surprise ending, your kids will want to revisit this tale over and over again.

Reading Lens:

  • Making predictions
  • Asking questions as a reader
  • Making inferences

Writing Lens:


  • Personal Narrative Writing
  • Building Suspense
  • Strong Endings

10 Best Mentor Texts to Use for Reading and Writing Lessons


3.  The Relatives Came

The Relatives Came written by Cynthia Rylant tells the story about a large extended family getting together during the summer and how they spend their days.

Reading Lens:


  • Making Personal Connections
  • Visualizing (share the story without sharing illustrations)
  • Summarizing short text


Writing Lens:


  • Personal Narrative Writing
  • Telling a story over time
  • Memoir Writing 



10 Best Mentor Texts to Use for Reading and Writing Lessons


4. The Curious Garden

The Curious Garden written by Peter Brown is an engaging read about a young curious boy determined to bring his city back to life.

Reading Lens:


  • Making Predictions
  • Visualizing 
  • How the setting effects a story


Writing Lens:


  • Strong Character Development
  • Using Varied Word Choice
  • Extended Endings

the raft read aloud


5. The Raft

The Raft written by Jim LaMarche is about a young boy forced to spend the summer with his Grandmother. The summer ends up being much better than he anticipated.

Reading Lens:


  • How Characters Change
  • Making Inferences
  • Symbolism

Writing Lens:


  • Using dialogue in writing
  • How secondary characters support main characters
  • Using varied word choice


10 Best Mentor Texts to Use for Reading and Writing Lessons



6. Fly Away Home

Fly Away Home written by Eve Bunting tells a powerful story about a homeless family and their struggles as they live in an airport.

Reading Lens:


  • Symbolism
  • Character Feelings
  • Asking questions as a reader

Writing Lens:


  • Writing beginnings that hook the reader
  • Writing events with specific details
  • Writing with varied sentence structure and length.


10 Best Mentor Texts to Use for Reading and Writing Lessons




7. Herbert The True Story of a Brave Sea Dog

Herbert the True Story of a Brave Sea Dog written by Robyn Belton will become your favorite mentor text for nonfiction and informational reading and writing units. This book follows the true story who was lost at sea but eventually recovered alive.

Reading Lens:


  • Nonfiction Narratives
  • Character Development and feelings
  • Summarizing Nonfiction 


Writing Lens:


  • Nonfiction Narratives
  • Figurative Language
  • Writing using the appropriate amount of dialogue


how to read a book




8. How to Read a Book

How to Read a Book written by Kwame Alexander is a must read during the first few weeks of school. It tells the reader how to find the perfect spot to read and how to enjoy a good book.

Reading Lens:


  • Finding a spot to read
  • Understanding Figurative Language

Writing Lens:


  • Procedural Writing 
  • Using Figurative Language
  • Using Illustrations to tell a story

10 Best Mentor Texts to Use for Reading and Writing Lessons





9. Dear Mrs. LaRue

Dear Mrs. LaRue written by Mark Teague is a story told through letters written by a dog named Ike. Ike feels he was wrongly convicted of a crime and is telling his side of the story through letters.

Reading Lens:


  • Reading different formats of texts (letter writing correspondence)
  • Using context clues to understand new words
  • Point of view or perspective lessons


Writing Lens:


  • Letter Writing Format
  • Cliffhanger endings
  • Perspective writing

10 Best Mentor Texts to Use for Reading and Writing Lessons


10. The Stranger

The Stranger written by my favorite author Chris Van Allsburg follows the events that happen after a stranger comes to town.

Reading Lens:


  • Making Inferences
  • Asking Questions as a reader
  • Making Predictions


Writing Lens:


  • Strong beginnings
  • Telling a narrative over time
  • Author's purpose



When it comes to using picture books in your classroom re-purpose previously read picture books. Not only will you save time but you will find that students develop a deeper understanding of the books that are revisited throughout the year for different objectives and most importantly to help your students love reading!


reading mentor texts upper elementary





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