Are you constantly looking for picture books to teach about the main idea of a story? Some people confuse the theme with the main idea. The theme or central idea of a book is the lesson, moral or message the reader takes away after reading. The main idea is what the book is about and can usually be stated as a short summary. It’s important for students to start understanding the main idea (and supporting details) of a story after reading it. This means that they should be able to retell the story to show their comprehension of it, stating the main idea and at least three details that can support the main idea of the story.
Some Tips for Teaching the Main Idea
A read aloud can be one of the most overlooked strategies that can be used to teach main idea and supporting details. When performing a read aloud with your students, modeling your thinking process out loud is key!
Before reading, focus on the front cover. Do the title and illustration give any clues as to what the main idea will be? Is the book fiction or non-fiction?
As you read, ask your students to be mindful of text features that may help identify the main idea, as well as words or information repeated throughout the book.
After reading, reflect on the important parts of the book and identify evidence from the book to support their main idea conclusion.
Picture Books About the Main Idea
I want to share 8 great picture books for teaching about the main idea in the library or classroom. (all links are affiliate links from Amazon)
Chrysanthemum loves her name but on her first day of school, she gets teased about how unique it is. Until the music teacher that she admires reveals that she is naming her baby Chrysanthemum does she learn to love it with confidence again.
Try using this Chrysanthemum Book Companion Pack after reading!
Wemberly worried about everything. Big things. Little things. And things in between. Then it was time for school to start. And Wemberly worried even more. If you ever worry (or know someone who does), this is the book for you. Wemberly worried about spilling her juice, about shrinking in the bathtub, even about snakes in the radiator. She worried morning, noon, and night.
This is a story of an insecure girl who learns to be happy with her identity. A Bad Case of Stripes is the story of Camilla Cream, a girl who loves lima beans and worries about others’ opinions of her. On the first day of school, Camilla wakes up to find herself completely covered in rainbow stripes!
Vashti’s teacher tells her, “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” But Vashti cannot draw and sits there until art class is over-she’s no artist. To prove her point, Vashti jabs at a blank sheet of paper to make an unremarkable and angry mark. “There!” she says. That one little dot marks the beginning of Vashti’s journey of surprise and self-discovery.
Because is a beautiful picture book that shows how just one piece of music can change many people’s lives. It’s like a domino effect; we can do one thing and it ends up affecting others’ lives. Think about how amazing it would be if we could use kindness in the same way! We never know how one smile or kind word can change someone.
All Jeremy wants is a pair of the same shoes that everyone at school seems to be wearing. Though Jeremy’s grandma says they don’t have room for “want,” just “need,” when his old shoes fall apart at school, he is more determined than ever to have those shoes, even a thrift-shop pair that are much too small. But sore feet aren’t much fun, and Jeremy soon sees that the things he has — warm boots, a loving grandma, and the chance to help a friend — are worth more than the things he wants.
It was the perfect summer. That is, until Jeremy Ross moved into the house down the street and became neighborhood enemy number one. Luckily his Dad had a surefire way to get rid of enemies: Enemy Pie. But part of the secret recipe is spending an entire day playing with the enemy! In this funny yet endearing story, one little boy learns an effective recipe for turning your best enemy into your best friend.
If you drop just one soda can out the window, it’s no big deal … right? But what if everybody did that? What if everybody broke the rules … and spoke during story time, didn’t wash up, or splashed too much at the pool? Then the world would be a mess. But what if everybody obeyed the rules so that the world would become a better place? Now there’s an idea…
Looking for other fun activities for teaching the main idea?
Check out these Main Idea Task Cards!
What books do you use to teach about the main idea to your students?