Bear Series: Reading Standards for Literature

I believe that before you read or share a book with children you need to be aware of your “purpose” in sharing that book. For myself, my “purpose” changes how I prepare the children before I share and even how I read the book. To do this you need to read the book completely through. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have read a book before sharing it for any reason with a child. This isn’t about finding books that you like, but to be sure the information within the book is appropriate for the children you will be reading it to. I consider language, topic, illustrations, and length of story. I also consider how it will work into the activities I have planned for lessons and the other books I’ll be including. 

What do I mean by “purpose”?

Let’s start from the point that you could have chosen any of the thousands of great books available today, so why did you pick this one at this time to share with this group or individual child?

  • Was it an easy grab from the shelf?
  • Did a child(ren) pick it?
  • Does it support a concept or lesson you are currently working on? 
  • Does it reinforce an ongoing lesson?
  • Is it a just “for pleasure” read? (some of my favorite books are this type)
  • Does it connect with other books on a topic?
  • Is it part of a series?
  • Is it new or familiar to the child(ren)?
  • Does it introduce a new genre?

You might have other questions, but these are the ones I quickly think through when I’m pulling together books for reading or just grabbing one for a quick share. When I “grab” a book it’s from my personal library and I have previously read every one of them. I think of a “grabbed” book as being one I had not pulled to work within a current unit.

My reading style changes depending on the “purpose”. For a “pleasure” read, I can really just read the story, adding voices, emotions, encouraging children to read along, and stopping as directed by the children. To build a lesson or introduce a new concept I need to do a bit of prepping. This can include discussion of illustration style, building vocabulary awareness, introducing the concept outside the book, setting the stage by asking special questions that the book will answer and pulling in connections to other books a child(ren) might be familiar with.

I also consider how I’ll be using the book for the day, week, or lesson unit. 

If a book is the center of a lesson it will probably be shared multiple times. I can pretty much guarantee I will not read or present it the same way. I will change how I share it depending on what point I want to bring forward or focus on at the time. Please, remember that you do not need to always read every word of a book. Adjust for your children and purpose.

  • Will it be a specific illustration that really shows a point of the lesson? 
  • Will it be sections of language patterns? 
  • Will it be specific informational facts? 
  • Will it be about the concept? Such as with sequencing, I stop reading periodically to question the child(ren) to see if they are able to retell the story in sequence.

If the book is one of many books and/or is more of a support book than the main book for the lesson I share the book for itself, but I’m always tying it back to that primary book. It’s value is in reinforcing the lesson, not necessarily providing new information.

I think having a working understanding of the MELDS around reading and writing is important for building solid lessons and expansion activities around books.

Reading Standards for Literature ~

Key Ideas & Details: With prompting and support:

  • Engages and interacts during story reading
  • Retells information from a story
  • Demonstrates understanding of whom or what a story is about 

Craft & Structure:

  • Makes observations about words and pictures in books 
  • Begins to understand that a book has a title, author & illustrator

Integration of Knowledge & Ideas:

  • Makes observations about the use of words and pictures
  • Begins to make connections between a story or poem and one’s own experiences

Reading & Level of Text Complexity:

  • Seeks out experiences (individually and in groups) with pictures, books, and other print materials

Reading Standards: Foundational Skills ~ 

Print Concepts:

  • Begins to display appropriate book-handling behaviors and begin to recognize print conventions:
  • Holds a book as if to read, point to title, and opens book and turns pages in single direction
  • Recognizes print as something that can be read 
  • Recognizes and names the letters of his/her first name 

Phonological Awareness: With prompting and support:

  • Demonstrates an understanding of spoken words and syllables:
  • Begins to recognize rhyming words
  • Begins to isolate and pronounce the initial sounds (phonemes) in their own name and in some words 

Phonics & Word recognition: With prompting and support:

  • Begins to recognize that letters represent sounds


  • Attends to fluent models of reading
  • Begins to imitate fluent models of reading 

Writing Standards ~

Text Types and Purposes of Writing:

  • With prompting and support, uses a combination of drawing, dictating and emergent writing to:
    • Communicate ideas 

Production & Distribution of Writing:

  • With prompting and support: Shares drawing and writing with others
  • Recognizes that digital tools are used for communication and, with support and guidance, uses them to convey messages in picture and/or words 

Research to Build & Present Knowledge-Writing:

  • With guidance & support from adults, begins to recall some information from experiences or gather information from resources 

“Bear Snores On” is a great story to have children start to engage in “reading with you”. Any time I have a story with a line that repeats throughout the story I do everything I can to encourage the children to “read” that section with me. I point out the words. I slow down my reading. I look at them in a way that asks them to help me read. It only takes one child to get it and join in, and you’ll see others quickly follow. The more often you do this with books the more likely you are to have children starting to help you read without the extra encouragement. In “Bear Snores On” the repeated refrain is: “But the bear snores on.” 

I use retelling activities as a go to to expand the learning gained from the books I read to children. I find it easy to direct/or expand any retelling beyond just the basic story line to meet the various developmental needs of the children within my program. 

Here are examples of some of the ways I use retelling ~

Here is a listing of the questions I use with “Bear Snores On”: (text dependent questions)

  • Who is the main character?
  • Who are the other characters in the story?
  • Where does the story take place?
  • What happens at the beginning of the story?
  • What happens next? Or What happens after that? 
  • What happens at the end of the story?
  • What are the characters feeling in the beginning, middle and end of this story? What words help us know?
  • Why did Karma Wilson, the author, title this story “Bear Snores On”?

You can expand by asking more specific questions about each character like: What did the character bring to the den?; talking about the illustrations; or pulling in knowledge from other books you have shared about bears and hibernation.

If you use flashcards with your group it is easy to make a deck of rhyming cards for any of Karma Wilson’s bear books. You do not need to use each and every rhyme. Work with what the developmental levels of your children are. I love having a large selection that allows me variety in how I use them with a group, pairs or individual children. The cards have many usages from playing a Go Fish! style game to a memory game. In Karma Wilson’s bear series the rhyming words are by sound, not just the ending letters providing a match. I think this helps children develop a better understanding of our interesting phonemic rules.

Here are my rhyming card words for “Bear Snores On”:

lair – bear / tight – night / howl – growl / toe – snow / dark – spark /

den – in / see – tea / air – share / grin – in / floor – door /

wren – den / stew – achoo / gnarls – snarls / sneezes – freezes /

rumbles – grumbles / fun – none / moans – groans / delight – night /

dawn – on /

Here are my rhyming card words for “Bear Wants More”:

den – thin / around – ground / lawn – gone / pail – vale / back – snack /

sweet – eat / hare – bear / me – tree / lunch – crunch / pole – hole /

shore – more / lair – bear / tummy – yummy / blows – nose / tight – might  /

hard – yard / wide – outside / cakes – aches /

Any of the Bear series books work well for story retelling if you use a felt or flannel board or puppets. You only need 1 collection of figures as you meet the same characters in all the books. I used the printable sheets from MakingLearningFun for the characters. I love using stick puppets for retelling. I think it’s important to have variety of opportunities for individual versus a group retelling. Felt/flannel boards can be used individually, but are great for group retelling. Stick puppets are my favorite for individual retelling. Everyone in the group can have a set of puppets so retelling occurs together, or if enough characters each child can have 1 puppet to participate in the group retelling. I also love to make a class set with each child making their own set to take home, so they can share the story at home. Our class stick puppets often find themselves being used in dramatic play which has nothing to do with the story.

As part of my Hibernation/Migration/Adapation (H/M/A) unit lessons we make a class cave for a bear to hibernate in. This cave can be molded out of bunched up brown butcher paper, or a cardboard box that you paint or cover with paper. With younger children I usually find the box is the easier to make and lasts better in regards to handling by the children during expansion activities. I have a bear beanie baby and story character cards (like the MakingLearningFun ones linked above). While I read the story, the children place the characters in the cave as they are introduced. I find it easy to restate the direction on what to place and where without losing the flow of the story. It is easy to target prepositions using the beanie bear and the cave (put the bear in back of the cave, in the cave, on top of the cave, beside the cave, in front, etc). This keeps children engaged and works on naming/vocabulary for the animal characters.

If you want individual caves I’ve found the small lunch bag works the best. It can also be prepainted for texture. I cut the cave at the bottom. You will find examples of others that cut the cave at the open end of the bag.

You can also use paper tubes, paper plates, just construction paper, and tissue boxes. If you search: paper bag hibernation cave activity you will get multiple images of examples. One will work for your group.

The free download: “Bear Wants More” Comprehension Smash Mat and Questions found on Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) from Communication Window provides a way to develop retelling skills using question cards and visual response sheet. I made multiple copies, so we could do this individually or in partner groups. Another idea would be to cut up the response sheet and allow children to show their answer as each question card is asked. I used this idea as a template to make my own activities in this vein for other books. Many authors are providing free clip art images and even free illustration images for teachers to copy and use for classroom work.

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