The dog and main human character rely on each other and develop a deep friendship, and the human (usually a child about the same age as our students) has to take responsibility for the animal. These themes of companionship, trust, responsibility, and independence can be found in many animal books and are reasons I think kids love to read books with animal characters.
One drawback to the dog books is often an animal dies, so be aware if you have a particularly tender-hearted
Below is a list of dog-centered chapter books that I like to use in the classroom as a read aloud or novel study:
- Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (click for novel unit)
- A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean
- A Dog Called Kitty by Bill Wallace
- The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford (click for novel unit)
- Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (click for novel unit)
- Julie of the Wolves series by Jean Craighead George
- Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey
- Love That Dog by Sharon Creech (click for novel unit)
- My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen (middle school+)
- Ribsy by Beverly Cleary
- Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
- Sounder by William H. Armstrong
- Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner (click for novel unit)
- What the Dog Said by Randi Reisfeld
- Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
A few favorite activities I use with the dog books I teach could easily be adapted for other novel studies:
One activity I have been using for a long time is to have students write point of view journals as we read a novel. It is an activity that works well for different novels, but it is particularly successful with The Incredible Journey.
Students pick one animal after reading the first few chapters of the book. After we complete each chapter, the students retell the chapter from the point of view of their chosen animal. We share one journal from each animal every day and compare the different versions of the story depending on which animal's journal we hear. Students love comparing and contrasting the scenes in the story based on Luath, Bodger, or Tao's viewpoint. Students also love making the foldable burrito books that they use to write their incredible journals!
Do you read any animal books to your students? Are they successful?