Gross Books and Why I Use Them

Hi! It's Melissa from Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late. We just started a new literacy system with our Title I students this year from Fountas & Pinnell called Leveled Literacy Intervention. So far, I'm loving it! It's created to use with small groups daily and accelerate the process to reach grade level expectations. Every day, we read a new high-interest book on their instructional or independent level, and I've got to say they did an amazing job with these books.

But I'm not here to sell LLI because (1) it's really expensive and (2) you don't HAVE to have it in your class to help students reach grade level expectations. It's all about selecting books that students can relate to and read at their instructional or independent level. What I do want to talk about today is "gross books".

I have already read about poop multiple times this year (along with many other topics ranging from art, amazing heroes, and some really neat fictional books as well), and I'll be honest. I LOVE it! Why? Because it immediately hooks the students. Maybe it's just my kids, but they are fascinated with gross things. I do have a large number of boys in my program, so maybe that's why. But books like the one above are the kind of books they eat up!

One of the bonuses was that all of the books I have read this year about poop also talked about how it was somehow beneficial to us (in the book above, they used fibers from elephant dung to make paper).

I feel like too many teachers want to avoid these books or keep them out of the classroom because it's not "appropriate". Captain Underpants? I say if a kid can fall in love with reading through those books, then by all means, sign me up!

Does this mean that you can't introduce them or steer them toward "classier" choices? Absolutely not. Like I said earlier, we are reading biographies about really special people I've never heard of, interesting stories about art, and lots of other things. But if I give in occasionally to these "less-than-desirable books", then I have a better chance of getting them to at least attempt something else when the time comes.

And be honest, you're a little curious what's inside these books, too...


  1. Amen!! This is hilarious :) I bet your students LOOOOOVE reading now all because of YOU. Great post.

    The Techie Teacher

  2. Oh so true! It it weren't for Captain Underpants, there would be so many boys who would never have learned to read! My son was one of those! I love some great gross books!

    Reading Toward the Stars

  3. I use LLI in my classroom too! My students think this book is disgusting, but they love reading it!!! I agree the gross books are the books they seem to like the most!