St. Patrick’s Day is such a fun holiday to celebrate in the classroom, but it can be hard to find books suitable for older kids. After reading several amazing Irish stories and many others that were not so great, I thought I’d share my top picks for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students.
If you’re looking for a book that weaves together many old Irish legends into one amazing story, then O’Sullivan Stew by Hudson Talbott is the book for you! This has actually become one of our favorites not only in the classroom, but also with my own children at home. I am finding that the more I read and learn about this story, the more I grow to love it.
My students and I absolutely love the heroine of the story, Kate O’Sullivan. She is strong and intelligent, and best of all, she stands up for what is right! O’Sullivan Stew also has a wonderful message of inclusivity. I highly recommend this book for upper elementary!
My book companion for O’Sullivan Stew includes activities for character traits, story elements, cause & effect, and genre analysis. It also includes comprehension assessments and informational passages about Crookhaven, Ireland and Irish Folklore.
Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman is a wonderful folktale to connect to the Great Irish Famine. When the leprechauns scoop the luck of Ireland, crops die, cows stop producing milk, and chickens don’t lay eggs. Thankfully, Fiona’s wit is powerful enough to restore luck to Ireland. Fiona’s Luck is another story with a great message and strong female lead.
I recommend a schema builder on The Great Famine to read with Fiona’s Luck to give students a deeper understanding of the story! An informational text about the famine, along with Fiona’s Luck lesson plans, is included in my March Read It Write unit.
Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato
Although I don’t love to use Jamie O’Rourke alone, it pairs wonderfully with Fiona’s Luck! Lesson plans and activities for these Irish folktales are included in my March Read It Write unit for fourth grade reading. Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato is a silly old folktale that tells the story of the laziest man in Ireland.
Both younger and older students alike find plenty of humor in this cute Irish tale. This makes it such a fun read aloud for St. Patrick’s Day! My only complaint is it doesn’t end the way you’d expect in a traditional folktale. Rather than Jamie learning a lesson on greed and laziness, he is rewarded at the end with never having to work to feed himself and his wife again.
However, I still like to take this story and use it as an opportunity to ask students what would have been a more deserving outcome for Jamie. I am always impressed by their responses. This book provides a great teachable moment for how Irish folktales in particular can be rather silly and meant for amusement, not necessarily to teach a lesson.
If you plan to use Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato alone as your St. Patrick’s Day read aloud, I recommend my book companion for fun activities and meaningful reflection.
Fiona’s Lace by Patricia Polacco is a must-read in the upper elementary classroom. The story tells of difficult times in Ireland, leading Fiona and her family to seek passage to America. When they arrive in Chicago to find themselves living in harsh conditions, the family finds hope of a better life through Fiona’s fine Irish lace.
Like many other Patricia Polacco books, this is a wonderful text for teaching context clues. Fiona’s Lace is also a wonderful mentor text for teaching inferences, character traits, and theme.
Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland
If you are looking for an informational book about St. Patrick, I recommend Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola. This is an excellent book to teach students about the life and legends of St. Patrick. This book focuses more on traditional stories of St. Patrick, rather than the leprechaun and pot of gold that are commonly associated with St. Patrick’s Day.
The Irish Cinderlad
The Irish Cinderlad by Shirley Climo is a great choice not only for St. Patrick’s Day, but also for a Cinderella unit study. This Irish twist tells the story of what would have happened if Cinderella were a man.
Similarly to O’Sullivan Stew, The Irish Cinderlad includes many elements of both folktales and fairytales. This book presents a wonderful activity to compare and contrast elements of folktales and fairytales within the story. The Irish Cinderlad could also be compared and contrasted with other versions of Cinderella.
Maisie McGillicuddy’s Sheep Got Muddy
Maisie McGillicuddy’s Sheep Got Muddy by Kelly Grettler is such a fun poetic read aloud that allows allows students to see some of Ireland’s most iconic landmarks! The rhythm and rhyming of the story makes it read much like a narrative poem, and the advanced vocabulary makes it a great pick for older students.
I hope your students enjoy these St. Paddy’s Day read alouds as much as mine do!
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