Monday, January 29, 2007

Books to Count On

We have just begun to talk about number sense and counting in my Foundations of Math Instruction class. While children first learn to count by manipulating real objects such as blocks, cars, buttons, marbles, etc., the move to counting pictures in books allows students to make the transition from the concrete to a visual representation.

There are many terrific books out there for developing counting skills. Be sure to look for books that not only count up, but count down, skip count, and develop general number sense by looking at different representations for any particular number. This is also a great place to include literature that represents diverse perspectives. Here are a few of my favorites.

1 Hunter by Pat Hutchins - Children will enjoy following the unobservant hunter and predicting what animals will appear next. A good book for counting up and back.

Anno's Counting Book by Mitsumasa Anno - This wordless picture book counts to 12, with each picture spread representing a month of the year. Also included is the written numeral and representation of each number with counting blocks.

Can You Count Ten Toes? Count to 10 in 10 Different Languages by Lezlie Evans - Though not a counting book in the traditional sense (children aren't counting individual objects), children who have mastered the counting sequence in English will enjoy learning to count to 10 in other languages.

Emeka's Gift by Ifeoma Onyefulu - On the way to visit his grandmother, Emeka sees people and objects from 2 to 10. This book features photographs taken in a Nigerian village, and includes with each spread, a description of the importance of objects and/or scene.

Feast For Ten by Cathryn Falwell - The numbers one through ten are used to show an African-American family shopping for food and later preparing the meal.

Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh - Illustrated in cut-paper collage, this book counts up to 10 and down again as a hungry snake tries to eat a group of sleepy mice.

One is a Drummer: A Book of Numbers by Roseanne Thong - This counting book introduces aspects of traditional Chinese culture in bouncy verse.

Two Ways to Count to Ten: A Liberian Folktale retold by Ruby Dee - When leopard decides the way to determine his replacement is with a contest to see who can count to 10 before a thrown spear hits the ground, it is the smartest, not the strongest animal that wins, by finding a different way to count to 10.

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin by Lloyd Moss - This is a Caldecott honor book with beautiful illustrations and graceful language. Not only does the book count from one to ten, but presents names for groups, such as duo, trio, quartet, quintet, etc.

And finally, here are two books that must be read together! A Frog in the Bog by Karma Wilson and My Little Sister Ate One Hare by Bill Grossman. Here are excerpts from each:
"ONE tick, TWO fleas, THREE flies (Oh my!),/ FOUR slugs (Ew, ugh!) in the belly of the frog/ on a half-sunk log/ in the middle of the bog."

"My little sister ate 3 ants./ She even ate their underpants./ She ate 2 snakes. She ate 1 hare./ We thought she'd throw up then and there./ But she didn't."
Get the connection?! There is great fun for all in these two delightfully gross counting books.

There are many great resources for finding additional books. Don't miss the article from Book Links entitled Picture Books + Math = Fun. Also check out this list of books for counting to ten.


  1. You would love ONE IS A SNAIL, TEN IS A CRAB by April Pulley Sayre. It's a book that counts by feet. One is a snail, two is a person, three is a snail and a person, four is a dog, five is a dog and a snail, six is an insect, seven is...can you guess? After the first ten, there are fun combinations for all the tens up to 100. Great possibilities for extensions with this book!

  2. Hi Mary Lee,

    Thanks so much for writing. I have just one-clicked my way to a copy of the book. It looks great! I have too many counting books to mention, so I tried to list those that really seem to generate excitement. I also love to use How Many Snails? by Paul Giganti. The kids love counting higher and higher as they get farther into the book. My practicum students have even used the book for one-on-one performance assessments.

    I'm so glad you visited! I'm a big fan of your site.

  3. MY LITTLE SISTER ATE ONE HARE is one of my favorite books of all time. You can read it to preschoolers, second graders, fifth graders...adults. Everybody gets a kick out of it. Grossman's text and the illustrations by Hawkes work together perfectly.

    I like TEN LITTLE MUMMIES, written by Philip Yates and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, for counting backward.

    WE ALL WENT ON SAFARI: A COUNTING JOURNEY THROUGH TANZANIA, written by Laurie Krebs and illustrated by Julia Cairns, also teaches the numbers in Swahili. The back matter includes a pronunciation guide of the Swahili number words--as well as information about the people and animals of Tanzania and a map of the country.

    Thanks for the list of books.

  4. Thanks, Elaine. I have all of Laurie Krebs' travel books and use them for teaching geography. I completely forgot about We All Went on Safari. I guess that's what happens when you have too many books! (Oops - You can NEVER have too many books!)

    I will definitely check out Ten Little Mummies. I also love Ten on a Train for counting back. Kids seem to love all the different modes of transportation that are included.

    Thanks again!

  5. Tricia,

    I know what you mean about too many books. I own a few thousand children books. Sometimes I forget I have a book and go out and buy another copy. After I retired from my job as a school librarian and brought all my books home, we decided we had to build a library in my basement. We had been tripping over bins and boxes of books in nearly every room in our house. Now, all my books are organized on shelves and I can find them when I need them...usually.

    A counting book that's great to read at Halloween time: ONE WITCH, which was written by Laura Leuck and illustrated by S. D. Schindler

    ONE LEAF RIDES THE WIND: COUNTING IN A JAPANESE GARDEN is a counting book with haiku poems. The book was written by Celeste Davidson Mannis and is beautifully illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung.