Why Cynthia Rylant is the PERFECT Author for Right NOW!

Cynthia Rylant is one of the best descriptive writers. This post includes ten of her best books and how one teacher uses them as mentor texts for reading and writing.

Of all the authors I love, there is one who has published a great collection of titles that I find work well from fall into winter. With themes of scarecrows, changes in the weather, life in the mountains, the Christmas holidays, and winter, you can weave in so many skills and writing options.

Cynthia Rylant's writing style works well for teaching author's craft, visualizing, point of view, imagery, drawing conclusions, making inferences, and finding text evidence to support thinking. Of course, her works also provide an excellent example for writing ideas, voice, and word choice, so they lend themselves well to persuasive, descriptive, and narrative writing. Today, I'd like to share the titles I like best and how I've used them.


This teaching bundle features the book, Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant. It's perfect for visualizing, point of view, summarizing, and writing.I thought I'd start with my favorite of them all. This book is just so descriptive. You absolutely feel like you are a scarecrow, and because of this, it has great teaching potential. It is a fairly new title for Rylant, but it is available in paperback now. Here are a few skills that I teach with this book:
­čŹéVisualizing with Text Details
­čŹéPoint of View
­čŹéMaking Inferences
­čŹüDescriptive Writing about A Day in the Life of a Scarecrow


Enjoy using repetition as a writing style with this book and teach other reading skills too. For more details check out this post.
Another fall title that is PERFECT for right now is In November. It's written almost like a poem with plenty of figurative language and description. Just consider this one quote...

In November, the trees are standing all sticks and bones. Without their leaves, how lovely they are, spreading their arms like dancers. They know it is time to be still.

With this title, I enjoy teaching the following skills:
­čŹéFigurative Language
­čŹéMaking Inferences
­čŹéVisualizing with Text Evidence/Imagery
­čŹüDescriptive Writing using Patterned Text


This patterned text is perfect for Then and Now or patterned writing. It's a great mentor text for making comparisons and connections too. Check out this post to learn more about Cynthia Rylant's work.
This choice can be used any time of year, but I would use it at the front end of this author study mainly as a way to share some of Cynthia Rylant's history with your students. Cynthia Rylant is from West Virginia, a state known for its beautiful mountains and fall colors as well as connections to coal mining. This book includes information of times past, and the illustrations help the reader visualize life without technology and things we have today. 

This book, like In November, includes repetition, so it's a fun one to imitate. You can have your students write about, "When I was Young in _____" or compare Then and Now. For reading skills, you might try these:
­čîäMaking Connections
­čîäMaking Comparisons
­čîäQuestioning, and
­čîäSummarizing Information


The Relatives Came is a great choice for connecting to childhood memories and family. It's a great mentor text for teaching cause/effect and story structure as well as narrative writing. Check out this post for more information.Another book that connects to Cynthia Rylant's childhood and history is The Relatives Came. This one is a classic in many classrooms and is listed as a recommended mentor text all over Pinterest. The setting is during the summer, and it tells about how the Virginia relatives go over the mountains to visit the West Virginia relatives. (and you can probably guess why I love it since I'm a Virginia blogger!) I've used this book with multiple grade levels even though the reading level is about a second-grade level. If you're modeling skills with a book, the reading level isn't terribly critical. 

Skills that this book works well for include:
­čÜÖStory Structure
­čÜÖCause and Effect Relationships
­čÜÖExploding the Moment (writing)
­čÜÖNarrative writing


This sweet and tender TRUE STORY of Christmas in Appalachia is perfect for teaching many skills. This comprehensive unit includes both digital and PDF options. In this post, you can learn more about it as well as other Cynthia Rylant options.
Ah...what a gem! If you're looking for a great book to help your students understand the importance of giving versus receiving. I love this book's tenderness and feel like it provides a wonderful model for our children. The setting is West Virginia (like the previous two), and it too includes a Then and Now theme. 

The story begins with a young boy looking forward to the coming of the Christmas train where he'll receive a gift. He forever wishes for a doctor's kit, but he's received important things like socks and mittens. This true story is one of the best holiday books out there and carries so much meaning. Here's what I teach using it:
­čî▓Questioning using the QAR strategy
­čî▓Sequencing Events
­čî▓Making Comparisons, and of course,
­čî▓Writing related to the theme


This sweet book is told from the point of view of a young girl getting ready for the holidays. This unit includes many options. Check out this post for more details.Another holiday book that works well for December is this one. I used both Silver Packages and Christmas in the Country for different reasons. Christmas in the Country is descriptive like the others I've mentioned. It's great for discussions on family traditions, preparations, and how we all celebrate in different ways. 

Skills you can teach with this book include:
­čÄüMaking Comparisons
­čÄüUsing Text Evidence
­čÄüSequencing Events


It's a Snow Day! Just kidding! This book is a great choice for kid writing about snow days though. Cynthia Rylant's descriptive writing help young children imitate her style in their own writing. Check out this post for reading and writing skills you can teach.
Once the holidays are over, it's time to look at winter themes. Snow is another descriptive text that students can imitate for their own writing. Kids love waiting for the automated calls to come out letting them know it's a snow day, and this book totally relates to that enthusiasm.

I used this book primarily for writing ideas, word choice, and voice. In reading, you can teach author's craft and visualizing using text evidence along with story elements, making comparisons, and cause/effect relationships. 


This book is the perfect choice for the dog lovers in your classroom. It's plot is engaging and the style is kid-friendly. Check out this post for teaching options you and your students will enjoy.What a sweet book! We had a dog just like Gracie, and this anytime book is perfectly connected to kids. Every single kid I know can relate to dogs that flee the scene and love the chase. It's a great choice for cause/effect relationships, sequencing events. problem and solution, making connections, and with writing, kids can write their own pet adventure. Teachers can use this book as a mentor text for story structure and narrative writing. It's an excellent choice for the middle grades.


All in a Day may be a simple text, but it provides a great springboard into discussions of making the most of your days and classroom routines. Check out this post for how you can use this book.
This very simple text is best used for writing and theme extension. The story tells the importance of making the most of each day. I've included it as a great choice for back to school and establishing classroom routines. 
With the organization being morning, noon, and night, you can work on organization with writing and the importance of prewriting and planning. 

One interesting thing about this book is the way the illustrations were done. The illustrator used four colors-black, white, pale yellow, and light blue. The pictures can also lead to discussions of focus and how the author wants the reader to pay attention to specific details in the picture just like in the classroom where the teacher wants to keep the focus on learning. (Maybe it's a stretch, but it's worth a try.)


This sweet book may be a great choice for the art teacher in your school. It is about friendship, creativity, and the importance of nature. Check out this post for more teaching ideas for reading and writing.This is one of Cynthia Rylant's lesser-known titles, but like All in a Day, it's about keeping the focus on important things. In this book, the main character is a painter who focuses on the beauty of nature in his paintings. The peaceful surrounding helps him get creative, and as he paints, he has a silent observer. Eventually, the painter meets the young spy who's been watching him, and they form a connection. 

With this book, I teach:
­čľîThe Writing Process using Four Square


This Cynthia Rylant Author Study includes book units for *10* of her books. There are 384 pages (PDF and Digital) of materials for the books listed. The units work well for guided reading, whole group skill modeling, for partner work, tutoring, and/or sub plans since they are detailed  The focus with all is on reading comprehension and writing. Check out this post for more detail.As you can see, this author study is comprehensive. It includes over 350 pages of printable and digital options for you to use as you celebrate Cynthia Rylant's work. Author studies help students connect to the author's style and gives students a place to go for other titles you may not be using. Kids love to reread books you've used too. 

As you study her work, you can emphasize the importance of writing in your classroom too. I love creating class books with kids, and as you work through the author study, you'll make quite a few. Many teachers choose to keep class books in tubs for parents to read as they wait for conferences on conference day and for students to borrow and read too. 

This author study has received very positive reviews too. Check out what a few buyers have said:

Rhonda says:

Cynthia Rylant is one of my favorite authors! Your resource helps 
bring her wonderful 
writing into my classroom.

Andrea says:

Excellent material, more than I will ever be able to use. All you'll want for Cynthia Rylant.

Kylie says:
Wow! I have been a long term fan of your reading comprehension work and to have these 10 units in the one bundle is just amazing and a bargain!!! I've hit the jackpot! I really am impressed by your graphic organizers and the range of activities included in each of your units - thank you! 

As you can tell, I love Cynthia Rylants work and so have my students. I've used all of these units multiple times with different groups of children. Of course, they've been tweaked quite a few times too, and I'm quite sure your students will love the units as much as mine have.

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