Successful school upkeep requires a deep kind of respect and love for the people inside. School custodians watch kids and their teachers grow, eat cupcakes, look at art work, and save markers under radiators. They wax floors, repair desks, and duct tape broken sneakers on the fly. Celebrate your custodian’s hard work and love. Here are some books about custodians to read aloud or recommend to the kids you teach:
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1. The Custodian From the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler (Grades K-2)
Hubie is fearful of the school custodian because of all the fantastic and frightening tales he has heard about him. However, once he meets the custodian face-to-face, the boy realizes that the custodian is caring and helpful.
2. Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth by Barbara Park (Grades K-2)
Junie B. Jones is in kindergarten and her teacher asks everyone to dress up like a person whose job she wants to have when she grows up. The class brainstorms ideas like painters, superheroes, and police officers. Junie says she wanted to be all three, and the other kids make fun of her. Monday morning she returns to school dressed up as a janitor, because they she says they are the superheroes of the school.
3. Eerie Elementary: The School is Alive by Jack Chabert (Grades 1-3)
Sam Graves does not want to be the hall monitor at a school called Eerie Elementary. He is a little embarrassed by the shiny orange sash he has to wear as he patrols the halls, but when the playground sand tries to eat him, and the school custodian, Mr. Nakobi, tells him that it’s Sam’s job to keep the evil brick building in check, Sam can’t tell whether Mr. Nakobi is crazy—or he is.
4. We the Children (Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School) by Andrew Clements (Grades 1-4)
Believing that the school needs protection from developers who bought the property, Mr. Keane, a custodian, gives Ben a coin that dates back to the school’s 1783 founding. Now Ben and his friend Jill must unravel the school’s mysteries and outwit a new custodian, who, they suspect, is a spy for the development company.
5. The A+ Custodian by Louise Borden (Grades 1-4)
John Carillo, Dublin Elementary School’s custodian, has a big job. He mops and sweeps, polishes and scrubs, changes light bulbs, and moves furniture. But he also builds relationships with two teacher’s kids who must come early each day. This beautiful picture book will help remind you and your students how valuable school custodians are.
6. Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes (Grades 3-7)
Welcome to Stately Academy, a school crawling with mysteries to be solved! The founder of the school left many clues and puzzles to challenge his enterprising students. Using their wits and their growing understanding of coding, Hopper and her friend Eni are going to solve the mystery of Stately Academy no matter what it takes. Mr. Bee is Stately Academy’s janitor. He’s cranky and private and doesn’t like kids. When Hopper and Eni stumble on Stately Academy’s secret, they find themselves confronted with Mr. Bee. Will the kids be able to break through Mr. Bee’s rough exterior?
7. The Odd Squad: Bully Bait by Michael Fry (Grades 3-7)
Seventh-grade loner Nick Ramsey is so short he fits into his locker. He knows this fact well, thanks to a bully named Roy. Nick can only confront him secretly by sending mocking texts as mysterious, self-assured “Max.” Guidance counselor Dr. Daniels decides Nick needs to belong to a group and assigns him to safety patrol, along with two other bullied outsiders, Molly and Karl. Soon the three kids, guided by the school custodian Mr. Dupree, set out to stop bullying.
8. The Janitor’s Boy by Andrew Clements (Grades 3-7)
When Jack Rankin gets caught putting a huge wad of watermelon bubble gum under a school desk, the principal sentences him to three weeks of after-school gum cleanup for the school custodian. The problem is, Jack’s anger at that custodian was the reason for his gum project in the first place. The school custodian happens to be Jack’s dad.
9. Hound Dog True by Linda Urban (Grades 4-7)
Mattie Breen writes down custodial rules her Uncle Potluck has shared. 1. Do not let a mop sit overnight in water. 2. Fix things before they get too big for fixing. Mattie has a plan to convince her uncle to let her be his custodial apprentice at Mitchell P. Anderson Elementary School. She’s starting a new school AGAIN and wants this work to keep her away from building relationships with the other 5th graders, but things don’t work out as planned.
10. Janitors by Tyler Whitesides (Grades 4-7)
We left this one to last because it doesn’t exactly show custodians in the best light, but kids do love it! Is it hard to pay attention at school no matter how hard you try? It may not be your fault. The janitors at Welcher Elementary know a secret, and it’s draining all the smarts out of the kids. Twelve-year-old Spencer Zumbro, with the help of his classmate Daisy Gullible Gates, must fight with and against a secret, janitorial society that wields wizard-like powers.
Any other books about custodians that you would add to the list? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.