We want our students to write for authentic purposes, and you can’t get much more authentic than writing to persuade others. The opinion writing genre is wide ranging. It includes signs, letters, lists, reviews, essays, blog posts, and more. Use this diverse list of opinion writing mentor texts to inspire students to define their ideas, and communicate them with passion, clarity, solid reasoning, and plenty of finesse.
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1. Don’t Feed the Bear by Kathleen Doherty (PreK-2)
When a park ranger puts up a “Don’t Feed the Bear” reminder, he has no idea about the persuasive sign-writing battle he’ll set in motion. (Strategic language includes: “Please feed the ranger rotten eggs and slimy spinach.”) Share this hilarious title to introduce students to using signs to influencing others’ thinking.
2. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems (PreK-2)
Let a favorite character guide young students in the art of persuasion. The bus driver does not want pigeon in the driver’s seat, but the well-known bird builds an emotional and unrelenting case.
3. The Little Book of Little Activists by Penguin Young Readers (PreK-3)
Introduce young students to the idea of activism, and its connection to opinion writing. This inspiring photo essay includes examples of kids’ opinions about real-life causes and many written signs.
4. The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan (PreK-3)
This protagonist is a toddler on a mission—a mission to kick her dad out of her parents’ bed so she can sleep with her mom. Use this little girl’s precocious modeling to show students how to polish their own opinion writing by adding visual supports.
5. The Perfect Pet by Margie Palatini (PreK-3)
Elizabeth crafts a plan to convince her parents to let her have a pet, with unexpected—but pleasing—results. Teach kids about win-win solutions and encourage them to suggest them in their own opinion writing.
6. Can I Be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings (PreK-3)
This collection of persuasive letters from a lonely dog seeking an owner is a twist on kids’ pet requests. Each letter is tailored to a specific audience, with Arfy promising to lick things clean, protect, and deliver endless affection. Will any of the residents of Butternut Street agree to adopt him?
7. I Wanna New Room by Karen Kaufman Orloff (K-3)
After his successful angling for a pet in I Wanna Iguana, Alex tries using note-writing to broach his next request: A room of his own, away from his pesky younger brother. The parent-child communication includes plenty of examples of making and responding to counterarguments.
8. Be Glad Your Dad Is Not an Octopus! by Matthew Logelin (K-3)
This author’s opinion is that you should appreciate your dad for who he is. He makes his case with plenty of arguments grounded in facts—facts that show that if your dad was an animal, he could be even more gross, embarrassing, or annoying!
9. Earrings! by Judith Viorst (K-3)
A young girl desperately wants her ears pierced, but her parents’ respond to her begging with a firm “No.” Ask students to evaluate the merits of her various arguments. Which are strong? Which are just whiny?
10. Pick a Picture, Write an Opinion! By Kristen McCurry (K-3)
If you’re looking for an introduction to the genre that lays it all out there, you’ll appreciate this resource. Engaging, diverse photos and topics, a kid-friendly tone, and explicit advice make this a helpful primer to accompany more conventional mentor texts.
11. I Hate My Cats (A Love Story) by Davide Cali (K-3)
This narrator has plenty of reasons to dislike his self-centered cats, which he outlines in specific detail. Use this title as an example of a multi-pronged argument. (Plus, show that sometimes, opinion writing actually leads us to change our own minds. By the end, the owner realizes he actually loves his pets, quirks and all.)
by Diane Dillon (K-3)
Zoe makes big plans for her future, from being an archeologist to a veterinarian. She quiets self-doubt with confident arguments. Aside from sharing this title’s lovely, affirming message, use it to teach kids to anticipate tough questions and head them off convincingly in their opinion writing.
13. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt (K-4)
These disgruntled but endearing crayons have opinions, and they aren’t shy about making them known in this read aloud favorite. Check out this free downloadable educator guide from the publisher for persuasive letter-writing curriculum connections.
14. Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating (K-4)
The best opinion writing springs from genuine conviction. Eugenie Clark believed sharks were fascinating and that women could be accomplished scientists who study them. Use this title to help students generate their own passion-fueled topics about which to write.
15. What Can a Citizen Do? By Dave Eggers (K-5)
Share this title for its inspiring message about the power of one citizen to evoke positive change through spoken words, writing, and action. Also consider it as an example of how words and art interact in opinion writing; the illustrations and text work together here to advance the book’s message.
16. Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest by Sarah Hampson (1-4)
Dr. Archibald Coo believes that pigeons don’t deserve their reputation as avian pests. He outlines a plan to change the minds of his city neighbors. Part of his approach is to send a persuasive letter to the mayor, suggesting creative, mutually beneficial agreements—a great example for student writers aiming to change the minds of authority figures.
17. The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry (1-4)
The animals in this classic read aloud give a range of reasons their home shouldn’t be chopped down. Use them as examples of how to vary sentence structures and formats when listing arguments, and how to use specific details to strengthen reasoning.
18. Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson (2-5)
This fictional account of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade, told from the point of view of a young participant, is a classroom must-read. It exemplifies how children’s actions can make a difference in an adult world, and how powerful language strengthens a written message.
19. Marley Dias Gets It Done and So Can You! by Marley Dias (4-8)
Every middle school student should meet Marley Dias through this powerful account of her #1000blackgirlbooks campaign. It boasts plenty of practical advice for young activists. Pull text excerpts for mini-lessons about tailoring opinion writing to your audience; Marley writes straight to her peers.
20. Front Desk by Kelly Yang (4-6)
This middle grade novel about a Chinese immigrant family explores themes of racism, poverty, and hope. At its heart is ten-year-old Mia, who shares her thinking with the world by writing letters. This story puts opinion writing in a believable context for students. Plus, several of Mia’s letters are organized, detailed, convincing mentor texts for students to emulate in their own persuasive letter or essay writing.
21. Class Action by Steven B. Frank (4-7)
In this humorous take on a student-centered topic, sixth-grader Sam launches a major campaign against homework. Selected passages and embedded writing samples, like Sam’s “Claim for Damages to Person or Property” to the LAUSD, offer self-contained examples to use for opinion writing mini-lessons. The novel as a whole is an appealing companion text for your unit.
22.You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World by Caroline Paul (4-7)
This author believes that “kids have the power to change the world.” Her introductory letter to readers is mentor text material, with its conversational tone and a balance of emotional appeal and fact-based examples. “Workbook Questions” for each chapter give many ideas for opinion writing-related classroom tasks, too.
23.Art in Action: Make a Statement, Change Your World by Matthew “Levee” Chavez (5-7)
Here’s another title to elevate students’ opinion writing in both form and topic. Author Matthew Chavez believes that, as “the original social media,” creative expression can make a difference, and he carefully outlines why. The remaining content gives students loads of tips about sparking change through art, writing, and conversation.
What are your favorite opinion writing mentor texts? Let us know over at our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.