January is such a magical time for reading. Many winter picture books surround snowy landscapes, crackling firesides, snowmen characters, snow activities, warm drinks and food, and sweet themes of friendship and family. Winter is the perfect time to cozy up and read while watching the snow fall past the windows. It is my favorite time to grab a novel, some hot chocolate, and enjoy the ambiance. January is definitely the perfect time to enjoy a winter read aloud.
I remember watching the snow fall from my wrap-around classroom windows as I read winter picture books to my students. Something about winter and reading goes hand in hand. One of my favorite winter picture books is Radiator the Snowman by Tami Parker.
I know, I know. The author is my mother and maybe I am biased, but because she’s my mother, I understand the background of this story and her motivations for writing it and it makes me love this book even more.
If you haven’t read this adorable story, here is a Youtube link where you can hear it being read aloud and fall in love with it! It is also available for purchase here on Amazon.
Publisher’s Synopsis: Radiator the Snowman knew he was different from the other snowmen of his most distinguished village. These feelings had always been with him since he was first formed in the hands of the children of the local junk man to the present time period in which he was kept away from the finer snowmen on display in his village. However, Radiator’s chance to join this prestigious league soon arrives. Will he take this opportunity or decide to stay in the junkyard with his friends?
Radiator the Snowman is a wonderful story to read to little ones when you want them to know how important they are to each person in their life and why they should never compare themselves to others.
When I taught sixth grade, we would dive into this book every January. This picture book is a sweet story that’s been utilized from preschool on up. However, if you’re looking for a picture book that has deep themes, challenging vocabulary, and acts as a wonderful mentor text, I recommend teaching this story from 4th graders to middle schoolers.
Here are five activities you can use with Radiator the Snowman.
Activity 1: Explore Setting
A huge part of why Radiator looks the way he does and is motivated to become part of the Distinguished Snowmen Society is because of his setting. He lives in a junkyard and his inner and outer character traits were literally formed because of this particular setting. Not to mention the time of winter, which is why our main character is a snowman. Students can explore how the setting prompts the story along, creates the main character, and causes his inner motivations.
A simple setting analysis I love to have students complete is a no-prep activity. Students receive a piece of copy paper and are tasked with drawing the setting of the story. They color the setting and using text-based evidence, write down five quotes from the book that relate to the setting and connect to how it shaped the character. Radiator the Snowman is free on Kindle Unlimited, so I would project the story onto the board for students to find quotes.
On the back of the copy paper, they write a paragraph exploring how Radiator was formed from the junkyard and how this setting is what causes him to want to change into a fancy snowman and “better” himself. Students also explore how the junkyard setting shaped who his friends were and how in the end, Radiator had profound realizations about this special junkyard he calls home and his true friends.
Activity 2: Create a Snowman
Radiator is a truly unique snowman. His outer appearance is formed from the junkyard. Radiator’s white snow is dingy from the dirt of the yard. His hat was tattered from the garbage. His patchy wool socks were used to help warm the junkyard’s kittens and his nose was a screwdriver. We also see how Radiator changes physically as well as emotionally throughout the story. When trying to join the Distinguished Society of Snowmen, Radiator undergoes a makeover with a shiny black stovepipe as his new hat, a borrowed scarf from the junkman’s wife, and a found carrot as his new nose.
A fun activity is to have students create their very own snowman inspired by Radiator. By incorporating technology skills and writing, this resource allows students to digitally create a snowman from scratch, as well as a scene for the setting, and then write a story all about it! The items can also be printed for students to create a craft instead of completing it digitally. This is a great way for students to connect to Radiator the Snowman: by creating their own snowman and the story surrounding it.
Activity 3: Theme & Character Analysis/Friendship Valentine’s Cards
The former elementary teacher in me loves how Valentine’s Day is in winter. Pink and red hearts with snowy backdrops create such a cozy and sweet vibe. One of the main themes found in Radiator the Snowman is to radiate with love. This book is perfect to read before Valentine’s Day or Friendship Day, as many schools celebrate. Radiator’s name is created because the dingy snow used to form him was from the top of an old radiator in the junkyard, but in the end, we see that Radiator radiates with love for his friends.
This picture book not only focuses on our main character but does a splendid job developing the minor characters as well. From Head Light, an old wise owl to Hubcap, the friendly junkyard dog, each of Radiator’s friends holds a special place in his heart. Radiator even keeps orphaned kittens warm in his wool socks and they become his friends as well. At the end of the story, we see just how special Radiator’s friends are to him.
Friendship Valentine’s Cards
Discuss and explore the theme of what it means to radiate with Love. Ask students to come up with tangible ways they can show love and kindness to those around them, just like Radiator and his friends did with each other.
Students can take this story as inspiration to radiate with love for their special friendships. They can write Valentine’s cards to their friends writing details on why they cherish their friendship so much. Students can also write a friendship Valentine’s card from Radiator to his friends Head Light, Hubcap, and the kittens showing how thankful he is for their friendship.
Another activity is that students can choose a minor character and examine their perspective as they write a Valentine’s Day card to Radiator.
Take it a step further and have students create digital Valentine’s Day cards using our resource.
Activity 4: Summary & Reading Comprehension Questions
We have FREE reading comprehension questions available for you for Radiator the Snowman. Grab yours now!
Another simple and no-prep way to practice reading comprehension is through writing a summary or a retelling. Students draw a large snowman on copy paper. Write “Beginning” in the top circle or the face, “Middle” in the middle circle, and “End” in the last snowman circle. Students retell the beginning, middle, and end of the story using the snowman circles by writing the story’s events in sequence.
Activity 5: Radiator the Snowman Glyph
The most important theme this book teaches is that everyone is uniquely made and special just the way they are. Radiator doesn’t realize this at the beginning of the story as he tries to join the Distinguished Snowmen Society. He changes his appearance and even forgets about his kitten friends. Radiator tries to change to fit in with a group of snowmen who are anything but kind to him. When I taught sixth grade, we discussed this theme many times. Middle schoolers struggle with this concept so much. While they try to change who they really are to fit in with various groups, they lose sight of what makes them special and unique, just like Radiator did.
I love the activity of completing a glyph. It’s a fun way to show students’ special and unique differences and preferences in art form! Students can appreciate and celebrate their differences in this activity. This particular glyph incorporates winter and Radiator the Snowman. Students answer questions about themselves, the story, and wintertime to create their own unique snowman glyph. Each question’s answer corresponds with something they must draw.
Radiator the Snowman will be a winter favorite in your classroom. Every student that has read this picture book has adored it. Some even say it’s their favorite winter story! With its deep themes of friendship, kindness, appreciation, and celebrating unique differences, Radiator the Snowman has lots of teachable moments. This January, your classroom and students will radiate with love for this book!