Reading aloud creates a classroom community and is a great opportunity to help model good behaviors at the beginning of the school year. Books are my thing so I wanted to compile a list of tried and true AND some new picture books to use in the first couple of weeks of school. I’m sharing The Best Read Alouds For Back To School.
The books listed here would be great springboards for more in-depth lessons on several desirable character traits.
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First Day Critter Jitters
Summary: It’s almost the first day of school, and the animals are nervous. When they all arrive at their classroom, though, they find out that even their teacher is nervous too. But by the next day, the animals have all figured out how to help one another through their jitters. School isn’t so scary after all.
That’s Not My Name!
Summary: Mirha loves her name, which means happiness, but on her first day of school her teachers and classmates all seem to mispronounce it. They even ask if they can call her Maya because it’s easier, but Mirha doesn’t know how she feels about that, or even how to respond. After a talk with her mom, she is able to go back to school and help people learn how to pronounce her beautiful and special name.
The Queen of Kindergarten
Summary: As MJ heads to her first day of kindergarten in her mom’s tiara, she is able to comfort new friends and thoroughly enjoy her new class. This is a great one for the first day of school because it shows how to lead with confidence and kindness. Equally fun is The King of Kindergarten by the same author and illustrator.
Today I’m Strong
Summary: Most days, this little girl loves to go to school and play with her friends. But sometimes the schoolyard can feel like a battleground where she has to dodge mean words from a bully. Luckily, she always has her steadfast tiger by her side—even if she’s the only one who can see it. With the reminder that strength comes from within, she digs deep to believe in herself, no matter what anyone else says.
Lunch From Home
Summary: Most of the kids are bringing sandwiches to school for lunch, so when kids bring something like a burrito or gimbap, it seems strange. The other kids complain about how they smell or make fun of what they look like or how they are being eaten. Slowly, all the kids start to ask for sandwiches so as not to stand out in the lunchroom. But after a few days of boring sandwiches, one girl brings in her gimbap again and declares why she loves it. Then everyone else starts bringing their favorites again too until they are all eating what they love with pride. It can help give kids the confidence to bring in their favorite foods,
The Pigeon HAS to Go to School
Summary: The newest book from Mo Willems is just as funny as the rest. This story addresses many of the fears and anxieties that little ones feel as they get ready to go to school for the first time in a fun and silly way. This is a perfect book for back to school and will have kids laughing and giggling as they face their fears with Pigeon.
Summary: This is a sweet story with a lesson I love! So vital for children to know we can make peace with our “enemies” by treating them with kindness. It helps teach children not to form an opinion or judge others until you really get to know them, the perfect book for kids learning how to make friends or deal with conflict,
See our literacy snack to go along with Enemy Pie here.
Try a Little Kindness
Summary: This is a good book as a class read aloud. it initiates conversation and gives a good space to dialogue with the students about being kind, what that means, and what we can do to be kind.
The Jelly Donut Difference
Summary: This is another great book about sharing and kindness. Its message teaches students to be kind, and how to show kindness to others.
See our literacy snack idea and get a free printable to go along with The jelly Donut Difference here.
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun
Summary: This is a fantastic book about learning to have the courage to be yourself. It can be used as a discussion opener about how hurtful and unnecessary bullying is, as well as discussing appropriate ways to handle bullies.
See our literacy snack idea and get a free printable to go along with Spaghetti in a Hot dog Bun here.
Summary: I love this story about how all kids will bring different types of food into the lunch room. All kids struggle with feeling like they don’t fit in and Yoko’s story is a beautiful one about finding a friend and enjoying new types of food.
See our literacy snack idea and get a free printable to go along with Yoko here.
Do Unto Otters
Summary: This is a great book for teaching the golden rule It’s such a fun way to open up a discussion on how we expect to treat each other in the classroom. The book also addresses the idea that just because someone is different (the otters) doesn’t mean that they are weird or bad.
Stand Tall, May Lou Melon
Summary: Molly Lou Melon is a sweet story of a girl who looks and sounds different than most of the kids her age. What child in elementary school hasn’t felt this way more than once? This is a wonderful book for children and even adults who worry about what other people will think of them. It encourages us to do it anyway.
The Recess Queen
Summary: The Recess Queen is an adorable story about how mean Jean rules the playground by bullying kids. She must do everything first and the other kids obey and try to stay out of her way. This book shows that killing them with kindness is a great strategy to teach kids when dealing with the “mean.” The book also shows that sometimes people can change too when you give them a chance! Bullies can become a friend.
I Got the School Spirit
Summary: Summer is over, and this little girl has got the school spirit! She hears the school spirit in the bus driving up the street–VROOM, VROOM!–and in the bell sounding in the halls–RING-A-DING! She sings the school spirit in class with her friends–ABC, 123!
Can I Give You A Squish?
Kai is a little merboy who’s big on hugs–or “squishes,” as he and his mama call them. But not everyone’s a fan of Kai’s spirited embrace, which he discovers soon after squishing a puffer fish, who swells up in fright! Kai feels awful; but with the help of his friends, he figures out another way to show his affection, and then everyone demonstrates their preferred ways of being greeted. Because, as Kai realizes, “Every fish likes their own kind of squish.”
This is a fantastic book with beautiful illustrations to help the students learn about consent and personal space. And due to our current social distancing, this book will empower kids to think of new ways to express love in this new world where touching, hugging, or “squishing” may not be the safest greeting.
See our literacy snack idea and get a free printable to go along with The Can I Give You A Squish? here.
Our Class Is A Family
“Our Class is a Family” is a book that will help build and strengthen that class community. Kids learn that their classroom is a place where it’s safe to be themselves, it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s important to be a friend to others. When hearing this story being read aloud by their teacher, students are sure to feel like they are part of a special family.
And currently, during such an unprecedented time when many teachers and students are not physically in the classroom due to COVID-19 school closures, it’s more important than it’s ever been to give kids the message that their class is a family. Even at a distance, they still stick together.
The Day You Begin
Summary: There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.
This book reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.
All Are Welcome
This book is just perfect for back to school! It has a great message that every child from any type of family is welcome in the classroom. Diverse families of many different compositions are featured in this book. Students can find themselves and their families in this book and that’s what makes it so powerful and inviting.
Miss Mingo and the First Day of School
Summary: Miss Mingo starts off the year by inviting all creatures big and small to share something special about themselves. Did you know that Cricket hears with his legs, Snake smells with his tongue, and Frog enjoys eating his own skin?
We love Miss Mingo books because not only do they have a story, they include tons of interesting facts about the animals in the stories!
What are your favorite books to read in the first week of school? Hopefully, you’ve found a few new ones to add to your list.
See you next time!
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