It’s almost that time again. Time to head back into the classroom and prepare for a new year! One of my favorite things to get ready for the year is to look for a new back-to-school read-aloud or two.
Read-Alouds are essential at the beginning of the year. They are a great way to have students practice coming to the carpet, being a patient listener, and knowing when and how to ask questions.
By choosing great books, you can explore so many concepts: growth mindset, first-week jitters, behaviors and expectations.
Today I wanted to share 15 books that are perfect for the beginning of the year. These are books I haven’t shared before, but you may also want to check out my posts on Picture books for Phonemic Awareness and Growth Mindset with Rosie’s Glasses.
Click on any of the titles to view the read-aloud on Youtube! For links to purchase the books, visit my Amazon storefront here, where you can find all of my recommended book lists.
BUTTERFLIES ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL BY ANNIE SILVESTRO
Most of us have the first-day jitters, and so does this little girl named Rose. Her mother tells her she just has butterflies in her belly.
Throughout the school day, as Rosie slowly conquers her fears the butterflies actually escape through her mouth! It’s a great way to talk about expressions, especially if you have English Language Learners.
I love the ending when Rosie helps another student who also has “butterflies!” This is a perfect back-to-school read-aloud for comforting younger students.
Extension Idea: Have students create a 1st Day Butterflies poster. Students can draw butterflies and write one thing they were nervous about or something that helped make the butterflies disappear!
SCHOOL IS COOL BY SABRINA MOYLE
I love this one for rules! It’s an adorable rhyming book so it’s fun to read, too.
The animals at first are nervous about the first day and if they will be liked.
Then the story walks through some of the activities they will do on the first day, while also slipping in some rules they will need to follow. The book ends with a hooray-for-school cheer!
Extension Idea: Create your own classroom cheer to get the students excited at the start of each day.
THE QUEEN OF KINDERGARTEN BY DERRICK BARNES
This book is a follow up to Derrick Barnes previous book, The King of Kindergarten. They both are great for a back-to-school read-aloud.
In this story, the main character, MJ, is excited to start Kindergarten! Her mother gives her a special crown to wear for the first day and reminds her that queens brighten every room, are caring and kind, and are always helpful to others. Throughout her first day, MJ tries to accomplish all of those things.
Extension Idea: Have students practice using crayons and markers by decorating their own crowns. You can use long strips of construction paper to make simple crowns. I have free crowns here!
SCHOOL’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL BY ADAM REX
Here’s a fun twist to back-to-school jitters! The main character in this story is the school building itself and it’s is nervous about the first day of school and ALL the children.
At the beginning of the school day, some of the children don’t want to be there or are nervous and that hurts School’s feelings. Throughout the day the students warm up to School and School warms up to them.
This will be a fun back-to-school picture book for your students and will bring about some laughs!
THE PIGEON HAS TO GO TO SCHOOL BY MO WILLEMS
If you’ve been here for any length of time you’ll know that I am a huge fan of Mo Willems.
This book especially cracks me up because Pigeon is an overthinker, which I can totally relate to!
Pigeon doesn’t want to go to school! School starts too early, the teacher might not like him, and what if he doesn’t know everything? There’s math, reading, and all those letters in the alphabet!
But, he soon realizes that there’s nothing to worry about. Take out your silly voice for this one!
SORRY, GROWN-UPS, YOU CAN’T GO TO SCHOOL BY CHRISTINA GEIST
If you’re ahem, oldER like me, you may be remember the “Trix are for kids” commercials where the rabbit wasn’t allowed to have any Trix cereal.
In this adorable story, the PARENTS want to go to school but their children say school is for kids, not grown-ups. Even the dog tries to go to school!
The book goes through all the fun things children get to do at school that adults wish they could do too. It’s a unique twist on the typical back-to-school read-aloud!
Extension Idea: After the first day, create an interactive writing chart about things kids get to do at school (that adults don’t). Or, have students each work on a page and turn it into a class book.
OR, a fun take on Meet-the-Teacher night is having a humorous slideshow of your day with the theme ‘Here are all the things your kids get to do (that you don’t),’ lol!
THIS SCHOOL YEAR WILL BE THE BEST! BY KAY WINTERS
This story starts with a teacher asking her students what do they hope will happen this year. The students all share one wish for the school year, ranging from realistic (make new friends) to the fantastical (chocolate water fountain).
Extension Idea: This is the perfect picture book for having students make one wish for their best year.
THAT’S NOT MY NAME BY ANOOSHA SYED
A common source of frustration for students at the start of a new school year is being called the wrong name or having their name mispronounced.
In this story, Mirha’s classmates and teachers mispronounce her name. She’s not quite confident enough to correct them and lets them call her by the wrong name. At home, she learns the meaning behind her name and builds up the confidence to say, “That’s not my name”. In the end, Mirha helps her classmates say her name the right way.
Extension: Of course, this is just great for so many name activities, which we often do at the beginning of the year! Here is a fun free name activity you can use.
our class is a family by shannon olsen
Are there ever enough books that talk about building a positive classroom community? I think not!
This is a great book to start the discussion or use as a reminder to help and respect each other. It highlights how much of a student’s day is spent at school and how school can be a home away from home.
Just like in a family, every member will have things in common but also be unique. I adore the sweet simple message in this book!
Shannon Olsen (who is a 2nd grade teacher) also has another book out, A Letter From Your Teacher: On the First Day of School.
THE CIRCLES ALL AROUND US BY BRAD MONTAGUE
Have especially shy students, or those who aren’t as open to working with others?
This book is all about making connections with people. The circles represent who is in your life. The more people that you meet and get to know, the bigger your circle will get.
I like this book as it does address that it can be a bit uncomfortable for some students at first to open up to new classmates. It also shows that it’s not always going to go smoothly. We can and will have disagreements with those in our circles and that’s OKAY!
TOMORROW I’LL BE KIND BY JESSICA HISCHE
At the beginning of the year, students will need lots of practice following the rules and being kind to their classmates.
This book really is a growth mindset book but targeted towards behavior. Today might not be perfect, but tomorrow we can always try again.
Jessica Hische is a lettering artist and it shows! The text is simple and the illustrations are beautiful. The book walks students through what it means to be helpful, patient, gentle, honest, generous, grateful, and kind. This will be a book to revisit throughout the school year!
Extension: Perfect for discussing the vocabulary she uses for character traits. On one page, she has them all beautifully shown. Have students pick one, write it with fancy letters, and draw or write one way they can show that trait.
WAITING IS NOT EASY! BY MO WILLEMS
I had to sneak another Mo Willems book; I couldn’t help myself! Many of his books make great back-to-school read-alouds.
One of the things students tend to struggle with the most at the beginning of the year is patience, can I get an Amen? Whether it’s waiting in line, waiting for their turn, or waiting for recess, it can be incredibly difficult for kids.
In this book, Elephant has to wait on a surprise from Piggie. Students will be able to relate to Elephant’s frustrations that it’s taking forever. This book is a perfect conversation starter for talking about having patience and what students can do when they start to feel impatient.
THE DAY YOU BEGIN BY JACQUELINE WOODSON
This book address all the times when students might feel like they don’t fit in. Whether it’s looking different, having a unique name, or not having an exciting story for what they did over the summer.
The book encourages students to share about themselves in order to find connections with their classmates and friends.
Here’s a free Find-a-Friend activity for helping students make connections with others.
WHAT IF EVERYBODY DID THAT? BY ELLEN JAVERNICK
This back-to-school read-aloud highlights the necessity of having rules, but in a fun way. While most of the examples are in the community, there are a couple that take place in school and also on the bus. It does a great job of highlighting the effects of our actions.
Extension Idea: Pick a few classroom behaviors (both positive and negative) to highlight. Have students turn and talk with a partner to discuss what it would be like if everybody did that.
TEACHER TIP: When using positive reinforcement in the classroom, be sure to highlight the effect. ex: “I see many friends cleaning up their area. That will help us get to lunch on time.”
ALL THE WAYS TO BE SMART BY DAVINA BELL
When students hear the word smart, they tend to think about academics: knowing all their letter sounds, counting to 100, being able to add and subtract. When the year is new and they’re not quite there, they can feel like they’re… well, ‘not smart‘. I think we have all heard a child utter those words when they can’t do something YET.
This book highlights all the ways that a person can be smart- from being creative to athletic to being a good friend. I also like this book because it does show all the things students will learn in the classroom.
Extension Idea: Have students either share or create a poster of something that they are smart at.
I hope you found a new Back to School read-aloud to use in your classroom! What other books do you know? Did I miss your favorite? Let me know below!
If you are looking for more inspiration for the start of your school year, I have many blog posts to help you out, including what to do on the first week.