Looking for some back-to-school read-aloud ideas for kindergarten, first, or second grade? In this post, I am going to share four of my favorite read-aloud picture books for the beginning of the school year!
If you like this, you might also want to read another post I made last year where I share three more of my favorite back-to-school books. I even share a freebie in that post, so be sure to check it out here: Back To School Books and a Freebie.
Before I dive in, I wanted to let you know you can watch or listen to all this information in video format below:
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Back to School Book #1: I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët
This is a beautiful story about a simple act of kindness that really goes a long way with our young readers. I Walk with Vanessa is a wordless picture book by a husband and wife who are both illustrators and teamed up together to write this story. They also illustrated Malala’s Magic Pencil, so if you like that book, you will definitely want to check this out!
The story is about Vanessa, who is a new girl at school. On her walk home from school, she encounters a boy who is not very nice and starts to yell at her. This interaction obviously upsets Vanessa, but she doesn’t notice that another girl behind her witnessed the whole thing. This other girl is also very upset about the interaction and thinks all night about what she can do to help Vanessa. She finally comes up with a plan and walks to Vanessa’s house the next morning to hold her hand and accompany Vanessa to school.
As the story goes on, all the other students join in and walk to school with Vanessa and bring her into school so she is feeling safe. At the end of the book, they also give some notes for kids about how they can help when someone is being bullied. For adults, it also includes some helpful words to use when talking about this book with children.
The illustrations in this book are beautiful and they tell the story very well. This book also shows your students how they can look out for one another and act as a community, which is always a good lesson to establish at the beginning of the year when we are all new students.
You can find this book here >>> I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoet
Back to School Book #2: The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires
This book follows Lou and her friends, who talk about how they are all brave and fearless adventurers. Then, one day Lou’s friends decide to climb a tree. While her friends are all having fun in the tree, Lou decides that she just wants to stay inside because she is feeling too scared and nervous. Finally, Lou decides that she is going to try to climb the tree, but after several failed attempts, Lou concludes that she can’t do it. Her friends kindly point out that she just can’t do it yet. At the end of the book, Lou still can’t climb the tree, but that doesn’t stop her from continuing to try and enjoying the adventure of learning how to do it.
The book emphasizes the magic of the word yet, and how we will come across plenty of new things in our life that we won’t be able to do right away, and that is ok. I also love that Lou still isn’t able to climb the tree by the end of the book, because it shows a different perspective on the theme of perseverance than most books do. The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do stops in the middle of Lou’s journey instead of at the end, and I think it is important to show that the book still has a happy “ending” even if Lou hasn’t reached her goal yet.
This book is great for the beginning of the year because your students are going to come across many things that they don’t know how to do or might be apprehensive to try. Lou’s story shows that we are not a failure if we cannot do something right away, instead it is all about how much work we put in and how much we progress.
You can find this book here >>> The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires
I also want to note that the author, Ashley Spires, also wrote The Most Magnificent Thing, and if you haven’t read that book yet I encourage you to check it out as well!
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
This is a really cute and fun story that I love reading to K-2 classes. We Don’t Eat Our Classmates is about a little dinosaur named Penelope on her first day of school. Her excitement all goes away when she shows up at school and realizes that all her classmates are children, human children, and not dinosaurs. Children are delicious to dinosaurs (obviously), so Penelope ends up eating a bunch of her classmates and spitting them back out throughout the day. She quickly starts to learn that making new friends at school can be challenging. After the class goldfish bites Penelope and she discovers how much it hurts to get bitten, she realizes that making friends would be easier if you treat people how you would like to be treated. Penelope is then able to adapt to her classroom and make friends with the other students.
This book always gets a bunch of giggles because it is very silly while still getting the point across. I love this book for the beginning of the year because it shows how we should be respecting each other and treating others how we would like to be treated.
We’re All Wonders by R. J. Palacio
If you’ve heard of the chapter book Wonder, you might have seen that it was so popular and had such a great message that the author, R.J. Palacio turned it into this K-2 illustrated version, “We’re All Wonders.”
This is a beautiful story about a boy named Auggie who does ordinary things but doesn’t look ordinary. Auggie talks about how it hurts his feelings when he sees the other kids staring and laughing at him because he looks different than them. As a way to cope with these feelings, Auggie likes to get his dog, Daisy, and blast off into space in his imagination. Auggie goes on to explain that the earth is big enough for people like him who look or act differently and that he can’t change the way he looks, but people can change how they look at him. He explains that deep down inside, everybody is a wonder.
This is a great book about inclusion, acceptance, and celebrating our differences. I love to read this book at the beginning of the year because you have a whole new group of students who come from different backgrounds, have different skin/hair/eye colors, and have all sorts of different abilities. Right away you can establish that your classroom is a place of acceptance where we all welcome and celebrate each other’s differences.
Have you read any of these before?! Do you have any other favorites to read at the beginning of the school year? Let me know down in the comments!
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