25 Back-to-School Read Alouds For Teachers
Written by Meredith Bartolo Pappas
When I was teaching full-time in a classroom, I looked forward to gathering my “storytime books” at the beginning of the year. Planning out what I would read during circle or story times for the first month was crucial for me, and I always had a list of specific topics that I liked to read about: self and social-emotional growth, inclusion and community, and some learning topics like math or science. Of course, there were always books that were just silly fun too!
Those beginning of the year books had a lot riding on them because they needed to get us in the reading groove so the class would look forward to stories and set the tone for our classroom community. Not to mention that stories really promote growth and cognition and are an important part of my teaching life! Luckily there are a lot of great books out there, and these are some of my favorite read alouds for teachers, especially in the beginning of the year.
Beginning of the Year Read Alouds
Jules Vs. The Ocean by Jessie Sima
This book about perseverance is a great read aloud for the beginning of the year when saying goodbye to summer and hello to the classroom. Fun and just the right length, it’s a crowd pleaser about a young girl who is determined to build a fancy sandcastle for her older sister no matter what the ocean has in store for her or the sand.
Our Favorite Day Of The Year by A.E. Ali and Rahele Jomepour Bell
All throughout the year there are special days to celebrate in all different kinds of ways and this classroom shares their favorites. It’s a nice way to be inclusive and also set up how you will (or will not, depending on your policies) celebrate special events during the school year.
Along The River by Vanina Starkoff (translated by Jane Springer)
I wish I could frame each page of this bright and unique book to hang around my classroom! With such vivid colors and joyful imagery, happiness exudes from each page of this book from Brazil. It’s filled with general life instructions that are easy to take to heart even if we travel the world in different ways. Short, simple, and a true gem!
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman
Letting learners know that all are not just welcome, but that this place was made for everyone is an important lesson. The whole community shows up for school in this book with inclusive and sunny illustrations and a friendly, rollicking rhyme.
Our Class Is A Family by Shannon Olsen and Sandie Sonke
It might be surprising for learners to realize that their class may become like a family to them since they spend so much time together, and this book illustrates that idea in a sweet and straightforward way. A lovely book to share in the first few days of school!
Big Boys Cry by Jonty Howley
I love this one because it is so sweet and simple as it follows a young boy on an enlightening walk to his first day at a new school. It clearly sends the message that everyone and anyone can and will cry about all different things, both happy and sad, and it is totally okay! It also lets kids know that adults don’t always have all the right words or answers, which is okay too. The illustrations are engaging and give room for lots of interesting discussions.
Sweep by Louise Greig and Júlia Sardà
A subtle book about emotions under the guise of a story centered around a boy who keeps sweeping leaves all over the place. It’s an easy read aloud and opens the door for talking about what the leaf sweeping might mean and how to manage our “leaf-sweeping” or overwhelming feelings.
The Tree In Me by Corinna Luyken
We are all interconnected and grow like trees, and this gorgeously illustrated book will help children see that. A good choice before school starts so that you can open up a discussion about being yourself and giving yourself space to grow while also being a part of a classroom and school community. I also highly recommend Corinna Luyken’s other books My Heart and The Book Of Mistakes.
Your Name Is A Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and Luisa Uribe
A gorgeous book all about honoring your name and making sure people get it right when they say it…and a good reminder for teachers to make sure they ask how to pronounce learners names and ask what they like to be called on the first day of school. This one is a little on the long side so make sure you plan for that during storytime.
Fur, Feather, Fin All Of Us Are Kin by Diane Lang and Stephanie Laberis
When talking about community, usually I mean the human sort but this book includes animals as well and how we are all interconnected. A beautiful book with a lovely rhyme scheme that is just right for a read aloud centered around the environment, animals, Earth, and community.
Room For Everyone by Naaz Khan and Mercè López
Beautiful illustrations matched with a silly rhyming story about a young boy who thinks there isn’t enough room on the daladala, but all the passengers make space for each other at each stop. A fantastic counting book as well as one that let’s kids know there is always room for everyone.
What Can A Citizen Do? By Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris
Lovely and to the point, this is a fantastic rhyming book that outlines what a citizen, or community member, can do. Great for kindergarteners as they start to understand that their role in the community is important and just right for a classroom read aloud.
We’ve Got The Whole World In Our Hands by Rafael López
Based on the song, this book takes that well-known refrain and adds new words and beautiful illustrations to make an inclusive and lovely read aloud. This one is just right for any story time as it can be sung or read and is lively while also being kind.
What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold and Linda Davick
Riley is a kind-hearted friend who loves to wear all sorts of things, including a monster shirt and the world’s best tutu. Riley, and this story as a whole, lets children know that it’s fun to wear whatever you want no matter your gender! Such a lovely book for kindergarten (or preschool) to start gently and kindly smashing those gender norms.
In-Between Things by Priscilla Tey
Fun and educational, check and check! This book is silly enough to get kids laughing but also has a lot of hidden learning gems centered around bigger concepts that are under the umbrella of “in-between,” like positional words, hybrids, and more.
Do You Believe In Unicorns by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
An adorable investigation into whether or not unicorns are real. Such a clever book that will spark some fun discussions and creative thinking while prompting learners to recognize their own beliefs are important.
You Are A Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo
If you need an active storytime for wiggling learners this is the one for you! I love keeping yoga books like this one on my bookshelf to get the class up and moving when we have the “extra wiggles” or just need to get some calming stretching in during a storytime, especially during the beginning of the year as we are still getting back into the school routine.
Red House, Tree House, Little Bitty Brown Mouse by Jane Godwin and Blanca Gomez
This is one of my favorite read alouds for any quick story time! Follow the brown mouse through a day of different adventures both large and small to learn and investigate all kinds of simple scenarios. Super cute illustrations and jaunty rhymes will keep learners engaged and having fun throughout the whole story, and it opens itself to lots of story stretchers and activities. Though I usually like this for preschool, it also makes a good kindergarten storytime in the very beginning of the year.
Now by Antoinette Portis
A book that really exemplifies what it’s like to be a young child and in the moment with all your favorite things right now. A breezy book that can help teach mindfulness and getting the most out of each moment.
Wonder Walkers by Micha Archer
Bolstering curiosity is always a great way to start any new school year and this book is filled with lots of different questions that can spark ideas and discussion in the class. It also brings a new perspective to nature and what you can see and imagine while on a walk, which is something you might want to do as a class after reading this one!
Blown Away by Rob Biddulph
A penguin and some friends find themselves on an accidental adventure as a kite takes them all for a ride. They have to figure out how to get back home in this silly rhyming story that is just right for talking about friends, problem-solving, and accidental adventuring!
Change Sings by Amanda Gorman and Loren Long
A poignant and lovely book about how we can all help to make our world a better and kinder place. This one is a beautiful read aloud for the beginning of the year to show learners that they can be the change and that their voice is important and is invited to sing along.
Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung
Once there were only three colors, blue, red, and yellow, and they decided not to mix. But one day, blue and yellow did mix and made a beautiful new color and mixing started to seem like a happier idea! This one tells the story of segregation in a simple way that is just right for young learners, though it does posit the idea of getting married and having babies, which I usually avoid in my read alouds, but this one is so good I made the exception!
Be A Friend by Salina Yoon
Dennis is a quiet boy, so quiet in fact he is a mime! He loves being a mime but it can feel lonely or as if he is misunderstood at times until he meets a new friend who shows him how special he is. This is a sweet and simple story that lets children know we can all make new friends who value our unique traits.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López
This one gets a lot of coverage and it is all well-deserved! It’s just right for reading at the beginning of the school year to help welcome in new learners and let them know that we are connected and can be vulnerable together. A bit on the longer side, but engaging with gorgeous illustrations, this is a very lovely choice to help start off a new year!
It’s hard to narrow down all of the amazing read-alouds for teachers that are out there these days; there are so many ways to share these inclusive and kind ideas, fun adventures, and friendship tales that this list could double in size! I think that it’s important to build that classroom community and sense of friendship, camaraderie, and inclusiveness right away but also to make sure read alouds are still fun and engaging too! I had to leave some of my favorites off this list, so look out for more lists with read alouds for teachers throughout the year! What are your favorite read alouds for starting off the school year?
About Meredith Bartolo Pappas
Meredith is a licensed teacher with almost twenty years of experience in education. Her specialties are holistic learning, early literacy, and social-emotional development. She is also a reading specialist, artist, and mom of two. She loves all things bookish, magical, and cozy. Find her at Sharing Circle Education sharingcircleeducation.com and on Instagram @sharingcircleeducation.