I’m often asked what my favorite books are for back to school, so I’ve finally compiled a list with over 20+ must have books for back to school!
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The first few weeks of school are really all about four things: relationships, rules, routines, and READING!! I make it a goal to fill our first weeks with as many great read alouds as I can. Teaching rules–there’s a book for that! Kicking off your writing workshop–there’s a book for that! Reading just for fun–there’s plenty of books for that too! While this list is far from exhaustive, I’ve chosen some of my very favorite books to read to my first graders for back to school that I know you and your students will love too! I’ve broken them down into six categories for you:
1. Books To Read For FUN At The Beginning Of The Year
It’s one of my personal goals for my students to leave my classroom with a love of reading! If that is going to happen they need to experience books and be read to for no other agenda than to enjoy reading. Books can and should be read just for fun in school! Take a few minutes each day to just read a book together for fun. I always like to have this read aloud time right after lunch. It the perfect transition to ease back into learning and helps build such a wonderful classroom community. Good stories bring us together!
Elephant and Piggie Books
We start reading books for fun on the very first day as I introduce my students to my most favorite author for first grade: Mo Willems! If you do not have any Elephant and Piggie Books in your collection, stop what you are doing right now and go get some! I haven’t met a first grader who doesn’t love Mo and his beloved characters. I’ve had so many parents tell me that their child didn’t like to read until I introduced him to Elephant and Piggie! They’re pure gold! You, of course, should read the books with voices to get the full effect!
Don’t forget about Pigeon too! “The Pigeon HAS To Go To School!” is perfect for the first day or first week of school as many of our primary aged students can relate to Pigeon’s nervousness about going to school for the first time! It’s not only fun to read, but is also great to start discussions about how we felt about the first day. How it’s okay to be nervous, but how our emotions can also change! Just like Pigeon’s did as he discovers that he loves school! This book is also great to go back to when you want to discuss how characters change in a book.
How To Get Your Teacher Ready
“How To Get Your Teacher Ready” is such a fun read aloud for back to school!! You and your students will love this adorable story! Also, if you’re looking for some mentor texts to add to your How-To writing unit, all of Jean Reagan’s “How To” books are amazing! My kids love them and they have so many different ones to choose from!
2. Back To School Books For Rules and Routines
Rules and routines are foundational to classroom success. We spend so much time especially at the beginning of the year laying down this foundation. The list of books for rules and routines could probably be it’s own post, but here are just a few of my go-tos to get you started:
Decibella and Her 6 Inch Voice
The first couple weeks of school are all about relationships, routines, and expectations! “Decibella and Her 6-Inch Voice” is a perfect book for teaching students expectations for voice levels. It’s about a little girl named Isabella who only speaks at one level: way too loud! Her teacher teaches her 5 different voice levels: whisper, 6-inch, table-talk, strong speaker, and outside. The teacher empowers the little girl by modeling the levels for her, allowing her to practice, and then teaching her that she has the power to choose what voice level is appropriate! I love Julia Cook books and this one is perfect for back to school!
You Get What You Get
If you have the rule “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” in your classroom or home, “You Get What You Get” is PERFECT for introducing or reinforcing it! I love when picture books so clearly illustrates important values in a fun way that engages students! These kind of books also serve as an anchor or mentor text to return to or refer to throughout the year!
My Mouth Is A Volcano
I love everything about this book! “My Mouth Is A Volcano” is a fun read aloud to teach students the importance of controlling their tongue and being respectful to others! Listening and speaking are important skills and Julia Cook once again hits it out of the park with this one!
“Interrupting Chicken” is a fun story with great illustrations about how it feels when someone is constantly blurting out or interrupting, even when they don’t mean to. It’s also great for making predictions before, during, and after the story or for drawing conclusions/making inferences about how interrupting affects others. Try reading it with different voices for the Papa chicken and little red chicken—the students love it!
Even Superheroes Make Mistakes
“Even Superheroes Make Mistakes” is an important reminder for us all that it’s ok to make mistakes as we can learn and grow from them. I always told my firsties to “Make mistakes, get messy!” because I wanted them to bravely try new things, not be afraid to fail, do the hard thing, and learn from their mistakes. The kids also love the superhero theme of this book!
The Recess Queen
One thing I love about books is that there is a book for everything! “The Recess Queen” is great for the beginning of the year as you introduce playground/recess rules! It also can be used for discussing how characters change as well as talking about what it means to be a friend.
Too Much Glue
“Too Much Glue” is so much fun to read! It’s a great book to use to introduce expectations for using glue in the classroom and other supplies. It’s also a good book for teaching the word “too”!
3. Books For Positive Relationships and Social-Emotional Skills
I’m always on the lookout for good resources for social-emotional skills and picture books are one of my favorite go-tos! Books are such a powerful tool for building positive relationships and teaching important social-emotional skills in the classroom! Here are a few of my favorite ones for back to school:
The Invisible Boy
Please don’t even get me started about this book! I fell in absolute love with “The Invisible Boy“, as tears brimmed in my eyes, when I first read through its pages in the aisle of Ollies Bargain Outlet! I love that the illustrations tell the story as much as the words! It’s a wonderful story with an important message of how the power of kindness transforms lives!
Quiet Please, Owen McPhee
When I found out the author and illustrator of “The Invisible Boy” had a another book out I just had to get it and it is SO good! “Quiet Please, Owen McPhee” is about a little boy who talks All.THE.TIME! But one day he gets laryngitis and quickly realizes the importance and power of listening! It’s perfect for back to school and goes well with books on being respectful with our words like, Interrupting Chicken or My Mouth is a Volcano!
Strictly No Elephants
“Strictly No Elephants” is one of my absolute favorite read alouds!! If you haven’t read it yet, you are missing out! It’s the perfect book for teaching students about friendship, empathy, and making everyone feel welcomed-even those who are different from us!! It’s definitely one that you want to have in your classroom library!
The Color Monster
I was SO excited to add “The Color Monster” to my library! It’s a story about a color monster that is feeling all out of sorts as his feelings are all jumbled up. The story uses colors to help the monster and the readers understand each of the emotions. It is such a great book to help our primary age kiddos (and older kids too!) learn how to understand, regulate, and control their emotions.
The Koala Who Could
Have you read this one yet? If not you’re going to love it! “The Koala Who Could” is an adorable story about overcoming fears, trying new things, and turning our “I can’t” into “I can!” It’s not only perfect for our students, but is also a book with a message that we all need to be reminded of!
We’re All Wonders
“I know I can’t change the way I look. But maybe, just maybe…people can change the way they see. If they do, they’ll see that I’m a wonder. And they’ll see that they’re wonders, too. We’re all wonders!” This book! The message! It’s so good! “We’re All Wonders” is the picture book version of the “Wonder” chapter book and reinforces the truth that each child is so special: an absolute wonder!
The Power To Choose Books
The Power To Choose books are incredible books! Both of the “What Should Danny Do?” books and the “What Should Darla Do?” book are must-haves for every classroom as their interactive texts allow students to decide the character’s choices and see what happens as a result. Students get to determine what happens in the story by helping Danny or Darla face their problems by choosing between two different scenarios! Seriously, how cool is that?! I always taught my students that “You have the power to make your own choices!” and I’m so thankful for these amazing books that both teach and empower our students to do what is right!
4. Books For Reading / ELA
At the beginning of the year we spend a lot of time talking about how to read a book, choosing books that interest us, and how to take good care of our books. These are some of my favorite must have books for back to school to kick off these important lessons and discussions!
Have you read “Robot Zot“?! If not, you are in for a treat! This is one of my FAVORITE books to read during the first week of school! It’s the PERFECT book for teaching students the 3 ways to read a book and it’s just a lot of fun to read!
I first use this book to model how to read the pictures and the words by reading Robot Zot with the class. You can’t read this book without using them both! It’s amazing! And using a robot voice to read is, of course, a must! Plus, having the students chime in for the “Robot Zot-never fall! Robot Zot-conquers all!” makes it such a fun book to read together!
Then, I pull this book out again to introduce the third way to read a book, which is retelling the story. It ends up becoming a mentor text that we then refer back to when we talk about the 3 ways to read a book.
My kids love this book SO much that each year they BEG to read it again! Even my one little boy that claimed he hated books on the first day (insert teacher tear…) was on the edge of his criss-cross applesauce as we read it and he too was BEGGING for me to read it again (insert teacher smile here…)!
It’s so good! You and your kids will love this one!
The Magician’s Hat
I want my students to learn that books are absolutely magical and there is a book for everything and everyone! “The Magician’s Hat” is a book that does just that! It’s the perfect book to discuss the importance of books and finding books that interest us! It’s a great book to kick out how to use the classroom library and finding good fit books! Love, love, love it!!
A Perfectly Messed-Up Story
I fell in love with this book right away! If you have kids that struggle to take care of the books in your classroom or home library, “A Perfectly Messed–Up Story” is perfect for discussing the importance of books and of taking good care of them! The stains on the pages look real and it’s hilarious to read!! It can also be used in writer’s workshop to teach how stories can change!
5. Back To School Books For Writing
I LOOOOVEEE using books as mentor texts for our writing workshop time. These are just a few of my favorite books for kicking off our writing block at the beginning of the year:
Ralph Tells A Story
“Ralph Tells A Story” is one of my all-time favorite books for kicking off writing workshop! It becomes a mentor text that we continue to refer back to throughout the year. Plus, it’s absolutely hilarious and relatable as it’s about a little boy that can’t think of anything to write (he does all of the typical avoidance behaviors during writing), but once he finds a story he can’t stop writing! It’s SO good!!
Look! I Wrote A Book! (And You Can Too!)
“Look! I Wrote A Book! (And You Can Too!)” is absolutely perfect for teaching the writing process in a fun, easy to understand way! It teaches things such as where to get ideas, writing for a purpose/to an audience, the components of a good story (even how to write a good title!), genres, receiving feedback from peers, and the editing/revision process! It’s an awesome mentor text for kicking off writing workshop!
Writer’s block is a real thing for both kids and adults! “Idea Jar” is a great book to use to teach kids about how to come up with topics and ideas to write about!
6. Must Have Books For Math
Books can be used to teach any standard, even math standards! Here are a couple of my favorite must have back to school books for math:
Zero The Hero
I love using “Zero The Hero” to teach my kids about the importance of zero in numbers as our place value holder! It’s such a fun story and the kids always love it! And the Zero The Hero math craft that is hanging on our amazing work wall is a freebie that you can grab HERE!!
Anno’s Counting Book
“Anno’s Counting Book” is one of my favorite ways to begin math talks and is perfect for students to begin to see math in the real world! When learning about how numbers are made of parts, this book helps students begin to see the part-part-whole relationship and also includes a ten stick on each page to show the numbers’ relationship to 10. Each page has a focus number and all of the illustrations add up to that number. When starting, we discuss the page together as a class, but then this can be used in centers too for students to write the story that goes with the picture. Or write an addition or subtraction sentence. I also have my students then create their own counting book too! It might be an older book, but it’s absolute gold for math!
Math Start Books
These Math Start books are some of my favorite books for incorporating into math lessons! Each book focuses on a different skill. Have you used these books before? There are SO many great ones to use!
Do you have a favorite back to school book that didn’t make the list? I love learning about new books, so I’d love to hear some of your favorites! You can leave them in the comments below or tag me @foxwellforest on Instagram! (If you’d like to see more of my favorite books I also share lots of book recommendations on Instagram with the hashtag #foxwellfavorites)