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I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon and start creating my must-have read-aloud book lists because I’ve got a little secret to share with you: I have a bit of an obsession with children’s books. They make me SO happy!
Any of my former coworkers would tell you how absolutely giddy I got whenever the new Scholastic Book Club catalogs showed up in my mailbox.
In fact, when I go to Barnes & Noble, I still make a beeline for the children’s section – even though I don’t have my own classroom anymore and my own kids are too old for them.
I’ve even been known to buy books simply for the way the pages feel. Seriously. I’m not a collector of things, but if I were, it would most definitely be children’s books!
So, today, I’m going to share with you my favorite back-to-school read-aloud books, how they can be used in the classroom, and links to any activities I’ve use along with them. Plus I’ll provide links to all my recommendations so you can find them on Amazon (they’re usually cheaper there!).
If you want more read-aloud recommendations, read this post (it’s geared towards parents, but I did list my all-time favorites in it).
Then, make sure you subscribe to the Little Playful Learners weekly newsletter so you don’t miss out on the new lists when I post them!
Here are my must-have Back to School read-aloud books:
by Mo Willems
This read-aloud is great for: helping calm first-day jitters, getting kids excited about school
Before this book came along, I never really had a must-read first day of school book. At least nothing that really excited me…but this is the one! It’s nice and short so it keeps students’ attention, and it addresses those first-day-of-school feelings. Plus, it features Pigeon, so you know it’s silly!
Last year, I even created a first day of school scavenger hunt to go along with it. It’s got lots of personality, just like Pigeon, and it’s editable so you can add your own places! Check it out in my Teachers Pay Teachers store:
by David Shannon
This read-aloud is great for: building relationships, talking about rules
I like to use David Goes to School as a read-aloud in the first few days because it’s a great way to start the conversation about how sometimes, I have to say no. That I have to make sure they follow the rules, and that sometimes I have to give them consequences. But does that mean I don’t like them? Of course not! I will always love them and care about them, even if I have to do those things.
by Carol McCloud & David Messing
This read-aloud is great for: teaching about kindness, behavior management
A couple years ago, I started using this read-aloud as an introduction to one piece of my classroom management system. The premise of the book is that everybody has an “invisible bucket” that gets filled up when people do kind things that make them feel good. It gets emptied (or “dipped” as I like to say) when somebody is unkind to them. So I read this book to my class, and that’s how I talk about behaviors for the rest of the year. For example, I might say, “Wow, thanks for helping Lily clean up her crayons. I bet you filled her bucket!” or “Look at Sam’s face. I can see that you dipped his bucket when you pushed him.”
I also take it one step further by giving my students bucket filling slips when I see them doing something that goes above and beyond for someone else. I jot down what they did, then send it home with them for their parents to see. They’re like treasure for kids – they love earning them! You can grab them for $1 in my TpT store:
by B.J. Novak
This read-aloud is great for: making your students roar with laughter, talking about how we read books
Seriously, this book is the greatest read-aloud ever! But you have to be willing to get silly. It’s all about how the reader has to read all the words on the page – then it makes you say all kinds of goofy things and make funny noises.
I like to read it at the beginning of the year because it’s guaranteed to create a moment of pure joy. I honestly credit The Book With No Pictures as being one of the first (and easiest) ways to get my students to love being in my class.
When I first pull it out, I make a show of how boring it probably is because it doesn’t have any pictures and my class always agrees. But then I start reading, and pretty soon they’re laughing and screaming in delight. It’s one of my favorite moments of the entire school year!
They’ll want you to read it again and again, so I usually read it every day for about a week, until their laughter becomes forced. Then I pack it away until the end of the year.
Not only is this read-aloud hilarious, it teaches an important concept: that readers read all the words on the page, every time.
Also, just a warning: there’s a part that says, “Boo-Boo Butt” but I always just read it as “Boo-Boo Bottom” and quickly move on. If a student repeats it at any other time during the day, I just tell them that if I hear it again, we won’t be able to read the book anymore. That usually takes care of it!
by Drew Daywalt
This read-aloud is great for: a good laugh, talking about what great illustrators do
The Day the Crayons Quit is such a fun read-aloud because it’s hilarious. It’s a little on the long side, but I’ve found that if you give each crayon color their own voice, students will be completely enthralled. At the end, it shows how the main character (Duncan) used all the crayons to create a really great picture. I like to use it to start a conversation about making great artwork – using lots of colors, filling in the whole space, etc.
After reading this book, we would do this Color the Room activity by Erin from Creating and Teaching, which doubled as an introduction to doing Write the Room:
by Jason Lefebvre & Zac Retz
This read-aloud is great for: a good laugh, introducing how to use glue bottles
Because, yep, kids need some instruction on how to use glue bottles. Dot, dot, not a lot, anyone? In this funny story, Matty gets a little carried away with his glue. After we read it, we talk about how mayyyyyybeeee we don’t want to end up like Matty.
When we’re done reading, we do some “Dot, dot, not a lot” glue practice. I have a page I use that’s part of this back to school pack from the Moffatt Girls, but here’s a freebie you can grab from Two Peas in a Primary Pod:
by Suzanne Bloom & Aida E. Marcuse
This read-aloud is great for: making inferences, a lead-in to bus safety
The Bus for Us was one of the read-aloud books included in the literacy curriculum my school district used. Sometimes those books aren’t so great, but I do really like this one! Gus and Tess are waiting for the bus and all sorts of vehicles pull up. It’s perfect for making inferences and/or predictions because the pictures only show the front of the vehicles at first, so students can try to figure out what it is.
It doesn’t directly talk address bus safety, but I liked to use it as a lead-in. Our Phy Ed teacher was in charge of teaching bus safety, so I would read it to them the morning they would have that lesson.
By Dr. Seuss
This read-aloud is great for: talking about letters & their sounds, rhyming
I am a huge fan of both Dr. Seuss and alphabet books, so it’s no wonder this one is on my list of must-have read-alouds. It’s also kind of sentimental to me because I used to read it with my own kids all the time.
I love using alphabet books in the classroom, especially at the beginning of the year because it’s a great way to talk about letters and their sounds in a natural way. I always read Dr. Seuss’s ABC first because it shows exactly how alphabet books are supposed to work – each letter is big and bold on the page, and it literally says, “What begins with ___?” on every page. That makes it the perfect jumping-off point for reading lots and lots of alphabet books.
We start of the year playing lots of alphabet games too, and one of my favorites is Seek & Find. You can grab this FREE Seek & Find alphabet game in my TpT store! All you do is display the letter cards in a pocket chart and hide the Mr. Crayon card behind a letter. Then have your students take turns guessing which letter he’s hiding behind. So fun!
More of my favorite read-aloud alphabet books:
As I mentioned earlier, I like to read lots of different alphabet books during the first few weeks. Here are some of the other ones I recommend for read- aloud:
Hint: Read this one last! It’s not your traditional alphabet book – it starts with “A is for Zoo” and students have to figure out why (A is for animals in the zoo). Students love this one!
What are your favorite read-aloud books for back to school?
There are so many great books out there, and we all love to use different ones in our classrooms. Let’s get a list going – share in the comments below!