I’ve always used tons of picture books, that support many different purposes, to kick off a kindergarten school year. From talking first day feelings to how to treat a friend, I love sharing relatable stories that allow littles to visualize and make connections back to our classroom. Here’s my top list of books that make engaging read alouds for littles during the first month or so of school. They’re perfect for helping build a positive classroom community and are wonderful to revisit during the school year.
The encompassing themes for this collection fall under friendship, self-awareness, teamwork, identify, new experiences, inclusion, diversity and kindness. The majority lend themselves to all ages but there are a few geared to my special area of KINDERGARTEN!!
You can shop this entire post by clicking the pink button to visit my Amazon Book Shop *this post contains Amazon affiliate book links via the titles* An affiliate amazon link allows me to earn a very small commission (at no cost to you) for my work – it’s generally less than .50 cents.
Celebrating diversity, inclusion and how to make everyone feel welcome in school. This is my number one pick! I’ve read it in the past years with my kinders and dug deep into the illustrations. If you need a support resource, check out this blog post.
This one has quickly become one of my new favorite releases of 2021! It’s another story about first day of school feelings, names and embracing yourself because you are enough! The illustrations are great for littles and show the character Vanessa transform from self conscious to confident after embracing herself. Another thing I really like about this name focused picture book is that it reads very smooth and isn’t overly wordy for kindergarten kiddos – especially at the start of the year.
2 Words: MUST HAVE, I promise! Christian has been my all time for years because everything he touches is so inviting and welcoming to all. His entire vision for his writing and art stems from inclusion and making sure all readers feel seen. Simple and impactful text paired with his classic art style will have all readers feeling loved!
Black Boy Joy and an uplifting story about experiencing the first day of kindergarten! It will have every incoming kindergartener excited. And the KING, yall, he’s as sweet as pie. A must have if you’re a kinder teacher or have a kinder baby excited for the first day. Perfect for a morning or end of first day read aloud! If you’re looking for a support activity, you might enjoy this blog post about one for this book.
This is another one of my top picks of 2021 and its bilingual! I was a librarian at a bilingual campus one year and let me tell you… bilingual books were hard to come by so this is amazing! Isabel and Her Colores go to School is one that will totally tug at your heart as it shares a beautiful friendship story and newcomer experience. Isabel feels reluctant to go to her new school because she doesn’t know English and much prefers the warm colores of Spanish. On her first day, she follows along by observing but feels uncomfortable… until coloring time! Isabel finally hears a word that sounds a lot like one she knows, colorear! She gets right to work with her picture and it leads to learning her first English word, amigas! This gem even has a cute Spanish to English translation page in the back.
The Shape of Home by Rashin Kheiriyeh (Levine Querido, 2021) releases Sept 14 2021
A celebration of origin, culture and welcoming a new class family.
If you’re familiar with Saffron Ice Cream by Rashin, this gem is the follow-up story about Rashin’s first experience at an American School. Like in the first, Rashin gives insight to similar experiences from Iran leading up to her big new moment! At school, her new teacher helps welcome the class by encouraging all the students to share where their families are from, where is their “Shape of Home” on the map?
I love this creative way for kiddos to share where they’re from using a familiar shape. The same activity in the story can easily be done in the classroom with kiddos of all ages and is great way for littles to talk to their grown ups about family origin.
A dreamy celebration of names, their importances, the impact of pronunciation and helping others learn to say them through song! A story that will have readers feeling proud of their name and wanting to find out the story behind it.
A classic that will tug at your heartstrings! It tackles the topic of identity, friendship and embracing your culture.
I’ve loved this one since day one! As a kinder teacher, I LOVE having books that take place in kindergarten classroom, it’s just so sweet. This one is not only sweet but a celebration how we can learn from our differences. The story follows the growing bond of a kindergarten class (focused on 4 little boys) over the school year as they celebrate and learn about everyones favorite day/holiday. It would be a great mentor text for implementing the same type of activity in your own classroom.
I’ve not found many books that have characters with autism and this one does! It follows Henry at school as he tries to make a friend. All of Henry’s attempts don’t go smoothly for him, it’s difficult and some of his classmate misunderstand his actions. But, in the end, he makes friend that’s perfect for him.
Great for playground discussions on including others, taking turns and asking others to play! David’s new at school and really JUMPS IN at recess when he bravely asks a group of kiddos to play a game of elastic skip with him. (Woo notes the games origin is from ancient China)
Who doesn’t love Penelope T. Rex! A silly story but great for using on the topic of how to treat a classmate. If you need a support resource for it – check this one out on my Teacher Pay Teachers shop it includes an anchor chart sort on the topic and a craft!
Danbi is ready to experience the first day at her new American school but is a little nervous. Once she arrives, the language presents trouble, but she uses her imagination (and tasty lunch) to spark up a way to connect with the other students. This is an own voice story that was inspired by Kim’s actual experience as a kiddo! Because of this, I feel like the illustrations truly capture and portray accurate feelings associated with language barriers. Danbi is a perfect addition to any kindergarten library!
Genre Themes: Immigration, Language Barriers, New Experiences SEL, Friendship!
Another cute choice for the first day of school for littles. The text doesn’t say kindergarten but it can be inferred. I feel like this one is really relatable for eager kiddos ready to start school. That’s how it was for Rosie and then the first day *butterflies* filled her tummy! As the day went on, Rosie’s comfort and confidence helped her release all those anxious butterflies and the illustrations really play it up!
A Summer 2021 release! It’s great a conversation starter about those pre-school jitters and what-if thoughts. Kalamata is nervous about her first day of school. To help settle her nerves, she uses her imagination to travel back to a memory in India the helps her feel BRAVE!
A unique spin on a kindergarten centered first day experience! Lena’s not nervous… but her shoes surely are! A relatable story and feelings for littles excited about the first day of school but still have some *secret* nerves too.
I’m a big fan of Joseph and this pick is a great choice for playground expectation conversations! I especially like the diversity among the kiddos in this one. In a nutshell, two kiddos (Jonah and Lennox) want to “rule” to playground until the point it becomes split and elementary drama soon follows. We see a natural consequence surface when the playground no longer is fun and the kiddos realize they need to come together. If this sounds like an all too familiar situation on your playground, this one is for you! It’s a perfect read aloud for helping you get ahead of any playground divides!
Anytime there’s a book that’s starr reviewed and features a boy character, I’m all in! I feel like finding male leads is very hard with picture books. Kindergarten Hat fits the bill for both! It follows along little Carlos’ first day experience meeting his teacher and her welcoming hat. And when things don’t go as planned, the story really highlights the power of a positive teacher-student relationship!
First day feelings but from School’s perspective! Christian Robinson’s illustrations are the best!
Ah, The Recess Queen, one that I’m sure is already on most classroom shelves! I tend to reach for The Recess Queen early on in our first week and like reading it before heading out to play to review playground expectations and how to treat others on the playground.
In my class, we’ve always read school inspired stories far beyond the first week to help us continue learning about expectations and to help build a safe classroom environment to make others feel welcome. These are some additional “back to school” stories that are great for read aloud during that first month or so that still give that initial first week/day kinda feeling.
When two kiddos who feel different from their peers make a connection a friendship is born. It’s a stunning, poetic book that empowers readers to be brave and share who they are with confidence. Because when you do, you discover what you have in common with others and can learn from the differences. I do find this one a little deeper for the start of kinder. I still recommend for the beginning of the year as a read aloud, but I would totally pull this one again for later on and dig deeper with it.
I use this book at least 2-3 times during the school year – once within the first month of the new year, again in Feb., and when our campus celebrated Kindness day! One of my go-to books for kindness. The illustrations are great for littles because it gives different examples of kindness and helps them see different ways to show kindness others. Perfect for leading into a discussion on kindness in the classroom and what it looks like!
Be Strong by Pat Zietlow Miller (Roaring Brook, 2021)
*Pre-Order* | Releases August 10, 2021
This is Miller’s follow-up to Be Kind (above) about using your strength in difference aspects of life! You’ll see 2 very familiar characters in it too – which I LOVE!
I Love My Fur would be great for talking about how to treat a friend and listening to them. The characters are a diverse group of the cutest little monsters – Little Big Foot being one. The thing about Little Big Foot is, he LOVES to talk about himself. He talks about himself so much that other kiddos get a little burnt out. It gives a good balance of loving yourself but also showing love to your friends by listening. The illustrations are also just really fun and help move the story along very nicely.
*if you enjoy this one check out Miller’s first of the series I Love My Fangs.
LOVE Rachel Bright and the kiddos really seem to be engaged with her content too! Within the first couple of weeks, I introduce the concept of Growth Mindset to the kiddos and we usually do a visual sort and of course CRAFT. In Kinder, Everything is NEW is new for them… the long days, schedules, being without their loved ones and add on all the academics – it can be a challenge at times. So, I really love being able to fall back to this read aloud and reference Kevin when we need a growth mindset reminder. (You can find the resource we use here).
The entire Jory John series is amazing. They’re funny, engaging and have strong themes that make great discussion topics. This takes place at the start of a school year and is centered around friendship. Great for letting kiddos share how they can be a COOL bean! (Activity Idea here)
I consider this gem a classic and another strong pick for an inclusion collection. I’d still stick to All Are Welcome first because of the setting/people focus. I tend to reach this one a few weeks into the year.
The follow up to All Are Welcome and it’s a visual treat. The text is minimal but uses ALL THE FEELING words which are great for little learners. The illustrations reflect the different ways the characters feel and show a story of teamwork as the kiddos clean up a play area at an unkept yard.
Again with Penelope T. Rex, she’s just a charmer and littles love her. This follow-up book shows a good example of being confident, staying true to yourself/interests and also has a theme of friendship.
Arlo Draws an Octopus by Lori Mortensen (Art by Rob Sayegh Jr.) (Abrams, 2021)
As soon as I read this one, I had flashbacks to similar memories in the classroom when a drawing or writing piece didn’t go as a kiddo planned or had a mistake… If you’ve been there and witnessed this, you know what happens next. Arlo Draws an Octopus tackles this same issue when Arlo’s drawing doesn’t go quite as planned. A great choice to talk about embracing mistakes, sparking creativity and believing in yourself.
You might Also Enjoy These Resources: