Category Archives: Back to School

Top 10 (okay, 14!) Back to School Picture Books for 2019

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Well, it’s that time of year again.  Time to face the fact that summer is drawing to a close  and school is right around the corner.  Some of you, in fact, have already started teaching.  But there is an excitement that comes at this time of year – the anticipation of a new students to get to know and a new class community to build and nurture.  But while the start of school brings excitement for some, it can bring anxiety for others.  Sharing books about starting school and all that that entails is a wonderful way for making your students feel safe and connected. Here are my top new “back to school” picture books for sharing during “back to school”  week.

The Proudest Blue – Ibtihaj Muhammad

While it doesn’t appear to be by the cover, this is a powerful story about the first day of school that turns out to be so much more.  It is about rites of passage, the bonds of sisters, overcoming classmate cruelty and taunts, and the importance of culture and faith.  This book will be released on September 10th and I highly recommend it.  Gorgeous illustrations!   An important book to share about acceptance and pride in who you are.  (Great anchor for “Who Am I?” lessons from Powerful Understanding!)


Clothesline Clues to the First Day of School – Andy Robert Davies

You will have a lot of fun with this interactive book during the first week back.  Catchy rhymes and clear visual cues introduce young readers to the people they’ll encounter on their first day of school.  Perfect for Pre K – grade 1.

The School Book – Todd Parr

Todd Parr has done it again! With his signature bright, bold illustrations, “The School Book” is a must read for back to school this year. Positive and affirming step-by-step guide to a school day, from morning routines, to meeting new people, to learning and playing together. Love the way he weaves in a cheerful, child-friendly message of sharing, inclusion, and community. A perfect book for parents and teachers to read with any little one starting or returning to school.

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All Are Welcome – Alexandra Penfold

A warm, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids starting and returning to school.    All children need to know they are welcome in their classrooms and feel a sense of belonging.  In rhythmic phrases, this story emphasizes the inclusiveness, acceptance, and celebration of all cultures.  The perfect book for the first week of school to promote a positive classroom and school community.

If I Built a School – Chris Van Dusen

Chris Van Dusen’s If I Built a House is one of my go-to read-alouds to inspire imaginative writing so I was thrilled to see his new book about an imaginary school!  Told in a bouncy rhyming text, a boy describes all the fantastic and amazing things he would include if he was building his own school – money and reality no object!  Puppies and zoo animals would greet you at the door, students would have movable hover desks, every library book would come to life when you opened it, you’d race on submersible bikes in the school’s pool!   What fun!  A perfect anchor book for some inspiring back to school imagination pocket writing and art!

Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten! – Lisa Robinson

Very sweet story about “Pirate Emma” transitioning from preschool to kindergarten and getting to know new classmates, a new classroom, a brand new teacher, and a new routine.  Packed with pirate language and lively illustrations, this story is a perfect “connect” book for any buccaneer that might not be feeling very brave when starting a new adventure.

Lola Goes to School – Anna McQuinn

A simple, comforting story about a little girl preparing for the first day of school.  While many similar books begin on the actual first day of school, I like how this one focuses on the preparation day before – choosing clothes, packing backpacks and lunches.   This one leaves you with such a positive, uplifting feeling that gently eases any worries young readers may be feeling about starting school.

Sorry, Grown-Ups!  You Can’t Go to School – Christina Geist

This book is an entertaining story with some reverse psychology intended to make kids want to go to school.   The role reversal outlines all the fun things that a child would be excited about – new backpacks (with secret pockets), playing games, reading on the cozy carpet, science experiments, and recess, all of which drive the adults nuts with longing!  Bright, playful illustrations. (the lack of diversity is my only criticism)  This book is fun and would certainly help to ease nerves as the school year begins.  

Butterflies on the First Day of School Annie Silverstro

Rosie is excited about the first day of school but then when the day actually arrives, she discovers she has “butterflies in her tummy.”   As the first day unfolds, each time Rosie opens up and talks to a new classmate or her teacher, butterflies – which only she can see – escape out of her mouth and fly into the sky.   As the butterflies fly out, Rosie’s confidence begins to grow, and new friendships and experiences are forged; she even finds the courage to help another shy little girl with butterflies of her own.  I love how this “butterfly” metaphor is developed into a clear analogy for kids – opening up to others to let the butterflies out.

The King of Kindergarten – Derrick Barnes

A gentle, joyful introduction to what to expect in a Kindergarten classroom and a sweet story about making friends, playing together, loving school, and putting positive energy into the world.  Such a lovely message in this one!   The artwork is stunning and the story is charming and uplifting.  Love this one!

The Pigeon Has to Go to School! – Mo Willems

Mo Willems is back with another pigeon book just in time for back to school! The Pigeon Has to Go to School is a laugh-out-loud hilarious story focusing on fears about going to school for the first time. Not preachy and a great ending. A perfect back to school read! LOVE this!

How To Read – Kwane Alexander

While not specifically about starting school, this ode to reading by the amazing team of Kwane Alexander and Melissa Sweet would make an excellent first week read-aloud.   I so loved the “how to” format filled gorgeous poetic language and literary techniques: “Once you’re comfy, peel its gentle skin, like you would a clementine…Next, did your thumb at the bottom of each juicy section and POP the words out.”  Vibrant, collage illustrations but I did find the busy layout and embedded font sometimes difficult to follow on some pages.   Great for read-aloud and wonderful anchor book for writing similes, personification and imagery.

Back to School: A Global Journey – Maya Ajmera

I so love this beautiful, joy-filled book filled with stunning color photographs of children around the world studying, learning, exploring, and having fun together.  A perfect book for any lesson on global education and includes back notes and maps about each photograph.  Seeing children’s joy about school and learning is so inspiring!   I would pair this book up with The Way to School by Rosemary McCarney.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found on or two “Back to School” books that caught your eye!  Happy “New Year”, teacher friends!

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Filed under 2019 releases, Back to School, Connect, New Books, Top 10 Tuesday

IMWAYR – It’s Monday! What are You Reading? – Hot Off the Press: More Amazing New Releases

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It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

It’s hard to keep up with all the amazing books that are being released this summer!  Here are some of the new picture books I read this week.

1. The Summer Nick Taught Cats to Read – Curtis Manley & Kate Berube

An adorable story about a determined boy who teaches his two cats to read.  A perfect way to illustrate that not all readers learn the same way and that finding the ‘just right book’ for every reader is an important part of the process.  A delightful book to celebrate reading!

2. Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles

– Deborah Hopkinson & Philippe Cousteau

WOW!  Take note of this book!  It is ah-mazing!  So much to love about this book, written by the grandson of Jacques Cousteu.  I especially love that it combines so many amazing ‘teachable’ themes including: creative problem solving, animal activism, young people making a difference, community as well as fascinating sea turtle facts woven into the story. This one’s a winner!

3. On The Farm, At The Market – G. Brian Karas

A delightful, informative look at how produce gets from the farm to the farmers market to a restaurant.  This book would make a great introduction to farmer’s markets, gardening, community and farming.  Charming illustrations.

4. More-Igami – Dori Kleber

This book totally surprised me when I read it!  It is the story about a little boy named Joey who loves folding things.  When he tries to make an origami crane, his determined effort unfortunately results in a lot of frustration and crumpled paper.  (Think ‘Most Magnificent Thing‘) A lovely book about perseverance and passion and would also inspire some origami art! Lovely illustrations by G. Brian Karas – who has been busy as the previous book was written and illustrated by him as well!  Instructions in the back to make an origami ladybug (a little odd because the book was about a crane! )

5. Come Home, Angus – Patrick Downes

Great book dealing with how to manage when sometimes our small frustrations can lead to big emotions.  Clever clues in the illustrations to help capture the growing emotion in Angus.  I like that even when Angus runs away, Mom is never far behind him.

6. The Class – Boni Ashburn

Well, I know that there are hundreds of ‘BACK TO SCHOOL’ books to choose from but I couldn’t help myself – this one is must have this year!  What makes this one special is we follow 20 different students from 19 different homes as they get ready kindergarten.  This book is a true celebration of diversity with children from many different backgrounds, morning rituals, routines, families, and ways of getting ready to go to school. Adorable illustrations and a perfect ‘CONNECT’ book!

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This is My Dollhouse – Giselle Potter

A celebration of imagination and creativity!  A young girl creates a detailed dollhouse out of a cardboard box but worries her friend will not like it as much as a ‘real’ dollhouse.  When I was younger, my sister and I spent hours designing houses for our dolls and stuffies – I would have loved this book then, and I love it now!  Would be a great book to inspire creative thinking and play!

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Yaks Yak – Animal Word Pairings – Linda Sue Park

A funny, playful look at homophones through animal pairings and word play.  On each page, animals act out the version of their names as verbs – Fish fish with lines and hooks; Bats swing bats at baseballs; Slugs try to slug one another with boxing gloves.  I loved the chart at the end of the book which gives the etymology for each of the words.   Great fun and if you love words, like I do, you will love this book!

7. Madeline Finn and the Library Dog – Lisa Papp

This is a delightful little story which highlights the use of therapy dogs in libraries to help reluctant readers. Madeline Finn doesn’t like to read because she doesn’t read well.  But Bonnie, the beautiful dog who comes to the library, listens patiently and doesn’t laugh when she stumbles on some of the words.  Unconditional love and suppport goes a long way when you are struggling reader.

8. Ada’s Violin – The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay – Susan Hood

For those of you who do not know this story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay- it is a must read and a must share with your class.  This non-fiction picture books tells the remarkable true story about a visionary teacher who finds a way to help children escape their lives of extreme poverty through music. A beautifully told, hopeful, inspiring story with gorgeous colorful collage art.  My personal connection to this book is that my next-door neighbour is involved in a recycled instrument campaign here in Vancouver and hosted this group when they came to play here in May.  When they left, they presented him with one of their recylcled instruments – one of only 4 that they have ever given away.  The documentary film Landfill Harmonic about this extraordinary journey will be released this fall.  You can watch (and share) an inspiring 4 minute video, with the ‘real’ Ada  here or a longer report 60 Minutes did on this story here.

9. Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story – Arun Gandhi & Bethany Hegedus

This book has not yet been released but I was fortunate enough to read the a copy of the ARC that Kidsbooks had. It is a powerful and poignant story of the damage of wastefulness.  It is an important one to share with your students and would be a great companion book to Ada’s Violin.   With the help of his grandfather, Arun learns how every wasteful act, no matter how small, affects others. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  This is definitely a Transform book and I would use the ‘one word’ activity with it – using the word WASTE.  

THANKS FOR STOPPING BY!

Which book or books have caught your eye?

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Filed under 2016 releases, Back to School, Diverse Children's Books, Emotions, Family, Farmer's Market, homographs, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Picture Book

Top Ten Tuesday – 10 Favorite Back-to-School Read Alouds

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I realize that there are many of you who may be reading this who have already started teaching, but this is my first week back so I thought that I’d share my top 10 books (OK – I went a little past 10!) for starting school.  All of these books would make wonderful “connect” books to share during those first few days and weeks of school!

Fun, Wacky, LOL books! 

1. Steve, Raised By Wolves – by Jared Chapman

LOL!  This book is hilarious and would make a brilliant back to school read-aloud for any grade! Young Steve is literally raised by wolves.  Mother wolf sends him on his first day of school with this advice:  “Just be yourself!”.   So Steve proceeds to do just that – howling in class, shredding homework, marking his territory, drinking from the toilet and pouncing on his classmates!  His behavior does not go over well!  In the end, Steve saves the day and helps to find the class pet.  Great book for discussing appropriate school behavior as well as what it means to “be yourself”.

2. The Gingerbread Man is Loose in the School – Laura Murray

This is a fun twist on the classic fairy tale.  After a gingerbread man is left alone in the classroom at recess, he decides to leave to find the children. He makes many stops in the school and asks many different people for help.  Great rhyming text and graphic novel type illustrations.  This book would be a great introduction to different people and places in the school.  I know of a teacher who, after reading this book, hides a gingerbread man in the school and takes her class on a search for him!   Or you could have your students write about the gingerbread man’s adventures!

3.  The Exceptionally, Extraordinarily Ordinary First Day of School – Lorenz Albert

This book was a little on the odd side, I must admit, but it got better each time I read it!  The illustrations reminded me of MAD magazine and the story line is a little like Marc Teague’s “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” with a boy’s “version” of his summer vacation.  Unusual but clever!

4.   Daddy’s Back to School Shopping Adventure – Alan Lawrence Sitomer

Yes, it’s “back to school” shopping time and the school supply stores will be full of parents and kids filling their baskets!  Sticking to the shopping list is difficult for this wild and wacky dad who takes his kids or their supplies. He is tempted by the glow in the dark glue sticks and neon paper clips but his kids keep him on track! A little wacky, lots of fun and a sweet surprise ending. A fun first week back read aloud! 

Books about Beginning School Anxieties

5. Back to School Tortoise – Lucy M. George

Story includes worries of starting school, not wanting to go inside the classroom and the most adorable illustrations ever!  Perfect for Kindergarten!

 6.  Monkey: Not Ready For Kindergarten – Marc Brown

Adorable Monkey experiences anxiety as Kindergarten is only a week away . . What if he gets on the wrong bus? What if they don’t have any red crayons? What if he doesn’t like the snacks? What if he doesn’t make new friends?  Poor Monkey has so many worries running through his head!  Slowly, his family helps him ease his worries.  Perfect book for Kindergarten children and making connections to starting school.

 7.  Chu’s First Day of School – Neil Gaiman

Adorable Panda Chu is worried whether his classmates will like him. He gets so nervous when he gets to school, he can’t even speak to share what his favorite thing to do is.  Charming, simple story and sweet illustrations.

8.  First Day Jitters – Julie Danneberg

Delightful story with a surprise ending…. and an important message that teachers get nervous about starting school too!  I have read this book to MANY classes over the years and the reaction at the end is always the same!

Books About School Days, School Goals and School Rules!

9. This School Year will Be The BEST! – Kay Winters

Fantastic beginning of school read-a-loud. Great for starting the conversation about what students are nervous about, thinking about, and hoping to get from school.  Also a great anchor for writing about school goals and wishes for the new school year ahead.

10. Starting School Allan Ahlberg

A group of kids start kindergarten. The book walks you through a day at school, the second day of school, a week, and special events. Good for calming nerves and making connections.  (Does have reference to a Christmas pageant and a school prayer)  I love Janet and Allan Ahlberg books  (Jolly Postman, Each, Peach, Pear, Plum) and they were a favorite of my children when they were younger. Delightful illustrations! 

11.  Back-to-School Rules – Laurie Friedman

Perfect anchor book for stimulating a class discussion and creating a class anchor chart of school rules.

Books about Creative Souls, Fitting In and Embarrassing Moments

12.  Ally-Saurus and the First Day of School – Richard Torrey

A first-day-of-school book with a dinosaur-loving main character who calls herself Ally-saurus  A lovely picture book that weaves together a number of discussion-worthy issues including first day of school, imagination, books, fitting in, and friendship. A great book to show that everyone may have different interests but can still be friends.  LOVE the illustrations in this book – especially the pages with the children’s “drawings” of their interests.

13.  I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard – Jennifer Mann

This is the heart-warming, heart-breaking story of Rose, a creative soul who struggles doing all the things that earn the other children stars on the blackboard. But as we all know, not every student is a neat, straight-A student with all the right answers. This book helps us see that there are blackboard stars out there for the doodling daydreamers too.

14  First Grade Dropout – Audrey Vernick

When the young narrator of this story experiences a mortifying moment in class (he calls his teachers “mommy”) he decides to quit school.  This fantastic picture book is a great look at how to persevere after embarrassing things happen.  Perfect read-aloud for making connections.

Thanks for stopping by!  What are your favorite “back to school read-alouds?

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Filed under Back to School, Connect, New Books, Top 10 Tuesday