Skip to content

Books to Begin the School Year

img_7789
Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win ALL SIX of these picture books for your classroom library.

Every year, during the first six weeks of school, we select books to read to our students that will build community, encourage a growth mindset, and foster empathy for others. For instance, my daughter’s second-grade teacher began the first week of school with a trio of Peter H. Reynolds books — Happy DreamerIsh, and Sky Color — that I adore. (My daughter even made her own Ish book as a result of the read aloud her teacher did!) These are the kinds of books I know her teacher will return to throughout the year when she engages with the children.

I have many “tried and true” book recommendations that I suggest teachers read to children at the beginning of the school year. However, it’s important to introduce new books to kids as well. I have a few recently-published book recommendations you can add to your back-to-school read aloud list.

Dear Substitute High ResDear Substitute written by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Chris Raschka

Publisher’s Summary: When a substitute teacher named Miss Pelly comes to class, one student bristles at the change in routine-Miss Pelly doesn’t follow the rules like Mrs. Giordano. But in time, our student learns that even though the substitute may do things a little differently, and she may be a bit silly, mixing things up might not be so bad. Told in a series of epistolary poems, this funny, relatable picture book is a great fit for classrooms and for any child nervous about new experiences.

A Few Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: font treatment (e.g., italics), poems that read as letters, punctuation that creates voice (e.g., colons, compound adjectives, dashes, parenthesis), repetition, and varied sentence lengths.

Suggestion(s) for Using This Book as You Begin the School Year: preparing for a guest teacher; debriefing from a guest teacher’s visit

Kang-Eraser-Eraser written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Publisher’s Summary: Eraser is always cleaning up everyone else’s mistakes. Except for Ruler and Pencil Sharpener, none of the other school supplies seem to appreciate her. They all love how sharp Pencil is and how Tape and Glue help everyone stick together. Eraser wants to create so that she can shine like the others. She decides to give it a try, but it’s not until the rubber meets the road that Eraser begins to understand a whole lot about herself.

Inspired by a school essay their daughter Kate wrote in the third grade, the author and illustrator behind Theodor Seuss Geisel Award–winner You Are (Not) Small have created a desktop drama about figuring out who you are, finding happiness, and the importance of second, third, and maybe even fourth chances.

A Few Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: conversation (n.b.: it isn’t written as speech bubbles or as dialogue with quotation marks), ellipses points, font treatment, movement of time and place, onomatopoeia, personification, and puns.

Suggestion(s) for Using This Book as You Begin the School Year: discovering every person’s special skill or talent; making mistakes is part of life; realizing that persistence and dedication pays off

Quiet Please, Owen McPhee!Quiet Please, Owen McPhee! written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton

Publisher’s Summary: Owen McPhee doesn’t just like to talk, he LOVES to talk. He spends every waking minute chattering away at his teachers, his classmates, his parents, his dog, and even himself. But all that talking can get in the way of listening. And when Owen wakes up with a bad case of laryngitis, it gives him a much-needed opportunity to hear what others have to say.

A Few Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: dialogue that advances the story, meet the characters lead, movement of time and place, onomatopoeia, punctuation to create voice (e.g., commas, ellipses points, exclamation points), speech bubbles

Suggestion(s) for Using This Book as You Begin the School Year: listening helps us better understand each other; respecting others is important

Check out the discussion questions located in the back matter of this text for ways to start a discussion with your students.

9780399246531.mThe Day You Begin written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael Lopez

Publisher’s Summary: There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.

Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.

A Few Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: italic font treatment to represent spoken words, punctuation to create voice (e.g., commas in lists, dashes, ellipses points), repetition, talking to the reader lead, and varied sentence lengths.

Suggestion(s) for Using This Book as You Begin the School Year: fostering conversations about the beauty of everyone’s differences; overcoming fear/loneliness; sharing stories helps us better understand each other.

The Dreamer_FCThe Dreamer by Il Sung Na

Publisher’s Summary: Once, there was a pig who admired birds. But he could never join them. Or could he?

Thus begins the journey of a pig with big dreams, and the perseverance to make them come true. He develops flight plans, builds experimental contraptions, and has far-flung adventures, but at the end of the day, his favorite thing to do is still to sit and watch for those he loves best: the birds. Il Sung Na creates a world at once whimsical and aspirational, where anything is possible and, yes, even pigs can learn to fly.

A Few Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: circular ending, ellipses points, fragments, lead (i.e., meet the characters + question), print layout, and varied sentence lengths.

Suggestion(s) for Using This Book as You Begin the School Year: introducing the concept of having a growth mindset; starting a discussion about hopes and dreams for the school year

What Can a Citizen Do_FCWhat Can a Citizen Do? written by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Shawn Harris

Publisher’s Summary: Empowering and timeless, What Can a Citizen Do? is the latest collaboration from the acclaimed duo behind the bestselling Her Right Foot: Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris. This is a book for today’s youth about what it means to be a citizen.

Across the course of several seemingly unrelated but ultimately connected actions by different children, we watch how kids turn a lonely island into a community—and watch a journey from what the world should be to what the world could be.

This is a book about what citizenship—good citizenship—means to you, and to us all.

A Few Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: circular ending, fragments, leading with a question, punctuation to create voice (e.g., comma use, a variety of end punctuation), use of 2nd and 3rd person, and varied sentence lengths

Suggestion(s) for Using This Book as You Begin the School Year: making connections between the ways a country’s citizens can help and the way citizens of a classroom (or a school) can make a difference; creating a strong classroom community

{All of the craft moves listed above are explained in Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts.}

I hope you’ll add at least one of these into your read alouds during the first six weeks of the school year! Be sure to enter the giveaway (below) for a chance to win all six of these books for your classroom!

Giveaway Information:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of each of the following books: Dear SubstituteEraser, Quiet Please, Owen McPhee!, The Day You Begin, The Dreamer, What Can a Citizen Do? Many thanks to Chronicle Books, Hyperion, Knopf, Nancy Paulsen Books, and Two Lions for donating a copy of each of these books for one lucky reader.
  • For a chance to win these six books, please leave a comment about this post by Friday, September 14th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Monday, September 17th. NOTE: You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter this giveaway since a couple of the publishers only ship domestically.
    • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contacts at each of the above-mentioned publishers will ship your books out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – BOOKS TO BEGIN THE SCHOOL YEAR. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Comments are now closed.

Adanna McMayo’s commenter number was selected using a random number generator so she’ll win this text set.

 

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

171 thoughts on “Books to Begin the School Year Leave a comment

  1. Building community at the beginning of the school year is important. The classroom culture that you create sets the tone for the school year. I would love the opportunity to add these books to my read aloud selections to foster and build skills. Thank you for the great book choices.

    Like

  2. As a veteran teacher heading back into the classroom, I am on the hunt for books to add to my classroom library again…these are great! Thanks for sharing and even if I don’t win, these are great books to order for myself! Thank you!

    Like

  3. I always love hearing about new books. I teach kindergarten and as I read the summary of each of these books I had ideas popping into my head how I could use them in my classroom. My favorite is the Eraser. I believe this book will tie in so nicely with our units of writing instruction our district has adopted. Thank you so much for sharing these titles.

    Like

    • We love mentor texts at our school! We use them for reading and writing, so the ideas you’ve included will be so appreciated. Books in the hands of teachers and books in the hands of kids – what could be better?! Thanks for the awesome ideas and chance to win great books.

      Like

  4. Thank you for not just sharing the book titles and a summary but also the craft moves and ideas for using the books! This is so helpful for this busy principal! I am going to share this post with my teaching team ASAP, and once I select a few to purchase myself, I am going to get into rooms and read to our kids!

    Like

  5. I love your suggestions for how to use the books at the beginning of the year as well as how to use them for various writers craft moves. The books all look so good!

    Like

  6. Thanks Stacey – your list will be of help. Commenced an NGO aimed at developing reading culture. Our target audience are kids within the ages of 3 – 12years. We are currently searching for list of books that will be beneficial to our course. Something funny, interesting and impressionable that captures values and good virtues.

    Like

  7. Fabulous and fresh read aloud for the beginning of the year!! As a matter of fact, these books would be terrific to share at any time of the school year and I don’t have any of these titles — yet! I am excited to add them to my classroom library! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Like

  8. So exciting to see these new treasures. Love the format of your post–listing both craft moved and how the book may be used/context of introduction is very helpful!

    Like

  9. Love this list of picture books and your suggestions for using them. I use picture books in both speech and AP Lit. In AP Lit we raise big questions and begin our analysis of how lit devices work by using picture books. I’ve even had students who have made art based on picture books I’ve given them after they leave for college.

    Like

  10. Thank you for the great new book suggestions! I love incorporating new ideas into my classroom. I appreciate the craft moves being highlighted for each book as it keeps me thinking about how books can be used to support our writers.

    Like

  11. These all sound amazing. The Woodson book was read by our K-12 ELA supervisor at the teachers’ first day back and was lovely and inspiring. Thanks for the details of how each book could be used as both mentor text, and classroom discussion starter.

    Like

  12. I always love reading the new book recommendations that you suggest. The craft moves are just a great teacher bonus! I love sharing these with my team! This year will be no different!

    Like

  13. Thank you for all the new ideas! I love using picture books as mentor texts for our writing. Looking forward to adding these new titles to our collection!

    Like

  14. How wonderful to offer our teachers this gift. My son is in a special class in school. This gift of read aloud books will be enjoyed by all the kids in class. Good luck to the winner since all of us are winners by merely just getting to learn that these titles are out there. I’m always looking for age appropriate books for my son. Even though he can’t read or understand a lot I always read to him. ❤️❤️❤️

    Like

  15. I would love these books for my future classroom! I will graduate in October of this year with my bachelor’s degree in early childhood education with the hopes of being a lead teacher soon. I hope to hear from you that I have won these books!

    Like

  16. I just bought The Day You Begin and can’t wait to read it this week. Thanks for the other recommendations as well! It’s always great to have a different book to read in ther beginning of the year that can be used as great mentor text throughout the year.

    Like

  17. I love using mentor texts to teach reading and writing skills to my students. These books would be a great addition. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  18. I heard about The Day You Begin a few weeks ago. I’m currently on the waitlist for it at my local library! All these books sound like fantastic read aloud and mentor texts.

    Like

  19. Thank you for sharing these, I am always looking for new books to start out the year. It is so helpful to also know how we can use them to support writing.

    Like

  20. Wonderful books to start the year! We just read “The Day You Begin” and it lead to powerful conversations with my fourth graders! Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  21. What amazing additions to the early-in-the-year read alouds! The themes make them good candidates for close reading and many revisits throughout the year. Thank you for bringing them to us. Thank you to you and the publishers for organizing and sponsoring the giveaway.

    Like

  22. Our class has one rule: be kind-to yourself, others, and the environment. Here is a link to our padlet sharing our classroom book-a-day so far. Your six choices would be a welcome addition to our library. I love Anna Kang & Christopher Weyant’s work and will hunt down “Eraser” as it’s new to me and seems like a great growth mindset connection. Thanks also for sharing the writing mentor text suggestions. https://padlet.com/ldilger1/t8gtvupazdm0

    Like

  23. Early year or anytime of year, this set of books holds promise for helping students understand empathy and engender empathic connections to others. Our school theme is CARE and the “E” stands for Empathy. These books would be a sure fit with our theme and at least one of them would become a whole school read. In addition, with all the suggested craft moves you’ve shared, these books hold promise for fostering writers in my school, too. Many thanks!

    Like

  24. These look amazing! This year we used the book “Be Kind” by Pat Zietlow Miller. Then, in ELA, I had my students respond to the question the little girl asks in the book – “What does it mean to be kind anyway?” There were some wonderful responses.

    Like

  25. I can use ANY book in some way in my First Grade classroom, but I was excited to read about these. They are cute, teach a lesson and even fit into my curriculum of citizens, being yourself, working hard, having Big dreams! Love them all!

    Like

  26. I love these book suggestions because they are from some of my favorite authors. But even better than the books, are the suggestions for how to teach the craft moves. Thanks again, Stacey, for always providing just what educators need!

    Like

  27. I would love a chance to win these books! I’m an instructional coach in Nebraska and am often in classrooms helping teachers launch and sustain Writing Workshop. This blog has been an endless source of information for me! I would use these books with students and teachers in all grades at my K-6 building.

    Like

  28. Thanks for the book recommendations and the craft lesson ideas! I also got great ideas from other commentors. I’m excited to look for new books from some favorite authors and from authors I don’t yet know.

    Like

  29. Some great new books that I haven’t seen before. My fourth grade team does a Jacqueline Woodson author study, so I’m adding the book “The Day you Begin” to their book bin. Many of these books I’ll be forwarding to my counselors who like to find text to go with their lessons.

    Like

  30. This is the ultimate back to school book talk love! I cannot wait to share these titles at my school. What better way to launch a community of learners than with these books.

    Like

  31. These titles look amazing. I can’t wait to share these titles through read alouds with teachers during staff development sessions. Thank you for sharing them – and thank you authors!

    Like

  32. ALWAYS great to be able to add to our list of mentor texts! A classroom/teacher can NEVER have too many books!! AND the craft moves to go with each text is so helpful! Thank you. 🙂

    Like

  33. Books are such an addiction for me – I had all I could do not to add each of these to my online shopping cart as I was reading about them. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  34. I always look forward to your book recommendations. l especially love the craft moves noted for each book. Each book has a special message students should hear in the beginning of the year and then can be revisited all year long as a mentor text!

    Like

  35. I was sad to search our school library catalog to find none of these books in our building. I love the ideas you’ve incorporated in using these books. I would love to add these books to our school library for every teacher to use!

    Like

  36. What a fantastic collection of books! In my role as a literacy coach, I would love to share them with teachers and use them in classrooms to model lessons!

    Like

  37. I would love to have these books, especially Jacqueline Woodson’s book, to share with the teachers I serve. I work in two very diverse schools, and we are constantly on the lookout for books that will help us create libraries where all of our children can see themselves.

    Like

  38. The Day You Begin has led to some wonderful conversations during class circles as we build community. And there’s nothing better than learning about new book titles to share with my students! Thanks!

    Like

  39. I love the idea of using picture books as a mentor text, even at the high school level. Or maybe more so at the high school level. All kids of all ages need to be read to and these books would help encourage that at any time besides giving the teacher and the student a great mentor text to refer back to.

    Like

  40. I am so excited to see these new titles! It’s so nice to go beyond the tried-and-true stories we’ve all been using. I am sharing this post with the elementary teachers in my district, hopefully one of them will comment and win! 🙂 Keri Demers, K-5 Elementary Literacy Coach

    Like

  41. I am very excited to learn about high-quality picture books that help students socially and emotionally AND have mentoring features for writing. Thank you once again for sharing and creating inspiration in so many.

    Like

  42. I find that my best teaching happens after sharing s good book. Thank you for sharing these six new titles, having heard Trudy Ludwig (she came to our school years ago) I am especially excited to read her new book.

    Like

  43. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing book list! I have never read any of them and I am so excited about adding them to my list of read aloud! I love how you added the details about the different writing elements you can highlight during your writing mini lessons! Thank you so much

    Like

  44. I’m the literacy instructional specialist at my school, and part of my job is building the inventory of quality resources for teachers and student to use in reader’s and writer’s workshop. It’s only our second year open, so we don’t have a lot yet! These would be fantastic to add to our growing collection of mentor texts!

    Like

  45. Thank you for discussing wonderful new books. I heard Jacqueline Woodson read her newest book here at the National Book Festival this past Saturday. She said she gave a copy to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotamayor, too.

    Like

  46. Thank you Stacy for sharing new titles that will help to build our class community. As I read about “What a Citizen Can Do” I immediately thought of its use in the third grade persuasive writing unit as we brainstorm ideas to change the world.

    Like

  47. All of my read alouds at the beginning of the year focus on building community, celebrating our differences, and stretching ourselves as students. These books would be a welcome addition to those I typically read.

    Like

  48. There are so many wonderful choices of books on your list. As I read the blog, I pictured individual students in my room that each title would appeal to. Thank you for the suggestions about craft moves. I’ll definitely be adding some of these titles to my wish list.

    Like

  49. Thanks for the suggestions. I’m always looking for strong mentor texts to all to my collection and I just moved into a classroom that was completely bare! Only a few leveled books

    Like

  50. Who doesn’t love a list of new books to add to their classroom collection?? I really appreciate the craft moves that you discuss. How to use punctuation really will help my students see that it is not only valuable, but FUN!

    Like

  51. Thanks for these beautiful ideas! After finding Jacqueline Woodson’s book, I encouraged our principal to use it for a community read aloud. He’s decided to read books throughout the year and contribute them to teacher classrooms. Can’t wait to share these titles too.

    Like

%d bloggers like this: