Favorite Back-to-School Read Alouds

Read alouds are my favorite time during the school day.  I try to fit in at least two (but many days only get to one) every day.  It is one of the only the only time when I have all of my kindergarteners in one area, engaged, and actively participating in their learning.

Early on in my teaching career I realized that to maximize this special time I needed two things: to have "command" of the classroom, and to have the best read aloud titles possible.  To me, command of the classroom means that all students are listening and participating to the best of their ability, with little to no distractions or side-conversations.  And to have the best read alouds, I need to choose books with a purpose, as well as books that are fun for five and six-year-olds to listen to.

In the beginning of the school year, I choose read alouds that open classroom conversations about what it means to learn in a classroom, how to behave at school, how to make and keep friends, how to separate from family members, etc.  The following books are those that I keep at the top of my B2S pile:

The classic "first day of kindergarten" read.  I love this on the first day because it helps the students to understand that kindergarten is important and takes a lot of work.  We talk about similarities between Miss Bindergarten and her classroom and Miss Morgan and our classroom.  I also explain that I spend many days over the summer putting up posters, organizing books, cleaning, etc.  

This book is a staple in my classroom throughout the year.  I love the message it sends: everyone is welcome.  We talk about how including friends to play and inviting everyone in the things that we do feels good.

This book isn't prime eligible, but I see it nearly every time I go to Lakeshore :).  I LOVE this book.  It really speaks to me and how I keep my classroom so uncluttered and organized.  Mrs. McBloom is the kind of teacher we all know and love: keeps everything, can't find anything.  When reading this story, I have the students notice how organized and tidy our classroom is.  We talk about why this is important for our learning and classroom environment.  The kids love it and refer to Mrs. McBloom throughout the year.

I can't say enough about Mr. Howard B. Wigglebottom in the kindergarten classroom.  He models bad choices and good choices, and explains why and how our good choices are the best.  This book (I believe his first) is perfect when talking about whole-body listening and what that sounds like and looks like.  I always tell my students I need to see their "listening eyes and listening ears" when they are fully paying attention to me.  The visual of Howard and listening helps tremendously.  And a little Howard side note:  all of his books are animated and can be found for FREE here.  You're welcome!  :)

My students quickly realize that being first and rushing to get places gets them nowhere in my classroom.  Me First by Helen Lester is the perfect example of this.  Pinkerton the pig is greedy and always needs to be first.  But he soon realizes that his greediness will get him nowhere.  This opens up a great dialogue on why we need to be patient and that everyone will get a turn in school.

This book.  This message.  I have yet to read this in the beginning of kindergarten, but I can't wait.  The message is simple--there are not "boy colors" or "girl colors".  Colors are for everyone.  Everything is for everyone.  I strongly believe in a gender-neutral classroom (more on this later), and this is the perfect read aloud to begin this message.  

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is (in my opinion) the most classic beginning-of-school read for kindergarten or pre-school.  The story is simple: we miss our families when in school, and they miss us.  But school is fun and we always bring a piece of our families with us everywhere we go, in our hearts (and hands).  I also do a super cute Kissing Hand handprint poem during the first week.  This ends up in our memory books at the end of the year--the kids just love seeing how much their hands grow during the school year and remembering their first day of school jitters!

Teaching in the Bay Area means that the majority of my students are from out of the country.  Many times even I have a hard name pronouncing names and make it a top priority to have my students tell me how their name is pronounced and what they prefer to be called.  This book opens up a dialogue about our different cultures and names.  The Name Jar is a perfect read aloud for all multicultural classrooms.

This book is a silly, yet practical, beginning of school read aloud.  I love how the alligator (not the students) make the bad decisions--and we quickly see how that works out for him.  This story is great when talking about classroom and school rules.

On the First Day of Kindergarten is an adaptation of the 12 days of Christmas.  It has an incredibly relatable story for any kindergartener.  It's a fun read aloud for those students who are still unsure about what school is and how fun it will be.

This is a book that I use when beginning a writing prompt.  Everyone has a story to tell about their summer--even if they don't think they do.  I even read this story in the beginning of school when I taught sixth grade!  Picture books are incredibly universal throughout the grade levels.

Umm...words cannot describe how much I love the Mr. Panda series in kindergarten.  They are frequent fliers in my read aloud bank, and I am so excited that Steve Antony has another title coming out next month.  I also love these stories because they are incredibly simple with little words, but at the same time are incredibly engaging for young learners (and kindergarten teachers apparently).  The messages in these stories are simple: use your manners.  Say please.  Say thank you.  Be patient.  Be kind.

Stick and Stone is one of my all-time faves and another frequent flier in my classroom.  Last fall, I thought I lost my copy and bought another copy that day.  I found the original the next day, and gave the new one to my partner.  With a simple message (everyone needs a friend), we can talk about what it means to be a friend, to be a good friend, and how to make a friend in kindergarten.  I also love how it has little words but a big meaning.

Not Quite Narwhal is a cute story about a unicorn born to a family of narwhals and has always felt a little out-of-place.  I love to read this story in the beginning of the year to address how we may all feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but that we are all exactly where we should be and all add to our classroom environment.

This is a silly story about friendship that is all around us.  In my classroom, I refer to my students as "friends".  I love to do so because it helps them to understand that we are all friends in a classroom and school community.  The Friend Ship is cute because although the lonely animals' friendships are obvious to the reader, they are completely clueless and are actually looking for a "friend ship".


  1. I love your library! I am moving to K from first this year, and I have been highly discouraged to have all my books out for access like this. Obviously, you allow your students access to all books. Would you mind sharing how you order the books on the shelves? How do you handle student selection and return of books? Thanks!

  2. Hi! I will post about my different classroom libraries soon--I have four different libraries in my classroom! Some are leveled, some are interest-based. Stay tuned! :)