Back to school is a time filled with lots of emotions – anxiety and excitement included! (And I'm not just talking about the teacher.) Including back to school read alouds into your daily routine is a great way to talk to students about these mixed emotions and give them tools to navigate their feelings.
I also find that reading is a great way to build a classroom community and get to know my students better with discussions about the book. I share more about community building and my morning meeting routine in this blog post, but morning time is the perfect place to incorporate these read-alouds and discussions.
Here are books you can read with students about emotions, building friendships, and other generally great read alouds for back to school. All links are Amazon affiliate links for easy browsing, and you can shop the complete back to school read alouds list here.
Back to School Nerves and Anxiety
One of my favorite back to school books is A Letter from Your Teacher on the First Day of School by Shannon Olsen. This book takes a unique perspective because it comes in the form of a letter from the teacher. The teacher gives a warm welcome to her students and shares her hopes for what the school year will bring. It gives students a peace of mind that they are in a safe, welcome community. (Bonus: Now there is an end of the year version to really make things full circle!)
After reading this book with your students, have them write a letter back to their teacher. Allow them to share their hopes, wishes, and even anxieties about the school year. You can provide students with specific questions or prompts to respond to in their letter. Then take the time to read each letter and respond to them (even if it’s just a small note at the bottom). This is a simple way to build a connection with students.
Here are some other picture books that talk about handling anxiety:
- Catching Thoughts by Bonnie Clark
- The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
- Worry Says What? by Allison Edwards
Emotional Intelligence and Awareness
I recently read the book Out of a Jar by Deborah Marcero, and I fell in love with the message. In this book, Llewellyn struggles to express his emotions. Oftentimes he just bottles his emotions up. One day in class he gets in trouble for being overly excited, so Llewellyn decides he needs to bottle up excitement as well. Eventually, Llewellyn is left feeling nothing.
This book can foster a great class discussion on what students would consider “positive” and “negative” emotions. It allows you to talk to students about how all emotions are healthy, but our expressions can be unhealthy. Give students a few classroom scenarios and talk together. For example:
If another student takes one of your items without asking, what might you feel? How can you handle this situation?
If you get a bad grade on an assignment, how might you feel? How can you respond to this emotion?
Here is a list of additional books to talk with students about their emotions:
- The Snurtch by Sean Ferrell
- Jenny Mai is Sad by Tracy Subisak
- Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival
- Crying is like the Rain by Heather Hawk Feinberg
Figuring out relationships and friendship in elementary school can lead to lots of arguments, drama, and confusion for students. Just ask any elementary teacher! I love using A Friendship Yarn by Lisa Moser for this topic. In this book about a porcupine and a badger, they find a ball of yarn that has unraveled. They both begin to craft creations, but realize they are crafting from the same ball of yarn. They begin to fight over whose yarn it belongs to.
After reading the book, have your class brainstorm action steps they can take if they have an argument with a friend. Having disagreements with friends is normal, but there are things we can do to rebuild connections or solve problems. For example, they can choose to give each other space while upset to prevent arguments. They can also involve an adult to help mediate an argument when necessary.
Of course, navigating friendship is more than conflict. These books touch on other friendship related topics:
- Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller
- A Friend Like You by Andrea Schomburg and Barbara Rottgen
- Circles All Around Us by Brad Montague
- Big Hid by Roisin Swales
Chapter Books for Back to School Read Alouds
It may seem strange to do a chapter book during morning meetings, but it’s a great way to get students interested in books. You can read a chapter a day, or just read the first few pages during morning meeting. One book I love teasing is Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. This is a great chapter book to read the first few pages because it starts out in a really unique and intriguing way. In Hatchet, Bryan is traveling in a small plane when the pilot passes out. The plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness.
After reading the few pages or first chapter with students, have them make a prediction! The book is titled Hatchet, and we see the main character has a hatchet. Have them predict what role this hatchet will play in the story. What will it have to do with the plane crash? Then, have students share their predictions and discuss.
Here are some additional chapter books that are great for back to school read alouds:
- Wayside School Series by Louis Sachar
- Restart by Gorden Korman
- The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
- Save Me a Seat by Gita Varadarajan
- Holes by Louis Sachar
- The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
More Read Aloud Ideas
I hope these read aloud ideas help you kick off the new school year. Luckily, you don’t ever have to run out of book ideas because I have several blog posts filled with book lists. These are a few favorites for picture books for upper elementary, my favorite math picture books, and the best back to school picture books.