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25 New and Notable Books For the First Day of School You Need to Read

Looking for the best books for the first day of school for kids? These picture books for the first day of school for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Books with lesson plans and activities linked. Picture books about various topics such as learning student names, classroom rules and expectations, first day jitters and more for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!

If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!

FIRST DAY JITTERS

You’ve probably read the book First Day Jitters at some point in your career on the first day of school, which is exactly why I’m not including it in this list. There are a great many other books about first day jitters.

Ruby The Copycat by Peggy Rathmann

It’s the first day of school, and Ruby is new. When her classmate Angela wears a red bow in her hair, Ruby comes back from lunch wearing a red bow, too. When Angela wears a flowered dress, suddenly Ruby’s wearing one, too. Fortunately, Ruby’s teacher knows a better way to help Ruby fit in–by showing how much fun it is to be herself!

Get the lesson plan and activities for Ruby The Copycat HERE

Looking for the best books for the first day of school for kids? These picture books for the first day of school for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Books with lesson plans and activities linked. Picture books about various topics such as learning student names, classroom rules and expectations, first day jitters and more for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!
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Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae

The bestselling Giraffes Can’t Dance is now a board book!Giraffes Can’t Dance is a touching tale of Gerald the giraffe, who wants nothing more than to dance. With crooked knees and thin legs, it’s harder for a giraffe than you would think. Gerald is finally able to dance to his own tune when he gets some encouraging words from an unlikely friend.With light-footed rhymes and high-stepping illustrations, this tale is gentle inspiration for every child with dreams of greatness. One of my favorite books for back to school!

Get the lesson plan and activities for Giraffes Can’t Dance HERE

The Pigeon Has To Go To School by Mo Willems

The Pigeon is about to get SCHOOLED. Do YOU think he should go?

Why does the Pigeon have to go to school? He already knows everything! Well … almost everything. And what if he doesn’t like it? What if the teacher doesn’t like him? I mean, what if he learns TOO MUCH!?! What kid doesn’t love the pigeon? For back to school time, this is definitely near the top of my favorite September read alouds especially for primary grades.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

Each kindness makes the world a little better

This unforgettable book is written and illustrated by the award-winning team that created The Other Side and the Caldecott Honor winner Coming On Home Soon. With its powerful anti-bullying message and striking art, it will resonate with readers long after they’ve put it down.

Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she’d shown a little kindness toward Maya.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Each Kindness HERE

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

In our classroom safe and sound.
Fears are lost and hope is found.

Discover a school where all young children have a place, have a space, and are loved and appreciated.

Readers will follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other’s traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be. As students come back to school, they need to know that they’re safe, making this another one of my favorite September read alouds!

School’s First Day Of School by Adam Rex

It’s the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and everyone’s just a little bit nervous, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him?

The school has a rough start, but as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he’s not the only one going through first-day jitters.

Get the lesson plan and activities for School’s First Day Of School HERE

CLASSROOM RULES AND EXPECTATIONS:

Check out these books for the first day of school to talk about classroom rules and expectations.

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

“I am the queen!”

Lilly loves all sorts of things. She loves school, she loves dressing up, she even grows to love her stinky baby brother, Julius. In fact, Lilly loves everything! But when Lilly brings her purple plastic purse to school and can’t wait until sharing time to show off the purse and her movie star sunglasses, her teacher, Mr. Slinger, has to take away her prized possessions.

Lilly’s fury leads her to draw a mean picture of her favorite teacher. It isn’t until Mr. Slinger gives her belongings back to her with a kind note and snacks that Lilly realizes she owes Mr. Slinger an apology. A great book for back to school!

Get the lesson plan and activities for Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse HERE

Officer Buckle And Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

Officer Buckle knows more about safety than anyone in the town of Napville. But whenever he tries to share his safety tips, nobody listens – until the day the Napville Police Department buys a police dog named Gloria, who has her own way of demonstrating safety tips. This entry in my top September read alouds is perfect when talking about classroom rules, routines and safety!

Get the lesson plan and activities for Officer Buckle And Gloria HERE

Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller

Mr. Rabbit’s new neighbors are Otters.
OTTERS!
But he doesn’t know anything about otters. Will they get along? Will they be friends?
Just treat otters the same way you’d like them to treat you, advises Mr. Owl.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Do Unto Otters HERE

David Goes To School by David Shannon


David’s teacher has her hands full. From running in the halls to chewing gum in class, David’s high-energy antics fill each schoolday with trouble — and are sure to bring a smile to even the best-behaved reader.

Frederick by Leo Lionni

Winter is coming, and all the mice are gathering food . . . except for Frederick. But when the days grow short and the snow begins to fall, it’s Frederick’s poems that warm the hearts and spirits of his fellow field mice. With this also being a winner of a 1967 Caldecott Honor, how could Frederick not be a favorite September read aloud?

Get the lesson plan and activities for Frederick HERE

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

It’s homework time for the little red chicken, who has just learned about something every good story should have: an elephant of surprise. Or could it be an element of surprise (as her amused papa explains)? As they dive in to story after story, looking for the part that makes a reader say “Whoa! I didn’t know that was going to happen,” Papa is sure he can convince Chicken he’s right. After all, there are definitely no elephants in “The Ugly Duckling,” “Rapunzel,” or “The Little Mermaid” — or are there? Elephant or element, something unexpected awaits Papa in every story, but a surprise may be in store for the little red chicken as well.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Interrupting Chicken HERE

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

Teach kindness, courtesy, respect, and friendship: It was the perfect summer. That is, until Jeremy Ross moved into the house down the street and became neighborhood enemy number one. Luckily Dad had a surefire way to get rid of enemies: Enemy Pie. But part of the secret recipe is spending an entire day playing with the enemy! In this funny yet endearing story one little boy learns an effective recipe for turning a best enemy into a best friend.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Enemy Pie HERE

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

It’s homework time for the little red chicken, who has just learned about something every good story should have: an elephant of surprise. Or could it be an element of surprise (as her amused papa explains)? As they dive in to story after story, looking for the part that makes a reader say “Whoa! I didn’t know that was going to happen,” Papa is sure he can convince Chicken he’s right. After all, there are definitely no elephants in “The Ugly Duckling,” “Rapunzel,” or “The Little Mermaid” — or are there? Elephant or element, something unexpected awaits Papa in every story, but a surprise may be in store for the little red chicken as well.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Interrupting Chicken HERE

Oliver Button Is A Sissy by Tomie Depaola

Oliver Button is a sissy. At least that’s what the other boys call him. But here’s what Oliver Button really is: a reader, and an artist, and a singer, and a dancer, and more. What will his classmates say when he steps into the spotlight?

Get the lesson plan and activities for Oliver Button Is A Sissy HERE

What If Everybody Said That? by Ellen Javernick

What if everybody chose to be kind?

If you tell someone that they can’t play with you, there’s no harm done, right? But what if everybody said that? What if everybody forgot to be kind―and made fun of other kids’ artwork at school, or told a fib, or refused to share with a person in need? The world wouldn’t be a very nice place to live. But what if everybody thought before they spoke, so the world would be a kinder place? Kids need to learn to be kind to each other which is why this is one of the first September read alouds I do during social emotional learning time!

Get the lesson plan and activities for What If Everybody Said That? HERE

You Are Special by Max Lucado

In the town of Wemmickville there lives a Wemmick named Punchinello. Each day the residents award stickers―gold stars for the talented, smart, and attractive Wemmicks, and gray dots for those who make mistakes or are just plain ordinary. Punchinello, covered in gray dots, begins to feel worthless. Then one day he visits Eli the woodcarver, his creator, and he learns that his worth comes from a different source.

BOOKS TO LEARN NAMES:

One of the first things you need to do on the first day of school is learn your students’ names. There are many diverse books about names to read now in addition to some of the classic books about names like Chrysanthemum.

Teach Us Your Name by Huda Essa

Embracing the diversity of our names is one of the first steps we can take to show our appreciation of diversity and inclusion. Everyone has a name and every name has a story. Teach Us Your Name focuses on the many stories and ways we can all connect by helping children take pride in their many identities and to utilize the opportunity to learn from others. This book lends itself to countless invaluable discussions about cultural norms, languages, unconscious bias, and much more. Most of all, Teach Us Your Name is focused on showing respect for ourselves and all others.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Teach Us Your Name HERE

Alma And How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

What’s in a name? For one little girl, her very long name tells the vibrant story of where she came from — and who she may one day be.

If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Alma And How She Got Her Name HERE

My Name Is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin

A young boy wrestles with his Muslim identity until a compassionate teacher helps him to understand more about his heritage.

After a family move, Bilal and his sister Ayesha attend a new school where they find out that they may be the only Muslim students there. Bilal sees his sister bullied on their first day, so he worries about being teased himself, thinking it might be best if his classmates didn’t know that he is Muslim. Maybe if he tells kids his name is Bill, rather than Bilal, then they will eave him alone. But when Bilal’s teacher Mr. Ali, who is also Muslim, sees how Bilal is struggling. He gives Bilal a book about the first person to give the call to prayer during the time of the Prophet Muhammad. That person was another Bilal: Bilal Ibn Rabah. What Bilal learns from the book forms the compelling story of a young boy grappling with his identity.

Get the lesson plan and activities for My Name Is Bilal HERE

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

A heartwarming story about the new girl in school, and how she learns to appreciate her Korean name.

Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what happens when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious about fitting in. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she decides to choose an American name from a glass jar. But while Unhei thinks of being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, nothing feels right. With the help of a new friend, Unhei will learn that the best name is her own.

Get the lesson plan and activities for The Name Jar HERE

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum thinks her name is absolutely perfect—until her first day of school. “You’re named after a flower!” teases Victoria. “Let’s smell her,” says Jo. Chrysanthemum wilts. What will it take to make her blossom again? How could this classic NOT be one of my favorite September read alouds?

Get the lesson plan and activities for Chrysanthemum HERE

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

Thunder Boy Jr. wants a normal name…one that’s all his own. Dad is known as Big Thunder, but little thunder doesn’t want to share a name. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he’s done like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder.

But just when Little Thunder thinks all hope is lost, dad picks the best name…Lightning! Their love will be loud and bright, and together they will light up the sky. Also an excellent book for Native American Heritage Month!

Get the lesson plan and activities for Thunder Boy Jr. HERE

My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits

Yoon’s name means Shining Wisdom, and when she writes it in Korean, it looks happy, like dancing figures. But her father tells her that she must learn to write it in English. In English, all the lines and circles stand alone, which is just how Yoon feels in the United States. Yoon isn’t sure that she wants to be YOON. At her new school, she tries out different names – maybe CAT or BIRD. Maybe CUPCAKE!

Get the lesson plan and activities for My Name is Yoon HERE

Best Books For the First Day of School

What are some of your favorite books for the first day of school? Are there any must read books for the first day of school that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!

Looking for the best books for the first day of school for kids? These picture books for the first day of school for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Books with lesson plans and activities linked. Picture books about various topics such as learning student names, classroom rules and expectations, first day jitters and more for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!
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Hey there! I’m Josh from Picture Book Brain here to share only the best literature for you to use with your students. If you are looking for a specific book, use the search bar below to check my archives. Glad you’re here, and glad to help you!

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