Looking for the best back to school books for first grade? These back to school books for 1st grade are great for the first day of school, learning names, teaching classroom rules and expectations and more! Picture books chosen for first graders with lesson plans and activities linked for teachers and librarians. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!
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WELCOMING ALL STUDENTS
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!
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
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. This is a great book for back to school time in bilingual classrooms.
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.
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 back to school books for first grade!
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.
TEACHING 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!
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. A book so beautifully illustrated that it won a Caldecott Medal!
Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller
Mr. Rabbit’s new neighbors are 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.
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 one of my favorite back to school books for first grade?
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
What happens when you can’t control your actions? It’s the first day of school for Penelope Rex, and she can’t wait to meet her classmates. But it’s hard to make human friends when they’re so darn delicious! That is, until Penelope gets a taste of her own medicine and finds she may not be at the top of the food chain after all. This is one of those hilarious and fun September read alouds that will have any kid in stitches!
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.
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.
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? A great anti bullying book.
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.
What Do You Do With A Problem? by Kobi Yamada
This is the story of a persistent problem and the child who isn’t so sure what to make of it. The longer the problem is avoided, the bigger it seems to get. But when the child finally musters up the courage to face it, the problem turns out to be something quite different than it appeared.
What Do You Do With a Problem? is a story for anyone, at any age, who has ever had a problem that they wished would go away. It’s a story to inspire you to look closely at that problem and to find out why it’s here. Because you might discover something amazing about your problem… and yourself.
BOOKS TO LEARN NAMES
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.
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. One of my favorite Caldecott Medal winners that is also available as a Spanish picture book.
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!
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.
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?
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!
Best Back to School Books for First Grade
What are some of your favorite back to school books for first grade? Are there any must read back to school books for first grade that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!