The first days of back-to-school can truly set the stage for the entire school year with students. Read-aloud books are a perfect way to get to know one another, encourage class discussions, and figure out which values will define your class’s identity. Here are 53 of our favorite back-to-school books plus follow-up activities for each one.
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1. How To Get Your Octopus to School by Becky Scharnhorst
Just like many little ones, Octopus is nervous about going to school. He would rather stay at home and play, so he finds clever places to hide. Your students will get a kick out of trying to find him in the colorful illustrations.
Buy it: How To Get Your Octopus to School at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Ask students to share with a neighbor about a time they hid when it was time to go somewhere they didn’t want to go. Ask them to include details about where and why they hid.
2. The Smallest Spot of a Dot by
When you head off to school, you meet a lot of kids that seem to be really different from you. This charming story teaches us how much we really all have in common.
Buy it: The Smallest Spot of a Dot at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Play a round of Get to Know You Bingo or one of these other fun icebreakers.
3. Lou’s Zoo and Winston Too by JoAnn M. Dickinson
Winston the Wise Owl joins the neighborhood in this sweet follow-up to the book Who’s New at Lou’s Zoo? With his help, his new friends learn how to solve problems with kindness and compassion.
Buy it: Lou’s Zoo and Winston Too at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Together with your students, make a kindness chain. Or try one of the other activities in 19 Activities To Help Nurture Kindness in Your Students
4. The Two of Us Belong Together by Michael Engler
Little Hare and Little Hedgehog become friends and learn to respect and enjoy all of the things that make each of them unique.
Buy it: The Two of Us Belong Together at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have students pair up and create a Venn diagram together about the things they have in common and the things that make each of them unique.
5. The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer by
When the teacher asks the main character what they did over the summer, he tells a fantastical tale full of daring and adventure. But is it all true? Your students will be on the edge of their seats waiting to find out.
Buy it: The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have your students create a comic strip of what they did (or maybe didn’t do?) over summer. Download some of these free comic strip templates.
6. Never, Not Ever! by Beatrice Alemagna
Pascaline is NOT going to school, regardless of what the other kids are doing. But in a clever twist, her parents figure out a way to help her overcome her fear and anxiety.
Buy it: Never, Not Ever! at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Ask your students to tell a follow-up story about what happened after Pascaline got to school.
7. Llama Llama Back to School by Anna Dewdney
From the beloved Llama Llama series, this story deals with back-to-school anxiety. Llama wants summer to go on forever. He’s had such a lovely time with his friends and family. How will Mama Llama convince him that going back to school will be fun?
Buy it: Llama Llama Back to School at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Gather your students in a circle and talk about all the fun things that happen in school. Create a large poster with their insights and post it on the wall to remind them of how much fun they are going to have this year.
8. Harry Versus the First 100 Days of School by Emily Jenkins
An energetic, funny book that follows Harry through the first 100 days of first grade—from name games to making friends to learning how to be a friend. It’s broken into short chapters, so add this to your list of back-to-school books for a fun way to start your first days of school.
Buy it: Harry Versus the First 100 Days of School at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Start a 100-link paper chain to mark your first 100 days together, or try one of these fun activities.
9. The Circles All Around Us by Brad Montague
When a child is born, their circle is very small. As they grow, the circle around them grows to include family, friends, and neighbors. This sweet story is perfect for back-to-school to set the tone for enlarging our circles to include new friends and experiences.
Buy it: The Circles All Around Us at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Watch this video, adorably narrated by the author’s children.
10. Principal Tate Is Running Late! by Henry Cole
Looking for funny back-to-school books? When Principal Tate is running late, the students, teachers, parents, and visitors at Hardy Elementary School must come together to keep school running smoothly.
Buy it: Principal Tate Is Running Late! at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Try one (or more) of these fun team-building activities with your students.
11. Hello World! by Kelly Corrigan
Everywhere we go, we can meet interesting people who add value to our lives. This charmingly illustrated book is a great conversation starter to help your students get to know one another.
Buy it: Hello World! at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Try one (or more) of these icebreaker activities with your students.
12. A Letter From Your Teacher on the First Day of School by Shannon Olsen
In this heartwarming book, a teacher writes a love note to her students. She shares all the things she is looking forward to for the school year and all the fun things they will share.
Buy it: A Letter From Your Teacher on the First Day of School at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Ask students to turn to a friend and share what they are most looking forward to this school year.
13. Butterflies on the First Day of School by Annie Silvestro
If you’re looking for the best back-to-school books to ease your students’ butterflies, try this sweet story. Rosie gets a new backpack and can hardly wait for school to start. But the first morning, she’s not so sure. “You just have butterflies in your belly,” her mom tells her.
Buy it: Butterflies on the First Day of School at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Play a game of toss-around. Form a circle and begin by telling your students how you are feeling about the new school year. For example, “I was nervous, but now I’m excited.” Toss the ball to a student so they can share how they’re feeling. Play continues until every student who wants to has had a chance to participate.
14. The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi
An inspirational rhyming book that teaches kids the power of “yet.” We all have a lot to learn in life, and sometimes skills we wish we had just aren’t there … yet. A book about perseverance and having faith in yourself. Add this to your list of back-to-school books that teach growth mindset.
Buy it: The Magical Yet at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Ask students to write an entry in their journal about something they are hoping to learn or get better at this year.
15. My Wild First Day of School by Dennis Mathew
This humorous book by the author of Bello the Cello encourages kids to be brave, take a risk, and try something new.
Buy it: My Wild First Day of School at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Brainstorm a list of “what if” questions with your students. Tap into their hopes and wishes and set the stage for an amazing year.
16. Most Marshmallows by Rowboat Watkins
If you’re looking for the best back-to-school books about individuality, you’re going to want to check out this quirky tale. It’s all about marching to the beat of your own drum. What would happen if you dreamed big?
Buy it: Most Marshmallows at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Ask students to write in their journals about what makes them unique.
17. If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen
Hover desks? Robo-chef in the cafeteria? Field trips to Mars? The main character of this school story has some out-of-this-world ideas about what his ideal school would look like!
Buy it: If I Built a School at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Ask students to draw a picture, with captions and explanations, showing what their perfect school would look like.
18. Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
A young girl learns the musicality of African, Asian, Black American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names and returns to school eager to share with her classmates.
Buy it: Your Name Is a Song at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Go around the circle and ask each student if there is a story behind their name.
19. Our Class Is a Family by Shannon Olsen
Back-to-school books like this one show your class that they are a family, no matter whether they meet for online or in-person learning.
Buy it: Our Class Is a Family at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have each student draw an image of their family and “extended family.”
20. Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind by Jessica Hische
Sometimes the smallest gesture of kindness goes a long way. Reading sweet back-to-school books like this one teaches young ones how to be good friends and classmates.
Buy it: Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Ask students to share what is the most important thing about being a good friend.
21. I Got the School Spirit by Connie Schofield-Morrison
Students will love the rhythm and sounds in this book about back-to-school spirit. VROOM, VROOM! RING-A-DING!
Buy it: I Got the School Spirit at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Ask students to share the sounds they identify with school.
22. Waiting Is Not Easy! by Mo Willems
Mo Willems has written some fantastic back-to-school books. In this one, when Gerald tells Piggie he has a surprise for him, Piggie can hardly wait. In fact, he has a hard time waiting all day! But when the sun goes down, and the Milky Way fills the night sky, Piggie learns that some things are worth the wait.
Buy it: Waiting Is Not Easy! at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Ask your students to turn to a partner and share a time that they had to wait for something.
23. Sorry, Grown-Ups, You Can’t Go to School! by Christina Geist
If you’re looking for back-to-school books for students who are having a hard time leaving their parents, this sweet tale is a good pick. Perfect for the child who is feeling a little nervous about going to school, this story features a family that doesn’t want to be left behind.
Buy it: Sorry, Grown-Ups, You Can’t Go to School! at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Draw a picture of what school would look like if students’ moms and dads came to school with them.
24. The Pigeon Has To Go to School! by Mo Willems
Want more back-to-school books by Mo Willems? This silly picture book addresses many of the fears and anxieties that little ones feel as they get ready to go to school for the first time.
Buy it: The Pigeon Has To Go to School! at Amazon
Follow-up activity: This one will get kids riled up, so after reading, have them stand up and shake their sillies out.
25. School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex
There are books about children, parents, and teachers being nervous for the first day of school. This adorable book examines the first day of school from the perspective of the school itself.
Buy it: School’s First Day of School at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Project a photo of your school onto the board as inspiration as kids draw and color in their own image of school.
26. Brown Bear Starts School by Sue Tarsky
Sweet little Brown Bear worries about the first day of school, but soon he realizes he is more capable than he thought.
Buy it: Brown Bear Starts School at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have students turn and talk about one worry they had before school started.
27. Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten! by Lisa Robinson
Need back-to-school books for kindergartners? Ahoy, mateys! Pirate Emma has a hard time transitioning from her beloved preschool captain to the new captain aboard the S.S. Kindergarten.
Buy it: Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten! at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Ask students to share their favorite things about preschool, which you can record on a piece of chart paper. As you list them, tell students something that will be just as fun about kindergarten.
28. The Cool Bean by Jory John and Pete Oswald
Once “peas in a pod,” poor chickpea doesn’t fit in with the other beans anymore. Despite having grown apart, the other beans are always there to lend a hand when chickpea is in need.
Buy it: The Cool Bean at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Ask students to write about a friend from whom they have grown apart.
29. How To Read a Book by Kwame Alexander
Back-to-school books can inspire students with beautiful illustrations about the miraculous pleasures of reading that will inspire the book lover in all of us. One reader gushes, “Every page is a wonder as the words and art melt into one.”
Buy it: How To Read a Book at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Ask students to write one colorful sentence in praise of reading.
30. The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton
The bubbly main character of this sweet story is bursting with excitement for the first day of school. His confidence will be contagious for your new kindergartners.
Buy it: The King of Kindergarten at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have students turn to a neighbor and tell them the one thing they were most excited about on the first day of school.
31. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
Starting fresh in a new environment can be scary, especially when you look around and think that nobody quite looks or sounds like you. This lovely story will inspire your students to understand the gifts of individuality.
Buy it: The Day You Begin at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have your students play get-to-know-you bingo to find out just how much they have in common with their classmates.
32. All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman
A lovely story that celebrates diversity and inclusion in a school where everyone, no matter their dress or skin color, is welcomed with open arms.
Buy it: All Are Welcome at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Create an anchor chart of character traits. Brainstorm with your students all the ways they are alike and some of the ways they may be different.
33. We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
One of the silliest back-to-school books, this story will crack up your students. Little Penelope Rex is nervous about going to school for the first time. She has some very important questions: What are my classmates going to be like? Will they be nice? How many teeth will they have? Little ones will relate to this charming story.
Buy it: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Ask your students to share some of the questions they wondered about before starting school.
34. You’re Finally Here! by Melanie Watt
A perfect first read-aloud book to show your students how excited you are to finally meet them! Follow along with the main character, Bunny, as he bounces through a hilarious range of emotions. All of your students will recognize the back-to-school feelings beneath the surface of this silly, in-your-face story.
Buy it: You’re Finally Here! at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have students draw a self-portrait that shows the strongest emotion they felt coming into school this year.
35. First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
Everyone knows that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach at the prospect of being the newbie. Sarah Hartwell is scared and doesn’t want to start over at a new school. Kids will love the delightful surprise ending of this sweet story!
Buy it: First Day Jitters at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have students write about a time they were scared and how their situation turned out. Or have students partner with a friend and tell their stories to each other.
36. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
When Unhei, a young Korean girl, arrives at her new school in the United States, she begins to wonder if she should also choose a new name. Does she need an American name? How will she choose? And what should she do about her Korean name? This heartwarming story speaks to anyone who has ever been the new kid or welcomed one into their familiar surroundings.
Buy it: The Name Jar at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have groups of students brainstorm 10 different ways they could make a new student feel welcome in class and create a poster to display.
37. The Exceptionally, Extraordinarily Ordinary First Day of School by Albert Lorenz
John is the new kid in school. When asked if the school is any different from his last one, he weaves a wildly creative tale that captures the attention of his new classmates. A hilarious story about conquering the fear of being the new kid.
Buy it: The Exceptionally, Extraordinarily Ordinary First Day of School at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have students write a tall tale about what school was like last year to share with their new classmates.
38. The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak
You might think a book with no pictures would be serious and boring, but this book has a catch! Everything, and we mean everything, written on the page must be read out loud by the person reading the book, regardless of how goofy and preposterous it may be. Irresistibly silly!
Buy it: The Book With No Pictures at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have students work with a new friend or partner to create their own short book with no pictures. (Be sure to set clear parameters about content before letting students create.)
39. Splat the Cat: Back to School, Splat! by Rob Scotton
How can there be homework when it’s only the first day of school? Splat must pick only one of all of his fun summer adventures to share with his classmates at show-and-tell.
Buy it: Splat the Cat: Back to School, Splat! at Amazon
Follow-up activity: First-day-of-school homework, of course! Have students write about one of their favorite summer adventures.
40. If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff
You know the routine … if you take a mouse to school, he’ll ask you for your lunch box. When you give him your lunch box, he’ll want a sandwich to go in it. Then he’ll need a notebook and some pencils. He’ll probably want to share your backpack too. Another silly story from one of our favorite authors that is not only fun but lays the groundwork for teaching sequencing.
Buy it: If You Take a Mouse to School at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Using a long, narrow sheet of paper folded accordion-style, have students create their own “If You Take …” book. Students can build on the mouse story or create a character of their own.
41. Dear Teacher by Amy Husband
This hilarious collection of letters from Michael to his new teacher comes packed with alligators, pirates, rocket ships, and much, much more. Can Michael’s imagination save him from the first day of school?
Buy it: Dear Teacher at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have students write a postcard to a friend or family member telling them about their fun first week of school!
42. How To Get Your Teacher Ready by Jean Reagan
In a charming role reversal, the students in this story gently guide their teacher through the getting-ready process for back-to-school. Your students will laugh and surely learn a lesson or two themselves.
Buy it: How To Get Your Teacher Ready at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have students compile a list of rules that will help their teacher have the best year ever.
43. If You Ever Want To Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t! by Elise Parsley
An alligator for show-and-tell sounds like TONS of fun. What could possibly go wrong? Magnolia is determined to have the best show-and-tell ever. What will she do when her reptilian pal starts wreaking havoc in the classroom? This hilarious story is sure to inspire even the timidest of show-and-tellers.
Buy it: If You Ever Want To Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t! at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have students write a story or draw a picture about something outrageous they would bring to school for show-and-tell.
44. This School Year Will Be the Best! by Kay Winters
On the first day of school, new classmates are asked to share what they hope for in the upcoming year. The children’s wishes, from the familiar to the off-the-wall, are shown in humorously exaggerated illustrations. As the first day draws to a close, there can be no doubt this school year will definitely be the best!
Buy it: This School Year Will Be the Best! at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have students draw a star, put their name in the middle, and write one wish for the school year on each point (total of five). Then, have them loop a colorful ribbon through a hole on top to hang from the classroom ceiling.
45. Back-to-School Rules by Laurie Friedman
School is in session! When it comes to surviving school, Percy has 10 simple rules that show there is more to school than showing up on time and staying awake in class, including no spitballs, no running in the halls, and no crazy scheming! See what other trouble—and tips—Percy has in mind!
Buy it: Back-to-School Rules at Amazon
Follow-up activity: As a whole class, brainstorm “rules” that will make this year the best ever. Then, have students transfer their ideas to a class-promise poster that can hang prominently for the rest of the year. Have each student sign their name to make it official.
46. David Goes to School by David Shannon
David’s antics in the classroom will make your students giggle with recognition. He’s so enthusiastic about going back to school! But David needs to learn that every classroom needs rules so that every student can learn.
Buy it: David Goes to School at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Gather the whole class on the rug. Select a few students to act out “bad” behavior and ask the other students to explain why the behavior is not OK for the classroom. Then have the same students act out the “good” behavior. Repeat with different sets of students to address the different rules you are reinforcing in your classroom.
47. A Place Called Kindergarten by Jessica Harper
One of the best back-to-school books for kindergartners, this story will help ease their worries before the event. Tommy’s barnyard friends are worried. He’s gone to a place called kindergarten. They wonder what will happen to him and if he will ever come back. Eventually, he returns with exciting tales of all the fun and learning he’s had.
Buy it: A Place Called Kindergarten at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have your students take a “field trip” around the school to learn more about their new “barnyard.”
48. Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? by Audrey Vernick
Is your buffalo ready for kindergarten? Does he play nicely with friends? Check. Share his toys? Check. Is he smart? Check!
Buy it: Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Follow along with Buffalo’s checklist in this hilarious look at first-day-of-school jitters.
49. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books! by Lucille Colandro
We’ve all heard about the old lady who swallowed a fly. Well, now she’s getting ready for back-to-school and is swallowing up a whole assortment of things to make it the best first day ever!
Buy it: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books! at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Trace the image of the old lady from the book cover without the books in her hands. Make a copy for each of your students and have them fill in the picture and write a sentence about what they would “swallow” for the first weeks of school if they were the old lady.
50. School Is Cool! by Sabrina Moyle
Holy smokes, tomorrow is the first day of school! The characters in this story have lots of needless worries as they discover that school is cool.
Buy it: School Is Cool! at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have students do a turn-and-share about one thing they were worried about before the new school year started and how they are feeling about their worry now.
51. Froggy Goes to School by Jonathan London
Lovable favorite Froggy is off for his first day of school. His mama is worried, but not him! He hops off with his trademark enthusiasm and curiosity.
Buy it: Froggy Goes to School at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Together with your class, make a “Top 10 Best Things About School” poster. Ask for students’ input, then vote on the top 10.
52. Chairs on Strike by Jennifer Jones
Everyone’s excited about going back to school. Everyone, that is, but the classroom chairs. They’ve had enough of wiggly bottoms and smelly kids and go on strike to protest.
Buy it: Chairs on Strike at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Ask for volunteers to play the part of the different chairs and act out the story. Have a few rounds so that as many students that want to participate can.
53. It’s OK To Be Different by Sharon Purtill
If you’re looking for a back-to-school book that embraces the uniqueness of your class, this is a lovely tale that subtly broaches the subjects of diversity and kindness in a way that students can grasp.
Buy it: It’s OK To Be Different at Amazon
Follow-up activity: Have students reflect about the one thing that they think is truly unique about themselves and write a paragraph (or more) about this trait in their journals.
What are your favorite back-to-school books? Share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, if you like these back-to-school books, check out all of our book lists here.