8 Back to School Picture Books and Activities (plus 2 books for you)

I can’t believe Back to School is so close! It really seems like we just started summer break. One of my summer goals has been to re-organize my teaching materials and picture books more efficiently and basically put some “piles” away. In doing this, I have been sidetracked so many times! As you might guess, this classroom teacher turned reading specialist can get a little off-task sorting books.

I’ve always been a big fan of picture books because you can connect so many teaching lessons to different themes. As I sort and organize, I am constantly reminded of some of my favorite amazingly-themed books that I think every teacher should use at the beginning of the school year.  Here’s a list of my 8 favorite back to school picture books and some activities, plus two ”teacher books” that are a must-have for elementary teachers(in no particular order).

8 “First Week Reads” to use with your students:


The Kissing Hand by Ruth E. Harper

Chester Raccoon is really scared to go to school until his mom shares a family secret called The Kissing Hand, then scary things don’t seem quite so scary.

Activity: Create a picture chart (with emoji stickers) about students feelings about coming to school.


First Day Jitters by Julie Dannenberg

We find out the teacher, Mrs. Hartwell, has first day jitters in a new situation, too!

Activity: Use Sprite and green fruit punch to make Jitter Juice! You can be extra fancy by mixing in some edible glitter. Pair up student so they can tell their partner about a time they were nervous.


Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud

The boy in this story, Felix, learns how he can ”fill other people’s buckets” and that it makes him feel happy.

Activity: Print out these FREE Paper Buckets for students to write on. Students write ways to fill a classmate/staff member’s bucket. Create a bulletin board display in your room.


My Mouth Is A Volcano by Julia Cook

Louis is a boy that constantly interrupts others but learns not to when others constantly interrupt him.

Activity: Practice different noise levels for your classroom – practice whisper voices, silent voices, partner voices, group voices, etc. After reading this book, I use these Voice Level Charts and activities.


David Goes to School by David Shannon

David tries so hard to follow the rules, but sometimes it is just too hard!

Activity: This is a great book to read and discuss before creating class rules together.


Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

A wonderful book to read in the first week, when students are learning each other’s names.

Activity: Students can graph and sort their names by length, vowels, syllables…or whatever you come up with.


Dear Teacher by Amy Husband

This book is filled with letters from Michael to his teacher, telling her why he may be late for the first day of school. His reasons are pretty outlandish and funny.

Activity: Your students will be very inspired to write to you, after reading this book. Find out what type of humor and creativity your students have with this writing activity!


Its Back To School We Go!: First Day Stories From Around the World by Ellen Jackson

I LOVE this book! This book follows 11 different children- all from different countries and cultures- on their first day of school. Turns out children all over the world have the same worries and a lot in common!

Activity:  I like to locate each country on the globe with my students and use a Venn diagram to compare our first day experience with that of the students’ in the book. There are SO many activities you can do, from food to music. Use your imagination!


For Teachers:

The Reading Strategies Book: Your everything guide to developing skilled readers by Jennifer Serravallo

Over 300 strategies that are cross-linked to skills, genres, and Fountas & Pinnell reading levels. This book is a wealth of information!


The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson

An invaluable book containing prompts, discussion starters, teaching points, word lists, intervention suggestions, and more to support all students, including dual language learners and struggling readers.

I hope these are helpful! Whether you use these titles or others, make sure you read to your students as often as possible.


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