Back to School Read Alouds for Grades 1-5 Classroom Teachers

If you are looking for back to school read alouds, then you’ve found the right place! This post shares 20 of the best back to school books for elementary teachers. Read alouds are a great way to teach expectations, welcome your students, and build a sense of community in your classroom at the beginning of the school year. You may also find this list of first day of school books and fall books for kids helpful too. This back to school read alouds post shares the following books:

  • All Are Welcome
  • Chrysanthemum
  • First Day Jitters
  • Our Class is a Family
  • The Day You Begin
  • The Kissing Hand
  • A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue
  • A Tiger Tail
  • Decibella and her Six Inch Voice
  • Do Unto Otters
  • School’s First Day of School
  • The Cool Bean
  • We Don’t Eat Our Classmates
  • You’re Finally Here
  • What if Everybody Did That?
  • Library Lion
  • Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun
  • Picture Day Perfection
  • Quiet Please, Owen McPhee
  • The Teacher From the Black Lagoon

20 Back to School Read Alouds

Below are 20 back to school read alouds you can share with your elementary students at the beginning of the school year. Your students will love this list of the best back to school picture books!

1. All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold is a sweet story that celebrates diversity and inclusion. Using a rhyming pattern, students will hear about a community of people where everyone feels welcome. The children in the classroom feel safe to be themselves and celebrate their differences as they learn. The story takes us through a school day in this community and we get to see how they make everyone feel at home. Students will enjoy listening to this rhyming book and discussing community. This is a great story to launch discussions about your own community and inclusion.

All Are Welcome book cover and writing paperFirst Day Jitters book cover

2. First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

The story First Day Jitters tells the story of Sarah, who is very nervous for her first day of school. Her dad tries to get her out of bed and Sarah says she is not going. She is worried about starting her new school and not knowing anyone. As Sarah gets ready for school, she becomes more nervous. Even her hands are clammy. 

Sarah’s dad drives her to school and she begins to feel sick with nerves. When they arrive at the school, Sarah’s principal is there to greet her and show her where to go. The principal leads Sarah through the crowded halls to her new class. When the principal enters the room she introduces the students to their new teacher, Mrs. Sarah Jane Hartwell!

Students will love the surprise at the end of the story, when they discover that teachers also get nervous on the first day of school!

3. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum loves her name until she goes to school. The students in her class make fun of her for having such a long name and for being named after a flower. At the end of the story, Mrs. Twinkle, the music teacher, defends Chrysanthemum by telling the students she too is named after a flower. The students then start to envy Chrysanthemum’s long name and meaning of her name. Students will enjoy this story about being true to yourself and loving who you are. 

Chrysanthemum book cover and writing templateThe Kissing Hand book cover

4. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

In The Kissing Hand, Chester the raccoon does not want to go to school. He wants to stay at home and be with his mother, play with his friends, play with toys, read his books, and swing on his swing. Mrs. Raccoon tells Chester that sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to do and can be scary, but that he will love school once he starts. 

Chester’s mother teaches him about the kissing hand. She kisses the palm of his hand and says that whenever he feels lonely at school he can hold his palm to his cheek and think ‘Mommy loves you.’ This makes Chester feel a lot better and know that his mother’s love will always be with him. 

When it is time to go to school, Chester is ready. He gives his mother her own kissing hand and dances away to school. 

5. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

The Day You Begin follows different students as they spend time at school. Each student feels different from their classmates, and shys away from what makes them unique. One student spent the summer reading books and taking care of her sister, one student speaks another language and is from another country, and another student enjoys a lunch that is unfamiliar to her classmates. The day that each student begins is the day they share their stories about who they are and what makes them special. Students will enjoy this story that explores diversity and the importance of owning who we are. 

The Day You Begin book cover and writing paperA Bad Case of Tattle Tongue predicting activity

6. A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue by Julia Cook

In A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue, Joshua is constantly tattling, even when he is not involved in a situation. His tattling has become so bad his classmates and friends don’t want to play with him at recess or sit with him at lunch. Joshua’s mother says if he keeps tattling, he will get tattle tongue. That’s when your tongue turns yellow with purple spots and grows so long it doesn’t fit in your mouth! Fearing he will get Tattle Tongue, Joshua doesn’t tell an adult when Billy the Bully is going to beat up Edith.

That night, Joshua is visited by the Tattle Prince. Joshua learns that he should have told someone about Billy because Edith was in danger. Tattling is when there is a problem you can solve on your own or the problem is none of your business. The Tattle Prince teaches Joshua the rules of tattling. The next day at school, Joshua does not tattle on his classmates and his friend wants to eat with him again!

7. A Tiger Tail by Mike Boldt

In the story A Tiger Tail, Anya is shocked when she wakes up to find she has grown a tiger tail, and it’s the first day of school. She worries what her classmates will think. Anya’s parents are supportive and encouraging about her appearance, but Anya is still upset. She tries everything to pull off the tail and cover it up, but neither words. Anya tries to act sick and miss the bus to get out of going to school, but her parents catch on.

When Anya gets to school, she bumps into another classmate named Ben. She is surprised to see that Ben has bunny ears. When the two enter the classroom, everyone in class is unique. There is one student in a wheelchair, someone wearing headphones, a student with ears like a mouse, and even the teacher has very big teeth. When Anya realizes the diversity in her classroom, she finally feels better about her tiger tail. 

A Tiger Tail activityDecibella book cover

8. Decibella and Her Six Inch Voice by Julia Cook

In Decibella and Her Six Inch Voice, everyone calls Isabella the name Decibella, because she is always too loud! In the movies, at the library, and in class, Decibella is always shouting. Her teacher keeps her in one day during recess to talk about making better choices when it comes to the volume of her voice. 

Decibella’s teacher introduces her to five different kinds of voices: whisper, 6-inch, table talk, strong speaker, and outside. The two spend time practicing what each voice should sound like and Decibella’s teacher explains when she should use each voice. Decibella learns she was using an outside voice inside and that can bother people. After learning about the different voice volumes, Decibella is able to make good choices about the voice she uses depending on the situation she is in. This is one of the best back to school read alouds for introducing students to volume control. 

9. Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller

In Do Unto Otters, Mr. Rabbit finds out he has some new neighbors, the otters. He is a little nervous because he doesn’t know anything about otters. Thankfully, an owl is there to teach him about an old rule: “treat otters the way you want otters to treat you.” This causes Mr. Rabbit to think about how he would like otters to treat him. 

Mr. Rabbit decides that he would like the otters to be friendly, kind, and considerate. He hopes that they can work together, play fair, and share with one another. Mr. Rabbit hopes that the otters will know when they need to apologize and that they will be able to forgive him when he’s done something wrong. Mr. Rabbit learns that getting along with his new neighbors will be simple if he treats them how he would like to be treated. This book is a great way to talk to students about behavior and manners. 

Do Unto Otters book covervocabulary activities for What if Everybody Did That?

10. What if Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick

The story What if Everybody Did That? Is about a boy who struggles to use his manners and make good choices. He does things like push his grocery cart as fast as it will go, throw his garbage out the window of the car, interrupt his teacher, and splash in the pool. Whenever he makes a poor decision, the adults around him ask “What if everybody did that?” The boy then has to reflect on what would happen if everyone was making the same decision that he was choosing to make. The boy uses his reflections to make better choices. This is one of the most popular back to school read alouds!

11. School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex

The story School’s First Day of School is about a school that is nervous about its first day hosting students. Over the summer a brand new school was built, it was named Frederick Douglass Elementary. While the janitor cleaned, School was happy it was just the two of them. However, the janitor explained that soon the teachers and students would come for the first day and School did not know how to feel about that.

When the children came, they were everywhere. They played on the playground, used the lockers and opened all the doors. School felt sad when he heard some students say they hated school and a little girl had to be carried in by her mother. As the day goes on, School starts to enjoy himself. He hears a funny joke at lunch and learns about shapes in a kindergarten class. At the end of the day, School asks the janitor if he can invite everyone to come back again tomorrow.

School's First Day of School book coverYou're Finally Here activity

12. You’re Finally Here by Mélanie Watt

The narrator and main character of this book, You’re Finally Here, is an energetic rabbit. As soon as the book starts, readers learn he is excited they have finally arrived. The rabbit explains he has been waiting a long time for the reader and asks where they have been. Throughout the book the rabbit explains how rude and annoying it was that he had to wait so long, but is sure to show readers just how happy he is to have them in the book. The rabbit even asks the reader to sign a contract saying they will stay and give him their undivided attention.

Soon after, the rabbit starts receiving phone calls from family and friends. Even though he is in the middle of a conversation with the reader, he takes the calls anyway. When he starts to ignore the reader, the rabbit shows he is surprised that they are leaving! This will be one of your students’ favorite back to school read alouds!

13. We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

The book We Don’t Eat Our Classmates is about a student who learns how to treat her classmates. It’s time for Penelope Rex’s first day of school and she is nervous! She has her new backpack with ponies and tuna sandwiches her father made her. However, when she gets to school she is surprised to find out her classmates are children! Penelope thinks children are so delicious and she eats them! Her teacher has to explain that they don’t eat their classmates. Even though Penelope tries her best to make friends, everyone is afraid of her. Penelope sees that all of her classmates are making friends and she starts to feel lonely. 

She decides to try and become friends with the class goldfish, but it bites her! This helps Penelope learn what it feels like to be someone’s snack and she loses her appetite for children. She eventually starts to make friends with her classmates and enjoy school.

We Don't Eat Our Classmates book coverLibrary Lion worksheet

14. Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

In the book Library Lion, a lion made his way into a library one day. Mr. McBee, who worked in the library, raced to tell the librarian Miss Merriweather. She explained since he was not breaking any rules, the lion could stay. He made himself comfortable and enjoyed the story hour with the children. As the days went by, people grew used to seeing the lion in the library and he was very helpful. He licked envelopes for Miss Merriweather, dusted, and helped children reach books on tall shelves. 

When Miss Merriweather was reaching for a book on a high shelf, she fell to the ground. The lion ran to get help from Mr. McBee and had to roar as loud as he could to get his attention. When Mr. McBee heard the roar, he raced to tell Miss Merriweather. The lion knew he had broken the rules and left the library. Everyone missed the lion and Mr. McBee set out to find him. He explained to the lion that sometimes rules can be broken, like when you are trying to help a friend that is hurt.

15. The Cool Bean by Jory John

Jory John’s book, The Cool Bean, tells the story of a group of beans. The main character is a clumsy bean that is picked last for everything. He admires a group of cool beans, these beans walk with swagger and dress with style. The main character used to be friends with the cool beans last year, but they have grown apart. He misses hanging out with his friends and thinks that their coolness has gotten in the way. This bean thinks he can never be cool. 

One day, he drops his tray in the lunchroom. Without saying anything, one of the cool beans comes over and helps him clean it up. Later, when he fell on the playground, one of the cool beans cleans up his cut. These small gestures of kindness boost the beans’ confidence and he starts hanging out with the cool beans again. He learns that the beans’ acts of kindness are what make them cool, rather than how they look. 

The Cool Bean book coverSpaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun book cover and writing paper

16. Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy

In the book Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy, the main character is Lucy, a kind girl whose favorite food is spaghetti in a hot dog bun. Lucy’s grandpa Papa Gino teaches her that even though people are different, everyone has a heart with feelings. Lucy has to put her grandpa’s lesson to the test when Ralph, a boy at school, starts to tease her.

Ralph teases Lucy because he thinks her favorite food is gross and that her hair is poofy. Lucy stands up for herself and does her best to show Ralph kindness. However, Lucy still feels sad and alone because of the teasing. One day Ralph is stuck at the top of the monkey bars and afraid. People start to make fun of him. Lucy chooses kindness and helps Ralph down from the monkey bars. They become friends because Lucy chose to be true to herself and be kind. 

17. The Teacher From the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler

The story The Teacher From the Black Lagoon is about the first day of school nerves that many students experience. It is the first day of school and a young boy is wondering who his teacher might be. He has heard that Mrs. Green is a monster and is nervous when he finds out she will be his teacher. When she comes into the room, he sees that Mrs. Green is actually green, has claws and a tail! When a student throws a spitball, she turns him to ashes and even swallows a student that was chewing gum. The boy is so nervous that he won’t even make it to lunch!

After turning a student into a frog and giving someone a head the size of a pin, Mrs. Green announces that it is nap time. When the boy wakes up from his nap, he sees a pretty teacher with real skin and no claws standing in front of him. She introduces herself as Mrs. Green and he is so relieved to see her, the boy runs right up and hugs her. 

The Teacher from the Black Lagoon book coverQuiet Please Owen McPhee worksheet

18. Quiet Please, Owen McPhee by Trudy Ludwig

In the story Quiet Please, Owen McPhee, there is nothing Owen McPhee loves more than talking. In class, he is always talking to his friends. His talking causes him to miss out on important directions when making a volcano and it erupts and destroys his friend’s bridge. Owen interrupts his teacher while reading a story and his friends when they’re talking about a movie. His constant talking causes his friends to get upset with him. 

One day, Owen wakes up with a bad case of laryngitis. He must write down everything he wants to say, however, it is difficult for Owen to keep up with how fast can friends can talk. Frustrated, Owen returns to his classroom and helps his friend Isabella fix her tower. He learns that sometimes, it is good to take a break and let others take a turn talking. 

19. Picture Day Perfection by Deborah Diesen

Picture Day Perfection by Deborah Diesen is about a young boy trying to get the perfect school picture. He has been planning it for months! Unfortunately, he runs into several mishaps on picture day. These include getting covered in syrup, making a mess with paint, and having the wrong backdrop. In the end, the boy did not get his perfect picture, he was smiling! His mom thought it was the perfect picture, but next year the boy plans to get it right. Students will enjoy this hilarious story about school picture day. They will laugh at the boy’s mishaps and the funny pictures throughout. 

Picture Day Perfection book cover and worksheetOur Class is a Family book companion

20. Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen

The book Our Class is a Family is written by Shannon Olsen, a second grade teacher. Shannon starts the book off by sharing examples of what children might think of when they think of a family. They might think of their parents, siblings or cousins. She explains that a family can be more than the people you’re related to. Students spend most of their day with their class, so it should feel like a home. 

Throughout the book, the author shares examples of things that make a class similar to a family. They show respect and kindness to one another, celebrate their unique qualities and work as a team. This book is a great way to build community in your classroom. 

Grab resources that go with these 20 back to school story books by clicking the images below. The resource includes printable and digital activities for elementary students that cover topics like reading comprehension, writing, vocabulary, grammar, social emotional learning, and much more. All of these books for back to school are included in my Starts With a Story collection.

All Are Welcome book companionChrysanthemum book companionFirst Day Jitters book companionOur Class is a Family book companion
The Day You Begin book companionThe Kissing Hand book companionA Bad Case of Tattle Tongue book companionA Tiger Tail book companion
Decibella and Her Six Inch Voice book companionDo Unto Otters book companionSchool's First Day of School book companionThe Cool Bean book companion
We Don't Eat Our Classmates book companionWhat if Everybody Did That? book companionYou're Finally Here book companionLibrary Lion book companion
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun book companionPicture Day Perfection book companionQuiet Please, Owen McPhee book companionThe Teacher from the Black Lagoon book companion

Grab the Free Reading Resources!

We hope you found this list of back to school read alouds helpful! If you want to get more book ideas to read aloud to your elementary students, then grab this reading freebie. It includes read aloud books lists, reading logs, and reading challenges for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classroom teachers. The August and September book lists would make great back to school read alouds. These resources will have you covered for the entire school year, as well as the summer months! Grab this free elementary reading packet now!

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