6 Culture Building Read Alouds for the First Day of School

During the first few days of school, it is always a good idea to take plenty of time to talk to students about their feelings about school and what they need from you and their classmates. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to shape your classroom culture and set the tone for the year. If kids start out feeling seen, heard, respected and welcomed, you will likely have an awesome year.

While building classroom culture will look and feel a lot different with virtual teaching, this work is still essential. Using read alouds can spark productive discussion and support your students in co-creating classroom agreements. Here are six favorites that center inclusion and social emotional learning to help you get the ball rolling.

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

A young girl, frustrated by teachers mispronouncing her name, learns about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names. After reading this book, have students teach each other how to pronounce their names and share the story behind their names. This is a great way to get to know your students and learn more about their cultural identities.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

In this book chrysanthemum experiences bullying at school which leads her to feeling anxious and left out. You can use this story to help your class start to discuss classroom agreements and how they would like to be treated at school.

King of Kindergarten By Derrick Barnes

In this book, a young boy imagines all the exciting things he will do on his first day of school. After reading invite your students to share what they were most excited about on the first day of school.

Miss Nelson is Missing By Harry Allard

This classic book is always a winner at the beginning of the year. Kids love its silliness and surprise ending. It also helps spark great conversations about classroom culture and will help your students in making classroom agreements that support everyone’s safety and ability to learn.

All Are Welcome By Alexandra Penfold & Suzanne Kaufman

This rhyming story will have your students reading along with you. The book shows a diverse classroom that embraces difference and inclusion. This book provides a great opportunity to talk with your students about diversity and help make sure all your students feel welcomed, respected, and free to express their unique identities in your classroom.

The Day You Begin By Jacqueline Woodson

This story highlights the worries that students may have about joining a new class and wondering if they will be accepted. This book provides a great opportunity for your students to share about themselves and make connections the way the characters in the story do.

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