Just as the clasroom environment must be intentionally arranged, the first day read aloud must be intentionally selected. Why? What's the big deal about the first read aloud? Just as the classroom environment sets the tone for learning, the first read aloud sets the tone for creating community. I think Mem Fox says it best,
As we share the words and pictures, the ideas and viewpoints, the rhythms and rhymes, the pain and comfort, and the hopes and fears and big issues of life that we encounter together in the pages of a book, we connect through minds and hearts with our children and bond closely in a secret society associated with the books we have shared. The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn't achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who's reading aloud--it's the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.
Simply put, reading aloud to children is giving them the gift of time, time to read aloud together, to talk to each other, and to bond.
Below are a few of my favorite first day read alouds:
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg and Judith Love
Sarah is afraid to start at a new school, but both she and the reader are in for a surprise when she gets to her class.
I have read this book aloud on the first day of classes for the past several years. It sends the message that sometimes teachers are just as nervous and excited about the first day of school as the kids.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Chrysanthemum loves her name, until she starts going to school and the other children make fun of it.
You've gotta love Kevin Henkes! He adeptly captures how much kids (of all ages) love their name. Reading this book on the first day of school allows the teacher and students to talk about how names are special and no one likes to be teased.
My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits, pictures by Gabi Swiatkowska
Disliking her name as written in English, Korean-born Yoon, or "shining wisdom," refers to herself as "cat," "bird," and "cupcake," as a way to feel more comfortable in her new school and new country.
Another wonderful book about the importance of names.
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Lilly loves everything about school, especially her teacher, but when he asks her to wait a while before showing her new purse, she does something for which she is very sorry later.
Lilly is such a diva! Children will laugh at Lilly's escapades even though they have such items at home as Lilly's purple plastic purse that they would love to bring to school.
David Goes to School by David Shannon
David’s activities in school include chewing gum, talking out of turn, and engaging in a food fight, causing his teacher to say over and over, "No, David!"
A great book to invite children to laugh with you at all of David's crazy antics and to discuss why there are rules at school.
Wow! School! by Robert Neubecker
Izzy finds many things to be excited about on the first day of school.
This book is full of full page, colorful illustrations of all of the wonderful things kids get to do and learn at school. Makes for a wonderful introduction to the school curriculum and schedule.
Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly by Alan Madison, Kevin Hawkes
Velma starts first grade in the shadow of her memorable older sisters, and while her newfound interest in butterflies helps her to stand out, it also leads to an interesting complication.
Most children have siblings and can relate to Velma's plight yet illustrates how we all are different and unique.
First Day in Grapes by L King Pérez, Robert Casilla
When Chico starts the third grade after his migrant worker family moves to begin harvesting California grapes, he finds that self confidence and math skills help him cope with the first day of school.
Another great story for older students that conveys that everyone has strengths.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Mark Teague
A schoolboy tell his class about his summer vacation, during which he joined a group of cowboys and stopped a cattle stampede.
This imaginative tale is just the ticket for avoiding the dreaded "what I did on my summer vacation report." Children will crack up at the story Wallace tell's his class about his summer vacation.
What is your favorite first day of school read aloud?