Each year I would return to the classroom I would often find myself reading the same books. Titles that you’ll often find many resources for that appear to be the perfect back to school stories, such as First Day Jitters and The Kissing Hand. And while I find value in these stories, I realized after a few years of teaching that my back to school routine was lacking representation; something I can admit was not my focus in my early years unfortunately. I also understand the incredible amount of time it takes to prepare for the first week and often times educators are so very overwhelmed in doing so that reverting to something you’ve done in the past may be the easier choice. But, recognizing the importance of change and learning to do better is crucial when building those initial relationships at the beginning of the year. Letting your students know from the start that your classroom library is inclusive, will help them to realize that they are valued, seen, and loved. So in honor of educators and students going back to school, here are a list of our favorite books to include in your must read list as well as our latest release READ MORE BOOKS!
The King of Kindergartenby Derrick Barnes is naturally my favorite having been a Kindergarten teacher for 6 years. It is the story of a self-assured little boy who is so excited for his first day of kindergarten. He LOVES everything about his school and shares his excitement with his family. This endearing story is the perfect addition to your back to school reads to help all children feel like confident royalty walking into your classroom.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson is a beautifully written story about finding your place. The author does an incredible job of making the reader connect with the idea of remembering a time when you may have been the “only one” and the importance of continuing to put yourself out into the world. This book is a powerful tool in allowing readers of any age to connect with their authentic self and build the courage to do so.
Our Class is a Familyby Shannon Olsen creates opportunity to do exactly as the title states; help to create a classroom family, which is the most important part of being a teacher. We recently purchased 50 copies of this book to share with educators because we find the message to be so poignant. Shannon has developed an incredibly heartfelt story that teaches children about the value of family, working together, and loving one another. It is the perfect book to start the school year and share the notion that family doesn’t have to simply mean mom and dad, it can include your peers and teacher too!
The Name Jarby Yangsook Choi is a must read every single year. Names are a part of our identity. Our names are sacred and given to us for a reason. However, year after year there are children who feel unseen because an adult hasn’t taken the time to learn the proper pronunciation of their name. This book is about Unhei, a girl who has just moved from Korea and wants nothing more than to fit in. She’s afraid that no one will be able to pronounce her name, so she decides she’s going to pick a new one. Throughout the story she grows to love and embrace her name. This is a perfect way to teach children and other adults the importance of getting names right.
I Promise by Lebron James is another one of our daughter’s favorites! This rhythmic picture book is an amazing introduction to help children believe in themselves and strive for greatness while promoting the idea of also being a voice for others.
Red: A Crayon’s Storyby Michael Hall is a thought provoking picture book about identity and societal norms. I love the idea of introducing this right away with students for them to feel safe. It is important that each child in a classroom feels comfortable to be who they are, and this book is the perfect conversation starter to approach those topics. Red is a blue crayon with a red label, so everyone calls him Red, but as much as he tries, he can’t draw red. Finally, after a friend asks him to draw an ocean, he sees who he truly is, Blue.
With a new school year approaching do your part in reading more inclusive books whether you’re an educator or caregiver. We are so very excited to release our latest retro Read More Books tee to all of you and hope it serves as a little reminder to use books as mirrors to see one's self and windows to look out onto the lives of others.