Heading back to school causes a mix of emotions from both adults and kids alike! While you consider getting back into the school routine, I recommend these back to school read alouds to chat about all of those feelings! Relating to characters and discussing books is sometimes easier for kids than just talking about those confusing feelings.

Plus, reading aloud books together can prevent that summer slide. It’s never too late to open a book this summer, even if it’s back to school picture books!

For a tailored list of books geared towards your reader type, you may want to take my “What type of reader do you have?” quiz. You’ll find out which books and strategies to work on with your reader!

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Kids holding books to show the best read alouds for kids of all ages

Back to School Pre K Books

If you’ve taken my quiz, you’ll know if you have a beginning reader. These books are perfect for that Beginning Reader Ben, which are usually preschoolers and kindergartners. They are simple with fewer words on the page. Most of these back to school pre K books also are an introduction to school and what to expect. They use animals and things like dinosaurs that kids this age usually enjoy!

You’re Finally Here by Melanie Watt

Kids of all ages will love this impatient bunny! This book goes through all of the emotions on how hard it is to wait. This is the perfect back to school read aloud on staying for the school year!

A Kissing Hand for Chester Raccoon by Audrey Penn

This is one of my favorite books (I do realize I say that all of the time!). We even did a kissing hand craft when my boys were heading to preschool and left it in their backpack if they missed mommy. It is a sweet story of Chester Raccoon’s first time in school.

How Do Dinosaurs Go To School? by Jane Yolen & Illustrated by Mark Teague

What preschooler doesn’t love dinosaurs?! This silly story will be a hit in this age group with lots of examples of how little dinos should behave during the school day!

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

We started reading this book in our house even before preschool! When the boys were attending a Mom’s Morning Out program, we read all about Little Llama and how he misses his Mama. This story is so relatable for kids, and *spoiler alert* Little Llama ends up loving school and not wanting to leave!

Fill a Bucket: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children by Carol McCloud, Katherine Martin, & David Messing

There are two versions of this book, and this one is much simpler for these beginning readers. The idea of filling a bucket, or being kind to yourself and others, is perfectly illustrated in this story! The idea of filling buckets should be a part of every classroom! I truly feel that you can’t go wrong with either of these versions as one of the best back to school read alouds!

The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! by Mo Willems

I would argue that EVERY reader loves Mo Willems, young or old! The beloved pigeon does not want to go to school, asking “What if I don’t like school?” Another great question that can lead to great discussions in the story: “What if the teacher doesn’t like pigeons?”

The pigeon uses a lot of silly examples and then talks himself into going to school by the end of the book. You can easily use this beloved character to have lots of great back to school discussions!

Back to School Read Alouds for Elementary Students

These back to school picture books are great for those Transitional Reader Taylors. They probably have experience with school, but may need some ideas and discussions on how to act when they are back in the classroom. There are a LOT of feelings that go into heading back to school, and these books can help lead those discussions at home!

First Day Critter Jitters by Jory John & Liz Climo

You know Jory John is a well-loved author around here! This book will entertain kids of all ages, and is one of my new favorite back to school read alouds! The animals, or critters, are nervous since it’s almost the first day of school. On the first day of school, their teacher (an armadillo) is also nervous! He’s rolled into a ball and it takes him a while to relax. The critters figure out how to help each other out with their jitters and realize school isn’t so scary.

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

This is another silly book that can help your child discuss some of those feelings they may be having when it comes to going back to school. Penelope Rex has lots of questions about the school year, including:

  • “What are my classmates going to be like?”
  • “Will they be nice?”
  • “How many teeth will they have?”

Any book that comes with the caveat, “Hey Kids! You will never be eaten by a T. Rex. They are extinct. I promise!” is going to be great 😉

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

This book celebrates diversity and inclusion where all students are welcomed with open arms at their school! It is a New York Times bestselling picture book and one of the best back to school read alouds!

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud

I read this every year with my first graders! I LOVE this book and everything about it. We filled buckets in my learning pod last year, writing down or drawing a picture of kind things we did for each other. This book gives so many examples of how to be kind and fill someone’s bucket, everyone will love it!

My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook

Julia Cook is an educator who wrote this story about Louis who ALWAYS interrupts! Whenever he has something to say, he shouts it out, regardless if the teacher is talking! What kid can’t relate to that?! After reading this book, your child will become more aware of the times they interrupt. They may even notice and say things like, “My mouth is a volcano right now!”

Reading this story will help at least make your child aware of some of those moments where they just can’t control what they have to say! It can lead to some great discussions on what to do if you do have something you want to share right away and can’t.

Teal (A Book About a Little Crayon that Makes a Big Difference) by Renee Galvin

This book received a Mom’s Choice Award, and it’s easy to see why. I love the message of this book, and it doesn’t hurt that teal is one of my favorite colors 😉 Is teal green? Is it blue? This story of not fitting in is relatable to anyone that feels different. The message is not limited to race, gender, or culture, but to anyone that feels like they don’t fit in. We will be rereading and discussing this story before school starts this year!

Peanut Butter and Cupcake by Terry Border

This sweet story shows how Peanut Butter is searching for a friend. Everyone is too busy for him, and then at the end, he finds his friend and more! This is a great story to read at the beginning of the school year to reinforce the concept of friendship and how everyone can feel lonely sometimes.

After the Fall by Dan Santat

This is a sequel to the popular nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…” which many early elementary students are familiar with! After his great fall, Humpty Dumpty is afraid to do many of the things he loved, like sitting up high on the wall. Will he gain the courage to face his fear?

This story can lead to a lot of great discussions on what your child is afraid of. You can easily frame it around any beginning of the school year fears. You just may be surprised what your kids have fears about regarding school, and this book easily earned a spot for one of my best back to school read alouds!

Back to School Books for 3rd Grade & Up!

These picture books have more to them than those listed above. That doesn’t mean that your second grader would not appreciate some of these books! There is just a little more to the theme and you can have some excellent discussions around these stories. If you want to know if you have a Fluent Reader Freddie, take the quiz here!

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

This is a simple story about an “invisible boy” named Brian. The illustrations show how no one, not even his teacher, seem to have time for Brian. While this story seems simple, there is a lot to unpack as a new friend appears in class one day. Brian befriends the new boy and becomes “visible” in the illustrations. This book comes with discussion questions at the end.

The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah

Lily and Salma are best friends that do all the same things! Lily always eats peanut butter and Salma eats hummus. This turns into a huge issue and leads to a food fight! Both girls end up in the principal’s office and decide something needs to change. This story is about much more than sandwiches!

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

“There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.” Jacqueline Woodson has a way with words. While it can definitely be read by younger children, I think the diversity aspects and acceptance can be discussed with older elementary school kids!

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy

The main character in this book is Lucy, and she has big hair and loves to eat fun foods. She is teased by Ralph at school simply because she’s different. She tries to be brave but asks her Papa Gino, “What should I do?”

Papa Gino’s response is perfect, “Do the right thing and treat people with kindness.” Ralph gets stuck on the playground and Lucy must decide what to do. This book also comes with discussion questions!

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

This is one of my favorite read alouds at any time of year! It can also be used with first graders and fifth graders! Peter Reynolds is one of my all-time favorite authors. His description of his book includes:

“The dot is about getting started– getting unstuck. It is also about creative teaching, exploring an idea in many ways, and sharing our gift with others.

Best Back to School Read Alouds

So, which books from this back to school read aloud list are your favorites?! Let me know in the comments if they led to any great discussions!

If you’re looking for more than just these best back to school read alouds, be sure to take the “What type of reader do you have?” quiz and you’ll get a list of books for your reader!

Kim Creigh, M.Ed