Recently, I was fortunate to be part of the free Back to School eBook - an Australian and New Zealand Teacher Authors Collaboration. One of the things the participating teacher-authors included was a back to school tip. Mine, of course, was related to reading, so I couldn’t help but dig a little deeper and think about what books I’d love to read aloud on the first day of school. I’m thrilled to present this short list:
1. Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey
Theme I’d touch on: It’s ok to try new things out, but it’s also ok to just do you.
You could really read just about any Aaron Blabey book - they’re so funny and surprisingly detailed and really engaging. I love Thelma the Unicorn because she wants something, makes it happen (with glitter), experiences and enjoys it, then goes back to her old world. It also touches on bullying - particularly senseless bullying we often see, which allows for some good cyber safely messages.
2. The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland
Theme I’d touch on: We can help find solutions when we listen to the problem
There’s been a number of ‘bear’ books, but the original is still my favourite. Its rollicking, rhyming style is so easy to read and there’s several messages you can look at closer with your students. I love that Lion, Moose and Zebra think that being more like them is the solution, because they’re happy aren’t they? It takes sheep’s empathy to really hear Bear and realise that he’s severely sleep deprived! We can all be better listeners, and this is a message which can carry on from the beginning of the school year
3. Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai
Theme I’d touch on: It’s ok to be proud of school and it’s ok to work hard at school
This is a book I’d probably read in upper primary grades where we can look at the background around it. That can also be an age where it’s seen as ‘cool’ to disengage from school or school work, and those who are enthusiastic about their school lessons can be seen as ‘different’ or ‘geeky’. This book points out why education is important and how lucky many students are and opens the school year with permission to take education seriously.
4. The beginning of Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman
Theme I’d touch on: Children around the world are living lives both different and the same as us
I adore this book and I know it’s often taught in the upper years. Even if you’re not taking an in-depth look at it until later in the year, you can read a ‘teaser’ of the book and open up a discussion about the differences and similarities in the world. It can be a good challenge for students to consider the world beyond their own experiences and open the class up to a year of discovery and reflection.
5. The Tomorrow Book by Jackie French
Theme I’d touch on: Where are we going and how can we solve the obstacles in our way
If you’ve got a future or a STEM focus in your classroom, this gentle picture book can be a great first day of school opening. It invites questions, thoughts, brainstorms, new vocabulary and investigation - just what your need for an exciting, investigative year to come.