As a new school year starts around the country, we are so lucky to have many, many great books to share with children. Whether you’re looking to calm your class’s first day jitters, help build a strong classroom culture, or celebrate the act of reading, all of the excellent picture books below are perfect for reading aloud.


Derrick barnes

Addressed to a child starting school, The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes shows how to dress yourself “in handpicked garments” (overalls), ride in “a big yellow carriage” (the school bus), and wear a “beaming, majestic smile.” A humorously formal tone and dignified language pair beautifully with advice from a parental pep talk that every adult can learn from. Clever and charming, what really sets this book apart is how well it communicates the best traits of a true leader: bravery, generosity, and kindness. For other winning read alouds about starting school, check out:

SHHH! I'm reading

john kelly

A great book about reading can help children get excited about reading. An example that had me belly laughing is Shhh! I’m Reading! by John Kelly. In this story, a very focused, serious young reader is interrupted three times by boisterous, adventurous pirates, penguins, and aliens who want to play. Presumably these are characters from other books she has read, and while their invitations are tempting, she turns them all away. By the time she’s finished her book and is ready for fun, the big group of friends can’t be bothered – they’re reading! For other titles celebrating the magic of reading and writing, try:


David soman

David Soman’s How to Two shows children at play – individually, in a pair, and in diverse groups of increasing number. With each page turn, another lonely onlooker is invited to the game, which changes and expands to create room for more players. In the end, when everyone returns home to their families, one character finds a new way to “two” – curling up with a caregiver and a book. Part “how to” guide, part counting book, this story models cooperation, inclusion, and the benefits of togetherness – important messages for everyone, any time of year. To further boost classroom culture, look for: