Diverse Picture Books for the First Day of School

Diverse Picture Books for the First Day of School

These picture books for the first day of school will reassure your students about what to expect in new situations. They promote discussions on routines, expectations and making new friends.

Diverse Picture Books for the First Day of School

Why Read Picture Books for the First Day of School?

Teachers know the first few days and weeks set the tone of your classroom for the entire school year.

The following picture books for the first day of school will reassure your students about school expectations, routines and making friends. There are many books to choose from, so you will find something that emphasises your needs for the beginning of the school year.

Discussions could include school rules and routines, making new friends, anxiety and fears. The books will also help you work towards a cohesive class community and for everyone to get to know each other.

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Picture Books for the First Day of School

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

Send a message to your students that everyone is welcome, no matter their race, religion, gender, culture or background.

Use this book on the first day of school to discuss inclusion, kindness, empathyacceptance and community.

Be Big!: Beatrice's First Day of First Grade by Katie Kizer

Beatrice loves wearing a blue tutu but is afraid to be herself when she starts first grade. Benjamin, the butterfly, helps her face her fears, be brave, and be big. Use this book at the beginning of a new school year to help students feel welcome and be themselves.

Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Vanessa wears her fanciest outfit on her first day of school. The reaction from her new classmates to her bold clothes makes her feel self-conscious. This feeling increases when she tries to write her long name. She complains to her mother, who tells her why she is called Vanessa. This gives her the confidence to find a common bond and make new friends.

Promotes discussions on self-esteem, individuality, identity, making friends, and self-expression.

The Buddy Bench by Patty Brozo

A compassionate group of children encourage their teacher to let them build a buddy bench. They understand that some children find the playground a lonely place. Promotes kindness, empathy, loneliness and making friends.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

The first of two books for the first day of school by Kevin Henkes. Chrysanthemum loves her name, but she gets teased for its uniqueness on her first day of school. When her music teacher reveals she is naming her baby Chrysanthemum, everyone wants to change their name to a flower.

Promotes identity, friendships and self-management.

Chu's First Day of School by Neil Gaiman

Chu is nervous about his first day of school. He freezes when he has to introduce himself to his classmates. When he sneezes, everyone laughs, and they learn why the panda is called Chu.

The Colour of Home by Mary Hoffman

When Hassan and his family are forced to move to England because of war, he feels lonely and out of place. He finds his new environment cold and grey compared to his colourful life in Somalia. Hassan feels more settled as he makes new friends and begins to appreciate the colours of his new home.

Promotes a sense of community, creativity and resilience.

The Cool Bean by Jory John

Of four beans in a pod, three are super cool. The fourth beans feel inferior because it doesn't feel it is special. It starts to notice that what makes these beans cool is their kindness towards others. The fourth bean changes its outlook when it learns no gesture is too small when done in kindness.

Promotes discussions on school life, kindness, isolation and self-esteem.

Daddy Long Legs by Nadine Brun-Cosme

A worried child questions his father about being picked up from school. His father gives ever creative answers to his son's continuing questions until he gives one that satisfies. Promotes independence, thinkers, fears, and social and emotional learning.

The Day I Became a Bird by Ingrid Chabbert

On his first day of school, a young boy falls in love with Sylvia, who sits in front of him. While she is all he can see, Sylvia only has eyes for birds. The boy comes to school dressed up as a bird to get Sylvia's attention. Ignoring the giggles of his classmates, he is thrilled when Sylvia finally sees him.

This translated book promotes discussions on personal interests, self-discovery, self-expression, and social skills.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

The Day You Begin considers the difficulty of entering a room where you don’t know anyone. In these situations, we are “an only” until we share our personal stories. Woodson reminds us that we are all outsiders, and it takes courage to be ourselves.

Read to promote discussions on empathy, identity, growth mindset, open-mindedness, relationship skills, self-awareness and self-esteem.

I Don’t Want to Go to School by Stephanie Blake

Simon reluctantly goes to school after much debate with his parents. Once there, he meets new friends and has so much fun he doesn't want to go home when his mother picks him up.

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

An art teacher encourages Vashti to make a mark, a dot, prompting Vashti to create a wide range of dot paintings. She displays her work at the school art show and inspires a young boy to make his own unique mark.

Edda: A Little Valkyrie's First Day of School by Adam Auerbach

When Edda, the littlest Valkyrie, leaves her home in Asgard to start school, she feels different. She remembers that the Valkyrie are brave and she uses her courage to make new friends.

A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech

A well-meaning principal learns that learning outside of school can be as important as being in school.

Reinforces themes of self-management, balance, well-being and enthusiasm.

Going to School by Rose Blake

An introduction to school for young children. Follow a group of friends getting to and from school and following their daily routine, including classroom activities, playtime, storytime and the food they eat.

I Got the School Spirit by Connie Schofield-Morrison

Feel the positivity and enthusiasm as a young girl starts school. She shows empathy to students struggling with first-day nerves and makes new friends. Told in the first person, the girl shows how fun and exciting school can be, especially if you have a positive mindset.

Promotes self-esteem, a growth mindset, self-confidence, enthusiasm, empathy, curiosity, and relationship skills.

How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander

A young boy shares how he reads a book starting with finding an enjoyable story. He then finds a reading buddy before finding a comfortable reading spot.

Promotes word choice, perseverance, enthusiasm, open-mindedness and communication.

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Brian struggles to make himself stand out. When he befriends a new student from Korea, she helps him grow in confidence and feel less invisible.

Promotes themes of loneliness, kindness and relationship skills.

TIslandborn by Junot Diazitle

Lola collects memories of the Caribbean island where she was born. She finds out about music, beaches, sweet mangoes, a colourful environment and destructive forces. These tales help Lola feel pride in her heritage.

Reinforces themes of belonging, identity, immigration and inquiry.

The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes

A young boy is ready for Kindergarten. He meets new friends and takes part in many new experiences. He enthusiastically tells his parents about his day and how he can’t wait for the next day.

Lailah's Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi

Lailah and her family have emigrated to a new country, and she has to start at a new school. She is excited to participate in the upcoming Ramadan fast but worries about the reaction of her new classmates.

Lila and the Crow by Gabrielle Grimard

Lila's dark skin, hair and eyes make her stand out at her new school. She is bullied and likened to a crow. She embraces who she is at the autumn festival costume party and dressed as a crow. 

Promotes self-acceptance, self-awareness, discrimination, resilience, and loneliness.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

The second of two books for the first day of school by Kevin Henkes. Lilly loves school, her teacher, and her purple plastic purse. When her teacher, Mr Slinger, confiscates the purse, she plans her revenge. She draws a mean picture of Mr Slinger but soon feels remorse and sets out to make amends.

Promotes self-management, forgiveness, integrity, relationship skills and reflection.

Lissy's Friends by Grace Lin

At school, Lissy plays by herself, making animal friends from paper. When the wind carries the animals away they are returned to Lissy by a new friend.

Mae's First Day of School by Kate Berube

School is scary, and Mae IS. NOT. GOING! Mae thinks of all the things that could go wrong on her first day of school. When she makes a new friend they help each other conquer their fears.

The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi

Despite her frustrations, a young girl persists in learning to ride her bike. Use to discuss a growth mindset, determination, making mistakes and not giving up.

Monsters Love School by Mike Austin

Despite her frustrations, a young girl persists in learning to ride her bike. Use to discuss a growth mindset, determination, making mistakes and not giving up.

Marianthe's Story: Painted Words by Aliki

Marianthe doesn't understand any English after moving from Greece to America. As she struggles to communicate with her peers, her teacher suggests she paints her ideas.

Reinforce themes of immigration, storytelling, visualising, relationship skills and self-awareness.

Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School by David Mackintosh

Quirky Marshall Armstrong doesn’t fit in at his new school. But he soon shows the other students you don’t have to follow the crowd to be popular.

Promotes individuality, self-awarenessrelationship skills and open-mindedness.

My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits

After leaving South Korea, Yoon tries to settle into her new home in America. Her name means ‘Shining wisdom’ and she loves the way it looks written in Korean. She doesn’t like how it looks when written in English. She wonders if she should change her name to help her fit in.

Read to start discussions on immigration, identity, loneliness, and self-acceptance.

My Teacher is a Monster! by Peter Brown

Robert’s teacher, Ms Kirby, is a monster. Or that is how he sees her in the classroom. When Robert meets Ms Kirby outside of the school, his opinion of her changes as he realises she is not who he thought she was. 

Promotes discussions on school life, perspectives, perceptions and making judgements.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

When Unhei moves from Korea to America, her classmates can’t pronounce her name. She wants to choose a new name that is easier to pronounce but decides she likes her name just the way it is.

Promotes themes of acceptance, identity, integrity, open-mindedness, principled and tolerance.

Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker

Zura hesitantly brings her Nana Akua to her school for Grandparents Day. With traditional Ghanian tribal markings on her face, Nana Akua looks very different from the other grandparents. She creatively explains to Zura and her classmates the meaning of her culture and why it makes her special.

Promotes themes of identity, open-mindedness, making connections, and belonging.

Never, Not Ever! by Beatrice Alemagna

While the other animals make their way to school, Pascaline refuses. “Never, not ever!” She shrieks so loudly her parents shrink to the size of peanuts. Pascaline tucks them under her wing and takes them to school. What initially seems like a fun idea turns into a nuisance. She returns to school the next day alone.

This translated book promotes discussions on being independent and self-management.

Over-Scheduled Andrew by Ashley Spires

Joining his school’s drama club inspires Andrew to join many other groups. As a result, he has to figure out how to balance all the different aspects of his life.

This book reinforces the themes of balance, time-management, self-management and organisation.

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad

On the first day of school, sisters, Asiya and Faizah walk hand in hand. Asiya is wearing a hijab for the first time, representing being strong. Faizah admires her sister's beautiful blue scarf but hears other children making fun of her. The sisters follow their mother's advice about being strong and true to themselves in the face of bullying.

Promotes themes of tolerance, self-esteem, making connections, and different points of view.

Rulers of the Playground by Joseph Kuefler

Everyone follows Johan's rules of the playground, all except Lennox. She wants to become the ruler of the playground. As playground politics and demanding behaviour increase, they lose all their friends. On reflection, they realise that they need to change their attitude, and they come up with a plan to apologise.

School's First Day of School by Adam Rex

Frederick Douglass Elementary School feels nervous about opening its doors for the new term. The school finds out it is not the only feeling worried about the first day back at school.

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts

Observant Sally notices everything, particularly bullying in the playground. Despite being small, she makes a big difference by standing up to the bullies.

Read during back to school to discuss bullying, compassion, principled, respect, tolerance and character traits.

Sumi's First Day of School Ever by Joung Un Kim

Sumi is overwhelmed on her first day of school because she doesn't speak English. A kind teacher helps Sumi discover that school may not be as lonely and scary as she first thought.

Sunday Chutney by Aaron Blabey

Sunday Chutney is always the new girl at school, but she makes the best of the situation with her independent attitude and spirit. Promotes identity, individuality and open-mindedness.

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

Jeremy is mortified when his old shoes fall apart, and the school counsellor provides an unstylish replacement pair. He successfully searches a second-hand shop for a pair of ‘those shoes’, but they are too small. After some reflection, he passes the sneakers to a young child who Jeremy realises needs them more than him.

Read to promote discussions on peer pressure, compassion, empathy, generosity, kindness, sharing, and poverty.

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

Penelope Rex's first day of school doesn't quite go as planned when she eats her classmates. Unsurprisingly, the other children are scared of her. She finally learns a lesson that helps her understand how her classmates feel.

Promotes empathy, self-management and making friends.

I Will Be Fierce by Bea Birdsong

A young girl determined to be fierce puts on her armour (a rainbow shirt). She stands up to dragons (dogs), climbs the Mountain of Knowledge (the library), walks with giants (older children) and, by the end of the day, builds new bridges (making friends).

Promotes courage, overcoming fears and confidence.

Your Name Is a Song by J Thompkins-Bigelow

A young girl leaves school frustrated after a day of her classmates and teacher mispronouncing her name. On their walk home she tells her mother she doesn’t want to go back, who in turn tells her daughter “your name is a song.” She returns to school empowered and shares what she has learned.

Promotes themes of identity, respect, individuality, empowerment, love, confidence, and self-esteem.

What Next?

Now you have some great ideas oof picture books for the first day of school, which ones catch your eye?

What are your go-to picture books for the first day of school? What do you do to develop a community in your classroom?

Teaching Tolerance has a collection of lessons and activities for the beginning of the school year – Know Your Classmates and Mix it Up Learning Plan.

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Diverse Picture Books for the First Day of School

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