Finding the perfect book when you haven’t gotten to know your class can be daunting, so I have compiled a list of my favorite read alouds that can help teachers start the school year by getting kids “hooked” on reading. Some of the things I look for in great start-of-the-year read alouds include:
- Realistic Fiction, which can illustrate what students are thinking and feeling as we start the year
- A mix of compelling characters to whom all kids can relate
- Teacher role models that set the tone for the year
- Humor, Humor, Humor!
Check out my list and use the comments section to add more about your favorite read aloud!
Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell (F/P level S, DRA 40, Lexile 660)
This story is told in the first person by Sahara, a young girl who is held back and getting ready to repeat fifth grade. I love this book because the author integrates powerful stories in the dialogue between teachers and students, demonstrates some of the difficulty in navigating the social scene in elementary school, and integrates characters’ journal entries into the story. The characters are so compelling and full of sass and humor which helps to win over the class quickly. I have started my year with this book frequently and refer to the lessons embedded throughout the year. We feel like we are really in Miss Poitier’s class (Miss Pointy for short) when she explains her routines and says things like “I’m the meanest teacher this side of the Missisipppi!” The first few chapters segue perfectly into explaining routines you may use or will want to borrow from Miss Pointy, like journaling and the “trouble box”. We overhear as the class discusses stories like Aesop’s Fables, which will in turn spark interest in new reading, and most importantly provides so much fodder for discussion in your own class. I cannot recommend this book enough!
Joey Pigza Loses Control by Jack Gantos (F/P Level T, DRA 50, Lexile 800)
We meet Joey in the summer and find out a little bit about how this charming young man gets into so much trouble. The author candidly voices Joey’s frustration with his attention, medication, and high levels of energy. Humor is infused throughout and a teacher can have a lot of fun reading Joey’s phrenetic narration. As a teacher, I benefit from this inside-the-mind glimpse of a boy who wants so desperately to be “good” and struggles with self-perception, changes in family, and his own uniqueness. With so many opportunities for inferring and for students to make deep connections to the stories of this loveable character, your students will want more and thankfully can meet Joey again in subsequent titles.
Shredderman #1: Secret Identity by Wendelin Van Draanin (F/P Level S, DRA 40, Lexile 520)
Nolan is the quintessential “good kid” who makes it clear he wants nothing but to get good scores on his math quizzes and stay out of trouble. However, he harnesses the power of technology to get back at class bully Bubba Bixby after getting a brainstorm from a class project assigned by the guitar playing teacher, Mr. Green. Includes themes of justice, breaking the rules for the sake of helping others, and root causes of bullying and the best ways to stop it.
The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron (F/P level N, Lexile 520, DRA 30)
This book is a series of vignettes about a young man named Julian with a vivid imagination and a wild series of adventures. This is a classic loved by many and can be used in sections or chapters based on student need and class timing. I recommend this for younger elementary students, especially if getting to a larger chapter book seems like a challenge for your kids. The short stories can stand alone if you go a few days in between read aloud days or if your kids are working on following a longer story arc.
Junie B. First Grader: Boss of Lunch by Barbara Park (F/P level M, DRA 24, Lexile 330)
Who doesn’t love Junie B.? A funny and realistic character who is highly affected by the perceived injustices in her world. This is one of my favorites to start the year because lunchtime is such a desired time of day for my students! Respect for teachers, wanting what others have, and sharing priviledges are all themes for discussion. I also use it to spark a discussion on what it means to be “in trouble” vs. what it means to receive feedback from others and how to take both in stride.