There's something truly special about gathering new students together, no matter their age, for the first read aloud of the school year. No wonder teachers put so much time and careful thought into their choices. We asked Choice Literacy contributors to share their selections. This is the first installment in a two-part series.
Colby Sharp teaches fourth grade and is a co-founder of the Nerdy Book Club:
My first read aloud of the school year will be Kate Messner's Sea Monster's First Day. I love how this picture book shows the emotions of a very nervous little sea monster on the first day of school. My students and I will spend a lot of time reading Kate's books together, so starting the year off with Sea Monster's First Day will be a nice way to kick off our first author study.
Gretchen Taylor plans to use her first read aloud to build community by learning and coming to a deeper understanding of the origins of student names:
This summer I read Katie Doherty Czerwinski's new book Join the Club! and thanks to her recommendation, rediscovered Sandra Cisneros' modern classic The House on Mango Street. Katie recommends the vignette "My Name" as a text to fuel conversation and build community. I plan to read this aloud and discuss the text along with meanings of names with my 7th graders, many of whom I had last year as sixth graders. It's a great text for building on old relationships, form new ones, and establish a habit of thoughtful conversation.
Donalyn Miller, also known as The Book Whisperer, has a couple books she is eager to read to her students:
I will be teaching 5th grade Language Arts and American History this year. I have a special challenge this year because I am looping with my students from 4th grade and I need to find new read aloud selections or revisit read alouds from last year in fresh ways.
On the first day of school, I plan to read Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger. Crankee Doodle is a silly deconstruction of the classic American song, "Yankee Doodle." Crankee's horse suggests that his bored owner might enjoy a trip to town, but Crankee puts forth one ridiculous argument after another. We will sing the song first, consider our interpretations and misconceptions, then read Angleberger's version. I think this book will be a fun launch to our year long study of American History, and reinforce the message that reading together is fun.
For our first chapter book read aloud, I plan to read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein. Luigi Lemoncello, a poor Italian immigrant, found solace and support for his outrageous inventions and game ideas from his childhood librarian. Years later, the wealthy Mr. Lemoncello, now a successful game inventor, builds a state-of-the-art library as a gift to his small hometown and invites twelve essay contest winners to explore the library first. Imagine if Willy Wonka built a library! Part mystery, part fantasy, this book is a love letter to libraries, librarians, and reading with numerous allusions to children's books and authors. I look forward to sharing this book with my students, who will enjoy collecting clues and investigating Mr. Lemoncello's library along with the characters. It's the perfect book to launch another great reading year together.
Erin Ocon teaches 7th and 8th graders in Portland, Oregon, and she finds a short text is the best way to bring a class together early in the year:
"Seventh Grade" (from the collection of short stories Baseball in April) by Gary Soto is the perfect story to begin seventh grade with. Students laugh at and commiserate with the main character, Victor, as he goes through his first day of school trying to impress his crush, Teresa. While students of all backgrounds relate to this story, all of the students in this story are Latino, so this is an especially good story to share with Spanish-speaking students. Soto's use of metaphor, simile, and specific details also make this a rich writing model as students begin writing workshop.
Katherine Sokolowski sticks with a tried and true favorite with her 5th graders:
My first read aloud this year — and every year — is Patricia MacLachlan's What You Know First. I love to start the year with this book and then we can have the discussion of what we bring with us to fifth grade. I also read this book aloud as our last read aloud of the year on the last day of school and we discuss what they will take with them as they move on to the middle school.