Community Building Picture Books To Kick Off Your School Year

picture books to build community

If you are like me, you read many, many picture books during the first few weeks of school to settle into new routines and discuss the new school year’s expectations. What better way to build relationships than by getting cozy with your new students in your freshly organized classroom library and discussing exciting new books?  

Picture books are a great way to begin discussions about your classroom community, too. Creating a classroom atmosphere where students feel safe to take risks and feel a sense of belonging is always my goal not just for back to school season, but for the entire school year.  

The picture books listed below are my go to books that I love to read with my new students to begin creating a strong classroom community. These books allow for meaningful discussions, role playing activities and carry similar themes. What I love about each of these books is that they have a main character who changes throughout the story, allowing for comparing and contrasting of not just the stories, but the characters, too. 

Be sure to grab the free printable activities to use with these books at the bottom of this post!

This is one of my favorite books to read and refer back to all year long. This book is about a boy who feels like he doesn’t fit in with his peers and is strong enough to not be a follower to all the current trends. Instead, he begins his own land where he is free to be himself.  The land he creates reflects his interests and his unique personality. He finds out that by being himself, he ends up with more friends than he could imagine. A fun follow up activity is for students to create their own land based on their interests and unique personalities. This is a great way for students to get to know one another, too. This is a definite must-read! 

picture books to build community

This book is filled with many metaphors, but truly perfect for any grade level. The main character of this book is Blue, who normally likes himself, except when hot-headed Red is around. With the backing of his colorful friends and a new friend too, Blue has the courage to stand up to Red. This book offers the opportunity to discuss how students can work together to look out for one another in your budding new classroom community. This cleverly written book will become your new favorite back to school read-aloud! 

picture books to build community
This book is about a quiet boy named Brian who literally feels invisible everywhere he goes while at school. The illustrations are amazing, with colors that reflect how Brian is feeling. When Brian is feeling invisible he is drawn in black and white. Brian becomes more colorful as his feelings change and he becomes visible to his peers at school. This story is very relatable, allowing students to make connections on each and every page. 

This book is one that you will love to read to kick off the school year and then again to wrap up the school year as it celebrates the power of friendships. This book follows the friendship of Beetle and his friend Caterpillar as they became fast friends out of nowhere. But one day, Caterpillar disappears and so Beetle's search begins to find his missing friend. With obstacles in front of him, and distance between them, Beetle learns that true friendship endures changes!

BONUS Book Suggestion: Be Where Your Feet Are by Julia Cook

upper elementary community buildingThis book is powerful! I recently came across this book and couldn't be more excited to add this to my stack of back to school read alouds! This book serves double duty, it kicks off your classroom discussion on mindfulness in the classroom and connects to creating a positive community climate. The first time I read this book, I personally found myself connecting to the main character who has too many things on his mind at once. Too often, our students are overbooked with school, homework, projects, sports, extra-curricular activities, family time and so much more. Sound familiar? The main character in this book is so focused on his band tryouts that he can not focus on anything else, including a math test. You can use the mindfulness tips included in the back of the book to kick off a class created list of ways students can work together to be present as individuals, supporting each other throughout the year. What I love about this book is the valuable life lesson about being mindful and present in all that you do. 

picture books to build community

These stories can be easily compared and contrasted by students in small groups after reading them aloud. With such similar themes, your students will have so much to talk about! Grab the free activities and discussion questions at the bottom of this post.

Kick off your classroom community discussions easily with these books. Use one a week for a few weeks, or one a day for a full week. Don;t forget to reveist these books all year long to keep your positive classroom community strong!

Looking to continue to discuss classroom community with your students each day? These quotes are a great way to engage students in discussing important themes like kindness, friendships and of course community building! Perfect for morning meeting time or after recess discussions.

You might be interested in reading:

Grab this must have Community Building Pack!

Check out my favorite bulletin board to keep your classroom community strong, like these!


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4 Read Aloud Books for the End of the School Year

end of school year picture books

It seems that each year the school year flies by faster than the year before! September, November, holiday season, February, BLINK and suddenly it is the end of the school year. 

Those last few weeks of school are as crazy as the first few. End of year assessments, report cards, assemblies, celebrations, and fitting in the last pieces of the curriculum. My plan book the last few weeks of school fills up so quickly, which is why I can never plan too early for those memorable end of year activities and read alouds. 

And I don’t know about your end of year schedule, but mine always seems to be choppy, with small windows of time to do activities here and there. To make the most of those in-between times, I like to be prepared with as many end of year activities as possible! These sweet picture books and activities are the perfect way to fill those holes and create even more unforgettable moments with your students.

Here are my favorite four picture books to read aloud during those last few weeks (or days) of school with your students. Read on to find out more about each book and be sure to grab the coordinating FREE student activity that goes with each book. Click each book title to see more about each book.*

Breathe Written by: Scott Magoon

This book stumbled across my path recently and I couldn’t be happier to have found it! What a sweet book that is a quick read perfect for that emotional last day of school! This book can really stand alone as the last thing you do with your students before dismissal on the last day. Each page is incredibly meaningful with powerful words that not only represent the expectations that you had for each student during the school year, but also the hopes that you have for your students for the summer and as they continue to grow. Have your students complete this illustration and writing companion activity about how they plan to spend their summer, following a read aloud of this book. Grab the free activity to use with this book at the bottom of the post!

The Raft Written by: Jim LaMarche

If you follow me on social media than you know I absolutely adore this book! It is a staple in my classroom. We read it at the beginning of the year and refer back to it all year long during almost every reading unit. We use it to help identify character traits, how the character changes, theme, symbolism and just about any other reading topic you can think of. The main character in this book has to spend the summer with his outdoorsy grandmother who does not have a TV. The main character, Nicky thinks he will have a terrible time, but instead ends up having a summer filled with discovery. We can never get enough of this book! If you have already read it this year, revisit it and try this summer sketches and writing companion activity with your students to mirror what the main character does in the book. Grab the free activity to use with this book at the bottom of the post! 

My Teacher Likes to Say Written by: Denise Brennan-Nelson

This book is so much fun to read and a perfect way to wrap up the school year! It is a compilation book of classic idioms, proverbs, and clich├ęs that you have surely said at some point during the year! Not only does this book illustrate each saying to help them understand what each means, but the author explains each in detail. Wonder which one of your catch phrases have stuck with your students this year? Have your students complete this reflection activity all about you, after reading aloud this book. These come out adorable! Compile into a book for a fun memory book. Grab the free activity to use with this book at the bottom of the post!

Last Day Blues Written by: Julie Danneberg

Is there a more classic story to read to your students on the last day of school? This companion book to First Day Jitters, The Big Test, and First Year Letters, also written by Julie Dannenberg will give you and your students all the happy feelings as you realize your school year has come full circle, especially if you have read the other titles in this series during the year. The characters in Last Day Blues worry that their teacher will miss them all summer long (how sweet)! The book focuses on the students coming up with ways to make sure that their teacher is not sad all summer without them. It is a heartwarming story and your students will love to see these familiar characters once again. What better way to reflect upon this book, then by having your students illustrate and write about what they think YOU will do all summer long! Have your students create two different illustrations in the sunglasses on this page and write about the two things that they can "see" you doing over the summer. Grab the free activity to use with this book at the bottom of the post!

end of year freebies

The end of the school year sure is an emotional roller coaster! Reading these books together at the end of the school year always help us to relax and reflect on the many days and memories we shared together. I look forward to sharing each and every one of these picture books with my students each year. I hope that you enjoy sharing them with your students, too! 

Check out my favorite end of year projects!
Like this one!


*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)

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