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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