Saturday, August 10, 2019

#pb10for10: Inclusive Picture Books for the First Weeks of School

Hooray! Today is August 10th, which means it is time for the annual Picture Books 10 for 10 event (#pb10for10). Teachers and educators are challenged to choose and share their 10 favorite picture books, thanks to Cathy of Reflect and Refine and Mandy of Enjoy and Embrace Learning.

Previous #pb10for10

10 Inclusive Picture Books for the First Weeks of School

I am not a strict #classroombookaday teacher (I only teach Reading four periods a week, plus we do several novel read alouds too), but I do love beginning the school year with picture books. This is my current round up for how we will be starting off fifth grade together, but these books would work for many ages!

I used Jabari Jumps last year as our first day of school book. (Thank you to Jess for this idea and fabulous post: How am I supposed to confront racism and white supremacy on the first day of school? Please, please read and deeply digest this post if you haven't.) The story of Jabari and the various ways he wrestles with his fear of the high dive serves as a great extended metaphor about facing your own fears and be willing to try new things. We also used the character of Jabari to discuss issues of identity and make a model "identity web" (below, inspired by Sara Ahmed's Being the Change). Students then used Jabari's web as a jumping off point for making their own personal webs. Below you can see last year's brainstormed list about characteristics of our own identities.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson is another great one for new beginnings (like the start of the school year). It touches on many overlapping elements with these other books - new schools, feeling like you don't belong, etc. - but also addresses the reader directly, which makes it more personal.

One Family (2015) by George Shannon and Blanca G√≥mez. This charming counting book is so much more. One is not just one, when it is a pair of shoes or a hand of cards. And one can be any number when it comes to "one family." This picture book is a celebration of families, in all their quirky uniqueness. The illustrated families include grandparents, mixed race couples, twins, single parents, young boys in Sikh turbans, gay couples, and so much more. This is great mentor text for a getting-to-know you activity, where each child could illustrate a page representing whatever number describes their "one family."

I'm New Here tells the story of the beginning of a new school year through the eyes of three children who are all recent immigrants to the US. It's a great book to get kids thinking about what it might be like to be new to a whole country and not just a new school. I also recommend reading the companion book, Someone New which revists the story from the perspective of the three kids already at the school who each reach out to welcome the new immigrant students. We had some great conversations last year around the ways that each character has to choose to take action and the impact it has.

In Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal (a Caldecott honor), the titular Alma is frustrated by the length of her name, but her father patiently explains to her where each name came from and how each is connected to her family and her history. This one has a structure that would be easy for younger students to emulate when writing about their own names. My fifth graders will be researching and writing etymologies of their own names, so this book is a great inspiration.

 by former US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and illustrated by Lauren Castillo is fantastic! The entire book is an invitation to the reader to imagine themselves through the life of the author and eventually to what they could accomplish in their own lives. With both my classes it took about halfway through the story before they suddenly started to realize that the author was sharing about himself. This realization made them especially excited and engaged for the rest of the read aloud. This is also a powerful immigration story. (Yuyi Morales' Dreamers would, of course, work well here, but I feel like Imagine is less well-known.)

Stella Brings the Family (2015) by Miriam B. Schiffer and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown. Stella faces a dilemma: who can she invite to her school's Mother's Day outing when she doesn't have a mother? Papa, Daddy, and her classmates help her realize what really matters in a family and how to celebrate all the types of families there are.

Benny enjoys a lot of things, but Benny Doesn't Like to be Hugged. This gentle, rhyming story by Zetta Elliott is told from the perspective of Benny's friend and gives readers insights in to how to better understand and appreciate kids with autism. My students and I had an incredible conversation last year about neurodiversity after reading this book, and it really helped them ask thoughtful questions.

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita is a timely story about family, love, and support. The story centers on Aidan, a biracial transgender boy, and his concerns about how best to welcome and support his soon-to-arrive baby sibling. Drawing on his own experiences feeling boxed in by his assigned gender at birth, Aidan wants to make sure the new baby feels accepted and appreciated right away. As a new parent, this book made me smile so much, as I have struggled to find clothes and toys for my 17-month old that aren't exclusively pink or blue. What a breath of fresh air!

Can I Touch Your Hair: poems of race, mistakes, and friendship by Charles Waters and Irene Latham and illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. Last year we spent two days unpacking this one, as the poems make for a longer read than most picture books. It also has some heavy content that required some schema-building with my fifth graders: about police shootings, about Trayvon, about the N-word, and continuing our conversations about identity, prejudice, and stereotypes. So much growth and so many conversations were started with this book.

What are your favorite inclusive books for the first weeks of school? Please share in the comments below! (Looking for more #pb10for10? Check out #pb10for10 on Twitter or click the #pb10for10 tag to see my previous years' posts.)


  1. I love Jabari Jumps and Can I Touch Your Hair?, Katie, and love that you have these plans for the beginning of school. Thanks for the ones I already know - Alma, Imagine, I'm New Here, The Day You Begin - & the ones I'll look for, including so many wonderful ones. My youngest granddaughter last year in first grade had a classmate who transitioned to being a girl & it went well in the community. They would have loved some of these books.

  2. Jabari Jumps and The Day You Begin are two of my favorites.


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