10+ Books for Back to School that Build Positive Traits

As the school year begins, it's nice to have a stash of titles you love ready to go. This post includes 10 titles for the back to school.

Ahhhh…the first week of school. You have your LONG list of to-dos you needed to complete during your work week, and naturally, your week is filled with trainings, faculty meetings, and learning about blood born pathogens, epi pens, and PLCs. The real work for your first week starts the weekend before the children come, and that is where we are today (except I had to lead a few of the trainings).  In this post, I’ll share my favorite book titles for back to school.

To help you make your weekend a bit easier, I am linking up with a few blogging friends to share Back to School tips and printables you can use the first week (and beyond). Since the focus of my blog is on literacy, I thought I’d share suggestions of great books you might grab to model the character traits and behaviors you hope to see all year long.

Building Friendships as We Go Back to School

Bully and Goggles:

When it comes to friendship, I have a long list of book choices. I love Patricia Polacco and the themes she shares in her books, and from her titles, Bully is the one I use often with upper grades. It deals with cliques which are a real problem in upper elementary. For primary students, Goggles by Ezra Jack Keats has a similar theme in that two boys are bullied by older kids. I think it’s an important read because it allows discussion of what’s okay and what’s not. Every child needs to read and know Peter and hear the stories from Ezra Jack Keats (but the rest are all very sweet natured). They are just classics.

Frog and Toad Series:

Another great choice for the primary grades is Frog and Toad are Friends. Agree? Again, all kids should know Frog and Toad. The themes are easy to connect with, and the books are perfect for first and second grade. Children at this age are anxious to read chapter books, and Frog and Toad are typically kids’ first introduction to chapter books. This bundle includes all four titles and resources by chapter.

Each Kindness:

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. It is tough because it doesn’t have a happy ending, but it will get your children thinking which is what we need them to do if they are truly going to internalize the importance of being a true friend to every child in the classroom.

Teaching Perseverance from the Beginning

This is a tough one to teach, and a read aloud will not complete the task. Perseverance takes lots and lots of practice. I think with modeling through read alouds, role playing, and observation of what perseverance looks like, kids begin to demonstrate it. This collection of books will get you started.

Whistle for Willie

If you decide to feature Ezra Jack Keats, I will point out Whistle for Willie is in this list. Peter is trying to learn how to whistle. The story shows how he sticks with it til he’s able to whistle for his dog, Willie.

Salt in His Shoes

Salt in His Shoes is the story of Michael Jordan, and it is sure to pull in any basketball lovin’ girl or boy. This book is truly a favorite for many teachers because it demonstrates how Michael Jordan worked and worked to be the amazing basketball player he was. This unit works well for Back to School, but also if you want to teach biographies.

Amazing Grace:

Amazing Grace is a great choice for building perseverance. Grace wants to be Peter Pan in her class production, but many tell her she can’t. She works and works to perfect the moves and learn the lines. She doesn’t give up when she hears nay sayers doubt her skills.

A Chair for My Mother

The final book under this topic is A Chair for My Mother. In this classic, the family experiences a house fire and loses all of their belongings. Little by little, the family works to save loose change to buy a beautiful chair for the mother to rest and relax after working so hard. Perseverance is important in a variety of contexts, and this is a great example of saving money for large purchases.

Back to School Books for Developing Responsibility

The last trait I feel is really important for the first week of school is responsibility. Responsibility is the key to community. Our children need to be responsible for themselves and their own actions, but I think it is also important to stress responsibility in the sense of family. We need to be responsible to our class and committed to the goal of keeping safe, keeping happy, and keeping everyone on the learning train. The freebie I am sharing is for the book, Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden.  

Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden Read Aloud

Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden

This set is best for second grader and up, but may work well for a lesson later in the year for strong first graders. It includes both pdf and digital options to make it easy for use on your Smartboard or in print.

The Cool Bean:

The Cool Bean by Jory John is a new book that I highly recommend. It’s about the importance of helping others and how that is a cool thing. This resource is a comprehension check boom card deck. It’s great for use after reading.

Strega Nona:

The last book for back to school or anytime is Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. I just love this series, and Strega Nona helps Big Anthony learn to take responsibility when he goofs up and casts a magic spell that backfires. Certainly, you can tie in discussions of responsibility and that we all make mistakes.

The first few weeks are so challenging, and I hope these book recommendations and activities will help make your return to school easier. I also hope that with these tips you’ll have hard working, responsible, and kind students all year long.

Grab a Freebie Before you go…



Carla is a licensed reading specialist with 27 years of experience in the regular classroom (grades 1, 4, and 5), in Title 1 reading, as a tech specialists, and a literacy coach. She has a passion for literacy instruction and meeting the needs of the individual learner.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing these wonderful back to school texts. The YouTube you shared is so unique, loved the real pictures. The resource you shared is a perfect accompaniment to the book!
    Burke's Special Kids

  2. Hi Carla! Great book suggestions here and I LOVE the YouTube video!! Thanks for sharing!


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