Three Books for the First Weeks of School

Jaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

Ready or not, the 2012-2013 school year is upon us!


And while parents are stocking up on pencils and notebooks (and, if the Target Music Teacher is to be trusted, potentially an inordinate amount of denim), teachers are busy planning for the first weeks of school.

Educators, for your planning pleasure, here are three titles to get students back in the right mindset for those first days back in the classroom:

Read Aloud:  Yasmin’s Hammer by Ann Malaspina and illustrated by Doug Chayka

Yasmin's Hammer Cover

Major topics & themes:  hard work, determination, the transformative power of education

Common Core connections:

  • What does the author want us to learn from this story?  What is the central message?  How do you know?  Use details from the story to justify your answer.  (Grades 2 & 3, Literature, Key Ideas and Details, 2)
  • Who is Yasmin?  How would you describe her?  What kind of person is she?  How do you know?  How do her actions affect what happens in the story? Use details from the story to justify your answer.  (Grade 3, Literature, Key Ideas & Details, 3)

Read Aloud: Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller and illustrated by Gregory Christie

Richard Wright and the Library Card Cover

Major topics & themes:  triumph over adversity, educational equality, scholarship

Common Core connection:

  • Ask students to write a persuasive response to the following question:  Is access to books and information a right or a privilege?  Use details from the life of Richard Wright to support your answer.  (Grades 3 & 4, Writing Standards, Text Types and Purposes, 1 a-d)

Read Aloud: Babu’s Song by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen and illustrated by Aaron Boyd

Babu's Song Cover

Major topics & themes:  educational opportunity, integrity, sacrifice

Common Core connection:

  • Where does the story take place?  How would you describe the setting? How is Bernardi’s neighborhood like your neighborhood?  How is it different?  How do the illustrations in the story help you picture the setting?  (Grades 1 & 2, Literature, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, 7)

What are your favorite books to read to your students during the first weeks of school?  Share yours in the comments!