I polled my three kids to jog their memory of what the read aloud books were in first grade. We had one wonderful first grade teacher twice, and PickyKidPix was even able to loop with her for second grade too!
When I think of first grade, I remember it was a time when all the kids desperately wanted to read “chapter books“, as if picture books didn’t count anymore. But often, picture books have a richer vocabulary and a more interesting story so this list includes books that teach about compassion, entertain and mesmerize. I hope you enjoy them!
What books do you recommend as a first grade read aloud? Please share!
19. One Green Apple by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ted Lewin
Eve Bunting really knows how to introduce sensitive subjects to young readers. In One Green Apple, Farah, a young Muslim immigrant finds a way to connect with her classmates on a school field trip to an apple farm, even though she doesn’t realize that green apples are sour. Learning about other cultures through picture books is a gift we can give to our kids and to the world as they grow older. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
18. A Pizza the Size of the Sun by Jack Prelutsky
Grasshopper and Sensei is starting high school this year, but she remembered this funny poetry book that her first grade teacher introduced her to by way of read aloud. Prelutsky is the perfect poetry entrée; he just makes poetry fun! [poetry, ages 4 and up]
17. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
There really was a real Miss Rumphius, who scattered Lupine seeds everywhere she went in Maine. But this dreamy picture book is more than a biography; it validates the power of dreaming. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
16. Chicken Soup With Rice: A Book of Months by Maurice Sendak
Grasshopper and Sensei’s teacher used to sing and dance using a giant version of this book. It’s also great for learning the months of the year. First graders will enjoy the movement and music aspect of singing a book! Perfect for winter! [picture book, ages 2 and up]
15. Knock Knock: My Father’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beatty, illustrated by Bryan Collier
This picture book is comforting to any child who does not have the constant presence of a father or father figure whether it’s due to divorce, death or incarceration. The message is both powerful and healing. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
14. Mama & Papa Have a Store by Amelia Lau Carling
Carling’s family immigrated to Guatemala from China where they ran a store and this picture book recalls their life as kids watching Indians buy thread used for beautiful weavings, hearing stories about China, and playing on the roof with her siblings. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
13. Ish by Peter H. Reynolds
There comes a time when a kid thinks realistic drawing skills are what define a “good” artist from a “bad” one. Reynolds’ Ish sets this idea upside down. Art can be representation but not realistic and still have merit (but he says this in a simpler and much more entertaining way!) [picture books, ages 4 and up]
12. Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-Ji by F. Zia and Ken Min
I think it’s important for kids to see themselves in books and to celebrate the different kinds of ethnic food that they might eat at home. This picture book shows a multi-generation household with the grandfather’s talent for eating Roti (an Indian flatbread) that makes him as strong as a tiger. Food = superpowers? You bet! It worked for Popeye too! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
11. Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman
My husband and I still giggle when we think of this picture book. Officer Buckle is the safety officer and he takes his job pretty seriously. Gloria is a police dog with a special talent for entertaining. Does your police safety officer present at your school? Even if this doesn’t happen (it’s doesn’t at our school either), Rathman’s picture book is hilarious fun mixed with some good cautionary warnings. [picture book, age 4 and up]
10. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
I have an Asian middle name and I remember being embarrassed about it. Unhei has just moved from Korea and worries that her name is too hard for her American classmates and teacher to remember or pronounce. Should she change it? Her classmates help out by making suggestions but in the end, everyone realizes how special her name is, just the way it is! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
9. I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Keyana dreads getting her hair combed out; it hurts so much! But her mother has a secret; her African-American hair is special and beautiful and can be styled in a myriad of ways. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
8. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Not every day at school is a good one, but there’s always the next day which will be better. Lilly’s day started out great. Her grammy took her shopping and she has a new purple plastic purse. But, Lilly’s enthusiasm for her purse makes her a tad impatient and unable to wait her turn for sharing and she gets her purse taken away by her teacher. All kids can relate to the ups and downs of a school day, even when they have a wonderful teacher like Mr. Slinger. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
7. Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant
PickyKidPix generally never reads a book twice, but in this case, after her teacher read it aloud, she insisted on checking it out from the library. She liked the story of the animals but bonus points for the rich vocabulary that Rylant sneaks into this chapter book. [chapter book, ages 6 and up]
6.A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams
After their home is destroyed by a fire, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother save their coins to buy a really comfortable chair for all to enjoy. A Chair for My Mother has sold more than a million copies and is an ideal choice for reading and sharing at home and in the classroom. “A superbly conceived picture book expressing the joyful spirit of a loving family.”—The Horn Book [picture book, ages 4 and up]
5. My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
All three of my kids enjoyed the My Father’s Dragon trilogy which they were read to at school. It’s a classic and unusual in that it’s a dragon fantasy but a very gentle one. [early chapter book, ages 6 and up]
4. Owl Moon Jane Yolen
Exploring the woods at night with your dad to find owls was never more lyrically told but Jane Yolen has a special gift for this. Even though it’s prose, I think it sounds like poetry, particularly when read aloud. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
3. Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester
Rodney (Wodney) is a rodent (wodent) with a problem. He can’t pronounce his “r’s”. PickyKidPix had the same issue in Kindergarten; it’s the last sound to develop I was told by our babysitter who was getting her Master’s in Speech Therapy. In this case, Rodney’s speech impediment saves the day in a hilarious way when a mean girl bully joins the class. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
2. Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully
Emily Arnold McCully’s picture books are all wonderful and this first book in the Mirette series is a great introduction to her work.
When Bellini, a celebrated high wire circus walker, stays at Mirette’s mother’s boarding house, she is intrigued and tries out the wire for herself. He discourages her — it’s dangerous! — but she’s so persistent and tenacious that he concedes to teach her. She finds out why is staying with them rather than performing all over Europe; he’s developed a fear of heights. In a twist of student teaching the teacher, together they make a great team. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
1. Half Magic by Edward Eager
A magic coin that grants half a wish sparks an adventure during an otherwise boring summer for vacationing cousins. Their adventures end up with real life changes as they stumble upon the perfect husband for their widowed mother. [chapter book, ages 6 and up]
p.s. I have more lists:
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