Free Range Readers

Nurturing Self Reliant Readers and Writers in K-6 classrooms

What Are you Reading Aloud This September?


One of the most exciting aspects of planning for the new school year centers on selecting picture books to read aloud in the first weeks of school. Of course, reading novels aloud is also part of the equation, but for today I am going to focus on picture books. I remember a former colleague shared her old principal’s thoughts about choosing books that reflect not only ” who we are, but also who we want to become.” What kind of community do we dream of becoming and how will our books help us grow into our best selves? With that in mind, here are some books I am considering for September …..



What Does it Mean to Be Present? by Rana Diorio

I am so glad that I found this book. It helps students focus on the now, on being grateful and appreciating being present, listening and focusing on the moment. I found myself really wishing to address this topic with my students last year, but I did not know about this book. I am sure we will return to this book’s message throughout the year!


Another book that I am looking forward to reading with my students is A Handful of Quiet. A colleague of mine does a lot of work in her classroom with mindfulness, and I think there are many benefits. It’s especially important to find concrete ways to help students slow down and connect with themselves, and this book presents beautiful and simple ways to practice.


Zero was a class favorite last year, and will be a favorite this year, I am sure! Kids had a lot to say about ideas presented in this book, whether math or social issues related. I love seemingly simple books that pack powerful ideas, and this is certainly one of those books. Kathryn Otoshi’s other books, One (bullying, standing up)and Two (conflict resolution) also spark important classroom conversations.


Each Kindness by the incomparable Jacqueline Woodson

This book helps us really dig into the idea of what it means to be kind, and the consequences of unkind actions. This book reminds me of The Hundred Dresses,  a classic tale of bullies and bystanders, which was always a favorite of mine. Again, this is a book that helps the class have a discussion about how we treat one another and will become a touchstone text, one which we will return to across the year to mine for ideas. There are no easy answers to the main character’s feelings about her actions, which makes for robust discussion.

Shh!We Have A Plan, by Chris Haughton, is perfect for setting a tone for the year. My students are going to love this book, I just know it. It has all the elements of a good picture book, and it is funny. It also really speaks to the idea that everyone’ plans and ideas count and that sometimes it’s the quiet one who is worth listening to. I learned about this book from the amazing Shana Frazin in a presentation on top ten read alouds for Book of the Month. Shana always gives good read aloud recommendations!

Of course, this is just a “starter list!” I have more to add, and am sure I will have more books than there are hours in which to read them, but that’s part of the fun of planning read alouds. What are you planning to read aloud during the first weeks of school?

Author: mnosal

I have been in education for all of my life, in one way or another. After teaching 5th grade at an urban public charter school, I have decided to return to the public schools and to literacy coaching K-5. I also teach and mentor preservice teachers.


  1. Thanks for these gems! I will look forward to my students reactions as well.

  2. Wow! What great read alouds to start the year with! I was just reading Handful of Quiet last night. My mother in law gave it to me for my classroom. I am still trying to decide what books I will start with, but I love the idea of using our first classroom read alouds as mentors for the kind of community we will become. You’ve really got me thinking! Thanks 🙂

  3. Yes! And these are just the tip of the iceberg! Let’s continue the conversation this week! 😉

  4. What do folks allow/encourage kids to do during chapter book read alouds? Anyone allow drawing/knitting etc? Thanks!

  5. Hi Mary,
    I haven’t really explored knitting during read aloud. I do sometimes have kids “stop and sketch” but in my classroom we do a lot of co-creating meaning together. Kids are expected to turn and talk, discuss with a partner, stop and question, etc…. I want them being very present for one another during this time. I guess it depends on your goals for your community during read aloud time. Have you tried knitting or drawing, and how has it worked for you?

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