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In first grade children are learning how to read. It's exciting to watch kids be able to decode simple books on their own and become confident in their reading skills. But because first graders are just beginning to learn how to read, they can only read a limited number of simple texts. Reading is very labor intensive for first graders and they may not to be able to truly enjoy the stories they read. Reading aloud to your child is especially important during these years when independent reading may seem like so much work. By reading aloud, you are encouraging a love of reading while getting a chance to practice reading comprehension skills.
With so many children’s books out there, it can be difficult to find the right book for your first grader. Below are a list of picture books that are both enjoyable and hit on some key issues first graders may be dealing with:
- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. This incredibly cute book is about a young raccoon going off to school for the first time. In an attempt to ward off homesickness, his mother gives him a kiss in his hand to keep with him at school. This book is great to read to first graders who are feeling uneasy about becoming more independent and/or dealing with separation anxiety.
- Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. This book is about a girl with a long, unusual name who gets teased by her classmates. This is a wonderful book to read to first graders to help reinforce expectations about being kind and compassionate.
- The Incredible Book-Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers. This book about a boy who eats books and becomes unusually smart encourages kids to love reading in a fun, silly way. First graders find this book hilarious and love laughing at the absurdity of a boy who eats books.
- Reading Makes You Feel Good by Todd Parr. This is another great book that encourages a love of reading. Kids often get excited about reading when they are reminded of why people read. The Incredible Book Eating Boy teaches kids that people read to learn, while this book points out that reading is enjoyable—both great lessons for first graders.
- Ish by Peter H. Reynolds. This book about a young boy, Ramon, who can’t draw perfectly encourages first graders not to strive for perfection. When Ramon tries to draw a vase and is disappointed that it doesn’t look exactly like a vase, his sister calls his picture “vase-ish.” First graders can often have strong perfectionist tendencies; this book helps kids to try their best and accept their work as it is.
- Today I Feel Silly by Jamie Lee Curtis. First graders go through a roller coaster of emotions and often have difficulty naming the emotions they feel. This book helps kids identify how they are feeling and helps develop empathy with others.
- Sometimes I’m Bombaloo by Rachel Vail. This is another great book to guide discussions about moods and feelings. In this book, a girl gets “bombaloo” (extremely mad). Through this book, first graders learn that it’s okay to get mad and okay to express this anger in appropriate ways. This book can be a great vehicle for talking about appropriate and inappropriate ways of expressing anger.
- The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss. This Dr. Seuss classic is a good story to use for introducing concepts of diversity. In this story, the Star-Belly Sneetches and Plan-Belly Sneetches teach kids that judgments based only on how someone looks are unjust.
- I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont. This is a fabulous book for helping first graders build self-confidence and realize they don’t have to be perfect to be confident. Complete with great illustrations and humor, this book is a feel good hit with first graders!
- Olivia by Ian Falconer. Olivia is an energetic, quirky pig who likes art and having fun. Kids immediately identify with Olivia, who loves to have fun and often gets into trouble. Olivia also has two brothers and deals with sibling issues that many kids can relate to. Plus, she’s just too cute to resist!
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