20 Engaging Back to School Read Alouds for Upper Elementary


Can you feel it? The back-to-school season is just around the corner, and it’s time to start preparing for another exciting year of learning and growth. As teachers, we know that one of the best ways to kickstart the school year is with engaging read alouds that not only captivate our students’ imaginations, but also reinforce good choices and help us set expectations. A great assortment of read alouds can set the tone for a successful year ahead.

I’ve put together a list of 20 fantastic back-to-school read alouds specifically tailored for upper elementary students. These books are not only entertaining but also packed with valuable lessons, relatable characters, and opportunities for meaningful discussions in the classroom. 

Whether you’re looking for stories that tackle friendship, resilience, diversity, or simply want to ignite your students’ love for reading, I’ve got you covered. Click here to shop the list on Amazon.

Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen

A heartwarming book that highlights the sense of community in a classroom. Through relatable characters and beautiful illustrations, it emphasizes treating classmates like family and creating a positive learning environment. This engaging read-aloud promotes values of respect, empathy, and cooperation among students.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

This book celebrates diversity and inclusivity in a school setting. The story follows a group of diverse children as they go about their day at school, embracing their differences and fostering a sense of belonging. Through vivid illustrations and lyrical text, the book emphasizes the importance of acceptance, friendship, and unity. It encourages readers to embrace each other’s cultures, backgrounds, and traditions, promoting a welcoming and inclusive environment.

What if Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick

A thought-provoking book that explores the consequences of individual actions. Through engaging illustrations and relatable scenarios, the book encourages readers to consider the impact of their choices on others and the world around them. With a humorous tone, it teaches valuable lessons about responsibility, empathy, and the power of making positive choices.

The Very Inappropriate Word by Jim Tobin

Humorous and heartwarming, this book tackles the concept of inappropriate language. The story follows a young boy named Michael who accidentally discovers a word he thinks is hilarious, but soon realizes its negative impact on those around him. Through funny and relatable situations, the book teaches valuable lessons about the importance of choosing words carefully and considering the feelings of others. 

The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio

A story about friendship, diversity, and acceptance. Two best friends discover that their lunch choices—peanut butter and jelly sandwich versus hummus and pita bread—are different, leading to teasing and misunderstanding. However, after a taste test and an eye-opening experience, the girls learn to appreciate each other’s cultures and embrace their differences, leading to a beautiful lesson in tolerance and friendship.

Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

A young girl named Ruby discovers a worry that follows her everywhere she goes. As the worry grows bigger and heavier, Ruby learns to open up and share her worries with others, realizing that they can offer support and understanding. With empathy and reassurance, Ruby learns to cope with her worry, reminding young readers that it’s okay to ask for help and that they’re not alone in facing their fears.

The Cool Bean by Jory John 

The Cool Bean struggles with feeling left out and uncool. Through a series of events and unexpected friendships, The Cool Bean learns that true coolness comes from being kind, inclusive, and true to oneself. This delightful read aloud emphasizes the importance of acceptance, self-confidence, and the power of friendship in embracing our unique qualities.

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig 

A must read! This is the story of Brian, a quiet and overlooked boy who often goes unnoticed by his classmates. Despite feeling invisible, Brian finds comfort in his imagination. When a new student, Justin, arrives, Brian’s kindness and inclusion make him visible, fostering a sense of belonging and friendship among his peers. This heartwarming picture book emphasizes the power of empathy, acceptance, and the impact a small act of kindness can have on someone’s life.

We Don’t Eat our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Penelope Rex is excited to start school but soon realizes that her classmates are all human children. Despite her best intentions, Penelope can’t resist the urge to eat them, leading to humorous and teachable moments about empathy, friendship, and treating others with kindness. This delightful story reminds upper elementary readers about the importance of accepting differences and finding common ground with their peers.

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

Chicken can’t resist interrupting bedtime stories with her own imaginative and hilarious twists. Despite her father’s best efforts to read the stories uninterrupted, Chicken’s enthusiasm for participation continues to get in the way. This adorable story is a playful reminder of the importance of taking turns and respecting boundaries.

My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook

Louis constantly interrupts others with his thoughts and words. His habit of “erupting” like a volcano causes frustration and disruption in school and at home, until he learns a valuable lesson about self-control and listening. This back to school read alouds encourages young readers to reflect on their own communication habits and offers strategies to manage their impulses, making it a valuable resource for teaching social skills and empathy.

The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizz

With colorful illustrations and an inspiring message, this book teaches children the importance of embracing a growth mindset, believing in their potential, and understanding that with time and effort, they can achieve their goals. It encourages students to shift their perspective from immediate success to the possibilities that lie ahead.

Salt in his Shoes by Deloris Jordan and Roslyn M. Jordan

Inspired by the early life of Michael Jordan, this story revolves around a young Michael who dreams of growing taller to excel in basketball. The lesson serves as a source of inspiration for children, teaching them important lessons about resilience, determination, and the power of self-belief. It highlights the importance of setting goals, staying committed, and embracing the journey towards achieving one’s dreams.

Bubblegum Brain by Julia Cook

The main character, Nell, learns about the power of having a growth mindset. Nell’s brain is compared to bubblegum, showing that it can stretch and grow with effort and practice. Through playful and relatable illustrations, young readers discover the benefits of embracing challenges, having a positive attitude, and taking on new learning experiences. 

I Promise by LeBron James

One of my favorite back to school read alouds, this book emphasizes the values of hard work, dedication, and unity. Through inspiring words and vibrant illustrations, LeBron encourages young readers to dream big and believe in themselves. The book highlights the importance of perseverance, teamwork, and giving back to the community, leaving readers with a powerful message of empowerment and the promise of a brighter future.

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae

Gerald the giraffe longs to dance, but he is convinced that his long legs and clumsy moves make him incapable. With the help of a wise cricket, Gerald discovers that embracing his unique rhythm and dancing to his own beat is what truly matters. This charming tale teaches children about the importance of self-acceptance, and having the confidence to pursue their passions, regardless of what others may think.

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex

This adorable book explores the nervousness and excitement of the first day of school from a unique perspective. The story unfolds through the eyes of the school building itself, Frederick Douglass Elementary, who is experiencing its first day of being a school. As the students arrive, the school encounters various emotions, from anticipation to awkward moments, and even some unexpected surprises. This back to school read aloud reassures young readers that it’s normal to feel a mix of emotions and that school can be a place of friendship, learning, and adventure.

Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners by Laurie Keller

The story follows Mr. Rabbit as he learns how to interact with his new otter neighbors using the Golden Rule: to treat others as he would like to be treated. This book engages readers while instilling important values of empathy, friendship, and good manners.

The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright

Kevin, a timid koala, is hesitant to leave his tree and try new things. However, with the support and encouragement of his animal friends, Kevin discovers that stepping out of his comfort zone can lead to exciting adventures and a newfound sense of confidence. This story reminds readers that it’s okay to be afraid, but trying something new can bring unexpected joy and growth.

A Thousand No’s by DJ Corchin

This back to school read alouds encourages perseverance, creativity, and resilience. Despite the setbacks, Amy, an artist,  learns that every “no” is an opportunity to grow, learn, and discover her unique artistic voice, ultimately leading to a triumphant “yes.” The story encourages upper elementary readers to embrace rejection and stay true to oneself.

Looking for a great back to school activity to pair with any of these books? Check it out here and download one banner for FREE at the top of this page!

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