Starting first grade is kind of a big deal. It's a big step from kindergarten. While kindergarten is mostly building a foundation, and learning what it means to be part of a classroom, first grade is much more about diving into learning. Not only is there a new seriousness to the curriculum, children in first grade are much more self-aware and tuned in to the world around them. To help them prepare for the big changes ahead, here are ten books every child should read before first grade, with their parents of course.
None of that has to be stressful, but it's important that parents foster perseverance, citizenship, and a love of learning early on. One of the best ways to introduce some of these ideas is through books. Likely, in first grade, children will be asked to read independently at home as part of homework. Even if they bring home books tailored to their level, it doesn't mean you should stop reading aloud to them. Even when move on to reading short chapter books, it doesn't mean you shouldn't spend time poring over a picture book with them. Or maybe they still aren't ready for independent reading. Listening to longer stories is a great way for them to learn just how magical books can be.
Making time for reading is a sure way to help your child succeed in first grade, but also a way to connect with them at home, after they've spent long hours at school.
Your child will face new challenges in first grade — and every year thereafter — and this book perfectly depicts what it's like to have a worry or a problem. It's reassuring to know that feeling this way is normal. Facing your problem might be scary, but there is a lot of good that can come from overcoming adversity. The underlying message of this book will help kids learn resilience.
Ferdinand is a classic. If you want to have a "well-read" child, this story is a must-read. But what makes this book so special is that it teaches children that it's OK to be themselves. In school, many kids will start to feel that pressure to fit in, and while that's natural, there is something to be said for doing what makes them happiest!
All of Beverly Cleary's work makes for great read-alouds, but Ramona is great for the first-grade set. In Ramona the Brave, Ramona is preparing for first grade and facing all new challenges and growing pains. Children will love to hear about Ramona's antics and will feel for her heartache. Bonus: the Ramona books are amazing audiobooks that the whole family can enjoy.
For kids who are going from a half day program to a full day program, the long days can be challenging and lead to many a bad mood, especially in the early weeks. This charming book from Lemony Snicket does an awesome job poking fun (pun intended) at bad moods, while acknowledging that these sour emotions will come and go.
Another classic readaloud, Matilda is a magical story with a love of learning at its heart. Matilda loves to read and learn. Not even awful parents or a worse headmistress will keep Matilda from succeeding. Luckily Matilda's school experiences are likely very different from other children's, but there is something wonderful about how Roald Dahl never shies away from dark subject matter. The darkness in Matilda just makes her brilliance shine that much brighter.
There are many books in the Pinkalicious series, but the second book Purplicious has one of the best messages. Liking pink is what the character Pinkalicious is all about, but being teased about her obsession really starts to wear on her. Bullying starts to take the joy out of something she loves. Like Ferdinand, Purplicious shows that being true to yourself is more important than fitting in.
Small Wonders: Jean-Henri Fabre and His World of Insects by Matthew Clark Smith, $14, Amazon
This fascinating picture book biography of French naturalist Jean-Henri Fabre shares the wonders of the insects that live all around us. First graders will be encouraged to read all kinds of books, including nonfiction. So many children prefer facts to stories, and this book spans the gap between those kinds of books. New discoveries can be found anywhere you look.
Strega Nona is a fun tale about a witch, a magic pasta pot, and a boy who doesn't pay attention. There are many first graders that can use a little help paying attention. This story is a fun way to drive home the lesson of listening and following directions, even though, thankfully, no child's inattention will cause a flood of pasta that they have to eat their way out of.
If your child loves looking at beautiful illustrations, they will absolutely devour The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Each illustration is presented without a story. Only a small caption gives a clue as to what might be going on. These illustrations will plant seeds of creativity and imagination, skills that your child will develop in first grade. This book can be a gateway to a lot of adventures.
Kevin Henkes is the king of writing relatable characters. Somehow reading these books will bring you right back to the worries of any given age group. Lilly is perfect for first-graders. She loves her school, and her awesome teacher. She can't wait to share her beloved plastic purse at show-and-tell, but then her teacher takes it away from her, deeming it a distraction. Like other books on this list, this story will reassure kids about the feelings they experience at school, but more than that, Lilly's story is a lot of fun.
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