BLOGS  >  AUGUST 4, 2021

Relationship Building at the Start of the School Year


One of the most valuable parts about #classroombookaday daily picture book read-alouds is that they give educators a chance, every single day, to share stories that can build community and help develop relationships with their students. I always start the school year with a focus on titles that will link with routines we are starting to develop and also ones that create a strong base to start building relationships. This year in particular, during a global pandemic with which we had an abrupt end to in-person instruction during the spring and missed those last few months of closure in the ways we are normally used to, there will be a unique need to dive deeper into relationship building to kick off those first weeks of the new school year and reassure nervous students. Being out of predictable routines, having uncertainty about what’s to come, and meeting new teachers through a computer screen or blocked by a mask and/or shield will all be factors in hindering a bit of the usual way teachers might connect with students to start building relationships and how the classroom community is developed with their peers. Whether starting the school year virtually, or in person in masks with physical distancing, neither will be a setting that feels as welcoming as school typically does.

With all of that in mind, I wanted to focus this September’s list on picture books that will provide a base to start building those relationships, virtually or in person. I intentionally chose picture books that focus on friendships, fitting in or being welcomed into a group, connecting with others, strong emotions (grief, sadness or anger), the power of names and culture, and those that share nervousness about meeting new classmates. I wanted to choose books that can show the love and respect we have for the young people in our charge and have a focus on showing the inclusiveness of the classroom environment and that the teacher is welcoming of all – whether they have the same background or not.

I hope that you will find the space to keep #classroombookaday going with your community this year. I hope that these titles will bring you comfort and inspiration for the work we have ahead during this ongoing global pandemic to keep kids and relationships at the heart of our classrooms, no matter the worry, fear or despair that may also be present. And I hope that you give yourself the time and space to develop these new relationships through picture book stories and choosing to highlight those that represent all kids to help achieve that goal.

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Jillian Heise, NBCT and MLIS, is currently a K-5 Library Media Teacher in southeastern Wisconsin. She previously taught Grades 7 and 8 ELA in the Milwaukee area for 11 years. Jillian is the founder of #classroombookaday and dedicated to supporting all student identities and lived experiences through access to inclusive literature. She brings her literacy expertise and knowledge of kidlit to her role as Chair of the USRA Children's Literature Committee. You can find Jillian online at Heise Reads & Recommends and @heisereads.

Read all Jillian Heise #classroombookaday articles on

Watch webinar recording presented by Jillian Heise, Building Community: #classroombookaday Read-Alouds.

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