Sunday, August 2, 2020

Back-to-School Picture Books 2020 Recommendations for #classroombookaday

With all of the uncertainty facing educators about how we might be starting this school year, there is one thing I do know for certain: We can use picture books to start building relationships and connections with and among our students. Whether virtual behind a screen or in person behind a mask/shield, we can use picture books to create a more welcoming environment that honors all students and shows them they have a place in our virtual or physically distanced classroom communities.

For my back-to-school recommendations this year, I have chosen books with themes of friendship, focusing on the power of names, being welcoming to those from other cultures, doing our best in the circumstances we are given, thinking about worry and what to do with it, several around families near and far, some straight-forward ones around racism and viruses and consent, grieving those lost or moved away, dealing with worry around the first day, empowering stories, those that honor Black lives and raise up Asian American creators and characters, and a few that are just fun in thinking about our classroom and reading spaces. I believe this collection will have something for everyone to fit that first month back with students as teachers try to be responsive to the needs of their group and build community from the start.
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, anxiety, or despair that may also be present. I wish you the best in whatever your circumstances may be as we head back this year. xo Jillian
Here are 37 picture books I recommend for back-to-school read alouds this year. 

A slide collection with book covers of the 37 picture books recommended in this post.

2020 Back-to-School Picture Book Recommendations
*You can shop this list at Bookshop to support independent bookstores + my work. 

by Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Song

by Flavia Z. Drago

by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett

by Katrina Moore, illustrated by Julia Woolf

by Alexandra Pendolf, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

by Ashley Franklin, illustrated by Ebony Glenn

by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Nina Crews

by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

by Ryan T. Higgins

by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

by Angela Joy, illustrated by Euka Holmes

by Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Dream Chen

by Tiffany Rose

by Minh Lê, illustrated by Gus Gordon

by Emily Neilson

by Aya Khalil, illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan

by Cece Meng, illustrated by Jago

by Anna Kim

by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

by Michelle Cook, illustrated by 14 Black Illustrators

by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

by Malia Jones

by Julie Berry, illustrated by Holly Hatam

by Cori Doerrfeld

by Gaia Cornwall

by Jelani Memory

by Sarah Lynne Reul

by Juana Martinez-Neal

by Sheetal Sheth, illustrated by Jessica Blank

I'm Worried
by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

by Christian Robinson

by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Luisa Uribe

by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins


  1. Thank you for this list and I really enjoyed your 2 classes (#ClassroomBookAday 101 & #ClassroomBookAday Power of Critical Selection). I am ordering books from Follett and am trying to pull up your Lists. What is the best path to find them? Thanks in advance!

    1. All of my Follett lists can be found by searching "Jillian Heise Book Lists" in Titlewave.