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September 21, 2016 Read-Aloud Lessons to Foster Friendships By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    For some children, making and keeping friends comes easily, but many children in my classroom benefit from explicit discussions and lessons about friendship. This important life skill is worth the investment of some classroom time. Students who cultivate close friendships enjoy a range of benefits from better communication skills to better grades. Studies show that children who have a close friend at school "have better attitudes about school and learning." And in my experience, my classroom functions better as a whole when my students each feel connected to friends in the class.

    What Does Friendship Look Like Anchor Chart

    So, how do I help my students develop friendships? Reading aloud picture books about friendship themes is a great way to begin discussions. Read-alouds help children tap into their own feelings about friendship, and they provide a context for discussing semi-hypothetical social situations. I have some favorite friendship read-aloud books that I rely on year after year, and others I turn to depending on the social situations my students are facing. What are your favorite picture books about friendship? Please share in the comments section below!

    Bonus tip: I have been finding more and more of the picture books I use in my classroom online (mostly on YouTube,) as video read-alouds. This doesn’t replace my read-aloud for my students, but I’ve begun to use the video read-alouds in many ways. Students enjoy re-listening to books as a center or enrichment activity. It also provides a way for students to “refer back to the text” for books above their independent reading level, and it’s a way that absent kids can catch up on read-alouds that they missed. I’ve included video links wherever possible on my booklist below.

    Ways To Be A Friend Anchor Chart

    Picture Books About Friendship

    Four Feet Two Sandals Cover

    Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed

    This is a heartrending book about a friendship between two girls in a refugee camp. “She bent down and took the sandals off. She handed them to Lina. 'You cannot go barefoot to America.’” I cry every single time I read this part to my students. If nothing else, I am definitely modeling how books can affect us emotionally! 

    (This video read-aloud shows the text as it is read on each page.) 

    Those Shoes Cover

    Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

    Continuing with the “shoe theme” from Four Feet, Two Sandals, this book also covers more ground than just friendship. The main character’s family cannot afford the cool sneakers that everyone is wearing; he needs to wear hand-me-downs and thrift store shoes. Yet despite their financial hardships, Jeremey demonstrates generosity towards another child, beginning an important friendship.

    (Those Shoes has a video read-aloud on YouTube.)

    Crazy Hair Day Cover

    Crazy Hair Day by Barney Saltzberg

    When Stanley shows up with an amazing “do” for Crazy Hair Day, his excitement quickly turns to despair when he realizes it’s actually picture day. Things get worse when his classmates laugh at him. After a while, his classmates do an “apology of action” to mend fences with Stanley. I use this book to start a discussion about the importance of making amends to fix damaged friendships and different ways to apologize. This is a great article from Responsive Classroom about how to teach children to give and receive genuine apologies.

    (Crazy Hair Day has an excellent video read-aloud by the author!)

    Chester's Way Cover

    Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes

    This book is perfect for helping children navigate the ever-tricky three-way friendship. I usually wait until I notice at least one group of students struggling to manage a group friendship before reading this book. Chester’s Way is also helpful for discussions about how friends do not need to be exactly alike to have a strong friendship — it’s okay to keep an individual identity!

    (Storyline Online created a professionally-produced video read-aloud of Chester’s Way that includes a simultaneous ASL translation of the entire story.)

    Best Friends Cover

    Best Friends by Steven Kellogg

    I loved this book as a child, so it’s a special one I occasionally share with my class. I particularly like the illustrated portrayals of the narrator’s feelings, rendered into visual fantasies. The book models for children that friends share an imaginary inner life, and it’s also helpful for discussion of how friendships may wax and wane, and that’s okay.

    (In addition to this basic video read-aloudhere is a great virtual “author visit” with Kellogg.)

    Making Friends Is an Art Cover

    Making Friends Is an Art by Julia Cook

    This book is explicit in its focus on teaching children how to make friends: by being a friend. Bridget Barnes’s creative illustrations of the colored pencil characters rescue this book from preachiness. Each color embodies a friendship trait, and ultimately all of the colors (and traits) combine in brown. You could easily combine this read-aloud with an open exploration of paint and the different ways to mix colors to get brown.

    (Here is an expressive read-aloud version of Making Friends Is an Art.)

    Apology of Action Anchor Chart

    My students and I created this anchor chart as part of a lesson about "apologies of action." I first learned about the Apology of Action idea from the excellent Responsive Classroom management book, Teaching Children to Care by Ruth Sidney Charney. 

     

    Friendship Book Pairings

    Sometimes I choose to share pairs of books that are thematically related. It helps my students connect two different texts, compare and contrast, and begin to notice that themes reappear in different books, even when the details are different. Here are a couple of lovely pairings about friendship themes.

    Be A Friend Cover Wings Cover

    Be a Friend by Salina Yoon and Wings by Christopher Myers

    Both of these fabulously illustrated books focus of an extraordinary main character who feels isolated by his unique gift. Life gets better for both characters when they each make a friend.

    (Be a Friend doesn’t have a video read-aloud but there’s a quirky song about the book available on YouTube. Wings has a video read-aloud, as well as a great author interview with Myers.)

    Name Jar Cover My Name Is Yoon Cover

    The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi and My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits

    Both of these books focus on immigrant girls who wrestle with identity and loneliness at their new schools until each one of them makes a friend.

    (The Name Jar video read-aloud and My Name is Yoon video read-aloud)

     

    While I find these friendship discussions are particularly important during the first months of school, I often revisit the topic whenever I notice that my students need some time to think about how to navigate evolving friendships. I hope some of these books are helpful as you continue to build your classroom community now and throughout the year!

    For more ideas and book suggestions, be sure to check out blogger Brian Smith’s awesome post, "Helping Students Make Friends!" And for updates about my blog posts, or just to say “hi!” follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

    For some children, making and keeping friends comes easily, but many children in my classroom benefit from explicit discussions and lessons about friendship. This important life skill is worth the investment of some classroom time. Students who cultivate close friendships enjoy a range of benefits from better communication skills to better grades. Studies show that children who have a close friend at school "have better attitudes about school and learning." And in my experience, my classroom functions better as a whole when my students each feel connected to friends in the class.

    What Does Friendship Look Like Anchor Chart

    So, how do I help my students develop friendships? Reading aloud picture books about friendship themes is a great way to begin discussions. Read-alouds help children tap into their own feelings about friendship, and they provide a context for discussing semi-hypothetical social situations. I have some favorite friendship read-aloud books that I rely on year after year, and others I turn to depending on the social situations my students are facing. What are your favorite picture books about friendship? Please share in the comments section below!

    Bonus tip: I have been finding more and more of the picture books I use in my classroom online (mostly on YouTube,) as video read-alouds. This doesn’t replace my read-aloud for my students, but I’ve begun to use the video read-alouds in many ways. Students enjoy re-listening to books as a center or enrichment activity. It also provides a way for students to “refer back to the text” for books above their independent reading level, and it’s a way that absent kids can catch up on read-alouds that they missed. I’ve included video links wherever possible on my booklist below.

    Ways To Be A Friend Anchor Chart

    Picture Books About Friendship

    Four Feet Two Sandals Cover

    Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed

    This is a heartrending book about a friendship between two girls in a refugee camp. “She bent down and took the sandals off. She handed them to Lina. 'You cannot go barefoot to America.’” I cry every single time I read this part to my students. If nothing else, I am definitely modeling how books can affect us emotionally! 

    (This video read-aloud shows the text as it is read on each page.) 

    Those Shoes Cover

    Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

    Continuing with the “shoe theme” from Four Feet, Two Sandals, this book also covers more ground than just friendship. The main character’s family cannot afford the cool sneakers that everyone is wearing; he needs to wear hand-me-downs and thrift store shoes. Yet despite their financial hardships, Jeremey demonstrates generosity towards another child, beginning an important friendship.

    (Those Shoes has a video read-aloud on YouTube.)

    Crazy Hair Day Cover

    Crazy Hair Day by Barney Saltzberg

    When Stanley shows up with an amazing “do” for Crazy Hair Day, his excitement quickly turns to despair when he realizes it’s actually picture day. Things get worse when his classmates laugh at him. After a while, his classmates do an “apology of action” to mend fences with Stanley. I use this book to start a discussion about the importance of making amends to fix damaged friendships and different ways to apologize. This is a great article from Responsive Classroom about how to teach children to give and receive genuine apologies.

    (Crazy Hair Day has an excellent video read-aloud by the author!)

    Chester's Way Cover

    Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes

    This book is perfect for helping children navigate the ever-tricky three-way friendship. I usually wait until I notice at least one group of students struggling to manage a group friendship before reading this book. Chester’s Way is also helpful for discussions about how friends do not need to be exactly alike to have a strong friendship — it’s okay to keep an individual identity!

    (Storyline Online created a professionally-produced video read-aloud of Chester’s Way that includes a simultaneous ASL translation of the entire story.)

    Best Friends Cover

    Best Friends by Steven Kellogg

    I loved this book as a child, so it’s a special one I occasionally share with my class. I particularly like the illustrated portrayals of the narrator’s feelings, rendered into visual fantasies. The book models for children that friends share an imaginary inner life, and it’s also helpful for discussion of how friendships may wax and wane, and that’s okay.

    (In addition to this basic video read-aloudhere is a great virtual “author visit” with Kellogg.)

    Making Friends Is an Art Cover

    Making Friends Is an Art by Julia Cook

    This book is explicit in its focus on teaching children how to make friends: by being a friend. Bridget Barnes’s creative illustrations of the colored pencil characters rescue this book from preachiness. Each color embodies a friendship trait, and ultimately all of the colors (and traits) combine in brown. You could easily combine this read-aloud with an open exploration of paint and the different ways to mix colors to get brown.

    (Here is an expressive read-aloud version of Making Friends Is an Art.)

    Apology of Action Anchor Chart

    My students and I created this anchor chart as part of a lesson about "apologies of action." I first learned about the Apology of Action idea from the excellent Responsive Classroom management book, Teaching Children to Care by Ruth Sidney Charney. 

     

    Friendship Book Pairings

    Sometimes I choose to share pairs of books that are thematically related. It helps my students connect two different texts, compare and contrast, and begin to notice that themes reappear in different books, even when the details are different. Here are a couple of lovely pairings about friendship themes.

    Be A Friend Cover Wings Cover

    Be a Friend by Salina Yoon and Wings by Christopher Myers

    Both of these fabulously illustrated books focus of an extraordinary main character who feels isolated by his unique gift. Life gets better for both characters when they each make a friend.

    (Be a Friend doesn’t have a video read-aloud but there’s a quirky song about the book available on YouTube. Wings has a video read-aloud, as well as a great author interview with Myers.)

    Name Jar Cover My Name Is Yoon Cover

    The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi and My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits

    Both of these books focus on immigrant girls who wrestle with identity and loneliness at their new schools until each one of them makes a friend.

    (The Name Jar video read-aloud and My Name is Yoon video read-aloud)

     

    While I find these friendship discussions are particularly important during the first months of school, I often revisit the topic whenever I notice that my students need some time to think about how to navigate evolving friendships. I hope some of these books are helpful as you continue to build your classroom community now and throughout the year!

    For more ideas and book suggestions, be sure to check out blogger Brian Smith’s awesome post, "Helping Students Make Friends!" And for updates about my blog posts, or just to say “hi!” follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

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