Back to School
Fall is on its way, and it's time for the school year to begin — and not just for kids, but for parents and teachers, too. Parents can help their young children become acclimated to the newness of school and ease their older kids back into familiar school-day routines. If you're a teacher — whether a novice or an old pro — Reading Rockets has ideas and resources to help you get ready for the best school year yet.
Resources for parents and educators
Back-to-school night and beyond
Reading Rockets has gathered resources to share with parents as well as materials to help parents make the most of back-to-school night and set the tone for a successful school year.
Back-to-school tips for special education teachers
Our top 10 back-to-school tips for special education teachers emphasize communication, organization, and a focus on student success.
Parent involvement checklist
Does your school do a good job of reaching out to parents? Use this checklist to evaluate and improve parent-school partnerships.
Growing Readers newsletter for parents
These one-page briefs, in English and Spanish, tackle topics ranging from family literacy activities to what to do if you have concerns about your child's progress in school. Teachers can include these briefs in their school or classroom newsletters.
Children’s books for back to school
Stories about the changing season, school days, and new friends can help ease kids into the school year. You'll find some of our back-to-school favorites below, including stories that celebrate joyful, welcoming schools. To search for more books, use our Book Finder tool!
- School Days
- It's Back-to-School Time!
- New Month, New Friends, and New School Year!
- Are You Ready? School's Open!
- Celebrating Kids Who Learn Differently
- Books About Kids Who Find Reading Hard
- Field Trips and Other Adventures
- September Starts
- Teachers are Terrific!
- Change Is in the Air
- Signs of September
Just for parents
Your child's school
Who's who at your child's school
There are many people at your child's school who are there to help your child learn, grow socially and emotionally, and navigate the school environment. You might want to keep this list handy all year long.
Open House: What does a good classroom look like?
Does your child's school host an Open House before school starts? Here are some thoughts on what to look for that can set the right tone for a great school year.
Listen and look at back-to-school night
Back-to-school night is a great opportunity for families to learn more about their child's school and teacher. Here are some signs to look for that indicate your child is in a place where good reading instruction can take place. (In English and Spanish)
What's screening, differentiated instruction, and leveled text?
When the back-to-school bell starts ringing, parents often hear and read school-related terms that are unfamiliar to them. Here are three terms related to reading instruction that will give you a better understanding of what's happening in your child's classroom and what it all means for your young learner. (In English and Spanish)
Helping your child succeed at school
Easing back into school
Back-to-school is an exciting (and sometimes nervous!) time for students and parents. A few tips might help you and your child get off on the right foot. (In English and Spanish)
Helping your child succeed in school
Ten things to do to help your child succeed at school. (In English and Spanish)
Reading tips for parents in 13 languages
Download and print these one-page tip sheets available in English and 12 other languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Haitian Creole, Hmong, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Navajo, and Vietnamese (currently available for pre-K through third grade). Tips for parents of babies and toddlers are available in English and Spanish.
Small notes tucked inside a lunchbox or bookbag can really bring a smile to your child's face. These printable notes, featuring artwork by well-known children's book illustrators, will encourage reading and remind your child that you are thinking of them!
English language learners
For families of English language learners
Visit our bilingual sister site, Colorín Colorado, for information on helping your child become a good reader and a successful student.
Children with learning and attention issues
Back-to-school tips for parents of children with special needs
Our Top 8 back-to-school tips for parents emphasize communication, organization, and staying up-to-date on special education news.
6 Parent Tips for a Smooth Back-to-School Transition
The start of school brings a lot of changes — new teachers, new schedules and new school demands. Planning is key to a successful transition. Here are six parent-tested tips for back-to-school. (From Understood.org, for parents of children with learning and attention issues.)
New school year = rough transitions for some
"Back to school" has special meaning for Henry. Transitions are tough for him, so these first few weeks of getting adjusted are hard for everyone. I know things will eventually settle down, but I wish these this time of year could be easier. So many tantrums, so many tears." What can parents of struggling students do during these first few weeks of school?
Building a good relationship with your child's teacher
Get practical tips on fostering a sense of partnership with the teacher and administration to support your child's education.
Organization problems and the beginning of the school year
Find helpful tips and strategies to help your child with learning disabilities get organized for school.
For teachers: creating a welcoming, literacy-rich classroom
The literacy-rich environment emphasizes the importance of speaking, reading, and writing in the learning of all students. This involves the selection of materials that will facilitate language and literacy opportunities; reflection and thought regarding classroom design; and intentional instruction and facilitation by teachers and staff.
Creating a classroom library
How do you create a classroom library that is both organized and enticing to young readers? One teacher illustrates how she set up her classroom library, including tips on acquiring books and materials, organizing the shelves, creating labels, and making it cozy.
Arranging your classroom
As a teacher, setting up your classroom is one of the most exciting parts of August! Where should the classroom library go? Where should the teacher desk go? How should the student desks be arranged?
Literacy centers offer meaningful learning experiences where students work independently or collaboratively to meet literacy goals. Get the basics on how to set them up in your classroom.
Literacy centers: getting started
This lesson from ReadWriteThink gives teachers resources and guidance to establish four different centers: reading, listening, computer, and poetry.
A classroom layout for literacy centers
From Scholastic, tips on setting up classroom centers for listening, guided reading, poetry, writing, buddy reading, word study, and more.
English language learners
Creating a welcoming classroom for English language learners
Your ELL students are adjusting to new ways of saying and doing things. As their teacher, you are an important bridge to this unknown culture and school system. Here are things you can do to help make your students' transitions as smooth as possible.
Reaching out to parents of English language learners
Some Hispanic parents may feel apprehensive about getting involved because of their limited English skills, lack of familiarity with mainstream culture and the public school system in the U.S., and other reasons. Here are some ways to reach out to parents of ELLs and increase their involvement with school.
Especially for first year teachers
The first year of teaching is tough. Everything is new, from the students to school procedures to new relationships with colleagues, administrators and parents — not to mention lesson planning and classroom management. These resources can help you navigate your first year.
Reading 101: A Guide to Teaching Reading and Writing
Reading 101 is a self-paced professional development course for novice teachers developed by Reading Rockets. The 10 modules include video segments featuring teachers using effective strategies for teaching core reading skills including phonemic awareness, phonics, speech sounds, and text comprehension. This is a great refresher program for experienced teachers, too!
Teachers who know the art and science of teaching reading are able to provide skillful, effective reading instruction, and can help students who need it overcome obstacles to becoming readers. This section of this Reading Rockets provides detailed information on the components of effective reading instruction.
Scheduling Reading and Writing Instruction
Literacy expert Tim Shanahan recommends 120-180 minutes each day of reading and writing instruction. In this blog post, he suggests a flexible daily schedule (not a block) that allows for instruction and practice in oral reading fluency, word knowledge, reading comprehension, and writing.
Honoring Children's Rights to Excellent Reading Instruction
Every child deserves excellent reading teachers — they make a profound difference in children's reading achievement and motivation to read.
Children with learning and attention issues
September Thoughts: Reflections on a New School Year
Wise advice from LD expert and advocate Rick Lavoie. "As we lurch toward September, let me offer some advice that may be helpful as you attempt to make special needs kids in your class feel warm, welcome, and wanted. Using the word SEPTEMBER, I have written of nine concepts that I believe can help you in this effort."
About Stephen — and fresh starts
Educator Brenda Dyck shares the story of Stephen and ponders the importance of offering a fresh start to every student who enters her classroom.
English language learners
English language learners and the five components of reading
Learn how you can play to the strengths and shore up the weaknesses of ELLs in each of these areas: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
Resources for first year ELL teachers
Colorín Colorado has compiled this list to help new ELL teachers navigate their first year in the classroom. These resources may also be helpful for veteran teachers who are new to teaching ELLs.
Teaching tools: guides, lesson plans, and more
Target the Problem
This tool helps parents and classroom teachers understand the specific problems a child may be having with reading. You'll find practical suggestions on what you (and kids themselves) can do to help students overcome or deal with their reading difficulties.
Launching Young Readers Teachers' Guide
Created for preschool through second grade teachers, the Teachers' Guide lists typical reading achievements by grade level and suggests how teachers can foster the development of phonemic awareness, fluency, spelling, writing, and comprehension skills.
- Launching Young Readers Teachers' Guide (846K PDF)*
AFT Share My Lesson
This online resource from the American Federation of Teachers provides high-quality and effective lessons, useful information to use in the classroom, and professional development.
NEA Back to School Guide
The National Education Association has compiled a list of their best articles and resources to help you — whether new or veteran — get ready for the fall semester.