The Day You Begin book, by Jacqueline Woodson, will forever be one of my favorites to read with students during the first week of school. If you are looking for a story to help calm back-to-school jitters, The Day You Begin is a must-read!
The Day You Begin book is a remarkable story for the first week of school
So many of us have stood in that uncomfortable spot, right there in the doorway, about to enter a room where the blanket of faces staring back at you look wholly different from your own. It is a feeling bound to make your stomach hurt – especially when you’re only a child.
At that moment, all we see are the differences in those people: different skin colors and eye shapes, different clothing – even different accents when they begin to speak. What we forget during these challenging situations, however, and what we need to remind our kids, is that underneath these different exteriors lie a multitude of similarities.
This is the beauty of Jacqueline Woodson’s The Day You Begin book, stunningly illustrated by Rafael Lopez (you may remember him from one of my favorite books, Maybe Something Beautiful). The Day You Begin tells the story of a young girl who walks into a new classroom and finds no one like her. But then she sits down, her classmates begin talking, and as their words fill the air, shared sentiments become bridges to building connections.
The Day You Begin reminds us to seek out similarities rather than focusing on our differences!
The Day You Begin reads like music, with rich melodies that rouse your senses and settle softly upon your heart. It begins with a young girl peeking nervously into a new classroom, where she sees no one quite like herself.
The other children look different. They have different experiences, different lunches, and even different summer adventures. They giggle uncomfortably at the unfamiliar, at the things they don’t understand, until the teacher quiets everyone down.
Eventually, though, the kids start sharing stories. And as they speak, the nervous little girl sees herself in their words. Their stories bridge divides, foster connection, and help the kids feel less alone. The young girl eventually feels brave.
Woodson’s words in The Day You Begin book, as is typical for her, are a song to celebrate. She reassures us that when we are brave enough we can all find connections with one another.
When we discover our inner courage and extend our hands and voices, we will find possibilities where it once seemed like none existed.
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Want to purchase The Day You Begin? Buy it here!
The Day You Begin book conveys wisdom, hope, and heart, on vibrant, collaged pages that are a perfect accompaniment to the exquisite text. This is a book to treasure, reminding both children and adults that there is so much beauty to be found when we embrace who we are and find the strength to view challenges as opportunities.
We give this one two trunks up, and we have no hesitation in calling The Day You Begin book an absolute MUST for every home, classroom, and library collection.
The Day You Begin book: my favorite classroom activity
Are you looking for a simple yet effective classroom activity for the first week of school? Try this!
First, group students in pairs of two – if possible, pair up kids who aren’t already good friends. Give the class two minutes, and have them silently write down five things they notice about their classmate that appear different from themselves — whatever comes to mind.
Next, read The Day You Begin book aloud to the class. After you read, have the students pair back up again and this time, give them some time to talk about their summers – what they did, who they spent time with, anything they want to share.
After this chat session, give them a couple more minutes to write silently. This time, each student should write down five ways in which they are similar to their classmate.
Finally — discuss your findings as a group! How did the similarities make the differences seem unimportant? What kinds of connections were made? How did sharing with a classmate help bridge divides?
The Day You Begin is the perfect book to begin a new school year!
Use this beautiful story to showcase the beauty of looking beyond external differences, and watch as your students enter a new school with open eyes, compassionate hearts, and a willingness to challenge rash judgments they may make upon first meeting new people.
Want to purchase The Day You Begin? Buy it here!
Frequently Asked Questions
It is not easy to be yourself in a room full of strangers when you feel so different than others. It takes courage – a lot of it! Yet, when we look past the differences that often make us uncomfortable, we begin to see the many similarities that bind us together.
Yep! We have a great list of books for kids with anxiety that offers different stories that help kids through various nerve-wracking situations (including starting school!)
I love this book for kindergarten on up. I typically read it with kindergarten through fourth grades the first week of school!