Book-School Year Tradition by Jen Vincent

The holidays are here and with them come traditions. I’ll never forget my son’s first Christmas. All of a sudden, I felt overwhelmed with the need to establish traditions that we would do every year. I looked back at my childhood and recognized great memories with my family that I was excited to give to my own kids through continued and new family traditions.


Nerdy Book Clubbers have shared some of their traditions before me. Like Teresa, our whole family gets new pajamas on Christmas Eve and last year we started the tradition of waking up to a book in your bed. Bridget shared how important read aloud is in her classroom and how they are always inviting others to come and read aloud books with them. My kids freak out if we aren’t home to read books before bedtime. This is something we do so consistently that I sometimes overlook it as a tradition, but it really is.


Matthew Holm grew up surrounded by books and shared how books are handed down in his family. My mother-in-law brings over book that my husband read when he was little from time to time. It’s fun to look at books from the 80’s and it will be exciting when my kids are old enough to read books I loved in high school. Finally, Jilian has shown us her top ten author signatures. Meeting authors and getting books signed is also a tradition we love. I’m hoping to be able to take my kids to at least one author visit a year. This year, it was like a birthday present when we met Eric Litwin, author of Pete the Cat, the week my son turned five.

When my little peanut went off to kindergarten in August, we bought him The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. My husband and I both wrote letters to him about starting kindergarten and how proud of him we are. He’s a sensitive little kiddo and as we read them to him he buried his face in his pillow. When I asked him if he was okay, he croaked out, “It’s really nice.”


Over the weekend, RJ Palacio was signing her book Wonder. Standing in line, the multiple copies I already own of the book came to mind. And then I realized I could buy two copies, one for each of my sons, and save to give to them when they start fifth grade. Now I had books to give to my kids on the first day of kindergarten and the first day of fifth grade…of course, I had to choose books for the grades in between.


The books I chose are all books that I love but also books that I feel have a common theme of trusting in who you are and being kind to others. Here’s what I came up with (not to say that it won’t change…but these are books that I adore and would love for my kids to have their own copies).



The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn


First day of kindergarten – August 2012


First Grade:

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf


Second Grade:

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett


Third Grade:

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate


Fourth Grade:

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger


Fifth Grade:

Wonder by RJ Palacio



What books would you choose to give to a student at the beginning of the school year? I would love to hear what books stand out to you for different grades.


How about bookish traditions? Which book-related traditions do you celebrate in your house or in your classroom?


Jen Vincent taught as a hearing itinerant teacher for ten years. She currently works as a teacher leader in her district co-coordinating the Teacher Mentor Program. Her dreams of bringing her love of literacy to this new position are coming true. It’s one small step for this girl, but one giant leap towards Nerdy Book Club world domination. Jen blogs at and is on Twitter as @mentortexts.