The King of Kindergarten

The King of Kindergarten

It’s time to start kindergarten, and you know what, kid?

You got this!

It’s your time to shine and be the King of Kindergarten!” 

The King of Kindergarten joyfully written by Derrick Barnes and artfully illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton should be every kindergarten teacher’s read during the sparkling-with-opportunity first few minutes of their bright and shiny first day of the oh-so-important kindergarten year.  I will definitely be weaseling my way into a kindergarten class to read this uplifting book and then loaning to everyone I know.  

Derrick Barnes charmed us with The Crown and now gives us a similarly powerful message of “you got this” with The King of Kindergarten.  The King of Kindergarten doesn’t stop there, each page brings to a crystal clear focus the messages of ‘you got this’ and each of us can help our fellow travelers to feel noticed, empowered, and appreciated.  

From the title page, the straight posture, bright eyes, and shiny crown are on full display, but notice how Vanessa Brantley-Newton subtly adds a snippet of the words to Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend, right there, out of the gate.  A beautiful dedication to Derrick Barnes’ personal child and all the children of the world reminds them (and us) that we see each and every one of them. 

A child must learn early to believe that he is 

somebody worthwhile and that he can do

many praiseworthy things.  The child must

have the love of family and the protections they 

Give in order to LIVE and FLOURISH. 

-Benjamin May

The narrative starts with affirming messages by the parents,  soon the newly minted kindergarten student has positive mindset messages of his own.  He waves confidently from the bus window, and remembers his mommy’s words, “Hold your head high and greet everyone with a brilliant, beaming, majestic smile,” as he enters the school.   On and on his day goes with those affirmations carrying him and giving him the strength to reach out, to help, to be… the king of kindergarten.  

Woven into this beautiful story are the typical routines of a kindergarten day,  getting on the bus, greeting your teacher, finding your place at the table, meeting new friends, classroom rules. Throughout it all, our young protagonist remembers that he indeed is the king of kindergarten, even when some things feel a little overwhelming.  

You might try: 

So many places to stop and talk in this text… another time.  I can see myself making copies of pages like this one to hang up in my room to talk about individually before specific times of the day like group time, recess, lunch and music.  Each time of the day is illuminated with positive reminders of behaviors throughout the book.

On the last page, a cheerful prompt to remember all the positive things you want to share with your family when you get home from school. 

After taking your typical first day photos of each student in your class,  you might teach them to draw that oh-so-easy crown for a perfect capper to their smiling photos.  After all, they got this!  

Loads of references to “king” talk in this book.  On another read, talk about author’s craft. This author, Derrick Barnes, thought about all he knew about kings and wove those words into the story book talk of his narrative. “Shines on your head like a crown” , “family crest”, “far-off villages of Osh and Kosh”, “yellow carriage”, and “grand fortress”.  Beautiful figurative language to talk about with students far beyond the first day or the kindergarten year.  

Note:  From Wikipedia:  Benjamin Elijah Mays (August 1, 1894 – March 28, 1984) was an American Baptist minister and civil rights leader who is credited with laying the intellectual foundations of the Civil Rights Movement. Mays taught and mentored many influential activists: Martin Luther King Jr, Julian Bond, Maynard Jackson, and Donn Clendenon, among others. His rhetoric and intellectual work focused on notions of nonviolence and civil resistance–beliefs inspired by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. The peak of his public influence occurred during his almost thirty years as the 6th President of Morehouse College, a historically black institution of higher learning.

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