This book is a must-have for every elementary classroom because it captures the excitement of the first day of school and the upcoming school year, it helps create an inclusive environment because every child can find someone who looks like themselves in the book and it can be used as a mentor text to highlight the power of a phrase that repeats over and over again.
My school year starts in sixteen days. I’m definitely excited, and I know my students are, too. The opening page of Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman’s All Are Welcome captures that excitement:
“Pencils sharpened in their case.
Bells are ringing, let’s make haste.
School’s beginning, dreams to chase.
All are welcome here.”
I can’t imagine a better phrase than “dreams to chase,” to describe the feeling of a thriving learning community beginning it’s 180-day journey together.
Not only does it celebrate the excitement of the school day and year, the text and the artwork radiate inclusivity. Penfold writes, “All are welcome here,” and Kaufman shows people of all shades of color and various physical abilities. But students won’t just feel welcomed while reading the book because the book jacket is a poster. Take it off the book and hang it up in your room as a visual reminder to your students and anyone that enters your room that this is an inclusive space.
Finally, if you’re teaching your students about the power of a repetitive phrase, you’ll want this text in your writer’s workshop basket. The phrase, “All are welcome here,” repeats throughout the book. Students can brainstorm phrases that they feel most strongly about and then create a personal essay around that repetitive phrase.
“I can smile and say hello every morning to help people feel welcome.”
“I could help someone in the classroom to make people feel welcome.”
“I could ask someone to sit with me at lunch to help people feel welcome.”
“I could ask someone to play with me at recess to help people feel welcome.”
“I could notice when someone does something kind and tell them to help people feel welcome.”
Brainstorm a list of actions students in your classroom can take to help every person in your classroom and school feel welcome. Then, have each student write their quote and hang it around the room. Suzanne Kaufman has free downloadable bookmarks on her site. I used these as a header at the top of a landscape 8×11 paper to display the children’s quotes.
Looking for a way to incorporate some art into your first day of school activities? Showcase the double gatefold spread near the back of the book and point out all the families in the room. Have each student draw his or her family on a square piece of paper. Piece together the squares to create a mural of every family in your room. You can share this video with your students that showcases one of the families on the double gatefold spread—mine! Since Suzanne is a very generous, creative person and because she also illustrated my book 100 Bugs! A Counting Book, she incorporated our book and my family on the gatefold spread. Happy creating!