Back to School: How to Create a Welcoming Environment

At the beginning of a new school year, creating a classroom and a space where students and families feel welcome and comfortable is important. As we enter the second school year amidst a global pandemic, First Book has taken extra care to create resources and space for educators working diligently to help all students feel welcome.

Start Here for Back to School Resources

To help educators, schools, and districts get started this year, we felt it was important to acknowledge the current educational landscape. Where are we? What’s new? What can we work towards in the coming year?

Over the summer, First Book surveyed its Network of educators to help us gather insights on educator needs and how the last 18 months have impacted the classroom. First Book Research & Insights specifically sought to learn about the priorities for the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding, which is set to be the biggest influx of financial support dedicated to equity in the school system. 99% of educators agreed that the biggest resource needed for their classrooms are books.

Visit our dedicated Back to School page on to learn about new resources for the 2021-2022 school year. Download the full ARP Funding Priorities report to learn more about the challenges educators and districts are facing.

happy students sitting in a classroom, diverse students

Free Guides to Revisit

First Book Network members have access to free resources to help them hold space for intentional lessons, to make space for diverse activities, and to help them have the hard conversations in their classrooms. The team works with specialists in the field, in both research and creating lesson plans, to help shape in-person and remote learning opportunities for educators. Revisit popular tools like our Empowering Educators guides or download our new tools, like our Diversity & Inclusion Calendar.

Empowering Educators Toolbox

In 2021, First Book expanded the Empowering Educators guides to a full toolbox that includes our original Guidebook on Race & Racism, with three new guides, focused on challenging conversations, teaching strategies, and our favorite tools. Explore the full collection for additional resources and assessments.

Diversity & Inclusion Calendar

Created in response to Network member feedback, the diversity-themed calendar highlights month-long observances, religious holidays, and dates of cultural, historical, and inclusive significance. The First Book team just launched the 2021-2022 calendar for the new school year. Download the free calendar to bring more inclusivity to the classroom.

Shop Our Marketplace

First Book’s title selection team works diligently to help Title I educators keep their libraries filled with new and relevant books each year. Recently, First Book has committed a $1.5 million investment to boost our inventory in this critical year, when educators need books more than ever. The inventory buys happening now will feature more than 60% diverse titles that reflect the kids served by the First Book Network.

Browse Recent Lists

Each month we curate themed lists for educators and First Book partners. Eligible educators shopping the Marketplace can start their libraries by browsing our most recent lists.

  • If You Liked Stamped, Read These 19 Books Next
  • Dog Days of Summer: The Ultimutt Book List
  • 10 Books to Celebrate Friendship & Kindness

For more themes and book lists, browse Our Bookshelf.

Join Our Network

Educators can join First Book’s network — the largest and fastest-growing network of educators, schools, and programs serving children in need across the United States and Canada — to bring these titles to your classroom and to gain access to even more free resources.