By Danielle Steinberg
Anxious, excited, curious, frightened… kids can experience a rush of emotions as they prepare for their first days of school. Whether they’re starting day care, preschool, kindergarten or a different school in a new town, calm your young child’s classroom jitters by reading these books together.
1. Little School
By Beth Norling
From drop-off to pick-up, this book easily captures a typical school day for young children. While bathroom breaks and snack times fill any youngster’s schedule, the simple yet organized illustrations depicting 20 different preschoolers emphasize that each child processes and experiences these events differently. This book provides children of all personality traits with appropriate skills and strategies for navigating preschool.
2. First Day Jitters
Julie Danneberg and Judith DuFour Love
“I’m not going.” “I don’t know anyone.” “It will be hard.” All things Sarah Jane Hartwell says before her first day of school. Her father eventually convinces her to attend, despite her gut-wrenching—and completely valid—fears about starting school. At times you’ll want to laugh, cry, hug her, or shake her, but you’ll always root for Sarah Jane as she realizes through her first-day encounters that school isn’t so bad after all.
3. The Kissing Hand
By Audrey Penn
This heartwarming book transcends the genre of “back to school” and serves as a tool for learning about and understanding separation anxiety. Via Chester Raccoon, children learn that a parent’s love remains in their absence and that it’s okay to spend some time apart—especially for something as important as school. A kiss from his mother on the palm of his hand serves Chester as an intimate and soothing strategy for coping with separation anxiety. This book is the perfect conversation starter for discussing your own ways of combating separation anxiety.
4. School Days Around the World
By Catherine E. Chambers
Seeing school through a real person’s eyes can help children feel more comfortable going themselves. This book lets students share, through their own perspectives, what a day is like at their school. Along with lessons about culture, diversity and geography, real photographs and personal anecdotes help prepare them mentally for what to expect and how they may feel.
5. How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?
By Jane Yolen
Super duo Jane Yolen and illustrator Mark Teague tackle the topic of starting school with their beloved dinosaur series. With a friendly cast of familiar (and some not-so-familiar) dinosaurs, this book focuses on acceptable behavior while at school. Some children find themselves in trouble because they’re not sure how to act appropriately in a classroom setting, but with these quick-witted rhymes and silly examples of dinosaurs mimicking human behavior, children can begin to understand the boundaries of schoolyard conduct.
6. DW’s Guide to Preschool
By Marc Brown
We all know DW: Arthur’s bossy, know-it-all, but kindhearted little sister. In a book where how-to meets first-person conversation, this guide is a friendly and familiar way to experience preschool before actually stepping foot in a classroom.
7. My Teacher
By James Ransome
Sometimes your child’s relationship with her teacher is the key to trusting her new environment and being comfortable at school. This delicately illustrated ode to teachers shows kids the kinds of activities and conversations they can expect and look forward to at school. It assures them that if they have any problems, the teacher is there to help—after all, they were once students themselves!
8. I Am Absolutely Too Small for School
By Lauren Child
Well-known siblings Lola and Charlie return to the pages in this endearing and inspiring tale. Little sister Lola looks to her brother Charlie for guidance and assurance as he tenderly breaks down her stubborn, fear-filled anxiety about starting school. The back-and-forth sibling banter balances the slightly unrealistic portrayal of happy-go-lucky siblings; however, Lauren Child never fails to engage children with her cartoonish drawings and typography while getting her message across.
9. Wemberly Worried
By Kevin Henkes
Kevin Henkes is exceptional at creating relatable characters for kids. Though their personalities are often exaggerated, their feelings are very real. Wemberly is a worry wart, and school is at the top of her worry list. By the end of the book, Wemberly realizes that she’s not alone in feeling nervous about school and that it’s nothing to be worried about—it’s fun! Surrounded by friends, activities and new places and toys to explore, Wemberly—just like your child—is instantly distracted from her worries.
Set to the tone and rhythmic patterns of the well-known Christmas poem, “The Night Before” books create a sense of excitement and eager anticipation in place of nerves for children starting school. This book is great for parents who’d like to learn more about school routines, and it will have children asking for this story long after the first day of school!
What were books that you read before school started? How about books that you enjoy reading with your children to prepare them for back-to-school season? Let us know in the comments below and have a great school year!