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.Heading back to school? These back to school books will help your family gear up for the year ahead!
As the summer draws to a close, the anticipation of a new school year looms ahead. The back-to-school season is the perfect time to update your home library. We all know that books ignite imagination and can teach valuable life lessons. But one of my favorite things? Books can also help them navigate the challenges surrounding a new school year and transitional changes. School anxiety and being nervous about starting a new year is VERY common (in fact, I have a whole article about it).
Whether kids are embarking on their first day of kindergarten or entering a higher grade, these are some of my favorite books for discussing this new school year. I promise that they will engage, entertain, and empower children as well as foster discussions around this time leading up to the first day or even the first week of school (yup it takes awhile to adjust). Plus….they're fun to read!
Top Back-to-School Books for Kids
“The Day You Begin” by Jacqueline Woodson
“The Day You Begin” is a poignant and sweet book by Jacqueline Woodson that beautifully captures the anxiety and triumphs of starting a new school. This picture book encourages children to embrace their uniqueness, accept others' differences, and find the courage to share their stories. With its relatable characters and exquisite illustrations, this great book serves as a reminder that everyone has their own story to tell, and that being different is a cause for celebration.
“The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi
In “The Name Jar,” Yangsook Choi tells the story of a young Korean girl named Unhei who moves to America and grapples with the dilemma of choosing an American name. This book explores the themes of cultural identity, acceptance, and the importance of being true to oneself. It encourages children to embrace their heritage while fostering a sense of belonging and understanding among diverse communities. The “The Name Jar” is a must-read for children experiencing cultural transitions or for those who want to develop empathy for their peers.
I think this is one of my favorite classroom read-aloud books to discuss how our fellow classmates might be feeling.
“The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn
“The Kissing Hand” is a heartwarming tale by Audrey Penn that is a great way to discuss the separation anxiety experienced by children starting school. Chester Raccoon, the main character, is reassured by his mother's love and a special ritual they share. This picture book offers a gentle reminder that love transcends distance, empowering children to face new challenges with courage and the knowledge that they are always cherished. Plus, it's just one of my favorite books.
“The Pigeon Has to Go to School!” by Mo Willems
Mo Willems' beloved character, Pigeon, returns in “The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!” This hilarious and engaging picture book captures the universal fear and excitement young children experience before starting the beginning of the year and starting school. Pigeon's reluctance to attend school provides a relatable and humorous lens for children to process their own emotions about school.
With its witty illustrations and simple yet effective storytelling, this book helps ease anxiety and encourages children to embrace new experiences with an open mind.
“Llama Llama Misses Mama” by Anna Dewdney
Anna Dewdney's “Llama Llama Misses Mama” is a fun story that resonates with children as they navigate the first days of school and a new classroom environment. Llama Llama, hesitant and missing his mother, discovers that school can be a fun and nurturing place. This book normalizes the separation process and reassures children that their parents will return, while also emphasizing the importance of embracing new experiences and making friends.
“Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes” by Eric Litwin and James Dean
“Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes” is a great story by Eric Litwin and James Dean that introduces children to the excitement of exploring their new school in a fun way (like all the Pete the Cat books). Through rhythmic prose and vivid illustrations, Pete the Cat takes young readers on a lively journey, highlighting various locations within the school. This adorable book fosters a positive attitude toward school and encourages children to embrace the unknown with a sense of adventure.
“Wemberly Worried” by Kevin Henkes
Kevin Henkes' “Wemberly Worried” is a relatable story about a little mouse named Wemberly who experiences anxiety before starting school. This book sensitively addresses children's worries and offers strategies to overcome them. It reminds young readers that they are not alone in their fears and that school can be a place of comfort and friendship.
“The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School” by Deborah Diesen
In “The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School,” Deborah Diesen skillfully weaves a tale about Mr. Fish, who reluctantly enters school with a gloomy attitude. Through encounters with his classmates and a patient teacher, Mr. Fish discovers the joy of learning and the power of a positive mindset. This book encourages children to approach new experiences with an open mind and demonstrates the transformative effect of a supportive educational environment.
“First Day Jitters” by Julie Danneberg
“First Day Jitters” by Julie Danneberg cleverly turns the first day of school narrative on its head. The story revolves around Sarah Jane Hartwell, who experiences nervousness and reluctance about attending her new school. Unexpectedly, the twist ending provides a delightful surprise for readers, highlighting the universality of first-day jitters. It also helps children feel less alone in their anxieties.
“If You Take a Mouse to School” by Laura Numeroff
This sweet book is a delightful addition to any back-to-school reading list. The whimsical tale takes readers on a hilarious adventure as a mischievous mouse causes a series of amusing events during a day at school. With its playful illustrations and engaging storyline, this book not only entertains young readers but also introduces them to the concept of cause and effect.
It highlights the importance of responsibility, problem-solving, and the unexpected joys that can arise from the simplest of actions.
This endearing and relatable picture book follows the misadventures of the lovable and sometimes mischievous character, David. It shares his life as he navigates the school day. Through amusing illustrations and simple text, young readers are introduced to various school rules and behaviors. David's escapades serve as a gentle reminder of the importance of following instructions. It also discusses treating others with kindness, and making responsible choices.
This book sparks conversations about appropriate classroom behavior. It also provides a lighthearted approach to teaching essential social skills.
“David Goes to School” engages children's imagination while imparting valuable lessons about behavior expectations. It helps with setting the stage for a positive and successful school experience.
“My Teacher Sleeps in School” by Leatie Weiss
This delightful story offers a unique perspective on the classroom dynamic as it humorously explores what happens when the teacher falls asleep during school hours. Through imaginative illustrations and playful text, young readers are taken on a whimsical journey where students take charge of their own learning.
This book encourages children to embrace their curiosity, think independently, and collaborate with their peers. It also reinforces the idea that learning can take place in various settings.
It also showcases that students have the power to create their own educational experiences. “My Teacher Sleeps in School” sparks creativity and fosters a sense of empowerment. I love that it reminds children that they play an active role in their own education.
“Mrs. Nelson is Missing!” by Harry Allard and James Marshall
A beloved classic in the realm of back-to-school picture books, “Mrs. Nelson is Missing!” by Harry Allard and James Marshall, takes young readers on an exciting and humorous journey. The story follows the students of Room 207. They find themselves facing a stern substitute teacher, Miss Viola Swamp, after their beloved teacher, Mrs. Nelson, mysteriously disappears. Through engaging illustrations and witty dialogue, this book captures the imagination of children as they try to uncover the truth behind Mrs. Nelson's disappearance.
It teaches important lessons about appreciating the value of a caring and nurturing teacher. It also shares the importance of treating others with respect. “Mrs. Nelson is Missing!” instills a sense of empathy and gratitude in young readers. It reminds them of the positive impact that teachers have on their lives. And it shares the significance of cherishing their educational experiences.
“Thank You, Mr. Falker” by Patricia Polacco
An emotionally powerful addition to the back-to-school picture book collection is “Thank You, Mr. Falker” by Patricia Polacco. This heartfelt and autobiographical story follows the struggles of a young girl. She is named Trisha, and she faces difficulties with reading and learning. With the unwavering support and dedication of her teacher, Mr. Falker, Trisha overcomes her challenges. She also discovers her love for books.
This book addresses themes of perseverance and the impact of a caring educator. It also showcases importance of empathy and understanding. Through the heartfelt illustrations and touching narrative, “Thank You, Mr. Falker” emphasizes the transformative power of education. It also shares profound influence that a compassionate teacher can have on a student's life. This book serves as a beautiful reminder to both children and adults of the incredible difference educators can make. It also reminds us of the importance of celebrating individual strengths and talents.
Spoiler: this book makes me cry every single time I read it. It's absolutely LOVELY.
Back to School
The transition back to school can be both exciting and nerve-wracking for children (and teachers and parents). These back to school books are great options for addressing common concerns and fears. They also lead discussion around fostering empathy, and promoting a positive mindset among young students. Whether it's the fear of the unknown, the challenges of making new friends, or the importance of embracing diversity, these books offer valuable life lessons and supports.
By introducing these back-to-school books to children, we can provide safe environments for important discussions.
and now…… happy reading …. don't forget to share YOUR favorite back to school books in the comments!