Fasten your seatbelts and sharpen your pencils, friends, because it’s back to school time already! Can you believe summer is nearly over? Swing sets will soon be forgotten as the frenzy of school supply shopping takes over the house, and lazy summer days will shortly be replaced with hours of homework and test prep. And of course, as days at the beach and flag football in the street quickly come to an end, our kids’ carefree summer attitudes will soon be replaced with... nerves. Who will my teacher be? Will I have friends in my class? What if no one likes me? What if I can’t do the work? What if it’s too hard? What if, what if, what if...
There’s one tried and true way to tackle these back to school jitters. Books, of course! As you begin getting your kids ready for their first days of the new school year, there are phenomenal stories you can read with your children to help calm their nerves and fill them with a hefty dose of self-confidence. Most importantly, reading with your little ones — and big ones, too — will remind them how important it is to enter a new school year with kind hands, kind words, and kind hearts.
Whether you want to convey the message that everyone - even teachers- get nervous for that first day, or teach your kids the importance of being an upstander in the classroom, reading will work wonders for your child’s social emotional well-being and go a long way towards nurturing an empathetic soul. So what are you waiting for? Grab some books and get reading!
Below are some of our very favorite back to school books. Some stories are old, some are new, and each tackles an important topic such as back to school jitters, building community, nurturing empathy, and being a leader among classmates. While not every story has a “back to school” theme, each brings something special and unique to the table, setting the foundation for a school year filled with kindness, inclusiveness and a celebration of self. Without further ado, here are our picks. We hope they get two trunks up from your homes and classrooms, too!
All are Welcome, by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman. We love it because it celebrates students, from all corners of the world, as they enter a diverse and inclusive school, conveying the vital message that children have a safe place within their classroom and school community.
Mae’s First Day of School, by Kate Berube. We love it because it respects the fears many children battle as they begin a new school year and gently reminds kids that they aren’t alone with their nerves- other students, and even teachers, get anxious too. We just adore Kate Berube’s style!
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, by Ryan T. Higgins. We love it because it provides a fabulous dose of belly laughs to help conquer those back to school jitters. As nervous as your little ones may feel, at least they don't have to worry about dinosaurs!
A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices, by Sally Derby. We love it because anxiety before a new school year is universal, and children will see themselves - and their fears- reflected in the poignant poems so beautifully written on these pages.
First Day Jitters, by Julie Dannenberg and illustrated by Judy Love. We love it because kids get a total kick out of who really gets the jitters when summer ends and the first school bell rings. The surprise will leave children squealing with glee!
School’s First Day of School, by Adam Rex and illustrated by Christian Robinson. We love it because it reminds kids they aren’t the only ones who get nervous for that first day. This is personification at it’s finest!
If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, Don’t, by Elise Parsley. We love it because classroom expectations need to be set as soon as school begins, and this book does it with heart and humor, opening the door for a light conversation sure to engage all students.
The Invisible Boy, by Trudi Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton. We love it because it provides children with a gentle yet powerful reminder to be kind to all and to make sure none of their classmates feel invisible in the classroom.
One, by Kathryn Otoshi. We love it because being an upstander is far from easy, and this book encourages kids to realize the power and beauty of their own voices.
Rulers of the Playground, by Joseph Keufler. We love it because it conveys that there are right ways- and not so right ways- to be a leader in a fun, unique and relatable manner.
Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall. We love it because it is necessary for both parents and educators alike to nurture each child’s unique sense of self, and to raise and teach confident children who are proud of who they are at their core.
Be Kind, by Pat Zeitlow Miller: We love it because it illustrates the simple ways our children can act with kindness, even when those around us seem to forget, and it conveys that small acts of kindness truly matter.
We’re All Wonders, by RJ Palacio: We love it because if we begin the new school year with a foundation that each and every person is truly wondrous, we have a fighting chance to raise a kinder, more empathetic generation.
*These are affiliate links. HEE received some of these books from the publishers, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.