Inside: First day of school books to calm nerves, inspire giggles, and teach children what it means to be a good friend and classmate. These are some of our favorites. Check them out!
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The Best First Day of School Books, Right Here!
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...
First Day of School Books Help Tackle Back to School Jitters
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 — gets nervous for that first day, or if you want to 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 first day of 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!
RELATED: Looking to develop reading habits in your kids? We can help! Check out our 10 Essential Tips for Raising Readers
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First Day of School Books: Stories for the First Day!
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 all children are welcome and safe within their classrooms and school communities.. It’s the perfect message as we enter a new school year!
The King of Kindergarten, by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton: We love it because just when you think back to school books are all the same, a new one comes out and blows the others out of the water with its unique spin and beautiful voice. This story of a young boy ready to make his mark on kindergarten is fresh and oh-so-fun! For our full review of The King of Kindergarten, click here!
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, and her book, Hannah and Sugar, is a forever favorite!
So Big!, by Mike Wohnoutka: We love it because even when kids think they are so big!, nerves can get the best of them nonetheless. With simple text and adorable illustrations, this charming book conveys that even the bravest kids get first day jitters, but they can find strategies to make sure the day goes just right.
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 that back to school fear. As nervous as your little ones may be, they will feel better knowing they won't have to worry about dinosaurs showing up in their classrooms (and nibbling their arms at snack time)!
Hello School!, by Priscilla Burris: We love it because it is perfect for children heading to school for the very first time! From meeting your new teacher to finding your cubby to writing your name plate, parents will love reading this book with kids to help familiarize children with the activities and objects they will discover at school, and kids will love reading this to calm their nerves before their first day.
The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!, by Mo Willems: Everyone’s favorite pigeon is back in the newest book in this darling and hilarious series! Does the pigeon have to go to school? Even though he already knows so much? And what if the teacher doesn’t like him? And the ABCs are soooo long. And how will he get there, anyway? The bus? He has to take the bus?!?! If your kiddos love the pigeon series, they will absolutely adore the latest installment!
Lena's Shoes are Nervous: A First-Day-of-School Dilemma, by Keith Calabrase and illustrated by Juana Medina: We love it because it approaches the first day of kindergarten in a novel manner, allowing Lena to help her shoes overcome their jitters about starting school! Who knew shoes could be so shy?
The Truth About My Unbelievable School, by Davide Cali and illustrated by Benjamin Chaud: We love it because one new student gets the tour of a lifetime around his new school, where he sees mysterious inventions, needs ninja skills in the cafeteria and discovers adults who are more monster than teacher. This book never fails to elicit laughter and glee - it’s unique, fun and uproariously funny!
Butterflies on the First Day of School, by Annie Silvestro and illustrated by Dream Chen: We love it because many children feel butterflies in their tummies before the first day of school, and this beautiful book puts a fun twist on this figure of speech. Kids can't help but giggle when they discover butterflies slipping out of the characters' mouths, showing that anxiety on that first day is universal.
A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices, by Sally Derby. We love it because nerves before a new school year are felt by children around the globe, and children will see themselves — and their fears — reflected in the poignant poems so beautifully written on these pages. We love this diverse cast of characters and the poetry that speaks to kids of all ages!
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, a first day of school story told by school itself! For our full review of School’s First Day of School, click here!
Chu’s First Day of School, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex: We love it because even the littlest kids worry that their unique “talents” won’t be accepted by their classmates, but there is truly nothing to fear. This sweet book conveys that everyone has a special place in their classroom.
The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn and and illustrated by Ruth E. Harper: We love it because leaving a parent is not easy for many kids, and when it comes to going to school for the first time, that separation can be tough with a capital T. This book has helped us through so many situations, and my boys always remember that wherever they go, I’m always with them, even if not physically present. I can't even recall how many times I have reminded them to make use of their kissing hands - it has become so ingrained in our routines. See our full review HERE.
The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael Lopez: We love it because we have all felt scared upon walking into a new classroom and finding the faces staring back at us wholly unfamiliar. This is the story of a girl who discovers that words and shared sentiments become bridges to building connection. For our full review of The Day You Begin, click here!
First Day of School Books: Classroom Expectations and Building Community
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. For our full review of The Invisible Boy, click here!
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. At once a concept book on both colors and counting, the story more importantly provides a spring point for discussions on bullying, kindness, and inclusiveness.For our full review of One, click here!
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. We should encourage children to be leaders among their peers, but even the youngest kids must be taught to lead with kindness and respect. For our full review of Rulers of the Playground, click here!
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. It is for any child trying hard to be something that doesn’t fit, simply because they think they must conform to others’ ideas of who or what they should be. It’s about finding inner courage, being true to ourselves and discovering confidence we didn’t know we had.For our full review of Red, click here!
All the Ways to be Smart, by Davina Bell and illustrated by Allison Colpoys: We love it because a diverse group of children celebrate the ways in which they are just that — smart. From readers to builders, creators to healers, this book showcases all of the various ways children display their own unique forms of intelligence. Intelligence manifests itself so differently in all of our little ones, and each kid’s smarts — whether in the form of creativity, ingenuity, or sensitivity — should not just be recognized, but honored, celebrated, and applauded, too! For our full review of All the Ways to be Smart, click here!
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. This book empowers children and helps them recognize that even seemingly insignificant acts pf kindness can grow into something so much bigger. For our full review of Be Kind, click here!
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.
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*HEE received some of these books from the publishers, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.