We do a lot to prepare our children for the school year. One of those rituals, besides changing up bedtime and school supply shopping, can be reading books about going to school. Especially for our younger children who are still unsure of what to expect. This year’s back-to-school books offer humor, wisdom, and diversity. Read these at home or in the classroom as your kids go back for another year of learning.
Don’t Miss These 2018 Back-to-School Books
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
You are going to read this book multiple times — it’s so funny while being profound — and then want to own it forever because it’s sooo good. “Sometimes it’s hard to make friends with children,” said her dad. “Especially when you eat them.” After a rough first day at school where she eats her classmates, gets scolded by the teacher, spits them out, and doesn’t make any friends, Penelope’s dad explains that “children are the same as us on the inside. Just tastier.” HA. The next day, Penelope eats her classmates again. She just can’t stop herself! However, when the class goldfish chomps on Penelope’s finger and it HURTS, she realizes that it’s no fun to be someone else’s snack. It hurts. EMPATHY!! So even when her classmates look delicious, Penelope tries to remember what it felt like…and resists eating them. Which means she has friends and playmates at school.
This is the Day You Begin by Jaqueline Woodson, illustrations by Rafael López
Evocative, lyrical text illuminates the awkwardness of a girl’s first days at school. She listens to other kids’ big stories of summer and feels like she doesn’t fit until …she finds out that maybe there she might have something in common with others after all. And is still her unique self. And can we just talk about these gorgeous illustrations? It’s a book you want to live in — beauty and wisdom from the words and pictures.
“This is the day you begin
to find the places inside
your laughter and your lunches,
your books, your travel and your stories,
where every new friend as something
a little like you–and something else
so fabulously not quite like you
Lena’s Shoes are Nervous (A First-Day-of-School Dilemma) by Keith Calabrese, illustrated by Juana Medina
You know how kids express their feelings? It sometimes can be just like this… personifying something else to represent a feeling. What I really like is that Lena’s feeling BOTH nervous and outgoing which is also an accurate depiction of our emotions. (Her shoes are nervous but her dress is feeling outgoing.) Lena tells her dad about her shoes feeling nervous. (And can I just say how much I love that this story is all about a girl and her DAD!) Her dad asks questions — doesn’t try to solve. Then, Lena figures out that her headband can talk to her shoes. Her dad gives them some space for her to work things out.. “The shoes say that school is big and loud and different and they’d really rather not go. / The headband is a good listener and understands.” The headband reminds the shoes of other times they all were scared and also brave. And that things worked out. Even though her shoes still feel a little nervous, they decide to be brave and go to school. And Lena is proud of them! Use this book to talk about how we can have more than one feeling at the same time. It’s a beautifully illustrated, emotionally truthful role model picture book for us all.
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman
Rhyming text shows a welcoming, safe, diverse classroom where children learn, play, and are creative. “All are welcome here” repeats the refrain. I LOVE the illustrations that convey so much diversity — for cultures and skin colors — as well as an engaged community of learners that we’d all want to be part of.
Hello, School by Pricilla Burris
Read this to get excited about what to expect at school — a kind teacher, friends, a place for your things, a place for you! School is a friendly, welcoming place.
Mae’s First Day of School by Kate Berube
It’s a familiar back to school story, about a child who doesn’t want to go to school, who meets another child and a teacher who don’t want to go to school either. The three climb up in a tree, talk, and share cookies. Knowing each other helps them feel brave so they all decide to go to school after all. The story shows that other people also feel scared…even adults. And, they go to school anyway.
Fairy’s First Day of School by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Sara Not
Fairy’s mom tells her what to expect on her first day of school. A nice teacher, other fairies, learning new things, centers like art and spells, clean up time, jobs, recess, lunchtime, and so on. Similar to a human’s first day of school, children will enjoy the fairy’s first magical day that ends with smiles and cuddles.
Dear Substitute by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Chris Raschka
Everything is wonky at school today because there’s a substitute who doesn’t know that they’re supposed to clean the turtle tank today and go to the library. Letters throughout the day show the student struggling with the changes but later enjoying the read-aloud book and poetry writing. It’s a nice story arc with the message of giving things a chance. Raschka’s bold, colorful illustrations add perfect texture to these lyrical letters.
Download my "Can't Put 'Em Down" book lists for your kids ages 3 - 13.
Also, I'll send you a bonus "23 Reasons to Read" printable poster!