“You’re off to great place, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss
Back to school is always an exciting time. I remember my very first day of teaching back in 2009. I was the first person in the building, besides our custodian who laughed and said, “I knew you would be the first one here today.” The excitement, the jitters, the new beginning always made it my favorite time of year. I remember when I left the classroom, that first August where I wasn’t setting up a classroom, I felt like a little piece of my “back to school experience” was missing. Last August, my first year away from a school building to be a stay-at-home-mom offered such a wave of emotions. I was grateful and excited about the time I was going to have Coleman and Caroline but was nostalgic for the excitement of back to school. Now that Coleman is in preschool, I’m vicariously living through him and pulling out all my favorite books to get him ready for face-to-face preschool in September.
This back to school season is unlike any in the past, but whether you are going back virtually, face to face or homeschooling, there is a book here that can bring some joy, calm some nerves and help us as we embark on the unknown!
*Most of these books can be used for children from preschool to fifth grade. YES! Even upper elementary kids still love (and need) to be read to. 🙂
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Back To School Favorites
Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen – Most students spend a majority of their time with their classmates and teachers. In this sweet book, children learn how their classmates and teacher can become their school family. This book encourages children to be themselves, accept others and what makes them unique, that mistakes are okay and the lessons that we learn from them is what is most important.
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg was always the first book I read on the first day with my students. It allowed the kids to see that their nerves were completely normal, even for the teacher! My favorite activity to do with “First Day Jitters” was to make Jitter Juice to enjoy as we talked about what we were excited about and forget that we were once feeling a case of the jitters!
The Pigeon HAS to Go to School by Mo Willems is a classic! We love all Mo Willems books and this one is perfect for back to school. The Pigeon is very nervous about school and asking all sorts of worrisome questions, like “What if I learn too much and my head pops off?!?” Read along as The Pigeon figures out why he “HAS to GO to school!”
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud is a classic book that has started a wonderful movement in elementary schools across the country. This book teaches children how to be kind, giving, and caring to others by filling their invisible buckets. This lesson is a wonderful reminder to everyone of all ages. I was introduced to this book while I was student teaching and it was one that has followed me from the classroom to parenthood! The lesson that is teaches is valuable for all children of all ages!
Maisy Goes to Preschool by Lucy Cousins is a great book for preschoolers because it’s a familiar character who has a very positive experience going to preschool. Maisy makes new friends, has a welcoming teacher and shows children how much fun preschool can be!
The Night Before Preschool by Natasha Wing is an adorable take on the classic “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Billy, the little boy is so nervous about going to school but then he finds so many new friends that he is so excited! Check out the other books in this collection for The Night Before Kindergarten & The Night Before First Grade.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is another book I have used since my very first day in the classroom! Another classic from Kevin Henkes, Chrysanthemum is a story about a sweet girl who is starting school and loves her unique name until she is teased about it at school. Children can learn how to keep their heads held high when dealing with teasing. Find out what cheers Chrysanthemum up and really makes her bloom at school! If you like Chrysanthemum, check out Wemberly Worried! It’s currently one of Coleman’s favorites!
Wemberly Worried is another classic from Kevin Henkes. This book has been on repeat in our house as we navigate some nerves about going back to school after a six month “break.” Wemberly worries about EVERYTHING from the little noises her house makes to wondering if she’ll make friends at school. Read to find out what makes Wemberly not so worrisome anymore!
There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books by Lucille Colandro is another classic twist on a familiar character! The Old Lady is back and ready for school…by swallowing all of her school supplies! This is a great book for repetition, rhyming and fun illustrations to keep your kids engaged and laughing!
The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray is a twist on the classic rhyming story. The Gingerbread Man doesn’t just come out for Christmas, he’s also ready for school! This hilarious tale of how the Gingerbread Man looks for his class as he learns his way around the school! This makes a fun story with a familiar character!
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is a wonderful story about Unhei, a new student from Korea who is worried about making new friends and having a name that is difficult to pronounce. She longs to fit in, so she decides to let her class choose her name using the “Name Jar” and she spends the entire week going by more traditional American names. However, a classmate discovers her real name and the meaning and what happens next shows how a little kindness can make all the difference!
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig is one of the best books to teach children about kindness and including others. I was introduced to this book while teaching a lesson in a second grade classroom and was so moved by the lesson in this book. The second graders could really identify with feeling left out (invisible) and how nice it feels to finally be included. This is a great book to read with your children to teach them to include everyone when they go to school.
The Very Last Leaf by Step Wade tells the story of Lance Cottonwood, is a book that is perfect for kids of all ages and focuses on a very important topic that so many of our children can relate to. The book brings to life the worries that all children have – grades, facing fears, feeling anxious, possible failures. I’ve always thought that the process and lessons that lead to personal growth always outweighs the end result. I love how Lance learns the most important lessons as he navigates his fears.
Milk Goes to School by Terry Border is a cute story about Milk’s first day of school. She is ready to go with her new sparkly backpack but soon the other kids think she’s “spoiled” after she tells them she’s “le creme de la creme.” This book teaches children how to be confident but not “spoiled.”
If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen is more appropriate this year than ever before! With classrooms and schools looking a little less than normal, this book will encourage your child to think about how they would design their school!
It’s Back to School We Go!: First Day Stories From Around the World by Ellen Jackson is a great book about eleven different children from different countries and how they experience the first day of school. So many emotions and feelings are similar yet the diversity of each child’s experience makes them unique!
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is a chapter book about Ally, a girl who has frequently moved schools and has hidden her inability to read. Ally’s teacher sees through her misbehavior and is able to help Ally not only learn to read, but helps her grow her confidence as a bright, young girl. Sometimes one teacher can make all the difference to one child!
A Place to Read by Leigh Hodgkinson is very timely for this year. Many children and families are having to get creative about finding places to read. In the end, it’s not about where you read but what you are reading.