When I was a kid, my mom's favorite time of year was back-to-school season. Seriously, she would sing "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" the second it hit August 1, every year. Her excitement stemmed from her love of school (and because it gave her a break from two demanding daughters, but I digress), and it was exciting for me and my sister too, although intimidating at times. If your little one has nerves like I did, these back-to-school picture books can help prepare them for the new year. Get your singing voice ready.
It's normal for kids to be nervous for a new school year, especially if they're just starting pre-K or kindergarten. They don't know what to expect, and it might be the first time they're away from you for more than a few hours. They'll be fine, though it might take them a bit to adjust, so it's good to have some reading material that can help prepare them for what's ahead. Plus, they're definitely going to have reading time at school, so it's good to get them in the habit.
Read on to check out 12 books that can give your kiddo the boost of courage they need to get them in the school spirit, and be sure to mark one more day off your back to school countdown. Just a few more weeks, and the house is yours once again.
1. "Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend!" by Cori Doerrfeld
Cori Doerrfeld's Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! (Penguin Random House) is all about transition — the transition from summer to fall, the transition from day to night, and the transition from seeing your best friend every day to adjusting to a long distance relationship. It's a great choice for kids who are nervous to start school, as it normalizes the difficulty that comes with change. The story will help your little one understand that excitement and joy will be waiting for them on their new adventures too.
2. "When You Are Brave" by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
There's a difference between telling your child to be brave and showing them how to be, and When You Are Brave (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) can help with the latter. This inspiring picture book explores courage through beautiful illustrations and rich descriptions, giving your child a blueprint for how to find bravery within themselves when starting something new (like school) feels scary. It's a great choice if your kiddo is having back to school anxiety.
3. "Ping" by Ani Castillo
Ping (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) is the how-to-make-friends picture book guide for the 21st century, as it addresses the ways social media and technology can actually make us feel more alone than ever.
Castillo's book is encouraging and comforting, as it addresses the fears that come with sharing yourself with others, as well as the joys connection can bring. It's a good reminder that everyone could use a friend.
4. "The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family" by Ibtihaj Muhammad, illustrated by Hatem Aly
Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad's addresses typical first day jitters and intolerance in The Proudest Blue (Hachette) through the lens of Faizah, who faces her first day of school as her older sister has her first day of hijab. Faizah is thrilled for her sister, but when she discovers her peers don't see the hijab in the positive light she does, she has to find her own inner strength to support her sister and her heritage. With stunning illustrations by Hatem Aly, this story will show your kiddo the importance of being yourself no matter what anyone else says. On sale September 10, 2019.
5. "Sunday Chutney" by Aaron Blabey
Sunday Chutney's (Front Street) titular character has been on the move for as long as she can remember. She's lived all over, and as a result, she's chosen to stick with imaginary friends instead of real ones; at least with them, she doesn't have to be the new girl all the time. The story follows Sunday as she decides maybe having some real friends wouldn't be so bad, but it still reiterates the importance of having a strong sense of self, giving your kid a model for how to build relationships while retaining their independence.
6. "Lottie and Walter" by Anna Walker
Lottie and Walter (Penguin Australia) will inspire your little one if they're fearful about heading to school, as it focuses on the joy that's waiting for you once you overcome fear. The picture book follows Lottie, who can't seem to overcome her fear of water, until she meets Walter, her secret walrus friend who helps her find her courage. Read it the night before the first day of school, and your little one will carry the inspiring message with them as they step through the school bus door the next day.
7. "Rabbit and the Motorbike" by Kate Hoefler, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby
Rabbit is content to stay home in Rabbit And The Motorbike (Chronicle Books), living out adventures vicariously through his friend Dog. But when Dog disappears, Rabbit has to decide if he's willing to face his fears so he can have his own adventure. The story covers loss, acceptance, and encourages readers to explore the world even if it is scary, acting as a literary pep talk for your little reader. On sale September 10 2019.
8. "What John Marco Saw" by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Nancy Lemon
Being a kid can be tough sometimes, especially because the world is so big and the grown ups get so busy. In this story, John Marco struggles to get people to notice him and the things he sees, ultimately emphasizing the importance of slowing down and noticing the little joys of life.
What John Marco Saw (Chronicle) gives a reminder that young eyes are important, sending the message that your little one's thoughts and feelings have value no matter where they are. Available October 1, 2019.
9. "Teachers And What They Do" by Liesbet Slegers
As an adult, the set up of school seems intuitive, but toddlers will have no idea what they're about to get into, especially if they never attended daycare. That's why Liesbbet Sleger's What Teachers Do (Clavis Publishing) can be so helpful, as it provides a fun and engaging rundown of the role a teacher will play in your child's life in their first year of school and on. It's a sweet guide that will make your child more prepared for day one.
10. "We Don't Eat Our Classmates" by Ryan Higgins
Meet Penelope Rex, a dinosaur who can't wait for her first day of school. She hits a snag on making friends when she tries to eat a few of them, but things change when she realizes she might not be at the top of the class food chain anymore. Ryan T. Higgin's We Don't Eat Our Classmates (Scholastic) offers a silly take on starting school, but the messages about friendship and thinking of others ring true.
11. "A Friend For Henry" by Jenn Bailey
Meet Henry, a little boy searching for the perfect friend. He struggles to find someone to relate to as people continually misunderstand his actions, but he ultimately sees that with compromise and patience, he can find someone who likes him for him. Inspired by author Jenn Bailey's son's experiences, A Friend For Henry (Chronicle Books) is a sweet and inclusive story that anyone who has ever wanted a friend can relate to.
12. "The Day You Begin" by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
Jacqueline Woodson takes a frank look at the ways we can all feel like outsiders in The Day You Begin (Nancy Paulsen Books). It normalizes the things that make us different by reminding young readers how brave it is to stay true to yourself when it would be easier to blend in, as well as by showing them the wonderful things that can happen when you share yourself with others. A number-one New York Times bestseller, you can count on this picture book to give your kiddo comfort and courage.