15 Books To Read The Night Before Kindergarten

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So, you have a little one heading off to kindergarten this year. Congratulations. Help prepare your child for school by reading books about kindergarten in the weeks leading up to their first day. Looking back, I remember a lot of excitement at our house prior to my daughter's first day of kindergarten, and a lot of nerves, too (although those were mostly from me, let's be honest). We all know the massive cognitive benefits of reading to children, but let's also remember an author's ability to teach empathy and understanding on the page while showing a child that there is someone else out there who might be feeling just the same thing as they are. Even if it's a mouse. Or a panda bear.

In addition to reading school-related books with your child, I remember taking my daughters with me when I bought them backpacks and lunch boxes for the first time. This shopping adventure helped get them excited about kindergarten, and it was a chance for them to feel a sense of ownership and to take pride in school items they'd picked out themselves. Motherly has some additional tips for making the first day of kindergarten a success, and suggestions include having your child eat lunch from their new lunch box before school starts, going to bed earlier, establishing your morning routine, and describing what the first day will be like to the best of your ability. But the number one tip, mamas? Remember to breathe. Your future kindergartner is going to do GREAT.

1. 'The Night Before Kindergarten' by Natasha Wing & illustrated by Julie Durrell

The Night Before Kindergarten (a family favorite) is a must-read on the night before kindergarten. Told in the same structure as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, children will enjoy the familiar rhythm as kids from all over anxiously get ready for the first day of kindergarten, only to discover how much fun it is the next day.

2. 'How Do Dinosaurs Go to School' by Jane Yolen & illustrated by Mark Teague

Dino-loving kids will enjoy How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? from the popular 'How Do Dinosaurs' series. This might come as a surprise, but dinosaurs get into a bit of trouble at school, but they also have a lot of fun.

3. 'Monkey Not Ready for Kindergarten' written & illustrated by Marc Brown

Creator of the popular Arthur books and television series, Marc Brown has followed that up with Monkey Not Ready For Kindergarten. The little guy has so many questions. What if he gets on the wrong bus? What if they don’t have any red crayons? What if he doesn’t like the snacks? What if he doesn’t make new friends? Luckily, his family is able to help him through it, and by the first day of school, Monkey is ready to take on kindergarten.

4. 'Off to Kindergarten' by Tony Johnston & illustrated by Melissa Sweet

In Off to Kindergarten, a sweet story of first-day jitters (we all have them), kids will love the rhyming text of Johnston's tale about Bill, who has a long list of things he absolutely needs for his first day of school. But should that list really include his pillow and his sand box, too?

5. 'Dad's First Day' written & illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka

Guess what, kids, parents get nervous about you going off to school, too. Dad's First Day is a sweet story about a dad who's having first-day-of-school jitters. Luckily for Dad, his kiddo is able to help him through it when they discover just how much fun kindergarten can be.

6. 'Wemberly Worried' written & illustrated by Kevin Henkes

As you might have guessed, in Wemberly Worried, sweet Wemberly is worried about everything, especially the first day of school. And despite her parents and her grandmother telling her everything will be fine, she still worries. It's not until Wemberly gets to school and meets another little girl who's as worried as she is that she relaxes and, you guessed it, has a great first day of school with her new friend.

7. 'The Kissing Hand' by Audrey Penn & illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak

Another of my family's favorites, The Kissing Hand is a sweet story all about Chester, a raccoon heading off to his first day of school (or at night, rather, since he's a raccoon after all...) He's going to miss his mother terribly, so mama kisses his hand, and anytime Chester is missing her, he just has to touch his hand to his cheek to remember her. Such a precious story!

8. 'Little Critter: First Day of School' by Mercer Mayer

Honestly, I'm not sure what kind of critters make up the Critter family, but I've always loved this series. In First Day of School, colorful illustrations help enhance this tale about Little Critter's first day of school. He's anxious about riding the school bus, too, but it turns out to be a great adventure!

9. 'Curious George's First Day of School' by Margaret & H.A. Rey

Well, you guessed it. In Curious George's First Day of School, George goes to school, and chaos ensues. This classic little monkey is here to show you how much fun the first day of school can be (while getting in a little bit of trouble at the same time).

10. 'Time for School, Mouse' by Laura Numeroff & illustrations by Felicia Bond

Laura Numeroff's popular "If You Give..." book series is back again with a twist in Time for School, Mouse. Mouse is searching for his homework, but can't seem to find it anywhere! Kids will recognize Numeroff's familiar rhyming technique as Mouse tries desperately to find his homework, encountering all sorts of other interesting items along the way.

11. 'Llama Llama Misses Mama' written & illustrated by Anna Dewdney

Your favorite llama is missing mama at school in Llama Llama Misses Mama, but he'll be OK. This book addresses any feelings of separation anxiety that your child might be feeling, without talking down to the reader or making them feel bad about feeling scared. And guess what, mama is there at the end of the day to pick up her little llama.

12. 'David Goes to School' by David Shannon

In David Goes to School, we meet a kid named David who is always getting into trouble. Your child will meet all types of kids when he goes to kindergarten, and he might meet someone just like David! But, maybe David is just trying to get a handle on this whole kindergarten thing? A hilarious story for little ones getting used to a brand new environment.

13. 'Chu's First Day of School' by Neil Gaiman & illustrated by Adam Rex

In the first book from Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex, Chu's Day, we discover that Chu is an adorable panda with a great big sneeze. In Chu's First Day of School, Chu is heading off for his first day of school, and he's nervous. Like most kids, he is hopeful that the other boys and girls will like him and will be nice. Sounds like he might have some of the same hopes that your child does?

14. 'Countdown to Kindergarten' by Alison McGhee & illustrations by Harry Bliss

In Countdown to Kindergarten, the big day is just 10 days away, and our main character has heard all there is to know — from a first grader — about what it will be like. She's not too happy about all the rules, which are recounted through the book (and guess what, that first grader might have been off a little bit). A book all about expectations versus reality — and in this case, the reality is that kindergarten is fun.

15. 'All Are Welcome' by Alexandra Penfold & illustrations by Suzanne Kaufman

In All Are Welcome, I love that the story's central theme is to celebrate diversity and inclusion. In this school, everyone, no matter their dress or skin color, is welcomed with open arms... which is just how it should be.