A Back-to-School Reading List for Young Kids

Back to School Books

The first day of school is upon us. Your child (and let’s be honest, you!) are probably experiencing all kinds of feelings in anticipation of the new year. Maybe they’re starting a new school, getting a new teacher, or hoping to be in the same class as old friends. They might be feeling nervous, excited, or a combination of different feelings. Whatever the circumstances, a little preparation goes a long way. Here are some fabulous read-alouds to help both you and your child get acclimated to the new year!

Books About the First Day of School

How to Get Your Teacher Ready

Begin your back-to-school preparation by reading How to Get Your Teacher Ready by Jean Reagan to infuse some humor in your back-to-school preparation. This hilarious take on a classic “how-to” text will give your child all the information they need to get their teacher ready for the first day, as well as all of the important milestones for the year ahead (e.g., the 100th day of school, picture day, etc.). As your child learns how to prepare their teacher, they will, in fact, be getting ready themselves.

It’s Back to School We Go! First Day Stories from Around the World

Ever wonder how school might be different or the same all around the world? Read It’s Back To School We Go!: First Day Stories From Around The World by Ellen Jackson to learn how children prepare for their first day of school around the globe. Using beautiful pictures and first-person accounts from children living in 11 different countries, your child will learn that, while they differ in some ways, they have much in common with children around the world.

The Day You Begin

Next, read this story full of gorgeous art and lyrical text, where children learn that sometimes we all feel different and that, in fact, makes us special. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson is a great read to share with your child that a little bravery and kindness can help you find your place.

Back to School Books

Books to Help Kids Leave their Families and Go to School

Lena’s Shoes are Nervous

Heading to school can be hard! In this book, it’s the first day of kindergarten and Lena is fine, but her shoes are nervous! Read Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous: A First-Day-of-School Dilemma by Keith Calabrese and Juana Medina to learn how one little girl helps her shoes to bravely set out on the first day of school.

Hello Goodbye Dog

In a story full of loyalty and love, one dog does her best to stay with her best friend, Zara. Through a series of setbacks and challenges (dogs aren’t allowed at school!) and one great idea, this pair finds a way to stay together. Hello Goodbye Dog by Maria Gianferrari is a tale about the power of true friendship.

Families come in all shapes and sizes. In The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman, children will love looking through the delightful illustrations as they read all about families and their day-to-day lives. As your child heads off to school, this celebration of families will provide a wonderful reminder of the diversity within families, all with one thing in common, love.

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney is the perfect read-aloud for a child who might be wondering, “What happens when my parents leave me at school?” In this story, Llama Llama is worried about missing his mama as he heads off to preschool. His mama tries to prepare him, but ultimately Llama Llama finds out that new friends and loving teachers can make for a wonderful first day experience.

Books about Friendships at School

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold is a lovely story all about a day in the life of one school where children learn from one another’s traditions while developing deep friendships across cultures. Children learn that no matter who they are, they are welcome and celebrated at school.

What happens when you’re the new kid in school — and nobody can pronounce your name? The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is the story of Unhei, who has just moved from Korea to the United States. Worried that she won’t be accepted, she decides not to share her Korean name, choosing instead to adopt an American name instead. In this heartwarming story, Unhei discovers that she is welcomed for who she is, and that her friends want to learn her real name and its special meaning.

In Princess Cupcake Jones Won’t Go to School by Ylleya Fields, Cupcake is a modern-day princess who doesn’t want to go to school! She tries everything to get out of going, but her mom stays one step ahead. When she finally arrives at school and meets a friend, Cupcake finds out that maybe school isn’t as terrible as she thought. In fact, school might be pretty great.

Choose one or two books to read each day before the first day of school. Practice asking open-ended questions about the characters as you read, e.g., “How do you think __ __ __ __ feels? What makes you say that?” This provides an opportunity for your child to practice empathy, process their feelings, and make connections with others. Head to your local library and start reading!

Additional back-to-school books for your kids’ bookshelves:

  • Back to Front and Upside Down by Claire Alexander
  • Here Comes Teacher Cat by Deborah Underwood
  • First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
  • School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex.
  • Adventures to School: Real-Life Journeys of Students from Around the World by Miranda Paul, Baptiste Paul, and Isabel Munoz
  • Twindergarten by Nikki Ehrlich
  • Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer
  • A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices by Sally Derby
  • Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman
  • Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate
  • The Exceptionally, Extraordinarily Ordinary First Day of School by Albert Lorenz
  • Dear Teacher by Amy Husband

By Jasmine Gibson, an educational consultant with expertise in early elementary education, supporting teachers, and designing curriculum. 

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