Children’s books can be a tremendous resource helping children acknowledge and cope with their feelings about major and minor life events.
7 books that will help ease the back-to-school transition
Fall Is For School, by Robert Neubecker (Disney-Hyperion)
A brother and sister approach the end of summer differently — the girl is excited for school to start and the brother would rather just stay home. Even after describing the new subjects they’ll be studying and things they’ll do, the boy is adamant about not going to school: “I am going to play all day!/It doesn’t matter what you say.” His sister responds: “Recess is for playing games:/We’ll run and jump and climb!/Let’s go right now and join the fun./You really must not whine!” The sister’s enthusiasm never wanes and eventually the brother — seated at a chair and surrounded by friendly students in a cheerful classroom — discovers his sister was right all along. Bright, bold, detail-laden drawings paired with singsong rhymes create a perfect “turn-that-frown-upside down” story.
Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten, by Candice Ransom; illustrated by Christine Grove (Doubleday Books for Young Readers)
A colorful, soft watercolor illustration on the cover hints at the gentle nature of this tale. Amanda Panda loves the color brown, running fast and building with blocks. A girl who adores pink and sparkly things, and who seems to be perfect, tries to befriend Amanda on the first day of kindergarten, but Amanda attempts to evade her. Deciding kindergarten is a bust, she sneaks into her older brother’s second-grade classroom, only to realize that the chairs are too big and the vocabulary words are too hard. Then, to her surprise, Amanda sees her nemesis has wound up in the same room after getting lost. Will Amanda help the girl? It’s a sweet story about the power of kindness and getting past first impressions.
Tinyvillle Town: Time for School, by Brian Biggs (Abrams Appleseed)
The residents of Tinyville — from a teacher choosing his best sweater to wear, to kids lacing their sneakers and filling their backpacks, to a crossing guard checking her watch for the kids to arrive — are excited for school to begin. The smiling principal is nearby, checking on everyone: “Bubba, where are your shoes?/Here, Anna, you can borrow my pencil. Bring yours tomorrow./Owen, return that library book you borrowed last year.” The book takes readers through a day at school through the eyes of Ellie, who is new to the neighborhood. We see her get acclimated to the school’s activities and make a friend. The bustling Tinyville, shown in boisterous colored-pencil and India ink illustrations, is as much fun to visit as the neighborhoods made famous by Richard Scarry.
Second Grade Holdout, by Audrey Vernick; illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Clarion Books)
Who wants to leave the comfort of first grade for the unknown of second grade? Not the kid in this story, an unnamed boy who appeared in the author’s earlier book, “First Grade Dropout.” The boy tells us how he had so many good times in first grade, and, importantly, was in the same class as his best friend. So he decides he’s staying with his first-grade teacher: “If I stick with her in good old room 101, I could be Lakeview Elementary’s smartest-ever first-grader! They might even have medals and certificates for that. Maybe a crown of some kind.” His resolve tightens when his friend’s sisters tell him all sorts of dreadful things about second grade, like being required to spell “platypus.” Soon, though, he and his friend discover the girls are pranking them. Funny and relatable, this book will make kids laugh out loud.
How To Get Your Teacher Ready, by Jean Reagan; illustrated by Lee Wildish (Alfred A. Knopf)
In a twist on teachers explaining everything about the classroom and what lies ahead, in this book, it’s the kids who are the experts. “Show her your favorite spots in the room./If she asks, “Why don’t I have a cubby?” point to all the drawers in her very own desk.” Cute and charming illustrations, along with lively, humorous text, make this book something your kids will want to read and reread throughout the school year.
K is for Kindergarten, by Erin Dealey; illustrated by Joseph Cowman (Sleeping Bear Press)
As the first day of kindergarten approaches, kids can read about what to expect, and discover related activities. Each letter of the alphabet offers a starting point for a rhyme and things to do. “F is for all the smiling faces/of the new kids that you meet./Some may ride the bus to school./Some might live right down the street.” The corresponding page asks: “Do you live close to your school or far away? How will you get there? By bus? By foot? Make a chart of all the ways students might travel to your school.” The snappy rhymes and thought-provoking challenges offer a chance for parent-child bonding and a way to build excitement for the big day.
Here Comes Teacher Cat, by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by Claudia Rueda (Dial Books for Young Readers)
Cat is summoned to work as a substitute teacher for Ms. Melba at Kitty School. But Cat isn’t interested. Mainly he’d just like to nap. In this book — the next entry in the warm and funny series in which an unseen narrator talks to Cat and Cat responds by holding up signs — he (reluctantly) steps up to the challenge. His ideas, though, are different from what usually goes on in the classroom: He gathers the kittens for a loud music-group session incorporating guitars, drums and a trumpet; builds a fish-spouting fountain; and turns art time into a chance for paw-painting on the walls and floors. It’s all in good fun, though, and kids will think it is just purrfect.