Best Back-to-School Books 2018

I cannot believe the amount of outstanding back-to-school read alouds that have been published this year!  My son is entering kindergarten, so we are having more fun than ever reading these incredible books that are perfect for the beginning of the year. 


All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman, 2018

(Ages 3 – 8)

What better way to ease children’s nerves about starting school than with the message that everyone is welcome? “No matter how you start your day. What you wear when you play. Or if you come from far away. All are welcome here. In our classroom safe and sound. Fears are lost and hope is found. Raise your hand, we’ll go around. All are welcome here.”

Poignant language paired with colorful illustrations featuring a diverse group of students driving home the message that school is a safe and welcoming place to all makes All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman one of the best books about school I have ever seen. This is sure to become a classic classroom read aloud that is reread every year.


Hello School! by Priscilla Burris, 2018

(Ages 3 – 6)

What a cheerful and helpful introduction to school for young children! I love the format that includes a heading at the top of the page, a short explanatory sentence, and dialogue from a group of diverse children. This is an excellent way to introduce children to preschool or kindergarten and teach them what to expect their first couple of weeks in school. My three-year-old daughter and five-year-old son just love this delightful book and asked for repeated readings. We enjoyed several conversations anticipating what their school would be like.

This is a great choice for parents preparing their children for school and for teachers to read on the first day of school.    


We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins, 2018

(Ages 4 – 8)

This quirky new book is a hilarious twist on back-to-school stories and is a great read aloud to make nervous children feel more at ease and set classroom expectations for a dino-mite year!
When Penelope, an adorable little T. Rex, arrives at school for the first time and discovers her classmates are children, she quickly devours them because “children are delicious.” While this might sound terrifying, Ryan T. Higgins finds a way to make the whole situation comical. The children are spit out almost immediately and completely unharmed although they are covered in dinosaur drool and very annoyed. After several amusing mishaps, Penelope eventually exhibits more self-control and makes a better effort to become friends with her human classmates.
While this book is quite humorous, it also has important underlying messages. It reminds children to treat others how they want to be treated, that people can change for the better, and it is never too late to make new friends.


Click, Clack, Quack to School! by Doreen Cronin ; illustrated by Betsy Lewin, 2018

(Ages 3 – 6)

Who doesn’t love this adorable series filled with barnyard hijinks? The latest installment, Click, Clack, Quack to School! is an excellent beginning-of-the-year read aloud to prompt students to create their own class rules.

When Farmer Brown and his animals are invited to the local elementary school, the cows, chickens, and pigs are elated until they discover they have to be on their best behavior. When they reach the school, it does indeed seem “quiet, serious, and calm”. Then the bell for recess rings and children spill out running, playing, and giggling. It is not long before the animals join in on the fun. Ducky, as quirky and amusing as ever, is in the principal’s office rewriting the school rule book. The last two-page spread presents the school’s expectations, “Be kind. Be honest. Be Safe. Respect one another. Be helpful. Don’t eat the paste.”

This book is a joy to read aloud and children will delight in imitating the animals’ sounds. The layout also makes for an entertaining Reader’s Theater!


Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller ; illustrated by Jen Hill, 2018

(Ages 4 – 8)

Even though it is technically not a typical “back-to-school” book, Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill is a perfect story to read during the beginning of the year to set expectations of kindness.

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, most of the other kids laugh except one girl. The unnamed protagonist wants to be kind, but she is not exactly sure how. Thoughtful text matched with soft illustrations reflect examples of kindness she has experienced. My children and I loved snuggling together and discussing the different scenarios highlighted.

There are many books that cover this subject, but Be Kind stands apart. It does a remarkable job of providing an overview of kindness along with clear examples that make this abstract concept more concrete for children. It touches upon both the individual and global impact and while it may not always be easy to be kind, each small act is meaningful.

This is a book that belongs in every home and classroom library to inspire kindness and empathy.


The Secrets of Ninja School by Deb Pilutti, 2018

(Ages 4 – 8)

With an engaging storyline and amusing pictures, this is a fantastic read aloud for all children, but it will be particularly reassuring to children who may take longer to find success at school than their classmates. I specifically love the message that with hard work and practice everyone’s strengths will eventually be revealed.

On top of a steep, craggy hill sits Master Willow and his school for ninjas. Children attend to learn the ways of the ninja and discover their own secret skill. Even though Ruby works hard, she can’t seem to master the skills of invisibility, bravery, or patience. One night, however, when all the children exhibit homesickness, Ruby rises to the challenge and puts her training to the test to discover she is a talented storyteller and good friend.


Mermaid School by Joanne Stewart Wetzell ; illustrated by Julianna Swaney, 2018

(Ages 3 – 6)

Children will delight in watching a group of diverse mermaids make new friends, create art, play music, count, recite the alphabet, and play during recess in this adorable new back-to-school book. Bouncy rhymes combined with soft pastel illustrations make this a fun and reassuring read aloud to celebrate school.


Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous: a first-day-of-school dilemma by Keith Calabrese and Juana Medina, 2018

(Ages 4 – 8)

Lena is excited for her first day of kindergarten, but when she goes to get dressed she discovers that her shoes are a bit nervous.  Lena and her dad brainstorm a way to make the shoes feel more at ease. Her friendly green headband “reminds the shoes of other times they were all scared but decided to be brave together. And how things had pretty much worked out okay. Even better than okay sometimes. Because often the best things happen when we’re nervous.”

The illustrations and the storyline are absolutely charming and create a unique and winning back-to-school book that children and adults are going to love.


Mae’s First Day of School by Kate Berube, 2018

(Ages 4 – 8)

Mae is not going to her first day of school. There are too many things that could possibly go wrong, so she climbs a tree to hide. She begins to wonder if she can live there forever when another young girl who is also fearful of the first day joins her. Surprisingly, a nervous teacher climbs up as well. They all feel comfort in their unease and gather the courage to enter the school together.

This reassuring picture book will be popular among children who may also be worried about their first day. They will most likely feel a connection with Mae and humor in the fact that a teacher could be scared about starting school as well.


It’s Show and Tell Dexter! by Lindsay Ward, 2018

(Ages 3 – 6)

My son absolutely loved picking out that one special item to bring to Show and Tell each week in preschool, so I knew this book would be a hit. It’s Show and Tell Dexter!  is the humorous story of a toy dinosaur preparing for his big Show and Tell debut. Feeling a bit insecure, he attempts to work out, find a costume, and learn a special skill. He ultimately has the most success, however, just being himself.

This amusing story is not only an entertaining read aloud, it is also a fantastic way to introduce the concept of Show and Tell in schools.


What if Everybody Said That? by Ellen Javernick ; illustrated by Colleen Madden, 2018

(ages 5 and up)

Whenever my son repeats something unkind he hears from someone else, I always remind him that we cannot control what other people say, but we CAN control what we say. What if Everybody Said That? by Ellen Javernick and Colleen Madden is a helpful tool to remind children of the impact their words can have on others.

Readers follow along as a little girl uses hurtful language in various scenarios including exclusion, making fun of others, and being a poor sport. By the end, she understands the error of her ways and shows compassion to a new neighbor.

I wish the girl had apologized for her actions earlier and there were more pages of her showing kindness, but the message of the book is clear and impactful. My six-year-old son and I paused during each scene and had several meaningful discussions on the repercussions of the girl’s words.

I can see this book being very useful in a classroom setting or one-on-one to address negative comments toward others.

Thank you to #blueslipmedia and for sharing this book with me. All thoughts and opinions of the book are my own.


It’s Your First Day of School Busy Bus! by Jody Jensen Shaffer ; illustrated by Clarie Messer, 2018

(Ages 3 – 6)

Children will love following along as Busy Bus prepares for his first day of school. As Ben, the driver, does a safety check, children will be introduced to the various parts of the bus. They will observe Busy Bus getting gas, checking his stop sign, testing the engine and dashboard, and they will especially delight in hearing his horn. This is sure to help first time bus goers feel more comfortable.


Don’t miss our other favorite books about the first day of school!


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