One of the best ways to prepare children for school is to introduce them to the types of things they can expect to see during the school day or over the course of the year. The following books do an excellent job setting expectations for school, so that children can set aside any nervous feelings and simply get excited for the adventure to come.
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Rosie Goes to Preschool by Karen Katz, 2015
(Ages 2 – 4)
This oversize picture book is perfect for young children starting nursery school or preschool for the first time.
The story follows little Rosie as she joins a diverse group of children for a typical day at preschool. Each page is filled with vibrant, colorful illustrations. The text is sparse, but informative providing “Rosie Tips” throughout. The children are seen with big smiles and appear happy throughout each activity providing reassurance to new students that school is fun.
Maisy Goes to Preschool (Maisy series) by Lucy Cousins, 2009
(Ages 2 – 4)
This is one of my favorite series for young children. Maisy is an adorable mouse who joins her friends for a fun-filled day at preschool. Children will delight in following Maisy as she performs several typical preschool activities such as painting, playing music, listening to stories, eating snack, and playing on a playground.
Ollie’s School Day: a yes and no book by Stephanie Calmenson; illustrated by Abby Carter, 2012
(Ages 3 – 6)
This call-and-response book begs to be read aloud to a preschooler or kindergartener. The story follows Ollie on his first day of school and asks the reader a series of silly questions. What should Ollie wear to school? “A bathing suit? No! A space suit? No! A police officer’s uniform? No! Will Ollie put on pants and a shirt, socks, and shoes? Yes!”
I read this story to my son the first time he went to nursery school and he absolutely loved it. He would erupt in a fit of giggles at some of the suggestions for Ollie and it provided a perfect conversation piece to discuss how to act in his new school. This is a great book for a parent to read with a child or for a teacher to read on the first day of school to introduce behavior expectations.
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 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)
This delightful book highlights areas of the classroom and daily routines for students during the first few weeks at school. A heading on each page is provided as a guide paired with a short explanatory sentence of the spotlighted elements. The humorous dialogue from the diverse group of students will help children feel even more at ease.
The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes; illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, 2019
(Ages 4 – 6)
Filled with colorful illustrations and affirming text, this playful book is sure to generate excitement about starting kindergarten. When a mother deems her son the “king of kindergarten”, he gains the confidence to face anything. With a giant smile on his face he listens to his teacher, shares, plays, and makes new friends. This charming story will leave readers eager to explore their own royal school kingdoms.
The Class by Boni Ashburn; illustrated by Kimberly Gee, 2016
(Ages 3 – 6)
With flowing rhymes and engaging artwork, The Class follows children of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds during their morning routine as they prepare for their first day of kindergarten. The beauty of this book is that so many different children are represented that almost every child will be able to relate to one of the characters. The children’s differences range from their skin color, their style of dress, their hair, to their meal choices and family life.
Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt ; illustrated by Shane Prigmore, 2014
(Ages 4 – 8)
Energetic artwork and lively text tell the story of an imaginative boy as he experiences his first day of kindergarten. Parents and children will both giggle at the boy’s amusing observations. “Gravity works differently here. We have to try hard to stay in our seats. And our hands go up a lot.” Through all the fun, the story still does an excellent job of highlighting a typical day filled with nerves, excitement, and a standard elementary school schedule.
The Best Thing About Kindergarten by Jennifer Lloyd; illustrated by Qin Leng, 2013
(Ages 4 – 6)
It is the last day of kindergarten and the about-to-be graduates share their favorite moments in kindergarten with each other including the block corner, writing center, arts and crafts, learning the days of the week, etc. According to their teacher, the best thing about kindergarten is all the students. Even though this book technically takes place at the end of the year, it is a terrific tool for getting students excited about what is to come.
Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes (Pete the Cat series) by Eric Litwin; illustrated by James Dean, 2011
(Ages 4 – 6)
Is Pete the Cat worried about starting school? Goodness no! The groovy cat from Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes is back and excited to check out his new school.
Using a catchy song, Pete explores different areas of the school including the library, cafeteria, playground, etc. This is a great book for teachers or parents to use to introduce new kindergarten students to different parts of a school and better prepare their expectations. The song is available for download on the website http://www.petethecatbooks.com/songs/
How to Get Your Teacher Ready (How to series) by Jean Reagan; illustrated by Lee Wildish, 2017
(Ages 4 – 8)
Children aren’t the only ones who can be nervous about starting school. In this comical book, a diverse group of children give advice on how to help your teacher through the school year. The book provides a wonderful overview of what children can expect during the year focusing on milestones such as picture day, holiday concerts, 100th Day celebration, and field day. This is a great vehicle for parents and teachers to use to get children excited about the year to come.
Teachers Rock! by Todd Parr, 2016
(Ages 2 – 6)
One of the most exciting things about school is finding out a child’s new teacher. After all, this is going to be the person who sees the child almost every day for a year!
What better way to help children feel enthusiastic about school than to remind them how awesome and amazing teachers are? Teachers Rock! uses Todd Parr’s signature illustrations to celebrate the many special things teachers do and how they care about and support children. Perfect for starting school or Teacher Appreciation Day, this book is a fabulous read aloud to get children eager to meet their new teacher.
The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray illustrated by Mike Lowery, 2011
(Ages 4 – 8)
This book is a funny and silly way to introduce various teachers seen at many schools. Our story begins with a Gingerbread man being baked by children in a school. As soon as the oven dings, he jumps out of the pan and runs loose through the school meeting many different teachers along the way including the gym teacher, the nurse, the art teacher, and the principal. I like this book because it is a nice conversation starter for parents explaining the different types of teachers their children can expect to meet in elementary school.
Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School by Herman Parish illustrated by Lynne Avril, 2009
(Ages 4 – 8)
I grew up loving the Amelia Bedelia early readers and was thrilled to see her as a child starring in her own picture book. This pint-sized version of Amelia Bedelia is as literal minded as ever as she begins her first day of school with all kinds of hilarious mix ups. She confuses gym class with someone named Jim and when her teacher tells her to glue herself to the chair she uses glue to seal herself to the chair.
Amelia Bedelia’s exuberance is contagious and even though you may have to explain a few of the jokes to children, they will love her and can’t help but get excited for their own first day of school. Another reason I love this book is because it shows children different activities they may be doing in school such as going to music class, making art projects, running around during recess and gym, and reading books in the school library.
Flight School by Lita Judge, 2014
(Ages 4 – 8)
Many back to school books concentrate on the anxiety of starting school, but I love this book because it focuses on what school is all about: learning to soar.
The story opens with a penguin entering flight school. When the teacher points out that penguins cannot fly, the penguin replies, “but I have the soul of an eagle”. Despite his many attempts, the penguin cannot in fact fly and prepares to depart brokenhearted. The teachers, however, refuse to give up. As all teachers do, they find a way to support their student, so that he does soar… at least for a little while. Many children may fail from time to time, but I hope that this tale of perseverance will reassure them that their caring teachers will not give up on them and will help them fulfill their own hopes and dreams.
My Teacher is a Monster (No I am Not) by Peter Brown, 2014
(Ages 4 – 9)
While many children are excited about meeting their new teacher, some may be a bit nervous. This is a comical story that will humanize teachers to fearful children. This witty and hilarious book is usually popular all year long.
Natasha Wing’s Night Before series has become extremely popular and a go-to for many parents and teachers. Based on the poem, The Night Before Christmas, Wing changes the traditional rhymes to follow a group of excited and slightly nervous children as they prepare for their first day of school.
In The Night Before Preschool, most children are excited for their first day, but Billy can’t sleep. He is worried about making new friends. He initially hangs back as the other children play, but when a little girl shares her bunny with him at naptime he feels comforted and makes more of an effort.
In The Night Before Kindergarten, students anxiously prepare for their first day, but once the big day arrives the children begin having fun right away. Worried parents remain by the door until the teacher, Miss Sunrise, invites them in for one final hug good-bye. “The children all waved from the door of the school. ‘Don’t cry. Mom and Dad; kindergarten is cool!”
In The Night Before First Grade, a little girl envisions her first day of first grade with her best friend Jenny, but when they arrive at school, they discover they are in different classes. “We waved good-bye sadly and said, ‘See you later.’ I had to be brave because I’m a first-grader.” The girl enjoys her class and even makes a new friend. When she meets back up with Jenny, she discovers that first grade is going to be double the fun.