If it is almost time for your little one to start kindergarten, do not fear! I have a list full of engaging and entertaining books to help prepare them for their first day! While many parents stress that their children need to be reading before they begin kindergarten, this is simply not true.
Instead, many teachers are hoping their students will be able to recognize letters, write their name, count to ten, rhyme, know their colors, etc. Kindergarten preparedness extends past academics, however, and children who can get dressed independently, listen without interrupting, separate from parents easily, wash their hands, take turns, and share will feel successful from the start.
Along with those pencils and first-day-of-school clothes, be sure to pick up a few of these standout stories to prepare your soon to be kindergartener for an exceptional start to the year.
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SOCIAL EMOTIONAL AREAS
Monkey Not Ready For Kindergarten by Marc Brown, 2015
This standout story is a terrific choice for highlighting a child’s initial anxiety about starting school and coming up with helpful solutions to combat it. For example, the book displays Monkey and his parents playing school together, reading books about school, organizing playdates with classmates, giving a secret good-bye handshake, etc. This comforting story is one that both parents and children will appreciate.
Love by Corrinne Averiss; illustrated by Kirsti Beautyman, 2021
Until recently, Tess’ loving parents have been with her everywhere she has gone. Now it is her first day of school and Tess is feeling nervous. Her wise mother reassures her that “Love is like a string between us- it can stretch as far as it needs to.” While Tess initially feels apprehensive about being apart from her parents, she is uplifted when she finds a connection with her teacher and several of her classmates.
This endearing story empowers children to branch out on their own while feeling comforted that they are always loved by their family.
(Ages 4 and up)
Filled with colorful illustrations and affirming text, these playful books are sure to generate excitement about starting kindergarten. When a mother deems her son and daughter the king and queen of kindergarten, they gain the confidence to face anything. With a giant smile, they listen to their teacher, share, play, and make new friends. This charming story will leave readers eager to explore their own royal school kingdoms.
For more recommendations, check out my list of Books for FIRST DAY JITTERS and BOOKS TO PREPARE KIDS FOR SCHOOL.
Germs vs. Soap by Didi Dragon; illustrated by Hannah Robinett, 2020
We are all familiar with how dangerous germs are. Teachers are constantly trying to enforce healthy habits such as handwashing and this book provides a humorous, but effective way to get the message across.
A group of anthropomorphic germs try their best to escape their dreaded enemy, Soap, but their efforts are futile when children wash their hands for at least twenty seconds and scrub in between their fingers and on the backs of their hands. Instructing children on the right way to wash their hands is an important lesson that needs to be reviewed often, but will be a lot more fun with this entertaining story.
Sick Simon by Dan Krull, 2015
Simon loves school and is determined to go despite his oozing boogers and explosive sneezes. Soon everyone around him has caught his cold and he rides the bus back home sad and lonely until he is met by three ecstatic germs. They praise him for his ability to spread his illness and infect his classmates. Simon is horrified and immediately begins washing his hands, using tissues, covering his mouth, and resting until the germs are gone.
The exaggerated illustrations create a gross-out factor that kids can’t resist and the lesson of healthy habits to prevent the spread of sickness is really impactful. My kids cannot get enough of this engaging book and beg to hear it again and again. They especially love searching for the germs that are hidden on every page.
HANDLING BIG EMOTIONS
Hattie Harmony Worry Detective by Elizabeth Olsen and Robbie Arnett; illustrated by Marissa Valdez, 2022
I have no doubt that this book will become a classic first-day-of-school read aloud. The cheerful story playfully reassures readers that they can overcome their fears by using a variety of strategies. Feline detective Hattie Harmony is ready to help any friend struggling with anxiety by teaching them how to use mindful movement, stress balls, breathing techniques, and affirmations. In a powerful scene, she even faces her own fear while climbing up a tall slide. The story is enhanced further by a helpful author’s note discussing each strategy used in the story.
The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions by Anna Llenas, 2018
The Color Monster is an amazing read aloud that uses bright, vivid illustrations and poignant text to describe various emotions. “This is happiness. It shines yellow like the sun and twinkles like the stars. When you’re happy, you laugh and jump and dance and play! You want to share your happiness with everyone.”
With a range of applications, this book is perfect for parents, teachers, and counselors to help children sort their feelings. It is a must-have for most home and school libraries!
I’m A Feel-O-Saur by Lezlie Evans; illustrated by Kate Chappell, 2021
Rollicking rhymes follow a diverse group of children dressed as dinosaurs as they display a myriad of emotions ranging from happy to shy to bored to angry. Beyond being ridiculously adorable, what makes this book a real standout is that it provides tips on ways to handle each emotion. The engaging characters reassure children that they will feel different moods throughout the day and whatever their disposition, it is okay.
This clever, charming book is sure to be a hit with both children and adults.
For more books on feelings, check out my list of Social Emotional Learning Books.
SHARING AND TAKING TURNS
Llama Llama Time to Share by Anna Dewdney, 2012
The New York Times best-selling Llama Llama series is one of our favorites and this installment is a real standout! When Little Llama meets his new neighbor Nelly Gnu, he happily shares his toys until she reaches for his extra special doll. In a fit of anger, Llama grabs it back, ripping the doll and creating a rift between him and his new friend. Luckily, Mama Llama shares a few words of wisdom that teaches Llama a lesson in sharing.
Can I Play Too? by Samantha Cotterill, 2020
Friendships can be hard to navigate, especially for young children. CAN I PLAY TOO? is an engaging read aloud that cleverly teaches children the importance of social cues and helps them develop their social-emotional skills.
When a boy asks to help his classmate build a train track, he excitedly begins constructing it the way he envisions, not noticing that the other boy is becoming upset at the way he is taking over the project. When the other child storms off claiming that he ruined his track, the boy is left sad and confused. The attentive teacher helps him recognize warning signs that a friend might feel frustrated and arms him with the language to find out what is wrong. The next time the boys play together and a problem arises, they are able to work it out and enjoy their time together.
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein, 2010
It’s time for bed and Little Red excitedly awaits her Papa’s bedtime stories. As he reads each classic fairy tale, the exuberant Little Red can’t help but interrupt each one with comical results. This enchanting Caldecott Honor book is a ton of fun to read aloud and is a great way to approach a conversation about not interrupting.
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg, 2010
This incredible board book is absolutely brilliant. It uses vibrant illustrations to teach children that a mistake is just the beginning of an imaginative creation. A torn piece of paper, a spill, a stray mark on a page are all the potential to make something wonderful. This book was often checked out from my library from preschoolers all the way through third grade students!
Perfect by Max Amato, 2019
In this comical new book, an eraser is determined to keep his page perfectly clean. When a mischievous pencil interferes with this plan, however, the eraser learns a valuable lesson that perfection does not always equal happiness.
The clever artwork featuring a combination of photographs and illustrations paired with the minimal text are, in fact, perfect. This entertaining story is a favorite that my children ask for repeatedly.
The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi; illustrated by Lorena Alvarez, 2020
This story is perfect for empowering children to take risks, work hard, and embrace mistakes. Rhyming text and colorful illustrations follow a young girl who struggles to learn to ride a bike. Just as she is determined to walk forever, she meets the Magical Yet. Presented as a glowing pink flower-like object, the Magical Yet teaches the girl that with determination, practice, and grit, she can tackle any problem.
The engaging illustrations feature a diverse group of children learning to accomplish a variety of tasks giving this charming book wide appeal.
Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall, 2020
(Ages 4 and up)
The courageous character from Jabari Jumps returns with another standout story. Jabari is excited to build a flying machine until each design fails. As his frustration grows, his father helps him overcome his irritation and learn to persevere. Jabari takes on his little sister as a partner and together they are able to reach their goal. From the beautiful collage-style illustrations to overcoming big emotions and a positive sibling relationship, there is a lot to love about this sweet story!
KINDergarten: Where Kindness Matters Every Day by Vera Ahiyya; illustrations by Joey Chou, 2022
This story is a must-read for anyone preparing to attend kindergarten or for kindergarten classrooms! Leo is nervous about starting school, especially when he receives a welcome letter from his teacher stating that each student will share ways to be kind on the first day. The colorful illustrations follow Leo as he becomes acquainted with his new school and creates a class Kindness Pledge. Initially Leo struggles with ideas of how to be kind, but in a sweet, gratifying ending, his new friends point out ways Leo was kind all day long.
There are so many things to love about this book. It effortlessly introduces school as a friendly environment and addresses common fears such as knowing how to tie shoes and making friends. The class takes a tour of the school giving readers an inside peek of the different rooms their school has. Best of all is the idea of the Kindness Pledge. The author is a seasoned teacher and includes a note on how she uses the Kindness Pledge in her own classroom. This sweet story will not only reassure children with first-day jitters, but also empower them to be kind.
K is for Kindness by Rina Horiuchi; illustrated by Risa Horiuchi, 2022
This adorable story stands out among the myriad of ABC books. Charming illustrations paired with flowing rhymes present a variety of animals demonstrating random acts of kindness. “Ape picks an apple for Aardvark below. Bat puts a bandage on Brown Bear’s big toe.” Each letter of the alphabet is represented by an upper and lower case while the caption includes several examples of the sound the letter makes. The final pages invite readers to identify one way they can be kind today. This utterly delightful story is excellent for learning letters and concrete examples of kindness.
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Jen Hill, 2018
When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, most of the other kids laugh. However, one unnamed girl wants to be kind, but she is not exactly sure how. Poignant text matched with soft illustrations demonstrate the girl’s thought process as she thinks of examples of kindness she has experienced.
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 of kindness and while it may not always be easy to be kind, each small act is meaningful.
For more books on feelings, check out my list of BEST BOOKS TO TEACH KINDNESS AND EMPATHY.
IDENTITY and WRITING ONE’S NAME
Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, 2021
On the first-day-of school, Vanessa carefully chooses her outfit of a colorful tutu, feather boa, and shiny new shoes to express her specialness. Halfway through the day, however, her feathers are falling off, her shoes are pinching her feet, and worst of all, it takes her a lot longer to write her name than everyone else. Frustrated at the difficulty of her name, Vanessa informs her parents that she wants to change it to something else. After hearing the origin of her name, however, Vanessa realizes that it fits her perfectly and she can’t wait to return to school to show the kids how extraordinary she really is.
With its strikingly lush illustrations and uplifting storyline about being yourself, this is a must-read!
Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal, 2018
Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela thinks her name is too long until she learns about all the incredible family members she was named after. She discovers that each ancestor is a part of her and now it is time for her to make her story with her own unique name, Alma.
The story alone makes this a standout picture book, but the small details Juana Martinez-Neal breezily infuses into the book makes this tender story shine even brighter.
That’s Not My Name by Anoosha Syed, 2022
Inspired by her own childhood experience, Anoosha Syed has created a relatable and empowering story of a young girl embracing her identity and speaking out when her teacher and her classmates say her name incorrectly.
GETTING DRESSED INDEPENDENTLY
Not Now Cow by Tammi Sauer; illustrated b y Troy Cummings, 2021
This comical story stars a mixed-up cow who always dresses for the wrong season! Children will love laughing along with the humorous storyline, while parents will appreciate the review of the seasons and how to dress for each one. The rolling rhymes and bright illustrations make this an excellent choice for a read aloud.
Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake
When a stubborn child insists on getting dressed by himself and becomes stuck in his shirt, he imagines what life would be like if he remains in his shirt forever. Obstinate children are sure to find a kindred spirit in this character and adults will relate to this situation all too well!
SuperHero ABC by Bob McLeod, 2006
What better way to get kids excited about the alphabet than using super heroes to introduce them? Using each letter of the alphabet, a new super hero is introduced with descriptions of his or her powers. The characters are diverse and the large, colorful illustrations are filled with amusing details.
The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell, 2017
In this ingenious ABC book, readers are challenged to put their phonemic skills to the test as they follow along on a humorous adventure. The story focuses on a little red cat who is chased by a myriad of animals through the alphabet. Using only the showcased upper and lowercase letters as text, children have to use the sound of the highlighted letter to identify the animal or object on each page. With its comical illustrations and zany storyline, this book is original, educational, and most of all a lot of fun.
For more of our favorite ABC Books, check out my list of Best Alphabet Books!
1-2-3 Peas (Peas series) by Keith Baker, 2012
Keith Baker’s series about a group of anthropomorphic peas is a perfect way to introduce or review letters, numbers, colors, and seasons. In 1-2-3 Peas, flowing rhymes follow the peas as they perform comical actions as they count up to one hundred. The majority of the book counts by tens providing excellent practice for children while engaging with the captivating artwork. As an added bonus there is a ladybug that appears on each page that is fun to hunt for. I also highly recommend the other books in the series, LMNO Peas, LMNO Peaquel, Hap-pea All Year.
Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas, 2009
Rhyming is an important skill for new kindergartners to know and what better way to reinforce it than by reading a book full of silly rhymes? This comical story stars four colorful, fuzzy dust bunnies who love to speak in rhyme. Prepare for giggles when one dust bunny starts blurting out some unexpected words that break their rhyming pattern.
Rhyme Crime by Jon Burgerman, 2018
Who doesn’t love a good rhyme? This clever book follows a thief as he replaces one item with another that rhymes. “Hammy’s brand-new hat was swapped for a…cat!” He finally gets caught when he struggles to find an object that rhymes with orange. He isn’t stuck for long though as he cleverly finds a way to escape using some skillful wordplay.
Circle Rolls by Barbara Kanninen; illustrated by Serge Bloch, 2018
Filled with cheerful colors, rhyming text, amusing illustrations, and an action-packed storyline, this book is perfect for introducing shapes to children. A sneeze causes a chain reaction of motion that highlights each shape’s attributes. “Circle rolls, oval rocks, square sits like a box. Circle rolls, rectangle stands, triangle points without any hands.” When the circle lands on top of the pointy triangle and pops, a new domino effect occurs introducing additional shapes such as a diamond, star, octagon, and heart.
The playful illustrations use color and size to highlight the shapes while the inclusion of glasses and stick figure-like arms and legs gives them personality. Parents will appreciate the shape’s fitting personas. For example, Octagon stops the chaos while Heart leads the team effort to repair Circle.
Tangled by Anne Miranda; illustrated by Eric Comstock, 2019
If you are looking for a book on shapes that goes beyond the basic circle, square, rectangle, and triangle, you need to read Tangled . Rhyming text shares the story of a group of shapes who become stuck in a jungle gym. Prisms, spheres, parallelograms, trapezoids, and a myriad of other shapes all come together to build a lever to free the trapped friends.
With elements of teamwork and STEM this is sure to be popular in home and classroom libraries!
Click HERE for more of our favorite Shape Books!
DAYS OF THE WEEK
Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman, 2006
This book is as fun to read aloud as it is to listen to. A group of enthusiastic chickens appear on each page to solve a crisis on their farm. Ranging from making dinner to getting cows out of a tree, there is no emergency too big for these impressive chickens. Each two-page spread presents a different disaster on each day helping to reinforce days of the week to young children.
If you are looking for more Back to School Books, check out my posts on..