The first day of school may seem nostalgic to us adults, but for many kids, it can be rife with anxiety and concerns over making friends, fitting in, and finding their way — regardless of what grade they’re entering.
Books are one of the best ways to prepare your child for what’s to come and to soothe worries about the new school year, because they put your child in the shoes of character who encounters the same worries or situations your child might. In the end, those characters usually learn an important lesson and persevere. Think of it as a “test run” for your child: When your kid sees how book characters thrive in back-to-school situations they’re unsure of, they’ll know how to as well.
Check out our shopping list for books that calm jitters for every age — and read the full descriptions below!
The Night Before Preschool (PreK-K)
One little boy is having trouble sleeping before his very first day of preschool! He wonders to himself: Will there be nice people there? Will he have fun? This book is designed to soothe the anticipation kids have before their first day of school, and turns nervousness into excitement. If you have older children, check out The Night Before Kindergarten or The Night Before First Grade.
The Kissing Hand (PreK-K)
Chester the Raccoon has some big worries about the first day of school, but his mother helps to reassure him that he'll always have a part of her wherever he goes. This classic book has helped countless children cope with the separation anxiety that comes with going to school. Here are three activities you can pair with the book to make the transition even easier.
Wemberly Worried (PreK-2)
This is the adorable and comforting story about a little mouse who’s worried about, well, everything! Her nervousness doubles when she has to face the first day of nursery school. However, in this whiskered tale, Wemberly learns important lessons about confronting and resolving fears — which will also help your little one make the exciting leap into the new school year.
Is your child nervous about having a “bad” first day of school? Sometimes, confronting that fear and considering what might actually happen as a result is the best way to ease anxiety. This book about a boy who wakes up with gum in his hair, trips over a skateboard, gets his sweater wet, and even finds his lunch has no snack proves that some days just don’t go as planned — and that’s OK! With a little determination, anyone get through a cranky, messy day and be just fine.
Junie B. Jones Complete First Grade Set (Grades 1-4)
First grade is full of wow-worthy adventures, and these books prove it! Paired with paper dolls for your first grader to play with before the first day of school, these elementary school favorites follow Junie’s first grade adventures in the most lovable way — showing kids not only how much there is to look forward to this year, but also how your imperfections make you who you are.
Ready, Freddy! #2: The King of Show-and-Tell (Grades 2-3)
Get your early elementary school child excited about the most fun parts of school with this endearing book. When Freddy Thresher’s best friend Robby brings a real alligator head into class for show-and-tell, he wonders how he could ever compete with that. He never has anything neat to show! But one day, he stumbles upon something incredible, and has to figure out how to get it to school. After reading this book, your child will be excited to share new discoveries with classmates.
Ramona: The Complete Ramona Box Set (Grades 3-4)
Children across the globe feel connected to Ramona’s one-of-a-kind way of looking at the world as she learns to adjust to new teachers, gets in trouble for wearing pajamas to school, feels jealous over Susan’s curls, and tumbles into embarrassing situations. This set of books will teach kids that everyone faces moments like these in school, and they’re nothing be nervous about.
Freak the Mighty (Grades 3-7)
If your child is worried about not fitting in, this poignant tale will prove that just one good friend can make a world of a difference — even if it’s the last person you’d expect to be your friend. In this classic story, two misfits (a troubled, oversized boy and a tiny, physically-challenged genius) team up and prove that courage comes in all sizes.
Save Me a Seat (Grades 3-7)
Perfect for middle grade students, this book will calm kids’ worries about being without their friends, whether they’re starting at a new school or their BFF moved away over the summer. In this book, Joe and Ravi come from very different places — small-town America and India — but they soon discover that they have a common mission for the school year.
Wonder, Auggie & Me, 365 Days of Wonder Boxed Set (Grades 3-7)
Few things soothe worries better than inspiration, and this book set is overflowing with it. Following the story of a fifth grader with facial deformities who goes to school for the first time after being homeschooled, it touches on friendship, teasing, and character, while giving kids a story from a variety of perspectives. Sometimes, the best way to help kids feel confident and prepared to take on what they fear (not fitting in, not making friends, etc.) is to share someone else’s experiences with it, and this book set does that brilliantly.
Frindle (Grades 4-6)
When kids feel jittery about the upcoming school year, thinking about the genius ideas they might dream up in English class or the inventions they’ll create in science class can help. Inspire your elementary schooler with this book about a boy named Nick, who’s bubbling with ideas. But his best idea yet? Renaming a “pen” a “frindle”! When the idea catches on across the nation, Nick has only one person left to convince of his idea — his teacher, Mrs. Granger, who was the inspiration.
American Born Chinese (Grades 7-12)
This vibrant book touches on topics that are particularly important to kids this age, including acceptance, bullying, reputation, and fitting in. With three different storylines featuring three unique characters, it shows kids that you can find yourself in school — all while staying proud of the culture and family you come from.