Do you have a child who will be starting school this fall? A new preschooler, perhaps? Or a student about to enter kindergarten? My kids will both be transitioning away from their preschool to a new school this fall as QBoy begins kindergarten and XGirl begins transitional kindergarten.
Although my kids will only attend their new school one day a week (since I will homeschool them the rest of the week), they are already feeling a bit nervous about the transition. We’ve been reading a variety of children’s books about starting school to help prepare them for this new educational adventure they are about to embark upon. Below you will find my review of nine books about starting school for kids.
It’s Time for Preschool! by Esmé Raji Codell
This book takes readers through many of the routine and rituals that are commonly found in a preschool classroom. The book is structured into mini-sections with titles and text detailing different aspects of preschool. For example, the section titled “Time to Play” talks about many of the play opportunities kids will have at preschool, including a sand table, water table, dress-up clothes, beads to string, playing store, reading books, using puppets, cooking with pretend food, and maybe cooking with real food too! The section titled “Circle Time” explains how this is a time when kids sit together and do things like say the alphabet, count to ten, have show-and-tell, etc. Additional sections detail “Sharing Time,” “Manners,” “Fire Drill,” Nap Time,” “Clean Up Time,” and more.
Overall, this book provides a pretty thorough overview of what kids will experience at a typical preschool. The book may be too long to read through in one sitting for younger children, but parents can easily read just a few sections at a time. One thing I found awkward about the book is that each section has a different rhythm to it. The first pages use rhyming text, but not all of the sections do the same. I found this a bit disconcerting, but it doesn’t take away from the overall usefulness of the book as a tool for preparing kids for what to expect at preschool.
Mouse’s First Day of School by Lauren Thompson
This is a delightfully simple book with bright illustrations that evokes all the joy and fun that school can (and should!) be for young kids. In this book we follow mouse, who hides in a child’s backpack one morning and eventually finds himself at school. He checks out the blocks, drives a toy car, plays with a drum, reads through some books, plays with some dolls, and otherwise has a grand time at school. The very simple text in this story make it ideal for toddlers and preschoolers setting off to school for the first time.
The Night Before Preschool by Natasha Wing
With an opening line of “‘Twas the night before preschool. . .,” readers will quickly notice that this book is set to the same rhythm of the classic holiday book “The Night Before Christmas.” Anyone familiar with the famous “The Night Before Christmas” story will appreciate the literary parallels between the two books. In this case, however, the story focuses on a boy named Billy who is very nervous about starting preschool. He arrives to his first day of class and is greeted by his teacher. But Billy feels shy and keeps to himself in the classroom. When nap time comes, Billy can’t fall asleep because he is missing his teddy bear. How will Billy get to sleep? Fortunately, a little girl in his class saves the day by offering her fuzzy bunny as a nap time companion. At the end of the day, the parents arrive to pick up their children, and Billy has decided that preschool is really fun!
The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing
Similar to Wing’s book “The Night Before Preschool,” this book also follows the rhythm of the classic holiday book “The Night Before Christmas,” but focuses on children about to enter kindergarten. The kids in this story are excited and a bit scared at the same time as they prepare their backpacks, first day outfits, and other things for school. However, it is the parents who are most worried in this story. Parents watch as their children head into the classroom and enjoy school with their new teacher. And when it comes time for the parents to leave, tears were shed. . . but only by the parents! The children, on the other hand, waved to their parents, telling them “Don’t cry, Mom and Dad; kindergarten is cool!”
Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate
Miss Bindergarten is preparing her classroom for 26 new students. As Miss Bindergarten unpacks boxes and sets up her classroom, her students are also getting ready. Young readers will get to see what all 26 students, whose names begin with each letter of the alphabet, are doing to prepare for their first day of school. The rhyming text, cheerful illustrations, and focus on letters makes this a delightfully fun book for introducing young children to kindergarten.
Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten! by Hyewon Yum
This story inverts the usual relationship between the nervous child heading off to school and the reassuring parent who tells them all will be fine. In this story, it is the child who is excited for school and the mother who is nervous. The mom worries her son won’t have time to finish his food and will go hungry. Her son assures her that he can eat fast. The mom worries that she forgot to pack his school supplies. The son confirms that he has all that he needs. The mom worries that her son will be too little for the big kids’ school. But her son says, “Mom, don’t worry. I’ll be fine, I am already five!” And indeed, the boy goes off to school and has a great time, and the mom comes to see that her son was right all along. . . he is ready for kindergarten!
I Am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child
Lola is a little girl who is about to start kindergarten, but she is very nervous. She comes up with one reason after another for why she cannot go to school. For each excuse she gives, her wise older brother comes up with a compelling counter-argument. For example, when Lola says she doesn’t need to learn to count past 10, her brother asks her what she will do if 11 elephants all want a treat from her. When Lola says she doesn’t need to learn to write because she can talk on the phone, her brother tells her that the only way to let Santa Claus know what she wants for Christmas is to write him a letter. When Lola says she will not eat school food, her brother explains that she can bring her own lunch from home. When Lola declares that she does not want to eat by herself, her brother says that she will make new friends and be able to eat with them. However, Lola informs her brother that she already has a friend – who happens to be invisible – and wants to eat at home with him. Then her brother gets crafty, and tells Lola that her invisible friend will be going to school. Oh, and what will Lola’s invisible friend do if he can’t sit by Lola? At this, Lola concedes that her invisible friend might be nervous if he has to go by himself, and she finally agrees to go to school. When Lola comes home after her first day, not only has she has made a new friend, but she declares that she was never nervous about going to school in the first place. According to Lola, the one who was nervous was her invisible friend!
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
It is Sarah Jane Hartwell’s first day at her new school. “I’m not going,” she says. “I hate my new school.” But she reluctantly gets out of bed and puts on her clothes. She stumbles down to breakfast, complaining “My head hurts.” Feeling nervous, she gets into the car to drive to school. And when she arrives, her new principal comes to greet her. The principal offers to show Sarah to her new classroom. When Sarah enters, most of the children are already seated. The principal then introduces Sarah to the students. Children will be quite surprised by the introduction Sarah is given, since Sarah is not a student in the class. . . she is the teacher! This book shows kids that it is not just students who get nervous about starting school.
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
Wemberly is a worrier. She worries about everything! She worries in the morning. She worries in the night. She worries all day long. She worries at home. She worries at the playground. She worries at her birthday party. And now, Wemberly is worried about starting school. When Wemberly arrives to her classroom for the first time, her teacher introduces her to another student named Jewel. Wemberly and Jewel sit together. They play together. And before Wemberly knows it, it is time to go home and none of the things she worried about came to pass. As she leaves school for the day, her teacher says “Come back tomorrow.” Wemberly replies, “I will, don’t worry.”