Starting school is an exciting and nerve-wracking time for many children with many of them occupied with thoughts of new routines, new people, new surroundings and worries about making friends and fitting in. Luckily there are many wonderful books that can help guide conversations about what is in store.
Whether a child is heading back to school in January or will be starting school for the first time, it’s important to get them ready for that transition, especially if they are at all worried, scared, or nervous about it.
Reading books with kids is a great way to help prepare them for any new situation while also providing a safe space to acknowledge and explore the feelings that they’re having about starting something new. There are lots of great books out there about the first-day experience, these are some of the best for toddlers and younger children who are getting ready to start preschool or kindergarten.
First Day by Andrew Daddo
The first day can be challenging for children AND for parents! This book explores the morning routine – all of the things children need to do each day to get ready for school, and reinforces the message that their parent will be back – “the best bit about waving goodbye is the next wave will be hello” – with a fun twist at the end!
One Keen Koala by Margaret Wild
One keen koala is ready for his first day of school. He is joined by two perky penguins, three excited wallabies and so on, as they discover the fun of starting school. Created by legendary Australian children’s author and illustrator duo Margaret Wild and Bruce Whatley, this is an offering sure to be embraced by youngsters starting school, and their parents. It will withstand repeated re-readings, and the simplicity of the text will encourage children to join in as well!
Starting School by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker
Starting School covers the start of school in a way that is positive and welcoming, showing the reader that everyone has similar difficulties, whether it is remembering names, keeping track of their things or just trying to follow all the new rules! Starting School shows that everyone has moments when they feel a little overwhelmed and lost, but best of all, everyone gets the chance to make new friends, learn new things and have lots of fun.
Silly Lily and the First Day of Kindergarten by Jedda Robaard
In Silly Lily And The First Day Of Kindergarten, Lily is nervous to begin her first day at kindergarten, but she soon plunges herself into all that the day has to offer, including petting the class pet, drawing, and eating all of her snacks. Jedda Robaard’s Silly Lily series aims to teach young children about what they should expect in certain situations that they are faced with for the first time, and what behaviours are acceptable when they are in these circumstances.
The Terrible Suitcase by Emma Allen and Freya Blackwood
The first day of school is a big experience. It is long-awaited and anticipated with a mixture of nervousness and excitement. So imagine how you’d feel if you were given a terrible suitcase instead of the red backpack with rockets which you desperately wanted as a going-to-school present. This charming story about starting school, fitting in and outer space is told through the eyes of a girl with strength, passion and a glorious imagination. The story follows her predicament as she moves through mad, grumpy, and sulky until she slowly eases herself out of her moods.
Twig by Aura Parker
Heidi is a stick insect starting at Bug school, but she is finding it hard to make friends when she is camouflaging herself too well and the other students can’t see her! Thank goodness her teacher Miss Orb comes up with a plan where everyone can help Heidi…
Twig is a wonderful examination of the sometimes confusing and daunting world of the school playground. Small people who love insects will find plenty to keep them occupied, with many favourites appearing as Heidi’s classmates.
I Am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child
Lola (or rather her imaginary friend, Soren Lorenson) is feeling a bit nervous about starting school – after all, she asks us, why does one even need to know how to count to 100 when one never eats more than 10 biscuits at a time? – Charlie does his best to reassure her that it will be lots of fun and she will make friends. Readers will be relieved to find out that on her very first day, Lola does indeed make a very special friend.
My First Day At School by Meredith Costain
My First Day at School is designed to help reassure and prepare school-age children for that magical first day in an unfamiliar environment. It follows the experiences and emotions of four very different children from their first teary farewells to their parents through to the joy of making new friends and the discovery that school can be an exciting and enjoyable place, however challenging.
Look, There’s a Hippopotamus in the Playground Eating Cake by Hazel Edwards
Starting school can be scary, but nothing is impossible when you have a hippopotamus who lives on your roof, and eats cake! The little girl is a bit worried, so takes her hippopotamus along to her school, and together they face those first-day-at-school experiences, meeting the teacher, eating lunch on your own and making new friends.
My First Day at School by Rosie Smith and Bruce Whatley
From dressing themselves to eating breakfast, meeting new friends, counting, playing and even home time, My First Day at School takes youngsters through fairly typical things that happen on the first day of school. The use of a range of animal characters adds humour and interest.
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
Chester Racoon is sad about starting school, worried that he will miss his Mummy and his toys and all of the things he loves to do at home. His mother reassures him that he will love school once he starts and it is not so strange and scary anymore, and then she shares a secret with him – the secret of The Kissing Hand. This book is just as much for those parents who are worried about being sad at missing their child as it is for the children themselves.
The Things I Love About School by Trace Moroney
Trace Moroney has been exploring children’s emotions through her two series, “The Things I Love About” and “When I’m Feeling” for over a decade now. In The Things I Love About School, Trace focuses on the interesting aspects of being at school including learning lots of new things and trying new things, as well as playing and making new friends. It ends on an upbeat and encouraging note: “I wonder what I will learn tomorrow. I love school!”