Welcome to school year 2012-2013! By now, most of your summer vacations have ended and the bittersweet back-to-school transition has begun. Some of you may have little ones who are heading to the classroom for the first time. Hopefully, for many of you, it has been a smooth transition, but what to do for the child who is having a more difficult time heading off to school? (I know I was one!) If you are grappling with this, here are a few books that may help ease you and your child’s anxiety. These titles are suitable for those kids just entering school, from pre-school to first grade.
Where quoted, book descriptions are from Goodreads.
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak
“School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester's fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called the Kissing Hand to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary…Stickers at the back will help children and their parents keep their Kissing Hand alive.”
This is very special book that belongs in every household library and is a great transitional story to read to your children anytime you anticipate a new period of separation. The book has been in print since 1993 and happens to have beautiful illustrations to complement the text.
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
“It’s Llama Llama’s first day of preschool! And Llama Llama’s mama makes sure he’s ready. They meet the teachers. See the other children. Look at all the books and games. But then it’s time for Mama to leave. And suddenly Llama Llama isn’t so excited anymore. Will Mama Llama come back? Of course she will. But before she does, the other children show Llama Llama how much fun school can be!”
This is probably one of the best books I’ve seen for parents who are having trouble leaving the classroom every morning. Llama Llama might just be what your child needs to feel comfortable at school without you.
Preschool Day, Hooray! by Linda Leopold Strauss, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata
“What's a day in preschool like? Come inside and see! Every preschooler will relate to this empowering text that is fun to both hear and say. ‘Hi to teacher/Coat on hook./ Run to shelf/ And find a book.// Painty hands and/ Gooey glue./ Tricky puzzles/ I can do!’”
What I like about Preschool Day, Hooray! is how it conveys, in very simple language, some of the very basic activities in pre-school. It shows young children, within a framework they can understand, how simple and fun preschool can be. This book doesn’t focus as much on scary feelings or missing mom, but more on what to expect when first heading off to preschool.
Spot Goes to School by Eric Hill
On Spot’s first day of school, he has loads of fun meeting his classroom teacher, singing songs, and making new friends. Kids can lift the flaps to see more about what Spot is doing at school.
This seems like a bit of an innocuous book to include, but I’ve heard great things from a number of parents about this being one of the best books to introduce kids to preschool: it’s simple, it has a recognizable character, and it’s interactive. In turn, I like that Spot is happy to go to school – a great example that the anticipation of starting school doesn’t always have to be scary. And, it's good for kids who don’t seem too nervous about the first day. Why make them feel anxious if they aren’t?
DK Readers: School Days Around the World by Catherine Chambers
“This reader takes a look at an average school day in the lives of children from seven countries, showing how they are all different and yet all the same.”
This title is a bit older (better for first graders), but I love that it provides a feeling of unity between kids around the globe. The book also makes a great early reader for your early grade schooler.
Emily’s First 100 Days of School by Rosemary Wells
“Emily is ready for her first day of school. There's so much to do: learning the alphabet, singing, reading books, dancing, and counting, starting with the very first day. One hundred days feels very far away, but day by day, Emily and her classmates see they're getting closer. And as the lessons they learn begin to add up, their world expands.”
I love that this book can be read over and over again throughout the school year and still resonate. It’s also great for kids to see that although the first day might be hard, by day 10 or 20 or 50, you won’t even remember why the first day seemed so scary. As an added bonus, the book also supports early lessons in math, science, reading and writing.
First Grade Stinks! by Mary Ann Rodman, illustrated by Beth Spiegel
“First-grader Haley wishes she were back having fun in kindergarten with her old teacher--until she finds out that first grade is special, too.”
First Grade Stinks! is a good transitional book for the child who loved kindergarten, but is having trouble transitioning to first grade (where the “real” work begins). When Haley becomes frustrated with her first grade teacher, the teacher kindly validates her feelings and helps Haley realize that there is a lot to look forward to in first grade – a nice example for kids feeling frustrated or upset by the change of pace in first grade.
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
“Wemberly worried about spilling her juice, about shrinking in the bathtub, even about snakes in the radiator. She worried morning, noon, and night. ‘Worry, worry, worry,’ her family said. ‘Too much worry.’ And Wemberly worried about one thing most of all: her first day of school. But when she meets a fellow worrywart in her class, Wemberly realizes that school is too much fun to waste time worrying!”
Wemberly doesn’t overly focus on worrying about school (she worries about everything), but it’s great for the kid who gets anxious about lots of new things, and at this time of year, school is likely one of them (whether it’s a first day, new classroom, new teacher, etc.). It’s nice that school is the context in which she learns to let go of some of her worries and have fun.
Garmann’s Summer by Stian Hole
“This unique, award-winning picture book delves into the mind of a young boy who is afraid of starting school. Summer is nearly over. The old aunts have come to visit, and autumn is in the air. Everything is ready for Garmann's first day of school, but he is still nervous. And he can't believe that he hasn't lost a single tooth yet, despite his best efforts.
Stian Hole has created a memorable and endearing character in Garmann, whose musings about fear and courage, life and death, beginnings and endings, help him understand that everyone is scared of something.”
This book is beautiful albeit a bit off the wall. I love how emotionally complex the language is. If you can stomach the illustrations, which are a little different, you will find yourself enveloped in beautiful, seamless and deep language. This is a great choice for parents who have hit all the “go-to” back-to-school books and want something rich and unique to share with their children.
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