With the first day of school fast approaching, you might be feeling anxious. Your kiddos, however, might be even more worried; they’ll be leaving the security of their home — and being near you — to spend a few hours in a new-to-them environment. Read these books together to help prepare your child and turn an uncertain situation into one they’ll look forward to.
School’s First Day of School, by Adam Rex; illustrated by Christian Robinson
In a funny twist, a school building is worried about the start of school. Newly built, Frederick Douglass Elementary isn’t clear what his role is. When his buddy, Janitor, informs him children will soon be arriving, he becomes scared. The first day shocks him: “They got everywhere. They opened and closed all of his doors and lockers, and drank from his fountains, and played on his jungle jim. ‘So that’s what that is for,’ thought the school.”
Worse, a few kids act bored on the playground and make nasty comments about the school. To his surprise, he learns something new in one of the classes, finds some much nicer kids, and discovers he has a lot to offer. Irreverently funny and tinged with sweetness, this one will become a favorite.
A little girl is the “new kid” in class. She’s different from the others because she’s from another country. Feeling alone, she desperately wants a friend. With no one to eat lunch with, one day she sits on a park bench and unexpectedly makes some new friends, although they are of the furry variety.
Soon, her classmates join in the fun, but the tale continues when another new student arrives — and this time the new student is from another different place. The text is spare, using only enough words to propel the story forward. Perfectly paired with the prose is softly muted, yet colorful, watercolor artwork that captures the innocence of childhood. The lush illustrations are enough to make a parent or child adore this book, but the story will capture a reader’s heart.
Sophie’s Squash Go to School, by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
Kids who read “Sophie’s Squash” and enjoyed the little girl’s interactions with her beloved squash (purchased at the farmers market and rescued from being cooked at home), will want to find out what happens in her next adventure. Now that her baby squash, Bonnie and Baxter, have grown, Sophie believes they’re the perfect friends to join her in her first day of school.
Her parents encourage her to get to know actual children, but she’s more comfortable with her squash. One classmate, Steven Green, makes every effort to engage Sophie, but she considers him a pest. Time, along with a thoughtful action by Steven, eventually helps the tot warm up to making room in her life for friends of the human kind.
Milk Goes To School, by Terry Border
If the artwork looks a little different in this book, it’s because the author didn’t draw the illustrations. Instead, he photographed everyday, three-dimensional objects to which he added wire, resulting in whimsical and comical lifelike characters. It’s a process he uses in his Bent Objects blog, and it’s well-suited to a children’s book.
Here, Milk (a pint-sized milk carton sporting a girl’s hair bow and sparkly purse backpack) goes to school for the first time. She’s looking for friends, but Waffle immediately tells her he thinks she’s “spoiled.” Throughout the day, she meets Cupcake (who is sweet), Maple Syrup (who is slow to move) and other classmates. But Waffle tries to convince them that she’s spoiled. Carrot is neutral: “Like I said to Salad, lettuce be friends!” By the story’s end, a near-disaster of the messy-food type brings everyone together. This light-hearted story is packed with puns and quirky humor.
Kindergarten is Cool! by Linda Elovitz Marshall; illustrated by Chris Chatterton
This book depicts the first day of kindergarten using a start-to-finish format, with children waking up, getting dressed, catching the bus, experiencing the day, and then coming home. Rhymes are short and descriptive: “Then you rest — very snug —/On the Book Corner rug./As the teacher reads tales/About singing whales.” Sharp, bright illustrations highlight the text, which exudes an upbeat, encouraging attitude that will appeal to kids who would like to know exactly what to expect at school.
Dinosaur vs. School, by Bob Shea
In a match between a dinosaur and getting dressed for school, who will win? How about if the dinosaur is face-to-face with googly eyes and glitter? If you’re an energetic, ready-to-rumble dinosaur, have no fear, because you are up to the task, as this book — originally published in 2014 and now available as a board book — shows.
The first page sets the frenetic style: “Roar! I’m a dinosaur!” Then: “Roar! I’m going to school!” Next up is the first challenge: meeting new friends. Of course, the dinosaur easily wins the match, by making lots of new friends. Then it’s dressing up, craft time, snack time and music. The big challenge comes at the end: Dinosaur vs. cleaning up! Can he do it? You and your preschooler will be jazzed to find out.
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