Category Archives: back to school

Kindergarten, Here We Come!




By Elizabeth Stilwell, Early Childhood Specialist, Family Reading Partnership

It’s hard to imagine, but 3.7 million five year olds (and their families!) are starting kindergarten this school year in the US. Locally there are more than 1,000 children starting school in Tompkins County, NY. Many of these young children have attended a childcare or preschool program, but going to kindergarten is a big transition. Riding the bus, entering a big school building, and managing many transitions throughout the day are new experiences for most children. Helping your child know what to expect before they cross the threshold can help pave the way for a smooth start. But how can you do it, especially when your own heart is pounding in your chest?

Reading picture books about starting school can create opportunities for children to discuss their worries, and talk about all the wonderful new things they are about to experience. Encouraging your child to ask questions and talk about their expectations will offer opportunities for you to calm their fears and help them look forward to this new adventure.

Here are some wonderful books to help you get the conversation started:

  • “First Day” by Andrew Daddo, illustrated by Jonathan Bentley. This fun picture book gives children the opportunity to encourage their fretting parents and remind them that change can be a good thing!
  • “Starting School,” by Jane Godwin, covers new routines, new people, and new surroundings in a way that is positive and inclusive, helping children to see that they aren’t so different from the other kids who are starting at school.
  • “The Night Before Kindergarten” by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Anna Walker. This little book captures the excitement and anticipation of the first day of school. Details about how kids pack up their school supplies, lay out clothes, and then bound off to school the next morning are right on target!
  • “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff. This book shows how a teacher gets her classroom ready to welcome her new kindergarten students. All of the characters are animals…but that doesn’t seem to bother children at all, in fact they love the whimsical feel of the book.

So why not plan a trip to your local library and check out their collection of books on starting school? You might find that reading these books together will help calm your own worries along with your child’s!

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Welcome Back to School!

Going back to school is an exciting and happy time of year for children, with friends to make, a new teacher to meet, and a classroom to explore. But, there can be anxiety, too. Different schedules, feelings, and expectations can give a child butterflies and even create some queasiness for parents. We all want our children to do well and adjust quickly.

To keep your family positive and ease any trepidation about starting a new school year, establish a few daily routines so there are at least some things to count on that aren’t new every day. Keep your child’s morning “get-up and get off to school” routine the same each day, so everyone knows what to expect. Do a quiet activity or snack every day when your child comes home as a way to transition from school. Keep your child’s bedtime the same time each night so your child is well-rested for the next day at school.

And, of course, build in some read aloud with your child. Even after he or she learns how to read independently, snuggling up with a parent and hearing a book read aloud reassures your child that some things don’t have to change. Quality time together is still part of everyday family life.

Older children can listen to chapter books read aloud and will learn new vocabulary and ideas hearing you read. Younger children listening to you read picture books will learn words and ideas too, and can come to understand their feelings and how to handle new situations that arise at school.

Reading any books together is comforting, but here are some books especially about the elementary school experience that open up discussions for you to have with your child. Laugh, talk, and learn together!

“The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School” by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery. In this book the gingerbread man chases after the school children instead of the other way around. He just wants to join in the fun, but can’t quite keep up! He enlists the help of all the grown-ups at the school and finally does meet up with the children, after touring the whole building.

“How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?” by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague. Huge, colorful dinosaurs innocently create havoc as they start a new school year. The rhyming text has a rhythm that keeps the story going as the dinosaurs learn what kind of behavior is appropriate at school. As they get used to school, they share, are polite, and even keep things picked up.

ItsHardtoBe5“It’s Hard to Be Five: Learning How to Work My Control Panel” by Jamie Lee Curtis, illustrated by Laura Cornell. This is another winner by this writer/illustrator team. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis writes with humor and honesty at a level that children embrace. It really is hard to be five-years-old. The book describes how the days of being little are gone, but you still haven’t practiced a lot of self-control. Thank goodness that we each have a “control panel” that we can learn how to use!

“The Incredible Book Eating Boy” written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. This is not a typical “back to school” book, but has just that kind of humor a kindergartner will enjoy. When a boy develops a habit of eating books, yes, actually taking bites and swallowing books, the words get all jumbled in his stomach (and brain). He finally learns he can “digest” a book much better just by reading it. The illustrations are collaged type written words, images, and drawings.


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It’s That Time Again: Welcome Back to School!

Sharpen your pencils and adjust your backpack straps; it’s almost time to start another school year! Is your child excited or nervous to step into a new classroom?  Does he feel prepared or overwhelmed with what is to come? Reading a book about the first day of school could help ease the jitters and give your child the confidence to walk into school ready to take on new challenges and adjust to new surroundings and classmates.

The internet is a wonderful resource for finding just the right book for you and your child to read together. There are humorous stories about what could happen at school and purely informational stories about what to expect in kindergarten. There are books for starting pre-school and books for coping with middle school. And then there are books that just making learning more fun.

Searching for “best children’s books about starting school” online, the top lists that I found were from:,,,, and

Here are some of suggestions from the “experts” about what to read before that first day.


Books about what you do at school: “Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come!” by Nancy Carlson, “Kindergarten Rocks” by Katie Davis, “The Night Before Kindergarten” by Natasha Wind, illustrated by Julie Durrel, and “D.W.’s Guide to Pre-School” by Marc Brown.

Books about the kids you meet at school: “Chrysanthemum” by Kevin Kenkes, “Splat the Cat” by Rob Scotton, and “Yoko” and the “Kindergators” series by Rosemary Wells.


Books that make learning fun: “Rocket Writes a Story” by Tad Hills, “Library Mouse” by Daniel Kirk, “Bugs by the Numbers” by Sharon Werner, illustrated by Sarah Forss, and “The Foot Book: Dr. Seuss’s Wacky Book of Opposites.”

Books about separation anxiety: “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn, “Llama Llama Misses Mama” by Anna Dewdney, and “Oh My Baby, Little One” by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Jane Dyer.

Humorous books about school: “A Fine, Fine, School” by Sharon Creech and Harry Bliss, “There’s a Zoo in Room 22” by Judy Sierra and Barney Saltzberg, and “Baloney” by John Scieszka and Lane Smith.

Whatever books you end up reading with your child, the most important thing is that you are spending quality time together so your child feels loved and supported as he or she embarks on the great adventure of a new school year.

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How to Think Like a Child

The best children’s book authors can really think like a child. They tell a story from a child’s point of view and explain things that a child may not understand. They alleviate fears, confirm feelings, and teach new ideas. Here are some books by authors who validate what a child is experiencing:


When a child starts kindergarten there is some nervousness about all the unknowns. “What happens if you spill your milk?  Are there mean people at school? How will I get lunch? What if I get lost?” In “Kindergarten Rocks!” by Katie Davis, Dexter’s sister, Jessie, who is really old now (in 3rd grade), reassures her brother Dexter that everything will be ok. Dexter takes along his stuffed dog, Rufus, for comfort and finds out that school is fun! The author describes kindergarten activities including art time, play, dress-up, listening to books, the play-dough table, and writing. The book’s illustrations are rendered in crayon, which adds a child-like quality to the story.

When your family is expecting a new baby, your child will have lots of questions. “What Is He Doing Now?” by Patti Farmer and Janet Wilson nicely describes events during a pregnancy from the point of view of a little boy waiting to meet his brother or sister.  Illustrations are realistic but loosely done in watercolor and colored pencil. The boy wonders: Is the new baby growing in mommy’s tummy? How is the baby breathing in there? How does he eat? What will he do when he is born? This book gives plenty of opportunity to talk about how your child feels about a new sibling.

For the very young child, “Little Chicken’s Big Day” by Katie Davis and Jerry Davis is a simple book about what it’s like to be little. “I hear you cluckin’ big chicken,” says the little chick. But just like any two-year old, this little guy is easily distracted wanders off to chase a butterfly. Now where did big chicken go? Little chick can’t find his mama at first, but there is a happy ending. Illustrations of the mother and child chickens are bold yellow images outlined in black.


“Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods that Make My Day,” by Jamie Lee Curtis, with pictures by Laura Cornell illustrates how many emotions a child can experience, including silly, grumpy, angry, joyful, quiet, confused, cranky, and lonely. Children will see that all of these emotions and the different shades of feelings are ones they may experience at times and are normal. This is a playful book with rhyming text and whimsical illustrations.

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August 15, 2013 · 2:51 pm