Tag Archives: transitions

Back to School!

by Katrina Morse
for Family Reading Partnership

Get ready for school! New routines, new friends, and new challenges are part of the school year ahead. Is your child starting a new school or moving up a grade and joining a new classroom? Ease any first-day-of-school jitters by reading stories about what school might by like and talking about your child’s feelings.

The characters in books often have the same feelings that your child may have, so reading a book together can give you and your child ideas and the words to talk about and overcome any worries.

Sharing any book with your child also adds to their personal sense of security. Sitting together and giving your attention to your child as you read aloud shows them that you support them, care for them, and love them. It helps your child feel confident enough to try new things, which they will be doing all school year long.

Here are some books to read before the big first day:

“On the First Day of Kindergarten” by Tish Rabe, illustrated by Laura Hughes. Count all the fun first days of kindergarten, starting right on day one. You will see how many exciting things happen in school, like making new friends, painting, running a race, and counting. Upbeat and engaging with a diverse classroom of children depicted in the illustrations.

“The Pigeon HAS to Go to School” by Mo Willems. Pigeon cannot believe he has to start school. He already knows everything and doesn’t want to make new friends. What is school about anyway? He just doesn’t want to go! If your child already loves Mo Willems’ books, this is going to be another winner in your family. If you have yet to meet Pigeon–and Elephant and Piggie–in other Willems’ books, you are in for a treat, and some laughs! Pigeon has many of the same fears as any child about going to school, but your child can giggle at Pigeon’s overblow reactions.

“Monsters Love School,” by Mike Austin. A little monster named Blue is anxious and worried about going to school. He wonders, “What do you eat at school? What do you learn? What about friends?” Adults and teachers are reassuring at every turn during Blue’s first school day. From the art teacher, to the school lunch worker, to the gym teacher he hears the same messages, “School is for trying new things. You’ll meet new friends. You’ll like school!” Told with humor and light-heartedness, this story will be a comfort to a Pre-K or kindergarten child before their first day at a new school.

“Planet Kindergarten” by Sue Ganz-Schmitt, illustrated by Shane Prigmore. Put on your helmet and get ready to blast off to a classroom. This story creates an outer space adventure of going to school. Starting with a flight plan for the journey, school as a space capsule, and fellow students as the crew, the playful story reveals that the main astronaut is a bit worried about the trip. Cute and clever, the story ends with the young space-goer back on his original planet with a splashdown (in the bathtub) in the comfort of his own home.

Leave a comment

Filed under back to school, benefits of reading together, family reading, Feelings, Mo Willems, opportunities for conversation

Back to School Books Ease the Transition

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

We expect a lot of our young children. After the huge tasks of learning to walk and talk we expect them to learn to share and be civil in public! Going to school may be the first time a child’s communication and negotiating skills are put to the test. This is the beginning of learning how talk about feelings. Children start to realize that other people have other points of view, and they must learn to compromise. As adults, we know how important these skills are for successful relationships at home and at work.

Additionally, your child is learning to be independent. This may cause some anxiety at first, for both the parent and the child. It’s a big world out there! Your child will be comforted by the predictability of being home after a day at school. Talk about school and what to expect. Be a good listener and hug with abundance. Your child is growing up!

Try some of these books to help ease the transition to pre-school or kindergarten and provide a way to talk about feelings.

“Kindergarten Countdown” by Anna Jane Hays, illustrated by Linda Davick. This book can be read over and over even after the first day of school. The author counts from seven down to zero, names the days of the week, and weaves in the alphabet and colors as a child waits for school to begin. The rhyming text is happy, playful, and bouncy. Illustrations are clean edged, computer generated images with big areas of solid colors and patterns.

“Don’t Go!” written and illustrated by Jan Breskin Zalben. Daniel is a bit tearful as he waves good-bye to his mother on the first day of school, but he has so much fun during the day that he forgets to be sad. This is a realistic look at separation with ideas interspersed in the story about how to make the transition easier. The illustrations of animal characters at school give many opportunities to talk about your own child’s pre-school experience. A Pumpkin Vanilla-Chip Cookie recipe included.

“Chicken Chickens Go to School” by Valeri Gorbachev. With illustrations reminiscent of Richard Scarry, the author/illustrator uses animal characters to tell a story about the first day of school for two little chickens. They try to make friends all day, but feel that they are being ignored and are discouraged until their fellow students pull together to help the chicks cross a stream at recess. This is a heartwarming story and introduction to school.

“Off to Kindergarten” by Tony Johnson, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. A boy gathers all the things he will need for kindergarten, like his stuffed bear, some cookies, a toy truck, his swing and sandbox… and more and more. He realizes he’ll need a moving truck to get all the items to school, until his mother tells him that all he needs to bring to school is himself!

“This is Our House” by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Bob Graham. As a natural part of their emotional development, young children are self-centered. Remember the “Mine! Mine!” phase? This story is all about learning the difficult task (for a pre-schooler) of sharing. George makes a house out of a box at pre-school and learns to share it with all his classmates.

“The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn. Young Chester raccoon is worried about leaving home to go to school. Mama raccoon gives her son a very special gift to keep him feeling loved the entire school day.

The “Miss Bindergarten” series of books is about–you guessed it, kindergarten! Miss Bindergarten is a Border Collie who teaches a class of animals from A to Z. These are wonderful books for a 5 year old, with so many things to look at. As the children in the class drop things, spill, hug, cry and laugh, Miss Bindergarten remains unflappable.

Leave a comment

Filed under back to school, family, family reading, transitions

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: about.com, apples4theteacher.com, bankstreet.edu, barnesandnoble.com, and parents-choice.org.

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under back to school, family reading, read-aloud resources

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.

Leave a comment

by | August 15, 2013 · 2:51 pm

It’s a “Goodbye” and “Hello” Time of Year

It’s a “goodbye” and “hello” time of year. Children are starting school, beginning music lessons or sports practice, finding new playdates, and attending new after-school programs. There can be a little anxiety for children in all of this coming and going. And, when you know your child has “butterflies,” it can make you as a parent have your own anxiety.

You can make goodbyes easier if you have a consistent routine. Leave enough time so you don’t have to rush. When saying goodbye, give a firm, loving hug and then leave, without hesitation. Be calm and show your child that you are confident that he or she will be fine. Experts say that making it clear to your child that you are leaving is much better than sneaking away. Your child needs to see that you are leaving, and be reassured that you will be coming back.

When you see your child after you’ve been apart, be on time. Give another hug hello and follow through on any promises you made about what you will be doing together. When your child knows the “goodbye” and “hello” routine, and knows that he or she can count on you to come back, it will be easier to be apart.

Here are some books about family love that are a warming way to spend time together when you are finally reunited after a busy day.

“Daddy’s Lullaby” by Tony Bradman, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft. Daddy come homes from working the night shift and finds every in the house asleep, except his smiling baby. Illustrations are soft and dreamy watercolor.

“How About a Hug?” by Nancy Carlson. There are lots of kinds of hugs–a “Good Morning” hug, an “It’ll be A-Okay” hug, a “Boy Am I Glad to See You Hug!” and the “Anytime, Anywhere, I Love You Hug! What kind of hugs does your child like best?

“The Night the Moon Blew Kisses” by Lynn Manuel, illustrated by Robin Spowart. Even though this is a winter scene, it’s a beautiful book to read any time of the year. The perfectly matched text and illustrations are magically gentle. A grandma and grandchild blow kisses to the moon and the moon sends some sparkling kisses back down to them.

“Hug” by Jez Alborough. An almost wordless board book about a young chimpanzee looking for a hug. At first he is happy seeing other animals get their hugs, but eventually is sad because he wants his own. After some searching, this little guy finds his mama for a big and cuddly reunion hug.

Leave a comment

Filed under children's books, family reading, transitions

Ease the Transition to School with Read-Aloud

Whether your child is starting child care, kindergarten, or going back to the same school with a new classroom of children this coming week, it’s exciting and a little scary too.  The family routine changes and your son or daughter will be faced with new experiences and friends, new ideas and choices.

How can you help your child prepare for the big first day? Knowing what to expect, as much as possible, eases possible anxiety. Talk about what your new family routine is going to be like. What time will you all wake up? How will your child get to school? What will your child have for lunch? What will happen after school?

Ask your child how he or she feels about starting school and be a good example of remaining calm and positive. You won’t know exactly what activities will happen at school, but there are many children’s books that describe a typical school day. Authors who have a series of books based on one character, usually have a book about starting school. Some books explore feelings and others school activities. Before you read a “going to school” book aloud to your family, read it to yourself and see if it is appropriate for your own child.

• Rosemary Wells writes prolifically about universal childhood experiences, including school. One of her characters, a cat named Yoko, learns about food from other cultures, how to write her name, and what to bring for show and tell in 3 separate books. Wells’s “Kindergator” book series features Harry the alligator and his young classmates in situations that show how one child’s behavior affects everyone else in the group or class. Wells also wrote “My Kindergarten” and “Emily’s First 100 Days of School.

• Nancy Carlson writes about the world from a child’s point of view and has a few about school: “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!,” “Henry’s First 100 days of Kindergarten,” “Henry’s Show and Tell,” and “First Grade Here I Come!”

• Lucy Cousins uses her mouse character “Maisy” as a character in almost 100 different books for very young children.  Maisy explores colors, shapes, numbers, birthdays, a farm, the beach, and also learns about school in “Maisy Goes to Preschool.”

• Jonathon London’s “Froggy” character is featured in a series of books illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz.  In “Froggy Goes to School,” Froggy has a lighthearted attitude toward school and some humorous happenings on his first day.

Leave a comment

Filed under author spotlight, family reading, transitions