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Back to School! 12 Great Picture Books to Calm First Day Jitters

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • September 07, 2021

Whether entering kindergarten or just starting a new year, the first day of school is always filled with feelings of both excitement and anxiety for both students and parents. But with all the added complications around the pandemic, back-to-school jitters may be particularly heightened. Here are some books that address the fears and worries that everyone may be feeling.

Overcoming Fears

Address worries around fitting in, making friends, and learning new routines with these stories offering various first day perspectives.

The Day You Begin
National Book Award-winner Jacqueline Woodson and celebrated illustrator Rafael López have teamed up to create a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone.

School's First Day of School
New York Times bestselling author-illustrator team Adam Rex and Christian Robinson team bring you a fresh perspective on the first day of school. It's the first day and everyone's just a little bit nervous, even the school itself.

I Will Be Fierce
Bea Birdsong's empowering language accompanies Nidhi Chanani's vivid, relatable artwork in this tale of a girl who is digging deep for bravery and determination as she sets out for her first day of school.

Tackling Kindergarten

For kids who are starting their first-ever day of school, these books will ease fears and generate excitement.

The Kissing Hand
In this moving story written by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak, a little raccoon is nervous about going to school. His mom teaches him a trick to comfort himself when he's feeling worried or sad.

The King of Kindergarten
"Today, you are going to be the King of Kindergarten." Newbery Honor-winning author Derrick Barnes's empowering story will give new kindergarteners a confidence boost, and Vanessa Brantley-Newton's illustrations exude joy.

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade
She may be small, but one day, Sally has had enough of the bullies and speaks up. Grammy-nominated musician Justin Roberts and award-winning illustrator Christian Robinson teamed up with this powerful tale.

Celebrate Multiculturalism

Take a proactive approach in helping your kids get ready to meet classmates and friends from a variety of cultures and backgrounds.

Danbi Leads the School Parade

Danbi Leads the School Parade

Danbi Leads the School Parade

Danbi Leads the School Parade

Danbi Leads the School Parade
Danbi is both excited and nervous for her first day of school in America. She doesn't know all of the songs or games that her classmates do, and even writes her name different, which draws stares. Not one to give up, Danbi keeps her courage and using her imagination and creativity, Danbi invents a game they all can play together at lunch.

All Are Welcome
Alexandra Penfold's story, illustrations by Suzanne Kaufman, follows a group of children through a day in their school. A place where everyone is welcomed with open arms and students grow and learn from each other's cultures and traditions.

Nana Akua Goes to School
From Tricia Elam Walker, comes a story about Grandparents Day in an elementary school class. Shy Zura is worried because her dear Nana, who was raised in Ghana, looks different from the others. But Nana Akua knows what to do.

Bring the Funny

One of the best ways to ease fear and anxiety is to find ways to laugh about it. These books calm worries by making them funny.

The Pigeon HAS to Go to School
Why does the Pigeon have to go to school? He already knows everything, and what if he doesn't like it? What if the teacher doesn't like him? What if he learns TOO MUCH? This hilarious series from Mo Willems always leaves us giggling.

My School Stinks!
Celebrate back-to-school with this witty story about a boy who accidentally winds up at a school for animals, but soon realizes friends can come in all shapes, sizes, and species! By Becky Scharnhorst and illustrated by Julia Patton.

We Don't Eat Our Classmates
Penelope the dinosaur is starting school, but it's hard to make friends when her human classmates are so delicious! Readers will gobble up this frightfully funny new story from award-winning author-illustrator Ryan T. Higgins.

Even as we crave a return to normalcy, many of us are also feeling a little more anxious about going out into the world these days. These stories are a great way to help kids (and their parents!) feel more comfortable with the idea of getting out there. Let us know about your favorite back-to-school books!

Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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