These delightful back-to-school picture books are sure to ease any first day jitters and get kids excited to embark on new adventures in the classroom this year.
I love back-to-school season. As much as I’ve been loving summer, and part of me wishes we could keep the sunny vacation vibes going a little longer, I always get excited for school. Maybe it’s my teacher heart. Seeing all the ads for school supplies makes me a little giddy for freshly sharpened pencils, squeaky clean sneakers, and a brand new world of knowledge waiting to be discovered by eager young minds.
Back to school time certainly brings LOTS of feelings for kids: excitement, nervousness, curiosity, anticipation…
Whether your child is starting school for the first time this year or eagerly returning to their classroom, reading back-to-school picture books together can be a wonderful way to get kids excited for the new academic year.
Here are some of my favorites:
Picture books to get kids excited about a new school year
School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex. This book is my favorite on the list. It’s a sweet story about the ups and downs of starting school…all told from the perspective of the school itself! The experience starts out a bit rocky, but it ends with a hopeful excitement about the year ahead.
If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen. This vibrant, imaginative story was a HUGE hit with my boys. Van Dusen is known for his whimsical, larger-than-life illustrations, and this book is a fun exploration of what might happen if kids were the ones designing the schools.
Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous: A First-Day-of-School Dilemma by Keith Calabrese. I just discovered this book recently, and I absolutely adore it! Lena’s shoes are nervous about the first day of school, and with her dad’s help, she works through all their worries to reassure them school will be fun! It’s such a clever way to explore all those first-day jittery feelings.
The Smart Cookie by Jory John. For kids who don’t quite feel like they fit the mold of the “perfect” student, this story shares a fabulous message about learning to see and embrace our individual strengths. With humor and heart, this book reminds us that there are many different ways to be smart.
The Pigeon Has to Go to School by Mo Willems. You can’t go wrong with Mo and his hilarious Pigeon. In this story, pigeon expresses (as only Pigeon can) all his worries about going to school, but ultimately he discovers that it can be a lot of fun!
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg. Everyone makes mistakes. Of course, it’s easy to get upset when things don’t go the way you planned, but this book teaches kids that every “oops” is an opportunity to create something new and beautiful. All you need is a little creativity!
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. This popular story is a favorite of kindergarten teachers, and for good reason. It’s a perfect fit for new students who might feel a bit nervous to be away from their parents for the whole, long school day. It’s the sweet tale about Chester (a young racoon) and how his mother’s special kiss helps him feel loved and secure on his first day of school.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. I just love Kevin Henkes. This charming story is a classic about a mouse named Chrysanthemum, who learns to embrace her name and uniqueness despite getting teased. It’s a great way to get kids thinking about the power of being yourself, and the importance of kindess toward others. (Also check out Wemberly Worried)
Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell. Similar in theme to Chrysanthemum, Molly Lou Melon learns to be mighty despite her small size. It’s a bright and cheery book that will inspire your kids to stand up straight and be proud of who they are.
Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev. While this book isn’t specifically about school, it is a clever and sweet story that teaches kids about friendship, inclusion, and the power of creativity, all centered around a boy and his unconventional pet. Besides, who wouldn’t love a story about owning a pet elephant?
Linus the Little Yellow Pencil by Scott Magoon. This cleverly punny picture book is about a pencil who wants to draw, but whose eraser is constantly criticizing his efforts. Eventually, the two learn to work together to create something amazing! I love that it’s a story that teaches kids to believe in their potential and overcome doubt.
The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes. So many back-to-school books focus on first day jitters, which is good, but I love that this story is pure excitement and celebration. It’s good for kids to see a character approach school with confidence and enthusiasm, because those are valid feelings, too!
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. This charming book tells the story of Sarah Jane Hartwell, who is nervous about her first day of school. I can’t share a lot of details about the plot without ruining the best part, so I’ll just say this…it has a great little twist at the end that is sure to get some giggles out of your little readers!
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae. The desire to “fit in” can be a tough issue for kids, and this story about Gerald the clumsy giraffe is full of great lessons for a new school year. It’s a simple board book with fabulous rhyming text that encourages kids to embrace their unique talents, stay positive, and remember to include others.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. If you aren’t familiar with this hilarious book about poor Duncan whose crayons go on strike, you need to get it ASAP. It’s a perfect read for the beginning of the school year…especially as a back-to-school gift paired with a new box of crayons!
So, before the bell rings the first day of school, check out a few of these stories from your local library, or buy one as a back-to-school gift for a child in your life (psst…many of them are on sale right now).
Want more must-read picture books for kids? Try these: