Emotions are fully charged when school starts back for the new year. Children, whether it’s their very first day of school or not, are often anxious about a new year with a new teacher and new friends. Parents hope they’ve prepared their child well and are now relying on all the planets aligning to ensure their child enjoys a successful and happy year. Teachers are humbled by the trust parents place in them to care for and educate their children. They start the year energised and full of exciting plans.
As parents, how do we ensure a smooth start to the school year for our children? The Raising Children Network is a great start for parent tips, even for children starting secondary school. But you simply need to Google the term ‘starting school’ to access a whole range of professional and peer advice.
As for books, I think they are a fantastic tool for parents. They are regularly light and humorous but have storylines that children can relate to. Often children can’t articulate the emotions they experience and books can help them identify their feelings. It is comforting for children to know that they are not alone in how they feel.
Here is a list of books for children that relate to school. Some have been written for children that are starting their first year of school and others for children that are returning to school after a holiday. There are some books here that are designed for reluctant students and there is also a story about a girl who moves from school to school. A commonality between many of these books is that they suggest a strategy for the child to help them overcome any of their anxious feelings.
ISBN : 978-0733309069
Format : Paperback
Publisher: ABC Books, September 2000
We received this book as part of the Victorian Young Reader’s Program. It’s great for pre-schoolers who are starting a playgroup or daycare for the first time.
Bright and colourful, with rhyming text, this fun story is all about making friends and playing games.
Suitable for ages 2+ (★★★★)
Author: Christina Miesen
Format: Board Book
Publisher: Picture Puffin/Penguin, 29 March 2010
Publisher’s Description: In this colourful board book for toddlers and preschoolers, Jojo enjoys his first day at playgroup. He tries painting, dressing up and digging for dinosaur bones. But best of all, Jojo makes lots of new friends!
Author: Jane Godwin
Illustrator: Anna Walker
Publisher: Penguin Books, August 2013
Starting School gives children a very realistic picture of what to expect of school. Five diverse children approach their first day of school differently, each with unique thoughts, worries and experiences.
Although the story is a whole, it can be read separately, with each page representing a different aspect of school from ‘Getting Ready’to ‘Doing Work’.
Anna Walker has created beautiful pages combining her watercolour illustrations with intricate collage details using photo imagery, patterned paper and stationery.
Author: Andrew Daddo
Illustrator: Jonathan Bentley
Publisher: Harper Collins, December 2013
With endearing illustrations drawn upon lined paper, and contemporary references to BFFs and a first day selfie, this book is perfect for children of Gen Z. But First Day is also an ideal book for parents to read as they help to prepare their child for their first day of school. After all, first day anxieties are not limited to children.
The story sees a conversation take place between a mother and her daughter as they get ready on the first day of school. What seems like comforting affirmations from a parent to a child are actually reassurances from the child to her mother.
Author: Jackie French
Illustrator: Bruce Whately
Publisher: Harper Collins, October 2013
Mothball is back in her funniest book yet. Bound to provoke many laughs, this is a brilliantly light-hearted book to read with your children as they prepare for a new year of school.
After discovering a tunnel that leads to a classroom, Mothball finds herself in all sorts of schoolyard mischief as she hunts down carrots and grass in every nook of the school, and learns a lot about school in the process.
Author: Meredith Costain
Illustrator: Michelle MacKintosh
Publisher: Windy Hollow Books
My First Day of School is a book filled with poems and verses that relate to the events and experiences of a first day of school, all told from the perspectives of four different children. The verses culminate to tell a whole story with a reassuring message to young children starting school for the first time.
Author: Emma Allen
Illustrator: Freya Blackwood
Publisher: Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia, July 2012
The first day of school doesn’t seem fair for one little girl who takes a terrible suitcase when all the other children have weird and wonderful backpacks.
But, that terrible suitcase sparks a wild imagination that draws the attention of the other children and marks the start of some wonderful friendships.
These adventures are whimsically illustrated by Freya Blackwood.
Suitable for ages 4+ (★★★★★)
Jane Godwin and Anna Walker
ISBN : 978-0670073993
Publisher: Viking Australia, September 2010
Jane Godwin and Anna Walker have produced an incredibly beautiful Australian almanac. It is the perfect book for reading at the start of the year. It follows a family month by month who embrace the wonderful seasonal activities Australia has to offer.
After having fun in the sand during January, the kids prepare for school in February when it is dry and hot. They’re mostly excited about who their new teacher will be.
This is a brilliant book to help your child get excited about the year that lay ahead.
Suitable for ages 3+ (★★★★★)
Godwin Jane and Anna Walker
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd, May 2010
This is another beauty by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker. This book is particularly suited to children that have to travel to school by bus.
At one point the reader worries that Little Cat will have to sleep in the bus depot overnight, but we soon learn that bus drivers are friendly people.
Suitable for ages 4+ (★★★★★)
ISBN : 978-1742116792
Publisher: The Five Mile Press Pty Ltd
Published: Australia, January 2009
Full of things to love about school (from learning and trying new things to having fun at lunchtime), this book will surely have your kids looking forward to their first day of school.
Suitable for ages 4+ (★★★★)
Author: Peter Carnavas
Publisher: New Frontier Pty Ltd
This is a story of friendship and being happy with yourself, and one that sends an empowering message to our children.
This story starts with Jessica lying awake at night worrying about her first day of school. She’s mostly worried about making friends.
Each day she takes a box to school and fills it with items that she thinks may help her to make a friend: A teddy bear, some hom-made cupcakes and even her pet dog.
Instead of making friends, she encounters children who ignore her, laugh at her, and who are ungrateful. Her mum encourages her to keep trying. Her dad spends time with her.
It is when she puts herself into the box, instigating a game of hide and seek, that she makes a friend.
Suitable for ages 5+ (★★★★★)
Author and Illustrator: By H.A. Rey and Margaret Rey
Publisher: Walker Books, January 1, 2008
Publisher’s Description: It’s George’s first day at school and he’s been invited to be a special helper. When Mr Apple gets out the paint and brushes, George gets very curious — can he help make more colours, without making a big mess?
Author: Lauren Child
Publisher: Orchard Books, October 2007
Publisher’s Description: Although Lola agrees with her brother that it would be useful to learn how to write, read and count, she can’t go to school because her invisible friend is too nervous to go.
Author and Illustrator: Hazel Edwards and Deborah Niland
Publisher: Puffin/Penguin, July 2006
Starting school can be so daunting, but this little girl knows just how to tackle her first day of school. She brings along her imaginary hippopotamus.
As she says goodbye to her parents, eats her lunch and listens to her teacher read a story, her hippopotamus in never far away.
Her imaginary friend helps her to feel comfortable as she learns about a whole new world, but it doesn’t take her long to feel comfortable enough to leave her hippopotamus at home while she goes to school.
Suitable for ages 4+ (★★★★)
Author and Illustrator: Jane Godwin and David Cox
Publisher: Puffin/Penguin, January 2001
Publisher’s Description: In Millie’s first year at school, she makes friends and loses a tooth. There’s also a special present for the teacher and a concert that nearly goes wrong! A delightful collection of stories about a big step in everyone’s life: the first year of school.
Author: Robie H. Harris
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Books, July 2003
Publisher’s Description: With great affection and humor, Robie H. Harris and Jan Ormerod, creators of the award-winning picture book Goodbye Mousie, tell the captivating story of a child who decides that skipping the very first day of school is a very good idea.
But with help from his favorite stuffed animal, Hank, and his parents, he discovers that going to the very first day of school can be fun and exciting — and once you have done something new, it’s not quite so new and scary anymore.
Author and Illustrator: Margaret Wild and Kim Gamble
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, September 1999
Publisher’s Description: On the first day of school…
Alex hopes she will make a friend, Salma wants to learn to write NOW.Stephen is a little bit scared,
and Penny is as wriggly as a tadpole.Khalil is the best at tying shoelaces, and Jun just wants to count…10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 ZERO!But what is the little dog, Josh, up to? A sunny story for little ones starting out and for anyone remembering their early days at school.
Author and Illustrator: Lucy M. George and Merel Eyckerman
Publisher: Meadowside Children’s Books, May 2010
Publisher’s Description: Summer is over and it’s time to go back to school, but Tortoise is worried. What if the others don’t like him? Can he really face the first day of school? A beautiful book for young readers from about being brave, with a surprise at the very end!
Publisher: Front Street, July 2009
This endearing story is about a young girl who regularly moves from school to school. Sunday Chutney doesn’t have many friends but she is happy and confident within herself. She certainly has a personality and knows what she does and doesn’t like.
This is a wonderfully affirming book that will hopefully encourage your child to feel confident about themselves too as they prepare for a new year or to start at a new school.
Suitable for ages 5+ (★★★★★)
Publisher: Candlewick Press, November 1, 2008
Publisher’s Description: It’s time for school. Is Cornelius P. Mud up? Sure he is! The plucky pig has even made his bed, put on his clothes, and eaten his breakfast. But with Cornelius, things are never quite as they seem. Despite his clowning around, Cornelius does make his way through his morning routine and out to the bus stop — where readers are in for a big surprise.
Author and Illustrator: Loon Joan Van & Chantal Stewart
Publisher: University of Queensland Press, 1 September 2008
Publisher’s Description: If you could swap places with your teacher for the day, what would you teach your teacher to do? Would you teach her how to …… chew an apple with no front teeth?… sing out loud in assembly?… dive-bomb into the swimming pool?
Through the imagination of one of her students, the much-loved Ms Cherry finds out just what it is like to be little again.
Author and Illustrator: Ella Hudson
Imprint: Frances Lincoln, February 1, 2011
Publisher’s Description: Hudson is good at a lot of things, but spelling isn’t one of them. In fact, having to do spelling tests is one of the many things he HATES about school. After another horrible day Hudson declares he will never go back to school. But one final very different test helps Hudson understand why he is special… and how he can learn to learn!
Author: Alan Katz
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon and Schuster Books, June 2010
Publisher’s Description: A collection of fourteen Silly Dilly songs, focusing on the silliest aspects of school—from smelly lockers and stressing about testing to class picture day and lunchroom angst—now in paperback, a format easy to carry, share, and pass around the classroom!