Going back to school often brings mixed emotions.

Children are excited about seeing friends and doing enjoyable activities at school, but can be nervous about everything that will be different: new teachers, new environments and new schedules. Fortunately, there are many children’s books that can help kids prepare for the first day of school and help them work through some of the emotions they may be feeling.



“A Is for Elizabeth” by Rachel Vail. This beginning chapter book is one of my favorite books this year. “A is for Elizabeth” is funny, insightful, inspiring and told with a true second grader’s voice. Elizabeth is at turns sweet and pouty, absurdly confident and pitifully contrite. She’s super excited that in second grade, she is finally getting homework, but when she learns the assignment is to make a poster about her name, she is upset and angry. Her name is very long, which means that her homework assignment is bigger. It’s a much bigger assignment for Elizabeth than for know-it-all Anna, with her short name, which is extremely unfair because Anna also gets to go first all the time because of alphabetical order. Elizabeth struggles with how to complete her assignment while remaining true to her sense of justice. Elizabeth’s zesty spirit and the realistic (and often comic) turns this story takes make it a great read for elementary students.

“Clothesline Clues to the First Day of School” by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook. Who are students going to meet on the first day of school? Items hanging on the clothesline give clues. A raincoat, gloves and safety vest are for the crossing guard; sneakers and a whistle are for the gym teacher. A variety of sweaters, shirts, pants and dresses represent all the friends at school. This picture book offers a cheerful look at all the helpful and supportive adults and friends who make school a welcoming place.

“My Teacher is a Robot” by Jeffrey Brown. Fred is not a fan of how his teacher, Mr. Bailey, teaches. Asking the students to follow rules, bringing them in from recess when it starts to rain, studying Japan instead of dinosaurs—there’s just not enough freedom to do what they want. All of this convinces Fred that Mr. Bailey is a robot and expects his students to act like robots, too. But when Mr. Bailey introduces creative writing, Fred can let his imagination run free.

“The Pigeon Has to Go to School!” by Mo Willems. In this latest installment of the beloved “Pigeon” series, Pigeon does not want to go to school. He has all kinds of excuses for not going: he already knows everything, school starts way too early, the teacher may not like pigeons. Finally, Pigeon admits what is at the root of his arguments: He is scared. He doesn’t know what will happen at school, and all of the unknown factors are making him feel anxious. Finally, he realizes he may know more about school than he thought (including knowing a lot about the bus he’ll take to school), and his fear turns into excitement.

“Unicorn is Maybe Not So Great After All” by Bob Shea. Unicorn is super excited for the first day of school, because “every day is great when you’re a super-special unicorn!” But when she arrives at school, she finds she is not the center of attention like she’s used to. Unicorn is determined to bring the focus back to herself by taking her look and her actions over the top, dressing up and drawing attention to her skills, like flying and turning things to gold. But instead of helping her make friends, her exuberance makes her classmates frustrated with her. Unicorn eventually finds it’s best to just be herself and let her classmates shine as well.

Darcie Caswell is youth services coordinator for Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

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