15 kids’ books perfect for calming first day of school jitters
The first day of school is monumental in so many ways―for kids AND their parents. Nervous excitement and jitters are totally normal when you start something new for the first time. And going to school for the first time (or back to school after a year of remote schooling) checks all of these boxes―new people, new classroom, new friends. New is both exciting AND potentially anxiety-inducing for children.
Reading books about the first day of school can be helpful to prepare children for what is to come. While we all know the benefits of reading are numerous, books about school are a great way to calm those first day of school jitters. New adventures and experiences await. You've got this, kiddo!
Here are 15 of our favorite books about the first day of school for preschoolers through first grade.
Best first day of schools books for preschoolers:
The Pigeon Has to Go to School! by Mo Willems
Mo Willems is one of my favorite children's book authors, and while his Elephant & Piggie series will always be my personal favorite, Pigeon is a close second! In this book just perfect for little ones starting preschool, Pigeon wonders why he has to go to school. After all, he already knows everything! And what happens if he doesn't like school? What if the teacher doesn't like him? What if he learns TOO MUCH!?! So. many. questions. (just like every toddler I know)
Age range: 3-6
Lola Goes to School by Anna McQuinn
In this sweet book, Lola and her family prepare for the first day of school the night before, then get up early, take pictures, and head to class. Perhaps you will follow a similar routine with your preschooler? Lola puts her things in her cubby, chooses her activities, reads, plays, and has a snack. Before she knows it, it's time to sing the good-bye song and rush into Mommy's arms for a warm reunion. I love that this book gives kids a look at what their first day of school will look like so they know what to expect ahead of time!
Age range: 2-5
Pete the Kitty's First Day of Preschool by Kimberly and James Dean
Pete the Kitty fans will love when Pete heads to his first day of preschool! In this story, Pete meets his teacher, sings a few fun songs, and even gets to paint. Who knew preschool could be so much fun? Little ones will enjoy exploring what the first day of school is like with Pete the Kitty.
Age range: 2-4
Curious George's First Day of School by Margret and H.A. Rey
Curious George is a favorite children's book character, even though he's always finding a way to get in to trouble. In this story, Curious George has been invited to Mr. Apple's class to be a special helper. Uh oh... we know something silly is about to happen! George "helps" with painting, so you can imagine what kind of disaster occurs. Well, at least he learns what fun you can have when you go to preschool! This book includes bonus activities, like an "Ants on a Log" recipe, a word search, and a "Color Your World" craft idea.
Age range: 2-5
Daniel Goes to School by Becky Friedman
Everyone's favorite tiger is excited to go to school! But, he's worried when his dad can't stay with him. Perhaps your little one already knows this song, "grown-ups come back", which the story is based on? Daniel has lots of fun with his teacher and classmates in this sweet 8x8 storybook that will ring true for children just starting school. Perfect for the little one worried about leaving parents for the first time.
Age range: 2-4
Best first day of school books for kindergartners:
The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing
A favorite of my kids', this story is takeoff of the classic Christmas poem, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
'Twas the night before kindergarten,
and as they prepared,
kids were excited,
and a little bit scared.
Join the kids in this sweet story as they prepare for kindergarten, packing school supplies, posing for pictures, and the hardest part of all--saying goodbye to Mom and Dad. Luckily they'll soon find out how much fun kindergarten is!
Age range: 5-6
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
In this New York Times bestseller, National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and award-winning illustrator Rafael Lopez tell the story of how a child feels when they are starting something new. While not school-specific, going to school for the first time certainly applies. In this story, we are reminded that we all feel like outsider sometimes, but how brave it is to go forth anyway, even when we're scared. When we reach out to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway. Quite frankly, this is a great book for adults, too!
Age range: 5-8
School's First Day of School by Adam Rex
Did you ever think that maybe your school gets nervous for the first day of school, too? It's true! In this story, it's the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary. Eeryone's just a little bit anxious, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him? Although the school has a rough start, as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he's not the only one going through first-day jitters.
Age range: 5-6
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
Another favorite in my household, Wemberly is a little mouse who is always, you guessed it, worried. And she's especially worried about going to school for the first time. Her parents say, "Worry, worry, worry. Too much worry." But when it's time to go back to school and she meets a fellow worrywart in her class, Wemberly realizes that school is too much fun to waste time worrying!
Age range: 3-6
Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten by Candice Ransom
Amanda Panda (I love this rhyme, for starters!) has BIG ideas for her first day of school. But when things don't go according to plan, and when a "pesky girl in a pink bow decides to be her best friend", she decides to quit kindergarten and join her brother in second grade. How do you think that will turn out? Amanda Panda perfectly captures the spirit, motivations, and humor of a headstrong girl headed to kindergarten—and will be sure to soothe back-to-school jitters.
Age range: 3-7
Best first day of school books for first graders:
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
I love this sweet story about a girl who is the the new kid in school, who worries that no one will be able to pronounce her name. Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. According to the Amazon description, "So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it—Yoon-Hey."
What a wonderful story of acceptance and openness from children, an important lesson for school and every day life.
Age range: 5-9
On the First Day of First Grade by Tish Rabe
In this adaptation of "The Twelve Days of Christmas", kids learn about how fun it is to be in the first grade! This book shares all the excitement of "big kid" school, and all the "firsts" there are to look forward to. Saying good-bye to mom and dad can be hard, but when the school bus pulls up, it's time for some first grade fun!
Age range: 4-8
Mae's First Day of School by Kate Berube
Uh oh. As Mae's first day of school approaches she decides she IS. NOT. GOING. After all, school is scary! What if the other kids don't like her? Or what if she's the only one who doesn't know how to write? Or what if she misses her mom? Mae's anxiety only builds as she walks to school. What will she do? But, then she meets Rosie and Ms. Pearl. Making friends helps Mae conquer her fears.
Age range: 3-7
First Grade Jitters by Robert Quackenbush
For all those little ones with nervous jitters about the first grade, this book is for you! In this story, a young boy is about to enter first grade and doesn't know quite what to expect. Will his friends be there? Will he have to know how to read and spell? What if he can't understand anything his teacher says? Looks like a case of first grade jitters!
Age range: 5-6
Be Big! Beatrice's First Day of First Grade by Katie Kizer
In this tale, Beatrice is a little girl in a blue tutu who is afraid of being her unique self when she starts first grade. With gorgeous illustrations, this story will encourage little ones to face their fears and "be brave, be bold, and be big." Beatrice begins her first day of first grade alongside Benjamin the butterfly, who encourages Beatrice to be big and reminds her that she is not alone. Great for children who are overcoming their fears when it comes to a new adventure like heading to first grade.
Age range: 5-7