My second niece (I have six) starts kindergarten next week, so this Themed Third Thursday is dedicated to books about going to school! (Instead of recommended reading ages, I’m putting what the topic of each book is. For instance, I’ll delineate which books are general school themes, which are about starting school, and which are about a specific grade level.)
D.W.’s Guide to Preschool, by Marc Brown (preschool): For children starting preschool, this Arthur book could be a good introduction. It features the somewhat ambiguous animal characters known from other Arthur books and a pair of human twins (who are the only ones who seem to have any troubles at preschool, except Dennis who once wet his pants) and really seems like a seasoned preschooler guiding a newbie through what preschool is like. I’m not fond of all the Arthur books, but this one seems useful!
Llama Llama Misses Mama, by Anna Dewdney (starting school): Llama Llama is shy on his first day of school (presumably preschool, but it doesn’t actually say). He doesn’t want to play, and he finally breaks down during lunch because he misses his mama, and his classmates and teacher help him feel better. When Mama Llama comes to pick him up at the end of the day, he realizes that he loves his mama…and school, too! Also available to read free online at We Give Books. (I love reading the Llama Llama books out loud…so much drama! 😉 )
Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff (starting kindergarten): Starting with the illustrations on the title page, we watch Miss Bindergarten (a be-jumpered Border Collie) and her students (twenty-six alphabetically-named animals) prepare for the first day of kindergarten. While the preparation of her once empty classroom is unrealistically done the first morning of school before students arrive, this is possibly the only book I’ve seen where the teacher’s classroom preparations are a focus, and it might do new kindergarteners some good to know that their teachers have been working hard to make the classroom welcoming for them!
On the Way to Kindergarten, by Virginia Kroll, illustrated by Elisabeth Schlossberg (starting kindergarten): This book celebrates the milestones of getting older, from newborn to age five and starting kindergarten. It seems like a good book to encourage a child to be excited about getting bigger and moving on, and it doesn’t mention a single fear or phobia, so that’s a plus for those kids who tend to develop all the fears they hear others have (like GirlChild with Caillou shows–blech!).
Countdown to Kindergarten, by Alison McGhee, pictures by Harry Bliss (starting kindergarten): While this book focuses on one worry children might have in the days leading up to kindergarten (not being able to tie shoes), it would be a great way to start a discussion to find out from your child what worries he or she has about starting school and correct any misconceptions before they get blown out of proportion.
Franklin Goes to School, by Paulette Bourgeois, illustrated by Brenda Clark (starting kindergarten): Okay, so this is not actually written and illustrated by these people, but it’s part of the series, and I’ve seen the television equivalent which seems pretty good as well. It starts with going over some things that Franklin can do (count by twos and tie his shoes, etc.), then showing that he’s still worried about kindergarten, especially once his friends start talking about what they can do. At school, however, the teacher (Mr. Owl) finds out that Franklin knows his colors and is a bit of an artist, and that gives Franklin the confidence to try other things. Another good book for discussing what concerns your child about kindergarten (especially if it has to do with skills).
The Berenstain Bears Go to School, by Stan and Jan Berenstain (starting kindergarten): You can’t have a “firsts” theme without including the Berenstain Bears! For fans of the series, this is a good starting school book that doesn’t focus too much on worries, although Sister Bear does think about the things at home that she will miss. She has just a little case of the jitters, and then she has a great time at school.
Elizabeti’s School, by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, illustrated by Christy Hale (starting school): Elizabeti is eager to start school, but she begins to worry about how they’ll get along without her at home. She enjoys her day but misses her family, so she decides that she doesn’t want to go back to school the next day. In the end, however, she decides that she’ll “give school another try, but home [is] surely the best place to be.” And it is. But school is worth a try, too. 🙂
Fisher-Price Little People: Let’s Go to School, by Doris Tomaselli, illustrated by SI Artists (school): This lift-the-flap book walks through some basic parts of a school day (as well as a school play) while letting children practice opposites, counting, feeling words, shapes and colors, and action words. While I think showing lunch time or a lesson might have been a better choice than the school play in regards to a normal school day, the feeling words probably worked better in the play setting than they would have in either of the other scenes.
School Bus, by Donald Crews (riding the bus): Donald Crews books are a staple in every library picture book collection, and this basic rehearsal of the comings and goings of school buses might be a good introduction to a young student who has to ride the bus for the first time. The simple description begins with school buses all parked in the bus lot, then shows them moving throughout town during the routine of a school day, ending with them all parked in the lot again.
Topsy and Tim Start School, by Jean and Gareth Adamson (starting primary [elementary] school, see here for an explanation of the British naming system): Topsy and Tim move up from playgroup (what seems to be kind of like preschool, not the informal playgroups we often see in the U.S.) to primary school with both excitement and some trepidation about the big kids. Some things are very much like their playgroup, and although they find they already know some children in their class, they meet new friends, too.
The Night Before First Grade, by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Deborah Zemke (starting first grade): Penny, the first-person narrator, tells the story of starting first grade (in the style of “The Night Before Christmas”) with her best friend. She gets put into a different class from her friend, but she finds a new girl, Nina, to befriend and is eager to introduce her to her pal Jenny at lunch…and is surprised to find that Jenny has a new friend to share, too: Nina’s twin sister, Tina! You can read it for free online at We Give Books.
Surviving the Applewhites, by Stephanie S. Tolan (homeschooling, sort of): This Newbery Honor book is probably not particularly representative of your average homeschooling situation (okay, unschooling is probably the closest, and even that is likely not as unstructured as the Applewhite family version!), but it is a charming book that does feature first-time homeschooling (of bad boy Jake, an experimental “guest” of the family after his expulsions from traditional schools) as a major plot point. It is best suited for upper elementary and middle school readers since the main characters are early teens and there are references to negative behaviors by Jake and his parents (not glorified, however). (If you know of any well-written children’s books about homeschooling, please share! I’d love a “My First Day of (Home)School” type book to review, and I really didn’t have any luck finding another story that was mostly about homeschooling!)
Does anyone have any other books that they’d recommend? I mentioned The Kissing Hand in last month’s Themed Third Thursday, and I know that one is a pretty standard starting-school book, but what other good ones have I missed? Share in the comments!