Back to school. What an emotional time for kids. Excitement, expectations, nervousness, fear, dread. There's so much going on. Luckily, you can ease your child into the journey of the unknown by preparing them. And in my house, we do this through books.
Below are 3 go-to back-to-school books that I recommend for kids aged 4 - 10.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
As a parent who has made a point of giving my kids unique names, I rarely thought about the day that they would be made fun of as a result of my "originality". In Chrysanthemum, the title character loves her name - until she goes to school and is mocked by her new classmates - Jo, Rita and Victoria.
I've been reading this book to my children for 20 years and never grow tired of it. The illustrations are simple yet full of wonderful details (check out the names in attendance) and the anticipation (and heartache when things don't go as planned) of the first few weeks of school is a great set up for how things might go down. Lastly, Chrysanthemum shows the important role that teachers can play in a child's development and confidence.
Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems
Ok so this is a bit of cheat. While it's not a back to school book, it does have a back to school vibe. The main character of Willems' trilogy, Trixie, is super excited to introduce her stuffed animal Knuffle Bunny to all her friends at pre-k. The only problem? Her nemesis, Sonja, has the exact same bunny.
Through a mix of cartoon illustrations overlayed on black and white photographs of his Brooklyn neighbourhood, Willems gets all the details of going to school. Leading your parents through the halls of school, getting in trouble in class and playing at recess. All of these activities are depicted perfectly. It's a great primer for what to expect when you go to school (and also that your worst enemy will most likely become your best friend by the next day).
Note: I highly recommend you check out the entire Knuffle Bunny trilogy. And yes, the third one will make you cry like a wee baby!
Violet by Tania Duprey Stehlik
Like many kids, Violet has moved and is going to a new school. She is anxious about making new friends and hopes that she can trade her snacks in her lunch for friendship. Of course, she easily makes new friends. Friends who are red and blue. But Violet, like her name, is Violet, even though her dad is blue and her mom is red. Not understanding how Violet can be a different colour than her parents, her friends ask her why this is.
My wife bought this for our second daughter for a couple reasons. One, her name is Violet, and two, just like the Violet of the book, her parents are different colours. My wife is brown and I am white. This book proved to be a great way to talk about being biracial and how to respond to inquisitive minds on the schoolyard. On top of the discussion of race and identity, Duprey Stehlik also tackles the anxieties of going to a new school and starting fresh. Having done it a couple times myself, I would have appreciated this perspective when I was a child.
So there you have it. 3 great back-to-school books for 3 very different reasons. I'm sure I've missed about a thousand so please feel free to share your recommendations.
Happy back to school season!
Want to get more great content like this and keep up to date with Mabel’s Labels? Sign up for our newsletter!