The excitement of a new school year is just around the corner, and what better way to embrace it than with heartwarming stories that capture the essence of back-to-school adventures? From tiny tots taking their first steps into preschool to middle schoolers navigating the halls with newfound independence, this diverse collection of books covers it all.
For the littlest learners, here are some of the most enchanting tales that explore the magic of starting school, conquering first-day jitters, and making friends in the most unexpected places. Dive into stories that celebrate diversity, promote inclusivity, and teach the value of acceptance in a wonderfully imaginative way.
🎒📚 Get your little ones ready for a delightful journey into the world of learning with this handpicked selection of 30 Engaging Back-to-School Children’s Books for All Ages! 📚🎒
Looking for some hands-on teaching resources to jump start the new year? Check out my step-by-step guide to the Reggio inspired classroom!
30 of The Most Beloved Back-to-School Children’s Books
by Jaqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez (Illustrator)
Reading age: 5-8 years
National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpre Illustrator Award winner Rafael Lopez have teamed up to create a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone.
There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.
There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.
Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael Lopez’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes, and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.
Jacqueline Woodson is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
Buy it: The Day You Begin on Amazon
2. My Teacher
by James Ransome
Reading age: 5-8 years
A great teacher is the best gift of all, according to the narrator of this warm look inside an urban classroom. Her teacher encourages the students to write stories, listen to jazz music, help in their neighborhood, celebrate different kinds of families, and build their own class library. The narrator recognizes that her teacher could be working in a nicer school, but the teacher reveals that she was a student in that very class and that she works in the school to help the children achieve their dreams the way she was able to.
As a celebration of all the ways a teacher can inspire students, this is a welcome gift in any classroom.
Buy it: My Teacher on Amazon
by Stan Berenstain (Author), Jan Berenstain (Author)
Reading age: Preschool – 2nd grade
Get ready to go back to school with the Berenstain Bears! This story is a perfect way to teach children about how much fun school can truly be–with over 50 bonus stickers!
Come for a visit in Bear Country with this classic storybook from Stan and Jan Berenstain. All the cubs in Bear Country are ready for the new school year . . . except for Sister Bear. She is about to start kindergarten, but can’t stop worrying about what it will be like. Will her teacher be nice? Will she make friends? What will she do all day in class?
Buy it: The Berenstain Bears Go to School on Amazon
by Jeff Kinney
Reading age: 7-10 years old
Boys don’t keep diaries―or do they?
The launch of an exciting and innovatively illustrated new series narrated by an unforgettable kid every family can relate to
It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary.
In book one of this debut series, Greg is happy to have Rowley, his sidekick, along for the ride. But when Rowley’s star starts to rise, Greg tries to use his best friend’s newfound popularity to his own advantage, kicking off a chain of events that will test their friendship in hilarious fashion.
Buy it: Diary of a Wimpy Kid on Amazon
by James Patterson, Chris Tebbetts
Reading age: 9-12 years old
Rafe Khatchadorian has enough problems at home without throwing his first year of middle school into the mix. Luckily, he’s got an ace plan for the best year ever, if only he can pull it off: With his best friend Leonardo the Silent awarding him points, Rafe tries to break every rule in his school’s oppressive Code of Conduct. Chewing gum in class–5,000 points! Running in the hallway–10,000 points! Pulling the fire alarm–50,000 points! But when Rafe’s game starts to catch up with him, he’ll have to decide if winning is all that matters, or if he’s finally ready to face the rules, bullies, and truths he’s been avoiding.
Buy it: Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life on Amazon
by Barbara Park, Denise Brunkus (Illustrator)
Reading age: 6 to 8
Meet the World’s Funniest Kindergartner–Junie B. Jones! Remember when it was scary to go to school? In the first Junie B. Jones book, it’s Junie B.’s first day and she doesn’t know anything. She’s so scared of the school bus and the meanies on it that when it’s time to go home, she doesn’t.
Buy it: Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus on Amazon
by Adam Rex, Christian Robinson (Illustrator)
Reading age: 5-6 years old
A New York Times bestselling author (The True Meaning of Smekday) and illustrator (Last Stop on Market Street) team bring you a fresh look at the first day of school, this time from the school’s perspective.
It’s the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and everyone’s just a little bit nervous, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him?
The school has a rough start, but as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he’s not the only one going through first-day jitters
Buy it: School’s First Day of School on Amazon
by Jane Yolen, Mark Teague (Illustrator)
Reading age: 2-5 years
Everyone’s favorite dinosaurs are back – and this time they are going to school. More fun dinosaur antics await. These prehistoric pupils are in a class of their own!
As in their previous books, Jane Yolen and Mark Teague capture children’s rambunctious natures with playful read-aloud verse and wonderfully amusing pictures.
Buy it: How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? on Amazon
by Beverly Cleary
Reading age: 5-8 years
Ramona doesn’t think she’s a pest – she knows that she isn’t a pest on purpose. So how in the world does Ramona get in trouble? Why does her crush Davy run away whenever Ramona comes near him? And how does she manage to disrupt the whole kindergarten class during their rest time?
Buy it: Ramona the Pest on Amazon
by Jory John, Liz Climo (Illustrations)
Reading age: 4-8 years
It’s almost the first day of school, and the animals are nervous. Sloth worries about getting there on time, snake can’t seem to get his backpack fastened onto his body, and bunny is afraid she’ll want to hop around instead of sitting still. When they all arrive at their classroom, though, they’re in for a surprise: Somebody else is nervous too. It’s their teacher, the armadillo! He has rolled in as a ball, and it takes him a while to relax and unfurl. But by the next day, the animals have all figured out how to help one another through their jitters. School isn’t so scary after all.
Buy it: First Day Critter Jitters on Amazon
11. Wemberly Worried
by Kevin Henkes
Reading age: 3-6 years
Wemberly worried about everything. Big things. Little things. And things in between. Then it was time for school to start. And Wemberly worried even more. If you ever worry (or know someone who does), this is the book for you. Wemberly worried about spilling her juice, about shrinking in the bathtub, even about snakes in the radiator. She worried morning, noon, and night. “Worry, worry, worry,” her family said. “Too much worry.” And Wemberly worried about one thing most of her first day of school. 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!
This warm and comforting back-to-school favorite is from Kevin Henkes, the nationally bestselling and celebrated creator of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse , Kitten’s First Full Moon , and Chrysanthemum. “This winning heroine speaks to the worrywart in everyone.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Buy it: Wemberly Worried on Amazon
12. Dear Teacher
by Amy Husband
Reading age: 4-8 years
Face your first day jitters with the perfect laugh-out-loud back to school comedy. Can Michael’s imagination save him from the first day of school? Dear Teacher is a hilarious collection of letters from Michael to his new teacher explaining why he can’t go to class. From traveling to the pyramids of Egypt to getting attacked by pirates and going to the moon in a rocket ship, each letter is increasingly outlandish and covered with Michael’s incredibly funny sketches from his many “adventures.” When Michael’s teacher writes back telling him how sorry she is he’ll miss all of the exciting school activities planned for the year, Michael realizes all the fun he’d really miss out on. This book is perfect for a teacher to use in the classroom, or for families to read together at home before going back to school.
Buy it: Dear Teacher on Amazon
13. All Are Welcome
by Alexandra Penfold, Suzanne Kaufman (Illustrator)
Reading age: 4-6 years
A warm, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids.
Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yamulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.
Buy it: All Are Welcome on Amazon
by Eric Litwin, James Dean (Illustrator)
Reading age: 3-6 years
Time to head back to school with this bestselling groovy Pete the Cat book!
Pete the Cat is rocking in his school shoes. Pete discovers the library, the lunch room, the playground, and lots of other cool places at school. And no matter where he goes, Pete never stops moving and grooving and singing his song…because it’s all good.
Buy it: Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes on Amazon
Reading age: 2-7 years
‘Twas the night before kindergarten,
and as they prepared,
kids were excited,
and a little bit scared.
It’s the first day of school! Join the kids as they prepare for kindergarten, packing school supplies, posing for pictures, and the hardest part of all–saying goodbye to Mom and Dad. But maybe it won’t be so hard once they discover just how much fun kindergarten really is! Colorful illustrations illuminate this uplifting takeoff on the classic Christmas poem.
Buy it: The Night Before Kindergarten on Amazon
by Julie Danneberg, Judy Love (Illustrator)
Reading age: 5-7 years
Head back to school with a first day of school favorite! The perfect pick for new students and teachers, complete with a Certificate of Courage for First Day Completion and a First Day Memories Sheet .
Sarah Jane Hartwell has that sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach–she’s nervous and doesn’t want to start a new school year. She doesn’t know anybody, and nobody knows her. It will be awful. She just knows it.
With a little convicing from Mr. Hartwell, Sarah Jane reluctantly heads to class. Shy at first, she’s quickly befriended by Mrs. Burton and reminded that everyone at school gets the jitters sometimes.
A beloved and bestselling back to schools staple, Sarah Jane’s familiar story and its surprise ending will delight seasoned students and new faces alike who are anxious about their first day.
Buy it: First Day Jitters on Amazon
17. The Kissing Hand
by Audrey Penn, Ruth E. Harper (Illustrator), Nancy M. Leak (Illustrator)
Reading age: 2-7 years
School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester’s fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called the Kissing Hand to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary.
Since its first publication in 1993, this heartwarming book has become a children’s classic that has touched the lives of millions of children and their parents, especially at times of separation, whether starting school, entering daycare, or going to camp. It is widely used by kindergarten teachers on the first day of school.
Stickers at the back will help children and their parents keep their Kissing Hand alive.
Buy it: The Kissing Hand on Amazon
by Anna Dewdney
Reading age: 2-4 years
Strange new teacher.
Strange new toys.
Lots of kids and lots of noise!
What would Llama like to do?
Llama Llama feels so new . . .
It’s Llama Llama’s first day of preschool! And Llama Llama’s mama makes sure he’s ready. They meet the teachers. See the other children. Look at all the books and games. But then it’s time for Mama to leave. And suddenly Llama Llama isn’t so excited anymore. Will Mama Llama come back?
Of course she will. But before she does, the other children show Llama Llama how much fun school can be!
Buy it: Llama Llama Misses Mama on Amazon
by Angela Shanté, Alison Hawkins (Illustrations)
Reading age: 6-8 years
The first day of school is coming… and I’m going to be in the noisy class. Any class but the noisy class will do!
A young girl is about to enter the third grade, but this year she’s put into Ms. Johnson’s noisy class. Everything about the noisy class is odd. While all the other classes are quiet, Ms. Johnson sings and the kids chatter all day. The door is always closed, yet sounds from it can be heard in the hallway. With summer coming to an end and school starting, the girl realizes that soon she’ll be going to the noisy class. What will school be like now?
Buy it: The Noisy Classroom on Amazon
by Eleanor Estes, Louis Slobodkin (Illustrator)
Reading age: 7-10 years
This Newbery Honor classic, illustrated by a Caldecott Medalist, is a beautifully written tribute to the power of kindness, acceptance, and standing up for what’s right. Wanda Petronski is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. She claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t. When Wanda is pulled out of school one day, the class feels terrible, and classmate Maddie decides that she is “never going to stand by and say nothing again.”
A timeless, gentle tale about bullies, bystanders, and having the courage to speak up.
Buy it: The Hundred Dresses on Amazon
by Marty Mokler Banks
Reading age: 6-9 years
Tempest and Serena Cooper think they are nothing alike. That all changes when Tempest flies off a wild, brave journey to find summer forever, while Serena promises to save her sister’s seat on the school bus. As each battles bullies, disasters, and loneliness, they find they’re not so different.
Buy it: The Adventures of Tempest & Serena on Amazon
22. How Katie Got a Voice
by Patricia L. Mervine, Ian Acker (Illustrator)
Reading age: 5-8 years
“How Katie Got a Voice (and a Cool New Nickname)” is a story that celebrates that which makes us all unique, but also highlights how sometimes a little help is needed to show us how much we are alike. The story is told by a fourth-grade classmate of Katie, the new girl in school. Everyone in the school, even the principal and custodian, have nicknames related to their individual interests and personalities. When Katie comes into the class, the students are eager to involve her in their activities and to learn what is special about her. This proves to be quite a challenge. Katie has significant physical disabilities which make her dependent on a Personal Care Assistant for everything, even communicating. How can Katie fit in with her classmates when she can’t even talk?
When Katie is introduced to assistive technology, she is finally able to communicate with her new friends. As a result, the students are delighted to see her as a person with many interests and abilities, just like them. Katie knows she is a valued member of the school when she is given her own special nickname.
This book can be read in the classroom, in therapy, and at home as a way to open a discussion about acceptance, inclusion, disability etiquette, and overcoming challenges through assistive technology.
Buy it: How Katie Got a Voice on Amazon
by Nancy Carlson
Reading age: 5-6 years
The first day of kindergarten is finally here, and Henry can’t wait to paint pictures, sing songs, and practice counting. When he gets to school, though, he’s not so sure he’s ready for kindergarten. But before long Henry discovers that the only thing he’s not ready for is how much fun he’s going to have at school!
This gently humorous, encouraging story will give children about to enter kindergarten an extra boost of confidence.
Buy it: Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come on Amazon
by Shannon Olsen, Sandie Sonke (Illustrator)
Reading age: 4-7 years
Teachers do so much more than just teach academics.
They build a sense of community within their classrooms, creating a home away from home where they make their students feel safe, included, and loved. With its heartfelt message and colorfully whimsical illustrations, “Our Class is a Family” is a book that will help build and strengthen that class community. Kids learn that their classroom is a place where it’s safe to be themselves, it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s important to be a friend to others.
When hearing this story being read aloud by their teacher, students are sure to feel like they are part of a special family.
“Family isn’t always your relatives. It’s the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.”
Buy it: Our Class is a Family on Amazon
by Lauren Child
Reading age: 3-7 years
Lola is not so sure about school. After all, why would she need to count higher than ten when she never eats more than ten cookies at a time? Once again, it’s up to ever-patient big brother Charlie to persuade Lola that school is worthwhile — and that her invisible friend, Soren Lorensen, will be welcome, too.
Buy it: I Am Too Absolutely Small for School on Amazon
by Patricia Polacco
Reading age: 5-8 years
Patricia Polacco is now one of America’s most loved children’s book creators, but once upon a time, she was a little girl named Trisha starting school. Trisha could paint and draw beautifully, but when she looked at words on a page, all she could see was jumble. It took a very special teacher to recognize little Trisha’s dyslexia: Mr. Falker, who encouraged her to overcome her reading disability. Patricia Polacco will never forget him, and neither will we.
This inspiring story is available in a deluxe slipcased edition, complete with a personal letter to readers from Patricia Polacco herself. Thank You, Mr. Falker will make a beautiful gift for the special child who needs encouragement or any special teacher who has made a difference in the child’s life.
Buy it: Thank You, Mr. Falker on Amazon
by Ibtihaj Muhammad, S.K. Ali (Contributor), Hatem Aly (Illustrator)
Reading age: 3-8 years
A powerful, vibrantly illustrated story about the first day of school–and two sisters on one’s first day of hijab–by Olympic medalist and social justice activist Ibtihaj Muhammad.
With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab–a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong.
Paired with Hatem Aly’s beautiful, whimsical art, Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad and Morris Award finalist S.K. Ali bring readers an uplifting, universal story of new experiences, the unbreakable bond between siblings, and of being proud of who you are.
Buy it: The Proudest Blue on Amazon
by Mark Pett, Gary Rubinstein
Reading age: 5-8 years
Beatrice Bottomwell has NEVER (not once!) made a mistake…
Meet Beatrice Bottomwell: a nine-year-old girl who has never (not once!) made a mistake. She never forgets her math homework, she never wears mismatched socks, and she ALWAYS wins the yearly talent show at school. In fact, Beatrice holds the record of perfection in her hometown, where she is known as The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes.
Life for Beatrice is sailing along pretty smoothly until she does the unthinkable: she makes her first mistake. And in a very public way!
Buy it: The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes on Amazon
30. The Recess Queen
by Alexis O’Neill, Laura Huliska-Beith (Illustrator)
Reading age: 4-8 years
A fresh & original twist on the common issue of bullying. Kids will relate, & parents & teachers will appreciate the story’s deft handling of conflict resolution (which happens w/o adult intervention) Mean Jean was Recess Queenand nobody said any different.
Nobody swung until Mean Jean swung. Nobody kicked until Mean Jean kicked. Nobody bounced until Mean Jean bounced.
If kids ever crossed her, she’d push ’em and smoosh ’emlollapaloosh ’em, hammer ’em, slammer ’emkitz and kajammer ’em. Until a new kid came to school! With her irrepressible spirit, the new girl dethrones the reigning recess bully by becoming her friend in this infectious playground romp.
Buy it: The Recess Queen on Amazon
What do you think?
Do you have an all-time favourite back-to-school book? Let me know in the comment section!