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16 Clever Books To Help Kids Deal With Back-To-School Jitters & Joys

And there’s one here for you, too, mama.

by Amber Guetebier
A roundup of best back-to-school children's books can help ease beginning-of-year jitters.
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In my house, books are my go-to when a tough, tricky, or stressful situation comes around. It’s not just about encouraging reading: Books often allow a gateway for kids to verbalize how they are feeling about a situation. In fact, they help grown-ups get there too. Reading a story together and then talking about it can be a natural way to start a conversation about big feelings like anxiety and fear with kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens.

Back-to-school season has no shortage of those big emotions. Starting in a new grade, riding the bus, a new routine, or even changing schools can cause our doubts and fears to rise. And since we parents aren’t immune to these feelings either, I’ve included a grounding journal that can help parents work through their emotions (it’s also perfect for teens and college-aged kids).

Full of whimsy and wisdom, these books offer empathy and calming tools, along with celebrating the joys of the classroom — including the beloved class pet.


Little Yellow Bus

It’s the first day of school, and Yellow the little school bus is so nervous he can’t eat. His wipers are swishing way too fast, and he’s afraid everything will go wrong. But with a little reassurance from his parents, Yellow starts his route, taking it one stop at a time. Before he knows it, he’s no longer afraid and beaming with confidence. Illustrated by Suzie Mason.


You Can’t Be a Pterodactyl

When Teacher asks the class what they want to be when they grow up, the kids say “nurse” and “firefighter” and other amazing things — but Tommy wants to be a pterodactyl. In spite of the naysayers and the mean kids, Tommy still wants to be a pterodactyl. A whimsical little story about the importance of staying true to yourself. Illustrated by Sophie Corrigan.


Tomatoes in My Lunchbox

Touching on the immigrant experience on the first day of school, a young girl is not only starting a new school, but she’s also in an entirely new country. The teachers don’t say her name the same as in her old school, and everyone stares at her when she eats a whole tomato in her lunch. Beautifully told, this book will help remind your child they are not alone while encouraging them to be mindful of the experiences of others. Illustrated by Magdalena Mora.


Benny the Brave in the First Day Jitters

Sarah is afraid on her first day of school: What if her teacher has a big slimy tail and no one wants to play with her? Benny the Brave to the rescue! Benny helps Sarah flip the script on her fears and tap into her own bravery. The book also includes tips for kids to help themselves when they feel anxious and scared. Illustrated by Sergio De Giorgi.


Our Classroom Rules!

An adorable cast of animal characters takes center stage in this sweet book that offers emotional support to kids heading back to school. It demonstrates a wide array of scenarios kids might encounter in the classroom, including how the rules in place help everyone. Illustrated by Jay Fleck.


Peaceful Me

An excellent book to read at the start of the year (and year-round), Peaceful Me helps children reconnect with the need to find things that give them their own sense of joy and peace. Beautifully illustrated, the book offers kids a way to think about big feelings in a healthy way as they go through transitions.


Betsy’s First Day of School

Betsy the bunny is super nervous on her first day of school. None of her friends are in the same class, and everything seems overwhelming and scary. The good news is Betsy is brave, and soon she learns she makes some new woodland friends and has many new adventures to look forward to.


Isabel and Her Colores Go to School

In this bilingual book (Spanish and English) with lush illustrations, Isabel’s feelings are conveyed in colors. She associates colores with language and feels out of place in a new school. Making new friends isn’t easy, but Isabel soon finds there are those who celebrate exactly who she is. Illustrated by Courtney Dawson.


First Night of Howlergarten

Kids go to kindergarten during the day. Werewolves, however, attend Howlergarten at night. At Howlergarten, students learn special skills like listening to whispers and tracking scents. But will little Sophie find she has the skills to transform by the light of the moon, or will she be a human forever? A clever way to address the anxiety over not being sure if you will fit in.


How to Catch a Class Pet

This charming book is a joyful celebration of one of the most beloved aspects of elementary school: the class pet. The first day of school has arrived, and all the pets have escaped. The kids must work together on the playground and around the school to recapture the menagerie. Illustrated by Andy Elkerton.


The Pigeon Has to Go to School

You can’t go wrong with Mo Willems and his always-hilarious-but-incredibly-apt take on life as a kid. This book addresses the reluctant pigeon who comes up with a litany of reasons school won’t be fun at all, but of course, he learns his big lesson when he finally makes it to class.


My First Day of Kindergarten

Part of a “my first day” series, this lovely rhyming story is a perfect bedtime read the night before school or just on repeat. Follow along as an orange cat named Kitten heads to school, and learn about all the fun things they’ll do on the first day — and every day. All the books have a central animal character (first grade is Sloth) and are whimsical, lyrical books to elevate the mood and calm nerves. Illustrated by Joanne Partis.


Luli and the Language of Tea

Starting a new school is already a nerve-racking experience, but starting as an English language learner has an added component of feeling like you can’t communicate. In this book set in an ESL class, the children — who all speak different languages: Hindi, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, and Spanish — are unified when Luli teaches them the word for tea in Chinese: Chá! They soon learn they have more in common than they think. Illustrated by Hyewon Yum.


Airi Sano, Prankmaster General: Public Enemy Number One

A middle-grade story set in a school in Hawaii, this book (forthcoming in September) is the second book in the Airi Sano series. Airi is happy at her new school in Hawaii, where she’s made lots of friends and is enjoying learning. She’s also enjoying pranking to her heart’s content. But when one prankster meets another, Airi must catch the culprit before they ruin the school play. The first book in the series tackles Airi finally settling into a school after years of jumping locations as a military kid. Illustrated by Jennifer Naalchigar.


108 Awesome Yoga Poses for Kids

Yoga is excellent for helping kids sit with and process big emotions, especially anxiety and fear. Created by the founders of Yogi Beans, this book geared toward kids from 3 to 14 features photos and memorable names for the poses. Incorporate a few into your morning or bedtime routine.


The Maniscripting Journal: Life Design Journal & Ritual Guidebook

When it comes to back-to-school books, teens don’t have as many options as their younger elementary counterparts. But heading into high school and even college comes with its own set of anxieties as kids start to look further into their future. The Maniscripting Journal is a wellness journal designed to help you focus on important aspects of your life, including relationships and family, career, and physical and mental health. It offers tools, rituals, and writing prompts to help ground and focus. Moms, this one is for you, too!