The 40 Best Books To Read When Starting School

Updated Apr. 23, 2019

Starting school for the first time, starting a new school after a move or educational advancement, or just starting a new grade can be nerve-racking, scary, and exciting. One of the best ways to help your child feel comfortable with this new transition is to read about it. They'll sympathize with how these characters feel and learn through their experiences that starting up school isn't as scary as it sounds, it's actually very fun and full of wonderful opportunities.

Wonder book
#1
Wonder
Written by R. J. Palacio
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
Thoughts from The Fun Uncle

This is a fantastic read. It's one of those books that changes you. I like that Palacio gives us the story through Auggie- Auggie (And Via at certain points) tells us the story from his 10-year-old perspective. Auggie's story is unique, but at the same time it's a story that we can all relate to. Auggie struggles with physical challenges that most of us don't, but I don't think the book is supposed to be about the physical challenges. It's really about the emotional battles he faces that we all encounter. What's more, it's a book that reminds us that others are going through silent challenges too. Wonder is a story that forces us to reconsider how we are treating those that are in our lives. Auggie is physically deformed because of birth and development complications, but he is a strong individual that speaks to us about the unfairness, bullying, betrayal, happiness, and love that we all go through.

Born with a facial deformity that initially prevented his attendance at public school, Auggie Pullman enters the fifth grade at Beecher Prep and struggles with the dynamics of being both new and different, in a sparsely written tale about acceptance and self-esteem.

The Kissing Hand book
#2
The Kissing Hand
Written by Audrey Penn and illustrated by Nancy M. Leak, Ruth E. Harper
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

When Chester the raccoon is reluctant to go to kindergarten for the first time, his mother teaches him a secret way to carry her love with him.

Chrysanthemum book
#3
Chrysanthemum
Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

She was a perfect baby, and she had a perfect name. Chrysanthemum. When she was old enough to appreciate it, Chrysanthemum loved her name. And then she started school. "I'm named after my grandmother," said Victoria. "You're named after a flower." Chrysanthemum wilted. Life at school didn't improve. In fact, it got worse. Then the students were introduced to their music teacher, Mrs. Twinkle. Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle. And suddenly, Chrysanthemum blossomed....

The Invisible Boy book
#4
The Invisible Boy
Written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

The book is gorgeously and emotionally illustrated, letting the colors speak to the emotions of Brian —the invisible boy— in this story. A powerful reminder that bullying takes many forms and that one person and one act of kindness can truly make a difference, even if they're the only one.

A simple act of kindness can transform an invisible boy into a friend... Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party . . . until, that is, a new kid comes to class. When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine. From esteemed author and speaker Trudy Ludwig and acclaimed illustrator Patrice Barton, this gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish. Any parent, teacher, or counselor looking for material that sensitively addresses the needs of quieter children will find The Invisible Boy a valuable and important resource.

Wemberly Worried book
#5
Wemberly Worried
Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Goodfather

Wemberly Worried is a good addition to the library of any young reader who struggles with worrying. The book can help start a conversation about worrying needlessly and choosing to replace worry with hope and confidence.

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.

The Invisible String book
#6
The Invisible String
Written by Patrice Karst and illustrated by Geoff Stevenson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This sweet story is such a sweet read to help little ones realize that they're connected to the ones they love, even when they're not nearby. Whether that's because a family member passed away, or maybe the child is starting their first day of school, this one will bring comfort and all the good feelings!

Picture book for children 4-8 years of age. A simple story that reminds children they are never truly alone. People who love each other are connected by an invisible string made of love.

Lost and Found book
#7
Lost and Found
Written by Andrew Clements and illustrated by Mark Elliott
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

The idea of having a twin and swapping places has always seemed intriguing, but Lost and Found does a great job demonstrating what such an experience might actually be like as these twins start a new school after moving, along with teaching the valuable lessons of being honest and loving the family you have!

Twelve-year-old identical twins Jay and Ray have long resented that everyone treats them as one person, and so they hatch a plot to take advantage of a clerical error at their new school and pretend they are just one.

Not This Bear book
#8
Not This Bear
Written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and illustrated by Lorna Hussey
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-6
Thoughts from Grammy

This story makes a lovely addition to the 'first-day-of-school' canon. I like the sweet way that bear clings to his comfortable/familiar, and his loyalty to the life he has known thus far. Mr. Brown has a gentle manner of introducing bear to the exciting new world of school without forcing bear to engage past his comfort zone. Given the time and space to be ready for new experiences, bear gradually finds his way, and a new friend as well.

It's Bear's first day of school, and he's a bit reluctant to go. Mama says all bears love school; Bear isn't so sure. But school turns out to be full of fun--painting pictures, listening to stories, and making new friends. Maybe this bear will like school after all.

We Don't Eat Our Classmates book
#9
We Don't Eat Our Classmates
Written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

It's the first day of school for Penelope Rex, and she can't wait to meet her classmates. But it's hard to make human friends when they're so darn delicious! That is, until Penelope gets a taste of her own medicine and finds she may not be at the top of the food chain after all. . . . Readers will gobble up this hilarious new story from award-winning author-illustrator Ryan T. Higgins.

The day you begin book
#10
The day you begin
Written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael López
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

If you've ever moved and started school in a place not like your home that you left, this book is for you! I love the diversity and that it can inspire the empathy and kindness to include others and be sensitive to what others might be going through, if you're not in this situation, yourself.

National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López 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 López'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.

Kindergarten, Here I Come! book
#11
Kindergarten, Here I Come!
Written by D.J. Steinberg and illustrated by Mark Chambers
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Get ready for school with these fun poems! This adorable picture book celebrates all the familiar milestones and moments shared by every single kindergartener. Whether it’s the first-day-of-school jitters or the hundredth-day-of-school party, every aspect of the kindergarten experience is introduced with a light and funny poem–not to mention charming illustrations.

Mae's First Day of School book
#12
Mae's First Day of School
Written and illustrated by Kate Berube
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

A great book for helping with starting school jitters! Mae is able to face her fears about going to school with the help of some new friends who help her realize that she's not the only one a little nervous about how the first day will go down—hooray for sharing cookies.

The first day of school can be scary for everyone--not just the students. As Mae gets ready for her very first day, she reflects on all the things she's afraid of. What if the other kids don't like her? What if she can't learn to read? What if she misses her mom? On the way to school, she decides that instead of facing all the unknowns, it would be much easier to climb up into her favorite tree and wait there until school is over. As other kids pass by, they, too, share their own fears with Mae, and she learns that everyone gets nervous about trying new things, even her teacher! Together, Mae and her new friends decide to face the day and celebrate new beginnings, hand in hand.

Froggy Goes to School book
#13
Froggy Goes to School
Written by Jonathan London and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Froggy’s mother knows that everyone’s nervous on the first day of school. “Not me!” says Froggy, and together they leapfrog to the bus stop — flop flop flop. Froggy’s exuberant antics will delight his many fans and reassure them that school can be fun.

Lena's Shoes Are Nervous book
#14
Lena's Shoes Are Nervous
Written by Keith Calabrese and illustrated by Juana Medina
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Today is a big day! Today, Lena starts kindergarten. She is very excited. But there’s just one problem... Lena’s shoes are nervous. Lena doesn’t want to miss out on her first day of school, but she can’t go without her favorite shoes! How can she convince them to be brave?

I Am Too Absolutely Small for School book
#15
I Am Too Absolutely Small for School
Written and illustrated by Lauren Child
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

"The children's relationship is refreshingly noncombative, with Charlie as the protective and affectionate older brother who is appreciative of, rather than annoyed by, his sister's quirkiness." — SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred review) Lola is not so sure about school. After all, why would she need to count higher than ten when she never eats more that 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.

All are welcome book
#16
All are welcome
Written by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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 yarmulkes 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.

Maisy Goes to Preschool book
#17
Maisy Goes to Preschool
Written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

Going to preschool is a lot more fun with a friend like Maisy to show you the ropes! Preschool for Maisy means a day filled with friends and things to do, from the time she hangs her coat on a special peg to the time she says good-bye. There’s painting and snack time, stories and nap time (and a bathroom break in between). Soon everyone’s ready to haul out the instruments and make some noise, then head outside for a turn at the sandbox or slide. In a bright, full-size storybook full of familiar scenes, this child-friendly look at a day in the life of a preschooler is one that newcomers and seasoned pros alike will be happy to share.

Llama Llama Misses Mama book
#18
Llama Llama Misses Mama
Written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

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!

The Night Before Preschool book
#19
The Night Before Preschool
Written by Natasha Wing and illustrated by Amy Wummer
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

It’s the night before preschool, and a little boy named Billy is so nervous he can’t fall asleep. The friends he makes the next day at school give him a reason not to sleep the next night, either: he’s too excited about going back! The book’s simple rhyming text and sweet illustrations will soothe any child’s fears about the first day of school.

Amelia Bedelia's First Day of School book
#20
Amelia Bedelia's First Day of School
Written by Herman Parish and illustrated by Lynne Avril
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Amelia Bedelia—she’ll grow on you! Amelia Bedelia is sure she will love everything about school: New friends A new teacher Her own desk Music, books, gym, art Recess and lunch

Dotty book
#21
Dotty
Written by Erica S Perl and illustrated by Julia Denos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

It’s Ida’s first day of school. She carries her new lunch box and a long, blue string with her special friend Dotty attached to it. A big, colorfully spotted pal with horns, Dotty just happens to be invisible. On that first day of school, Ida and Dotty find out there are plenty of other imaginary friends in attendance. But as the year passes and fewer and fewer imaginary friends come to class, Ida begins to wonder if Dotty is welcome at school anymore . . . Perceptive and warmly funny, with charming art from exciting illustrator Julia Denos, Dotty is a celebration of the power of friendship and imagination.

Click, Clack, Quack to School! book
#22
Click, Clack, Quack to School!
Written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Farmer Brown has been invited to be a guest at the elementary school’s Farm Day! The animals excitedly practice their best classroom behavior: standing quietly in line, using their inside voices, and learning how to share. But then they find out that farm animals aren’t actually allowed in school (who knew they were considered a health code violation?!). Rules are rules, so Farmer Brown goes to school solo—or so he thinks...for while our favorite barnyard bunch don’t get high marks in rules, they do excel in disguise.

First Day Jitters book
#23
First Day Jitters
Written by Julie Danneberg and illustrated by Judy Love
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Sarah is afraid to start at a new school, but both she and the reader are in for a surprise when she gets to her class.

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten book
#24
Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten
Written by Joseph Slate and illustrated by Ashley Wolff
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

This rhyming, brightly illustrated book is the perfect way to practice the alphabet and to introduce young children to kindergarten. It’s the first day of kindergarten and Miss Bindergarten is hard at work getting the classroom ready for her twenty-six new students. Meanwhile, Adam Krupp wakes up, Brenda Heath brushes her teeth, and Christopher Beaker finds his sneaker. Miss Bindergarten puts the finishing touches on the room just in time, and the students arrive. Now the fun can begin!

The pout-pout fish goes to school book
#25
The pout-pout fish goes to school
Written by Deborah Diesen and illustrated by Dan Hanna
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-4

An unabridged board book edition of a Pout-Pout Fish favorite! The New York Times–bestselling Pout-Pout Fish returns for the first day of school. Mr. Fish is nervously awaiting his first day of school, and he frets about not knowing how to write his name, how to draw shapes, and how to do math—until he's reassured that school is the perfect place to learn how to master all of these new skills, in Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School from Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected]!