I first discovered the power of books to prepare kids for new or scary experiences after a harrowing doctor’s visit with my then 2-year-old son. My son had made a scene while getting shots, and he and I were both dreading his next doctor’s appointment. Before my son’s next doctor’s appointment, I tried reading a book to my son: My Doctor by Harlow Rockwell, which offers kids a straightforward description of what happens during a doctor’s visit. At my son’s next appointment, I watched in amazement as my son inquisitively tried out the various doctor instruments and calmly observed as the nurse squeezed blood from his finger.
I now select appropriately themed books to read to the kids before airplane rides, before new siblings are born, and definitely – definitely – before they head off to school. It can’t hurt.
D.W.’s Guide to Preschool by Marc Brown. My kids ask me to read this book over and over again. In D.W.’s Guide to Preschool, D.W. enthusiastically shares what she does during a day at preschool. While Mark Brown briefly addresses some concerns kids may have about starting school (e.g. not liking the food, not knowing enough), the tone of this book is upbeat. Ages 3+
Starting School by Janet Ahlberg and Allan Ahlberg. My kids and I love the format of this book. Starting School describes eight children going to their first day of school, their second day of school, their first week of school, and finally their last day of school. Detailed illustrations on each page depict the variety of ways the eight children choose to participate in the various activities. Ages 3+
Welcome to Kindergarten by Anne Rockwell. As in My Preschool, in Welcome to Kindergarten Anne Rockwell focuses on all the fun things kids will get to do when they go to school. The main character is apprehensive about kindergarten until he attends an open house and is able to explore his kindergarten room. The gentle, positive tone is perfect for kids about to start kindergarten. Ages 4+
I Am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child. A humorous take on a child’s trepidation about starting school. In I Am Too Absolutely Small for School, Lola is nervous about starting school. Lola’s older brother Charlie comes up with many reasons that Lola (and her imaginary friend Soren Lorenson) should want to go to school. Ages 4+
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, Ruth Harper, and Nancy Leak. This story may be helpful to kids scared about being away from their parents for the first time. In The Kissing Hand, Chester Raccoon wants to stay home with his mom rather than go to school. His mother teaches Chester a trick for reminding himself that his mother’s love is with him when he is away from her. Ages 4+
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is not about starting school. Instead, it is my favorite story ever about going to school. In Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, Lilly gets in trouble with her teacher for not listening, and Lilly’s very understanding teacher and parents teach her to take responsibility for her actions. Ages 4+
Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter. A true story about a young girl Beatrice from western Uganda who longs to attend school. When Beatrice receives a goat from Heifer International, she works hard to care for the goat. By selling the goat’s milk, Beatrice is able to save up enough money to pay for school. Ages 4+
Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim and Sophie Blackall. A true and moving story about a Chinese girl Ruby who became the first girl in her family to attend college. For another historical story about a girl getting the opportunity to go to school, try Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys by Elizabeth Howard and E. B. Lewis. Ages 5+