-posted by Meghan
My kids (the 3 1/2 year old twins) are starting school this week. (Yikes! But that’s a whole other topic…). And as is our wont, we turn to books when faced with anything new or a transition. There are zillions of books about starting school, so this list should be really long. Right? Wrong. At least, not lots of books I personally have been enjoying and reading to and with my kids.
What’s my problem with all these new to school books? Many of them focus on how scary the idea of school is, how much the main character doesn’t want to go, and how much they will miss their parents. My son is thrilled and excited, and I don’t want to introduce to him the concept that it might be scary. Well, it wouldn’t really be introducing it, since his sister cries hysterically every time I mention school. We (including her sweet and reassuring brother) talk all the time about how much fun it will be to play and make new friends. For her, I don’t want to reinforce her fear. Perhaps if I didn’t have twins, and only one were starting school, and they were scared, it would be a better practice to validate those fears, and work through them. Maybe that’s why there are so many books like that. But that approach just doesn’t work for our family.
But we have found a few that we really love…
Books about starting school:
We love all the Cowgirl Kate books and this is no exception. What I love most is that Kate is the little girl, but she’s usually the one to act wise like the parent. So, in this one, even though it’s Kate who has to go to school, she’s the one who is matter of fact about it, and it’s Cocoa who doesn’t want her to leave him. So kids can empathize with Cocoa and his fears, but see themselves in Kate, who wants to go to school and make new friends and learn new things.
I’m usually not a fan of the re-treads of favorite characters at every age, especially when it’s not the original author. However, seeing a favorite character as a little girl, and watching her fearlessly plunge into every situation (literally and incorrectly, but always without hesitation or apology) is a pretty great way for kids to see that no matter how you approach things, school can be lots of fun.
Molly likes Miss Mingo because she’s a flamingo (or flamenguin, as she often calls them). I like her because she gets each of the different animals to talk about what makes them special and different, so when we read the book, we come away talking about animal facts, how all animals and people are special and different, and how much fun school is with meeting new people and learning new things! It’s a tad obvious in the message department for adults, but enjoyable and fun nonetheless.
Silly and fun, with all the funny and different characters you meet at school (and the strangest of all may be the teacher!). This is just the first day of school book I was looking for when I started looking for fun ones without obvious messages that would just get them in the mindset of correlating school to giggling.
Ok, having said that I don’t like books where kids are afraid of school, I’m still recommending one in this section. But it’s because Lola (again, a character we adore in any form at our house) doesn’t say she doesn’t want to go to school or is afraid of it (though it’s clear to adults that she is), but rather that she’s rather too busy, really, and that honestly, she doesn’t need to. Charlie charmingly shows her how many fun things she’ll learn there, and helps her decide to go by reminding her that her pretend friend will be there, and he would be lonely without her. Remembering her pretend friend makes Lola feel much better about going, and then when she inevitably makes a real friend, she can act as if she was never scared in the first place…
Books about conquering a fear of school:
If Molly is still scared once she’s been, I’d be happy to read these books about overcoming fear of school, or how to deal with missing Mommy all day… If you have just one little one who is dreading starting or returning to school, or is still wary of the experience after they’ve started, I’d wholeheartedly recommend these!
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judith Dufour Love
The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Julie Durrell
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak
I Love You All Day Long by Francesca Rusackas