Going to Kindergarten

-posted by Meghan

My twins, Molly and Jacob, are heading to Kindergarten this month.  I can’t believe how fast this has come – real school!  Before preschool 2 years ago, we did a list of books about going to school for the first time.  And exactly as with every area in my life, I look back and think “How naive I was then, and how cute my innocence was!” Preschool was three hours a day, three days a week – what was I worried about?  This is real school!  (Yes, please, someone with kids in middle or high school chime in and tell me how naive I sound now…)  I think finding Kindergarten books is really more to give me something to do and ease my fears, since about half of their friends are already in K and love it and they’re pretty excited, but I did start looking at books that focus on the K experience, and here they are:

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff

Miss Bindergarten and her students (one for each letter of the alphabet get ready for the first day of Kindergarten.  Here’s what I love about this book (besides the rhymes – I’m a sucker for rhymes!):  it shows how excited the teacher is and the love she puts into the classroom.  With two kids who have had an amazing preschool experience, they are more excited than nervous about Kindergarten, but they are sad about not seeing their beloved teachers again every day.  This book has helped us talk about how exciting it is that they will get new teachers and that those new teachers are excited to meet them.

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The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Julie Durrell

Ok, I’m also a sucker for parodies, especially when they’re well done.  And this is a cute and clever little ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas takeoff.  Here’s what I like about this one: that the kids and a little excited and a little scared (even though I don’t like to use that word with the kids about new experiences – I try and say “nervous” because I think it’s more accurate and less, well, scary!), and that the parents are sad too!  Because I think the biggest emotion going on in our house regarding Kindergarten right now is my sadness.  Which I try and combat and not let them see, but perhaps I shouldn’t mask it, but let them know how much I love them and I’ll miss them when they’re at school for longer chunks of time.  (I love it when books, even little rhyming kid books, give me something new to think about!)

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Welcome to Kindergarten by Anne Rockwell

I first picked up this book because we have liked several of her other books for very young kids (Good Morning Digger and Fire Engine) then graduated to a few others (Romulus and Remus and They Called Her Molly Pitcher).  And it seems like nothing special at first, but of all the books, it’s probably the one I’d recommend first for nervous kids – Tim is nervous about Kindergarten, and he visits the school to see where he will go and what he will learn and by the end of his visit it all seems like it will be exactly right for him.  It’s not the funniest and silliest book that will have kids howling, but it’s the perfect one to have an even slightly apprehensive preschool graduate curl up on your lap for a good snuggle and gentle reassurance.

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How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? by Chris Butterworth, illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti
So, probably my own biggest fear about Kindergarten is packing lunch 5 days a week for 2 kids with different tastes.  That’s 10 lunches every week.  And I want them to be different, healthy, not to expensive and to get eaten.  Tall order!  So, when I found this book, I had a thought in the back of my mind – maybe thinking about the food in their lunch box will both teach them more about where food comes from, remind them that it’s food that many people (not just Mommy!) have worked hard to make for them, and also just get us talking more about kinds of things we could put in the lunchbox.  We all love reading the book, and I’m super grateful for messages in it like: “Your body is growing all the time (even when you’re asleep!) So remember, don’t skip breakfast – it gets your body through the day,” so it’s already a winner.  I’ll let you know if it helps with the actual lunchbox packing and eating once we start school!

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Ready for Kindergarten, Stinky Face? by Lisa McCourt, illustrated by Cyd Moore

We’re BIG fans of Stinky Face at our house – it was a random happy happenstance that one of the very first books either of the kids picked out at the library before they were even a year old was the original I Love You, Stinky Face.  We loved that book – the whole family did – so much.  And we read all the subsequent versions.  And as often happens, we kind of forgot about these books.  So when I was looking for K books and saw this one, I jumped on it.  It’s a little different from the others in that it’s a Scholastic Reader Level 1 book, but it’s still a little kid filled with silly questions (that highlight an underlying fear) and a mama who matter of factly answers – and her unspoken message is “There is no problem I can’t and won’t help you solve.”  Which is a message I love (and if the book wasn’t quite as good as the original, that’s ok, because it made us dig out and re-read that book, which brought back lovely memories for us all…)

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Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak

Confession – as I said, before the twins started preschool, I looked for books about starting school for the first time.  And I developed an aversion to books that seemed to focus solely on the “fear of school” aspect.  I know the goal was to preemptively/pro-actively combat that worry, but I was more worried that it would plant that fear, hitherto unknown, in their little heads.  I stick by that.  And I still might not read this book in the buildup to starting school – but I’d definitely read it the evening of the first day of school, and for many weeks to come.  The teachers at Molly & Jacob’s preschool read this book to their class, and I learned that when one night they gave me hand kisses so I wouldn’t miss them while they slept.  It imprinted on their brains, and I think has been a great source of comfort whenever we’re apart and missing each other.  For all of us.

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Want more suggestions? Last year we looked at cool cats heading to school and wholeheartedly recommend these two “back-to-school” books.

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