One of the four key activities to do with students in the first day of school is to engage them to read books. There are a number of interesting books created specifically for this special event. Below is a collection of some of the best books for the first day of school that I handpicked from various sources namely Good Reads and We Are Teachers.
The books cover numerous topics and stories relevant for group discussion in class. These include the importance of correctly pronouncing students names as illustrated in Yangsook’s book The Name Jar, the importance of creating diverse and inclusive learning environments in class, stories of kids who successfully overcome crippling back to school anxieties, and more.
Disclaimer: The links below are Amazon affiliate links.
1- First Day Jitters, by Julie Danneberg, Judy Love (Illustrator)
“Everyone knows that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach just before diving into a new situation. Sarah Jane Hartwell is scared and doesn’t want to start over at a new school. She doesn’t know anybody, and nobody knows her. It will be awful. She just knows it. With much prodding from Mr. Hartwell, Sarah Jane reluctantly pulls herself together and goes to school. She is quickly befriended by Mrs. Burton, who helps smooth her jittery transition. This charming and familiar story will delight readers with its surprise ending.”
2- Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes
“Wemberly worried about spilling her juice, about shrinking in the bathtub, even about snakes in the radiator. She worried morning, noon, and night. “Worry, worry, worry,” her family said. “Too much worry.” And Wemberly worried about one thing most of all: her first day of school. But when it’s time to go back to school and she meets a fellow worrywart in her class, Wemberly realizes that school is too much fun to waste time worrying!”
3- The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, Ruth Harper (Illustrator)
“School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester’s fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called the Kissing Hand to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary. Since its first publication in 1993, this heartwarming book has become a children’s classic that has touched the lives of millions of children and their parents, especially at times of separation, whether starting school, entering daycare, or going to camp.”
4- A Letter from Your Teacher: On The First Day of School, by Shannon Olsen (Author), Sandie Sonke (Illustrator)
“his heartwarming picture book helps teachers in welcoming their new group of students on the first day of school. Through a letter written from the teacher’s point of view, students are given the message that their new teacher is someone they will get to form a special bond with.”
5- Our Class Is A Family, by Shannon Olsen, Sandie Sonke (Illustrator)
“With its heartfelt message and colorfully whimsical illustrations, “Our Class is a Family” is a book that will help build and strengthen that class community. Kids learn that their classroom is a place where it’s safe to be themselves, it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s important to be a friend to others. When hearing this story being read aloud by their teacher, students are sure to feel like they are part of a special family.”
6- All Are Welcome, by Alexandra Penfold, Suzanne Kaufman (Illustrator)
“Join the call for a better world with this New York Times bestselling picture book about a school where diversity and inclusion are celebrated. The perfect back-to-school read for every kid, family and classroom!”
7- The Name Jar, by Yangsook
“Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what happens when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious about fitting in. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she decides to choose an American name from a glass jar. But while Unhei thinks of being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, nothing feels right. With the help of a new friend, Unhei will learn that the best name is her own.”
8- School’s First Day of School, by Adam Rex, Christian Robinson (Illustrator)
“It’s the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and everyone’s just a little bit nervous, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him? The school has a rough start, but as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he’s not the only one going through first-day jitters.”
9- It’s OK to be Different: A Children’s Picture Book About Diversity and Kindness, by Sharon Purtill (Author), Sujata Saha (Illustrator)
“By highlighting the ways kids are different from one another it helps children to accept themselves and others as the beautifully unique individuals that they are. It’s OK to be Different encourages kids to be kind and befriend those who are different from themselves, showing young children that they don’t have to look alike or enjoy doing the same activities to be kind to one another.”
10- Your Name Is a Song Hardcover, by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (Author)
“Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl’s mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city. Empowered by this newfound understanding, the young girl is ready to return the next day to share her knowledge with her class. Your Name is a Song is a celebration to remind all of us about the beauty, history, and magic behind names.”