The 20 best kids' books to calm back-to-school jitters

These books can ease worries and make starting school more exciting
/ Source: TODAY
By Lisa Tolin

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Whether your child is strapping on a backpack for the first time or just starting a new year, the first day of school is bound to be nerve-wracking.

Parents can ease first-day jitters is by establishing the new routine ahead of time and reading books to prepare for the big day.

Books about starting school range from tender to hilarious. Try one of these picture books, a mix of old favorites and titles as new as your little student:

  • 1. “The Pigeon HAS to Go to School,” by Mo Willems, $12 (usually $17), Amazon

Mo Willems is back with his sixth Pigeon book, and this time Pigeon has to go to school, even though he already knows everything (and is maybe a little scared). What if he learns too much?

  • 2. “The King of Kindergarten,” by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton, $13 (usually $18), Amazon

Conquering kindergarten is a snap for the hero of this story, who takes his first day in stride, makes friends and gets his royal rest. It's a burst of positivity and confidence.

  • 3. “Sorry, Grown-Ups, You Can’t Go to School!” by Christina Geist and Tim Bowers, $11 (usually $18), Amazon

Can’t Mom and Dad come, too? Dad can tie his own shoes and everything! Sorry, parents. In this fun new book from Christina Geist, school is for kids and teachers only. (Full disclosure: Christina is married to TODAY's own Willie Geist!)

  • 4. “The Day You Begin,” by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López, $11 (usually $19), Amazon

This touching read acknowledges the times when children feel different or misunderstood and encourages them to share their stories, so “the world opens itself up a little wider to make some space for you.”

  • 5. “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates,” by Ryan T. Higgins, $13 (usually $18), Amazon

Penelope Rex is shocked to discover her classmates are children. So she eats them. She’ll have to learn to keep her appetite in check if school is going to work out.

  • 6. “Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous: A First Day of School Dilemma,”by Keith Calabrese and Juana Medina, $10 (usually $18), Amazon

Lena is all ready for kindergarten. It’s just her shoes that are nervous. Good thing the rest of her closet can show them that the best things happen when we’re nervous.

  • 7. “Mae’s First Day of School,” by Kate Berube, $10 (usually $17), Amazon

It’s Mae’s first day, and she doesn’t want to go. What if she’s the only one who can’t read and misses her mom? In a sweet encounter with a classmate and new teacher, she’ll discover she’s not the only one.

  • 8. “The Kissing Hand,” by Audrey Penn, Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak, $15 (usually $18), Amazon

Chester Raccoon doesn’t want to go to school. To ease his fears, Mrs. Raccoon shows him the Kissing Hand — a trick that might help any child worried about separation.

  • 9. “School’s First Day of School,” by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson, $14 (usually $18), Amazon

Turns out even schools get nervous — and covered in nose milk. This first day from the school’s perspective shows how lucky the school and kids are.

  • 10. “Truman,” by Jean Reidy and Lucy Ruth Cummins, $13 (usually $18), Amazon

Truman the turtle spends his days with Sarah, until she straps on a backpack and leaves, mysteriously. He’ll have to be brave to venture across the vast, unsettling landscape of home to find her.

  • 11. “If I Built a School,” by Chris Van Dusen, $13 (usually $18), Amazon

School is a little plain for Jack, so why not spruce it up a bit with puppies, pneumatic tubes, hover desks and skydiving wind tunnels, for starters?

  • 12. “Owl Babies,” by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson, $14 (usually $17), Amazon

This sweet book about Mama’s safe return is recommended for preschoolers and children with separation anxiety.

  • 13. “Nugget & Fang Go to School,” by Tammi Sauer and Michael Slack, $13 (usually $18), Amazon

It’s time for Fang the shark to join his minnow friend Nugget at school. Oddly enough, Fang is more worried about it than the minnows are. His sharky worries will resonate with little people, too.

  • 14. “All Are Welcome,” by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman, $14 (usually $18), Amazon

This inclusive picture book shows exuberant children of all shades and religions. It’s a great reminder about embracing difference.

  • 15. “Your First Day of Circus School,” by Tara Lazar and Melissa Crowton, $13 (usually $18), Amazon

What’s the first day of school like when the cafeteria’s a literal zoo? This fun take on the first day of school has a can-do spirit.

  • 16. "The School Book," by Todd Parr, $13 (usually $18), Amazon

Todd Parr's bright illustrations and simple text appeal to the littlest school-goers, who learn the basics about what happens in a school day.

  • 17. “Llama Llama Misses Mama,” by Anna Dewdney, $11 (usually $18), Amazon

It’s Llama Llama’s first day of school, and he feels so new. He’ll find out how fun it can be just in time for Mama Llama to come back.

  • 18. “My Name is Wakawakaloch!” by Chana Stiefel and Mary Sullivan, $13 (usually $18), Amazon

For the child with an unusual name, Wakawakaloch feels the pain. Everyone keeps mispronouncing her name and she can’t find it on a T-shirt anywhere. But some wisdom from an elder helps her see the value of sounding different.

  • 19. “The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade,” by Justin Roberts and Christian Robinson, $14 (usually $18), Amazon

Nobody notices Sally McCabe, the smallest girl in the smallest grade. But by raising her hand she shows how a small voice can make a big difference.

  • 20. "Even Monsters Go to School," by Lisa Wheeler and Chris Van Dusen, $13 (usually $18), Amazon

If even Bigfoot and Frankenstein go to school, you can bet your little monster goes, too. A fun, rhyming take on school routines for mythical creatures.