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Good reads: Back to school reading


By Diane Parfitt

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the classroom with young children. Not as a teacher, but as a volunteer reading to them, my heart touched by the joy on their faces when they listen to a story. Their developing brains are like sponges and, as teachers and parents, it is our job to nourish them and encourage their love for learning.
Going to school for the first time to preschool or kindergarten can be very scary for the kids. And even older children who have been to school before but were doing virtual school during the pandemic may have some fears and uncertainties. How better to get them ready than to provide them with books you can read to them or they can read to themselves?

  1. “The Day You Begin” by Jacqueline Woodson (Author), Rafael López (Illustrator)
    There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.
    Everyone feels that sense of being different when they walk into a new situation. Maybe the way you look or dress. Or how you talk or where you are from. And it’s even harder when no one knows you. The first day of school can be the first big challenge for many. But with support and encouragement, children can take those first steps to reach out to the others who might be feeling just like they are. This beautifully illustrated book with its poetic story helps children treasure their own uniqueness while championing everyone’s differences.
  2. “New Kid” By Jerry Craft (Author, Illustrator)
    Young children going to school for the first time may have anxieties, but older kids can also feel the same way. This middle school graphic novel is a terrific way for tweens to allay some of their fears. When seventh grader Jordan Banks is enrolled in a new private school known for its academics, he finds he is one of the few kids of color. He makes the daily trip from his apartment in the Heights to the upscale academy and he hopes he can remain true to himself while striving to fit into his new school.
  3. “Planet Middle School” by Nikki Grimes
    Joylin Johnson was a tomboy for all of her first 12 years. She loved playing basketball with the guys, especially her best guy-friend, Jake. Even her clothes marked her as a tomboy – baggy jeans and a T-shirt worked for her. But then, when she and her friends turned 13, things started to change. Her best girlfriend was flirting with Jake, her clothes didn’t work with her crowd anymore, and she started thinking about boys in a completely different way! Told in short poems, this fun book about the crazy, mixed-up feelings of adolescence and first crushes will cheer the heart of any teenager.
  4. “Our Class is a Family” by Shannon Olsen
    “Family isn’t always your relatives. It’s the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.”
    Teachers not only teach academics, they also create a community within the classroom, a home away from home where children can feel safe, included and loved. In this delightful book with colorful, whimsical illustrations, kids discover that their classroom is a place where they can learn, that making mistakes is okay and they can make friends by being a friend.
  5. “School’s First Day Of School” by Adam Rex (Author), Christian Robinson (Illustrator)
    We got the teachers ready, well what about the school? Will the new school in town, Frederick Douglass Elementary, be ready when the children arrive? “School” wants to know if the kids like him. Will they be nice? The day gets off to a rough start but soon “School” gets into the swing of things just like all the others with first-day jitters. This warm and goofy story with the colorful illustrations will soothe any child the night before their first day of school.
  1. “How To Get Your Teacher Ready” by Jean Reagan
    We get the kids ready but who gets the teachers ready? This silly, fun book lets the adorable children help get the teacher ready for school and the myriad of fun activities throughout the year – field trips, picture day, music concerts. And in the end the children will in fact be getting ready for school themselves.
  2. “The Starting School Book:
    How to choose, prepare for and settle your child at school”
    by Sarah Ockwell-Smith
    We have now gotten the kids, teachers and the school ready for the new school year. What about the parents? Are you worried about your little one going off to school for the first time? Is your older child going back after a year or more of virtual school? Or is your pre-teen nervous about the first day in middle school? This guide for parents will navigate the many questions and challenges facing parents as their children start school for the first time or go to a new school.

    The past year has been difficult for everyone, although sharing our feelings with others helps. Children have had a harder time doing this and going back to school under the best of circumstances is a challenge. Help make it a little easier for the kids and the parents by reading about it and talking it through together.Diane Parfitt is a former Pediatric Nurse and Assistant Professor of Nursing Education and currently owns a bookstore. She can be reached at citycentergallerybook@gmail.com