Picture books are a great way to connect with our students. A relatable character’s experiences can provide reassurance or help voice complex emotions. Events in books can generate excitement for what’s to come or be a tool for reflecting on what’s happened. The start of school is filled with emotions for kids; every year is a transition of some sort. When I was in the classroom, I loved selecting books that would resonate with my students as the school year began, to help ease them back into the classroom and welcome them into the learning environment you have so carefully crafted for them. If you’re looking for such picture books that will inspire your students, check out our 10 most favourite back to school picture books of all time!
Old Friends, New Friends by Andrew Daddo
In Old Friends, New Friends, a young child embarks on what I suspect is her second year of primary school. She’s excited about going back to school and seeing all her best friends from last year only to walk into her new classroom and discover that none of her friends are in the same class as her this year.
For a young child, this is one of the most troubling discoveries and one that has the potential to cloud their perception of school. In Old Friends, New Friends, Daddo and Bentley have weaved the perfect story to give children (and adults alike) a fantastic arsenal of tools and coping mechanisms to not only overcome these problematic realisations, but to embrace change and make new friends.
The Pigeon HAS to go to School by Mo Willems
Mo Willems has done it again with our old friend Pigeon. But now he is embarking on a new adventure… Going to School! Why does the Pigeon have to go to school? He already knows everything! And what if he doesn’t like it? What if the teacher doesn’t like him? What if he learns TOO MUCH!?! Ask not for whom the school bell rings; it rings for the Pigeon!
First Day by Andrew Daddo
With endearing illustrations drawn upon lined paper, and contemporary references to BFFs and a first day selfie, this book is perfect for children of Gen Z. But First Day is also an ideal book for parents to read as they help to prepare their child for their first day of school. After all, first day anxieties are not limited to children.
The story sees a conversation take place between a mother and her daughter as they get ready on the first day of school. What seems like comforting affirmations from a parent to a child are actually reassurances from the child to her mother.
Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen
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, students are sure to feel a special sense of belonging.
When I Grow Up by Andrew Daddo
When I Grow Up is a delightful picture book celebrating endless dreams and possibilities. As the title suggests, When I Grow Up is an exploration of the endless possibilities that await children when they grow up and tackle the professional working world. It pays homage to the big dreams we all have as kids, while clearly demonstrating that anything is possible for everyone, no matter race, colour, gender. The only inhibitor to your future, is your imagination. Goal setting for the year would be a great activity to follow on from the reading of this book.
A Letter From Your Teacher: On the First Day of School by Shannon Olsen
This 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. Their teacher is not only there to help them academically, but also to cheer them on, and to provide a caring, safe environment for them to learn and grow.
There is a blank space on the last page for teachers to sign their own name, so that students know that the letter in the book is coming straight from them. With its sincere message and inclusive illustrations, A Letter From Your Teacher is a valuable addition to any primary school teacher’s classroom library.
The Colour Monster Goes to School by Anna Llenas
This book follows The Colour Monster on a brand new adventure, as he navigates his way through his first day at school! But what exactly is school? A spooky castle filled wIth terrifying animals? A place in the sky, amongst the rainbows and clouds? From music lessons, to lunchtime, to making new friends, the Colour Monster’s first day of school is filled with exciting new adventures.
The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane DeRolf
The Crayon Box that Talked considers questions about discrimination, prejudice, cooperation and identity. A girl goes into a shop and overhears crayons arguing. Yellow and Green hate Red and no one likes Orange. So the girl buys the box of crayons and uses all colours to make a picture, showing all the colours how each of them contributed to create something beautiful. This book is a great one to introduce at the beginning of the year to introduce the idea of each of your students being unique but an equally important member of the whole class.
All Are Welcome Here by Alexandra Penfold
Every child deserves to attend a school as beautiful in spirit as the one in this book. Families of every color and composition cross a city street together to greet diverse, smiling teachers. Children move through each aspect of the first school day to an echoed refrain, “All are welcome here.” While there are obvious opportunities for sharing this book as a classroom read aloud, enjoying it one-on-one is worthwhile as well, as kids will want to pore over details in the illustrations.
Starting School by Jane Godwin
Starting School gives children a very realistic picture of what to expect of school. Five diverse children approach their first day of school differently, each with unique thoughts, worries and experiences.
Although the story is a whole, it can be read separately, with each page representing a different aspect of school from ‘Getting Ready’to ‘Doing Work’.
Anna Walker has created beautiful pages combining her watercolour illustrations with intricate collage details using photo imagery, patterned paper and stationery.
What book will you share with your students as they head back to school this year?