Great Picture Books About Starting School
At almost any time of the year, throughout the world children are staring school, many for the first time. This can be an anxious time not only for children, but also quite often for their parents! Throughout my teaching career I have sent countless emails, made numerous phone calls and hugged many a crying parent to reassure them as they leave their loved one in my care and keep them updated throughout each day. I have yet to encounter a family who has needed this reassurance for more than a few weeks, however, it does not make that time any less significant. Recommending picture books to families before they begin, and during, school transitions has been one strategy I have used to help. I also read these picture books with the children as we begin our school year and also as we end our year, in preparation for moving to their next teacher and classroom.
In 2010, the Australian Journal of Early Childhood published an interesting article entitled ‘What will my teacher be like? Picture storybooks about starting school.’ The researchers looked at 164 picture books about starting school published between 1967 and 2007. While reading the article, one question explored in their study particularly peeked my interest, ‘Are teachers presented as learners?’
I had never thought to consider this when choosing books about transitioning to school, even though the attribute of me as a teacher learning with my students is one I try to emulate! The conclusion drawn from the research was that the “overall image of teachers from the current study was of a relatively bland, caring person, who made sure that the environment was set up and ready for children, greeted children and parents, provided directions, encouraged children to play without necessarily engaging in play themselves.”
It seems that most picture books regarding starting school seem to portray the teacher as directing and caring rather than as a fellow learner and captivating model of awe and wonder. While the books I currently use do not necessarily help dispel this stereotype, they do have many positive messages.
Transition to School picture books I use, and why:
by Margaret Wild and Bruce Whatley
This will be the first year I have used this book as my new class of two and three year olds will be known as Nursery Koalas. One Keen Koala will be used as an introduction for my new class, throughout the year as we grow and for review at the end of the year as we look at all we have learned. I am looking forward to adding this to my collection!
by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff
This is one of my favourites and the children LOVE it. While it is ‘kindergarten’ specific, luckily that is where my nursery children head next. I appreciate the acknowledgement of all the work that Miss Bindergarten has to do to get ready for kindergarten. This facilitates discussions about helping, looking after toys and what teachers do when there are no children at school - because of course we teachers all live in our classrooms! This book also illustrates diversity in the families and students going to school, from Lennie Loom in a wheelchair to a little sibling in a kangaroo pouch. Questions are asked and explored about similarities and differences between us all.
by Jacqueline Rogers
Tiptoe into Kindergarten is a great book to teach how to explore different areas of a new classroom and trying new things. It can also help children who may be timid or anxious to know that they can participate too, even if at first it is while their new classmates are engaged elsewhere. Teachers take note that this differentiation can be very important for some children as they ease into school!
by Eric Hill
Familiar and comforting are two reasons why Spot Goes to School is always on the shelf. These are important feelings for unsettled children to cling on to as they face a new phase in their life, thank you to the late, great Eric Hill!
New ‘starting school’ picture books I haven’t had the chance to read…yet:
Here are a few more recent picture books that are on my list to check out!
First Day by Andrew Daddo and Jonathan Bentley (2014)
Starting school by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker (2013)
Chu’s First Day of School by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex (2014)
The Terrible Suitcase by Emma Allen and Freya Blackwood (2014)
Jessica’s Box by Peter Carnavas (2014) Cerebral Palsy Alliance edition
My First Day at School by Meredith Costain and Michelle Mackintosh (2014)
I would love to hear your recommendations for pictures book about starting school or transition through the school ranks. I’d also like to know how you use these in your classroom to inspire and assist our youngest learners!