Books for Back to School [Kindergarten – 2nd Grade]

Heading back to school is always one of the most exciting times of the year. There’s a newness and nervousness no matter what it looks like for you this year! As a teacher, I love to fuel this positive energy into my suggestions for some great books for back to school! We have created a list of books that take place in schools, many of them specifically about the first day. These books are about positivity and having a growth mindset! Here is our list for some of the best back to school books available:

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I know your desire as a parent (or a teacher) is to help your child fall in love with books. One of the absolute best ways to do that is to introduce them to a book series! I would recommend reading the very first book aloud to them, which is exactly how I start my school year. Reading the first book introduces kids to the characters and also familiarizes them to a setting. Once they have fallen in love with those characters and the world they live in, they can confidently tackle other books in the series and focus on other aspects of comprehending the story. Here are some of my favorite Kindergarten through 2nd grade series books for back to school:

Ralph Mouse by Beverly Cleary
Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry
Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary
Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osborne
Sarah, Plain and Tall Saga by Patricia MacLachlan
Billie B. Brown by Sally Rippin
Hey Jack! by Sally Rippin

The remaining books for back to school on this list all take place in a school. (Shocking, right?) They are perfect to read to your kids as they begin their first days of the new year. Enjoy!

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex

School’s First Day of School is a lot of fun because it is written from the point of view of a recently constructed school building! During the summer, the school has many conversations with Janitor as to what will be happening in his quiet halls. He is confused, as well as nervous about his intended purpose.

Once the kids start coming, he gains some understanding as to the use of certain things like water fountains and lockers. He also listens to the children banter, and he finds great joy in it. In fact, he likes it so much, that he hopes the kids will come back another day.

I would recommend this book for kids who are nervous about the first day of school. It is encouraging to think about something beyond yourself (even if it is fantasy!) that might have similar feelings!

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

This is a sweet book about a young girl who is unsure of her artistic ability. The teacher challenges her to draw what she can, and further encourages her by hanging it on the wall of the classroom.

With this bit of inspiration, she goes on to make the best dot that she possibly can! She designs dots of different colors and sizes that are later on display for all to see. This experience allows her to build her confidence and express herself.

The Dot is inspirational for kids because it lets them see that they have potential with a growth mindset. Also, it challenges me as a teacher to see each students’ unique ability and to invite them to express that in their own way. They are special and their work is important even if it’s not exactly what I was expecting.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

From one of my favorite authors comes a book about overcoming your fears of being nervous and alone in a new place. This brave little girl, begins to make connections with the other students and realizes that it makes her come alive…it’s the day you begin.

The beautiful thing about the message in The Day You Begin is that finding commonalities is important and it helps you to build friendship, but it’s also special to know that you are unique. You might have characteristics unlike anyone else around you and that is something to celebrate.

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

No list of books for back to school is complete without First Day Jitters. This book has been around a while, but it is quintessential. I love the unexpected twist at the end!

The story is about a nervous girl who does not want to get out of bed for the first day of school. She reluctantly gets dressed, eats breakfast, and heads to the school. After being greeted by the principal, he walks her to her classroom and introduces her to everyone…as their teacher.

Kids will laugh and likely groan at the silliness of the story. It’s fun and leads to some great discussions about inferences. I would recommend reading it to your students to let them know that they are not alone in their nervousness.

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

I loved reading this book! It’s beautifully written and the illustrations are dreamlike. The words and the art work together to create movement as you float your way through the lyrical story.

Your Name is a Song is about a young girl who is frustrated that no one can pronounce her name properly and she does not want to return to school. Her mother explains to her that she has a name that flows as sweetly as a song, and there are many other diverse names that have a musical ring to them.

Feeling empowered, the girl returns to school and shares this knowledge with her teacher and her classmates. She also helps them to see the musicality of their own names.

As you read it with your children, I highly encourage you you to sing along! It will make the reading experience much more special to your kids. Watch the author pronounce the names mentioned in the book to help you along as you read it!

If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen

Reading this book about a young boy’s vision of a modern classroom brought a smile to my face. It is written in rhyme, which adds to the happiness. He describes trampoline basketball courts, hovering desks, wind tunnels for sky diving, and many other incredible inventions to make this school exceptional. This reminds me of The Jetson’s and made me want to join his incredible school!

If I Built a School is perfect for encouraging kids’ creativity! This could be a used as a fun activity for the first day if you had kids design their own school. Maybe they would be inspired by adding a new element into our otherwise boring buildings.

Cam Jansen and the First Day of School Mystery

Cam Jansen is an excellent classic. This is a book that is great for those kids who are transitioning from picture books into chapter books. It is also a series, which offers a great opportunity for a reluctant reader to find something they enjoy. If they get hooked on one, there are many other similar stories to help them establish the idea that they are a reader.

In this particular book, Cam Jansen finds that her teacher has been arrested on the first day of school. Together, with her friend, they determine what might have happened and how they can solve the problem.

If you do find their your reader enjoys this book, you might check out some of the books in the series!

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

This is another classic chapter book for your readers who enjoy a good laugh! In this book, she is starting at a new school and she has the opportunity to prove that she is dependable. Some of the things that stand in her way make for some comical moments.

In the story, Ramona and her family are adjusting to a lot of changes. This would be very relatable for most students beginning school this year. It’s not easy to adjust, but we can get through this together, just like Ramona does with her family.

Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes by James Dean

I hope you are familiar with the Pete the Cat series. He is one cool cat, and in this book he is headed back to school with a very special pair of red shoes.

Throughout the book he discovers excellent places around the school like the playground, the cafeteria, and the library. All the while, he is singing his smooth song.

I like this book because it has lots of repetition and opportunities for kids to repeat phrases back to you. Bonus points for you if you actually sing Pete’s song!

Butterflies on the First Day of School by Annie Silvestro

This is one of my favorite books for back to school. It is a sweet story that many kids will be able to relate to on the first day of school. A little girl is extremely nervous about leaving her family and headed to a new classroom. Her mom explains that she will be fine, she just has butterflies in her tummy.

As the girl makes her way through the day, she begins to make connections to other students and build her confidence. Each time she opens her mouth to speak, a butterfly flutters out.

This book is great for students to discuss symbolism. The butterflies represent her nervousness, and as each one flutters out it shows she is feeling more sure of herself.

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Good luck to everyone on their first days of school! Work hard and remain positive. You will do great things!

Be sure to check out our other reading list for your Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grader: Summer Reading List

Also check out our other books for back to school lists:
3rd – 5th Grade
6th – 8th Grade

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