father reading a back-to-school book to his daughterThe back-to-school displays have been up at Target for some time — summer is officially winding down, and families are gearing up for school! When I was teaching school, I spent the first week reading back-to-school books to my students, so I already know which ones I’ll read to my children when they are ready to go to school!

There are so many great books for kids and parents alike about starting school, returning for a new year, and managing worries about the first day. When a child is facing a new situation or is worried about a big change, reading a story about it can help alleviate some of the anxious feelings by showing how the character manages the experience. Here are 10 of my favorite picture books to help your family get ready to head back to school:

Books that are great for everyone (kids, moms, and dads, too!)

“The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn

When Chester Raccoon would rather stay home than go to school without his mama, Mrs. Raccoon teaches him a very special secret that helps remind him that mommy’s love is always with him. This book is perfect for kids (and mamas) who might be a little wary of going off to school and spending the day apart.

“Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes” by Eric Litwin

If you’ve met Pete the Cat, you know it’s all good with him. Nothing can stop him from moving, grooving, and singing along, not even heading to school. Follow Pete as he makes his way through school, all while rocking in his school shoes. Watch out, though, Pete’s song will definitely get stuck in your head!

“Dad’s First Day” by Mike Wohnoutka

Not only is it Oliver’s first day at school without Dad, it’s Dad’s first day without Oliver! See how Oliver helps his dad get ready for the first day of school in this funny twist on managing first day nerves.

“If You Take a Mouse to School” by Laura Numeroff

If you have read any of Laura Numeroff’s other “If You…” books, you know this book is bound to get out of hand. From wanting to share your lunchbox and backpack to using all your pencils, if you take a mouse to school, he will certainly make it an adventure.

Books about starting preschool

“Llama Llama Misses Mama” by Anna Dewdney

When Llama Llama misses mama on his first day of preschool, it seems like nothing will cheer him up. Luckily, he has a lot of wonderful new friends to show him how much fun school can be and, of course, Mama Llama always comes back for him!

“Dinosaur vs. School” by Bob Shea

Dinosaur is starting school and there are so many things to do — meet new friends, play dress up and musical instruments, eat snack and… clean up!?

“Wemberly Worried” by Kevin Henkes

Wemberly worries about everything. She is especially worried about starting nursery school. Wemberly’s list of “what ifs” is pretty huge, but when the day comes to start school she meets a special friend who helps her through the day.

Books about starting kindergarten

“Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” by Joseph Slate

The fun, rhyming Miss Bindergarten series was one of my favorites to read with my kindergarten students! While Miss Bindergarten spends the morning getting ready for her new kindergarten class, we see what the students are each doing to get themselves ready for the big first day of school.

“Monkey: Not Ready for Kindergarten” by Marc Brown

Even when you do a lot of things to get ready to start kindergarten, like Monkey, sometimes you just don’t feel ready. His family works really hard to show him he can do it!

Books for older kiddos

“First Day Jitters” by Julie Danneberg

Sarah Jane has a lot of worries about the first day of school. Will they like her? What if she doesn’t like it? Sarah Jane’s jittery first-day feelings are perfectly normal — everyone is nervous on the first day! This book is so relatable and has a surprise ending kids will find amusing.

stack of back-to-school books

This post was originally published in 2016 and was updated in 2023.