Nationwide, school teachers and childcare providers are working to create welcoming environments for children heading back to school—especially for those entering their very first classroom. We’ve rounded up three children’s books to help ease the transition into the worlds outside of home—often full of new experiences, friends, and social challenges.
For our littles who may have separation anxiety, and how to remember the security of “home"
Five Little Ducks by Denise Fleming, Ages 1-3*
Award-winning author Fleming brings her distinctive pulp painting artwork to this lilting tale based on the traditional nursery song about five ducklings who stray from home—but safely return at week’s end with tales of their adventures playing with new friends.
The ducklings set out together on Monday, but each day one more goes astray, despite Papa Duck’s worried quacking. For babies and toddlers who might be grappling with separation anxiety around early learning centers or preschool, the story provides a reassuring lesson about how remembering the security of home enables us to venture out and make new friends. The book also, very simply and subtly, weaves the days of the week and some basic arithmetic (i.e. four ducks minus one equals three) into the action.
For our littles who may feel invisible, and are grappling with how to “fit-in”
Twig by Aura Parker, Ages 3-8*
On her first day at bug school, Heidi the stick insect is eager to make friends. Finding friends isn’t easy when no one can “find” you; because Heidi is “tall and long like the twig of a tree,” she blends into the background, overlooked by the honeybees, spiders and praying mantises in her class.
In a story that will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt invisible, “Twig” tackles the age-old question of whether it’s better to stand out or fit in. Parker’s delicate illustrations warrant extra time to absorb their quirky detail, softening the emotional anxiety of Heidi’s dilemma and beautifully portraying the colorful solution Heidi’s teacher devises to give her visibility.
For our littles on making new friends, and navigating through diversity in friendship
Bear and Wolf by Daniel Salmieri, Ages 3-7*
Themes of likeness, dissimilarity and belonging pervade this calm picture book about two very different animals coming together on a meditative walk through the snowy forest. Bear and Wolf meet each other not with frightened hostility but with openhearted, compassionate curiosity.
Using quietly powerful sensory language, along with expressive and mysterious illustrations, Salmieri draws readers close to the hushed nature of this story about unexpected friendships that form when we are open to the world and to each other. This book is perfect for children navigating their way through the diversity of the classroom—or when they need a soothing story at bedtime!
*Note: Age recommendations are based upon publisher guidelines and parent feedback.
What's on your family's back to school reading list? Share your picks in the comments!