Back-to-school season is always so exciting. I remember the thrill of new backpacks, new pencils and notebooks, and even new shoes! But, not every kid finds the season as fun as some do. For some kids, it can be depressing, scary, or just plain intimidating to return to a new or old school. The great thing about books, however, is that they strive to cover a wide range of experiences — and that’s what this list of back-to-school picture books is about. Whether your kids love school or dread the first day of school, there’s an encouraging tale for them on this list.
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Encouraging Back-to-School Picture Books for Kids
Here are 31 relatable picture books about back-to-school season (and first day jitters):
The Very Last Leaf
Published: August 1, 2020
Lance Cottonwood is the best and brightest of the leaves, but even the top students on the tree have worries. Can Lance conquer his fear of falling and just let go when the time comes for his final exam, or will he let his worries take over? In this funny and encouraging picture book, best-selling author Stef Wade (A Place for Pluto) tells an engaging story and deftly addresses social and emotional struggles many kids encounter each day…feeling anxious, wanting to be perfect, facing fears, etc. These themes combined with illustrator Jennifer Davison’s delightful characters and rich autumnal colors make The Very Last Leaf a perfect book for the start of a new school year, the arrival of autumn, or any period of transition in life.
Published: August 11, 2020
Just a kid from Akron, Ohio, who is dedicated to uplifting youth everywhere, LeBron James knows the key to a better future is to excel in school, do your best, and keep your family close.
I Promise is a lively and inspiring picture book that reminds us that tomorrow’s success starts with the promises we make to ourselves and our community today.
Featuring James’s upbeat, rhyming text and vibrant illustrations perfectly crafted for a diverse audience by #1 New York Times bestselling and Geisel Honor winning artist Nina Mata, this book has the power to inspire all children and families to be their best.
Perfect for shared reading in and out of the classroom, I Promise is also a great gift for graduation, birthdays, and other occasions.
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates
Published: June 19, 2018
It’s the first day of school for Penelope Rex, and she can’t wait to meet her classmates. But it’s hard to make human friends when they’re so darn delicious! That is, until Penelope gets a taste of her own medicine and finds she may not be at the top of the food chain after all. . . . Readers will gobble up this hilarious new story from award-winning author-illustrator Ryan T. Higgins.
The Pigeon Has to Go to School
Published: July 2, 2019
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!
This is a School
Published: March 29, 2022
A school isn’t just a building; it is all the people who work and learn together. It is a place for discovery and asking questions. A place for sharing, for helping, and for community. It is a place of hope and healing, even when that community can’t be together in the same room. John Schu, a librarian and former ambassador of school libraries for Scholastic, crafts a loving letter to schools and the people that make up the communities within in a picture book debut beautifully illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison.
The Queen of Kindergarten
Published: May 24, 2022
MJ is more than ready for her first day of kindergarten! With her hair freshly braided and her mom’s special tiara on her head, she knows she’s going to rock kindergarten. But the tiara isn’t just for show—it also reminds her of all the good things she brings to the classroom, stuff like her kindness, friendliness, and impressive soccer skills, too! Like The King of Kindergarten, this is the perfect book to reinforce back-to-school excitement and build confidence in the newest students.
Danbi Leads the School Parade
Published: July 7, 2020
Meet Danbi, the new girl at school!
Danbi is thrilled to start her new school in America. But a bit nervous too, for when she walks into the classroom, everything goes quiet. Everyone stares. Danbi wants to join in the dances and the games, but she doesn’t know the rules and just can’t get anything right. Luckily, she isn’t one to give up. With a spark of imagination, she makes up a new game and leads her classmates on a parade to remember! Danbi Leads the School Parade introduces readers to an irresistible new character. In this first story, she learns to navigate her two cultures and realizes that when you open your world to others, their world opens up to you.
The Day You Begin
Published: August 28, 2018
There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.
There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.
My First Day
Published: February 16, 2021
This is no ordinary first journey. The rainy season has come to the Mekong Delta, and An, a young Vietnamese boy, sets out alone in a wooden boat wearing a little backpack and armed only with a single oar. On the way, he is confronted by giant crested waves, heavy rainfall and eerie forests where fear takes hold of him. Although daunted by the dark unknown, An realizes that he is not alone and continues to paddle. He knows it will all be worth it when he reaches his destination–one familiar to children all over the world.
All Are Welcome
Published: July 10, 2018
In our classroom safe and sound.
Fears are lost and hope is found.
Discover a school where all young children have a place, have a space, and are loved and appreciated.
Readers will follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other’s traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be.
Our Class is a Family
Published: April 7, 2020
Teachers do so much more than just teach academics. They build a sense of community within their classrooms, creating a home away from home where they make their students feel safe, included, and loved.
With its heartfelt message and colorfully whimsical illustrations, “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 by their teacher, students are sure to feel like they are part of a special family.
And currently, during such an unprecedented time when many teachers and students are not physically IN the classroom due to COVID-19 school closures, it’s more important than it’s ever been to give kids the message that their class is a family. Even at a distance, they still stick together.
Chu’s First Day of School
Published: June 24, 2014
Chu, the adorable panda with a great big sneeze, is heading off for his first day of school, and he’s nervous. He hopes the other boys and girls will be nice. Will they like him? What will happen at school? And will Chu do what he does best?
Chu’s First Day of School is a perfect read-aloud story about the universal experience of starting school.
Published: March 1, 2022
It’s Dat’s first day of school in a new country! Dat and his Mah made a long journey to get here, and Dat doesn’t know the language. To Dat, everything everybody says – from the school bus driver to his new classmates – sounds like gibberish. How is Dat going to make new friends if they can’t understand each other?
Luckily there’s a friendly girl in Dat’s class who knows that there are other ways to communicate, besides just talking. Could she help make sense of the gibberish?
The Invisible Boy
Published: October 8, 2013
A simple act of kindness can transform an invisible boy into a friend…
Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody in class ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party . . . until, that is, a new kid comes to class.
When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine.
Stacey’s Remarkable Books
Published: December 13, 2022
Stacey’s favorite day of the week is Thursday, when the whole class goes to the library and she gets to lose herself in her beloved books.
On one of these special days, Stacey discovers that a new student named Julie has trouble reading in English, so they begin sharing books and stories to practice. Soon, more students start to join them.
Books take the group on magical adventures and reveal other worlds and cultures—but best of all, they bring them together as friends.
Your Name Is a Song
Published: July 7, 2020
Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl’s mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city. Empowered by this newfound understanding, the young girl is ready to return the next day to share her knowledge with her class. Your Name is a Song is a celebration to remind all of us about the beauty, history, and magic behind names.
Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten!
Published: August 1, 2019
Pirate Emma is about to start kindergarten! But Emma’s not so sure she’s ready for a new captain and crew. Especially since Cap’n Chu―the roughest, toughest, awesomest preschool cap’n ever―is right down the hall. So Emma decides to head back to the preschool ship to see if she can stir up a mutiny against kindergarten! Is that what she really wants? Or does she just miss her beloved Cap’n Chu? Batten down the hatches, mateys, because the first day of school is going to be stormy!
Published: June 15, 2021
On Vanessa’s first day of school, her parents tell her it will be easy to make friends. Vanessa isn’t so sure. She wears her fanciest outfit so her new classmates will notice her right away. They notice, but the attention isn’t what she’d hoped for. As the day goes on, she feels more self-conscious. Her clothes are too bright, her feather boa has way too many feathers, and even her name is too hard to write.
The next day, she picks out a plain outfit, and tells her mom that her name is too long. She just wants to blend in, with a simple name like the other girls–why couldn’t her parents have named her Megan or Bella? But when her mother tells her the meaning behind her name, it gives her the confidence she needs to introduce her classmates to the real Vanessa. Perfect for readers of Alma and How She Got Her Name and The King of Kindergarten.
Isabel and Her Colors Go to School
Published: July 15, 2021
English, with its blustery blues and whites, just feels wrong to Isabel. She prefers the warm oranges and pinks of Spanish. As she prepares for class at a new school, she knows she’s going to have to learn–and she would rather not! Her first day is uncomfortable, until she discovers there’s more than one way to communicate with friends. This is a universal story about feeling new and making new friends.
If I Built a School
Published: August 13, 2019
My school will amaze you. My school will astound.
By far the most fabulous school to be found!
Perfectly planned and impeccably clean.
On a scale, 1 to 10, it’s more like 15!
And learning is fun in a place that’s fun, too.
If Jack built a school, there would be hover desks and pop-up textbooks, skydiving wind tunnels and a trampoline basketball court in the gym, a robo-chef to serve lunch in the cafeteria, field trips to Mars, and a whole lot more. The inventive boy who described his ideal car and house in previous books is dreaming even bigger this time.
Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes
Pete the Cat is rocking in his school shoes. Pete discovers the library, the lunch room, the playground, and lots of other cool places at school.
And no matter where he goes, Pete never stops moving and grooving and singing his song…because it’s all good.
The fun never stops—download the free groovin’ song.
School’s First Day of School
Published: June 28, 2016
It’s the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and everyone’s just a little bit nervous, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him?
The school has a rough start, but as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he’s not the only one going through first-day jitters.
The King of Kindergarten
Published: July 2, 2019
The morning sun blares through your window like a million brass trumpets.It sits and shines behind your head–like a crown. Mommy says that today, you are going to be the King of Kindergarten!
Starting kindergarten is a big milestone–and the hero of this story is ready to make his mark! He’s dressed himself, eaten a pile of pancakes, and can’t wait to be part of a whole new kingdom of kids. The day will be jam-packed, but he’s up to the challenge, taking new experiences in stride with his infectious enthusiasm! And afterward, he can’t wait to tell his proud parents all about his achievements–and then wake up to start another day.
Monsters Love School
Published: June 24, 2014
Celebrate the first day of school with hilarious, energetic monsters in Monsters Love School by author-illustrator Mike Austin.
Summer is over, and now it’s time for the biggest adventure of all…Monster School! Join these colorful monsters as they go to school for the first time. Reading and writing and learning your monster history has never been so much fun!
The Sandwich Swap
Published: April 20, 2010
Lily and Salma are best friends. They like doing all the same things, and they always eat lunch together. Lily eats peanut butter and Salma eats hummus-but what’s that between friends? It turns out, a lot. Before they know it, a food fight breaks out. Can Lily and Salma put aside their differences? Or will a sandwich come between them?
The smallest things can pull us apart-until we learn that friendship is far more powerful than difference. In a glorious three-page gatefold at the end of the book, Salma, Lily, and all their classmates come together in the true spirit of tolerance and acceptance.
First Day Critter Jitters
Published: July 7, 2020
It’s almost the first day of school, and the animals are nervous. Sloth worries about getting there on time, snake can’t seem to get his backpack fastened onto his body, and bunny is afraid she’ll want to hop around instead of sitting still. When they all arrive at their classroom, though, they’re in for a surprise: Somebody else is nervous too. It’s their teacher, the armadillo! He has rolled in as a ball, and it takes him a while to relax and unfurl. But by the next day, the animals have all figured out how to help one another through their jitters. School isn’t so scary after all.
The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School
Published: June 24, 2014
Turn little pouts into big smiles!
Mr. Fish is nervously awaiting his first day of school, and he frets about not knowing how to write his name, how to draw shapes, and how to do math―until he’s reassured that school is the perfect place to learn how to master all of these new skills, in Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School from Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna.
I Got the School Spirit
Published: July 7, 2020
Summer is over, and this little girl has got the school spirit! She hears the school spirit in the bus driving up the street–VROOM, VROOM!–and in the bell sounding in the halls–RING-A-DING! She sings the school spirit in class with her friends–ABC, 123!
The school spirit helps us all strive and grow. What will you learn today?
Llama Llama Misses Mama
Published: March 19, 2009
Strange new teacher.
Strange new toys.
Lots of kids and lots of noise!
What would Llama like to do?
Llama Llama feels so new . . .
It’s Llama Llama’s first day of preschool! And Llama Llama’s mama makes sure he’s ready. They meet the teachers. See the other children. Look at all the books and games. But then it’s time for Mama to leave. And suddenly Llama Llama isn’t so excited anymore. Will Mama Llama come back?
Of course she will. But before she does, the other children show Llama Llama how much fun school can be!
How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?
Published: June 1, 2007
Everyone’s favorite dinosaurs are back–and this time they are going to school. More fun dinosaur antics await. These prehistoric pupils are in a class of their own! As in their previous books, Yolen and Teague capture children’s rambunctious natures with playful read-aloud verse and wonderfully amusing pictures.
Clothesline Clues to the First Day of School
Published: June 11, 2019
Spot A+ clues on the clothesline to identify all the people who make starting school so much fun! A follow-up to Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do and Clothesline Clues to Sports People Play, the clues in each lively verse can be spotted hanging from the clotheslines. From teacher to custodian, from crossing guard to new friends, who wears what?
There they are: 31 of the best back-to-school picture books for kids! Which of these books have you read and loved? What did I miss?