With physical school re-starting soon, many of us are wondering how to best prepare our children for what lies ahead. For the 3 to 6 year age group, this challenge is made even more difficult given the fact that they have never been to physical school or attended it for very few months, thanks to the pandemic! So, all the hard work that needs to be done while dropping a child to their first day of nursery, needs to be done again even if they are going to class one or two!
Combine this with the fact that there has been no social interaction the past 2 years, we parents have a huge task ahead of us. Do our children know about friends? How will they make friends? Can they stand up to bullies? Will they be able to share? Will they be able to step out full of confidence?
My 5 year old will be attending physical school from April. He has almost never been to school before, and needless to say, I’m worried about a lot of things. Thankfully, there are many lovely books that can help us make this transition easier, which we plan on reading in the next month.
Books on Starting School
Little Owl’s First Day – An absolutely heartwarming book on the first day of school jitters. Little Owl really does not want to go to school and wants to stay at home and have fun, but when he does go to school he has soooo much fun painting, building sandcastles and learning new things (he even makes a new friend!!).
Chu’s First Day At School – The character of Chu is so lovable and relatable – he’s anxious and worried about school. But, when at school, there’s a funny incident that will make all the kids laugh and feel at ease. The best part though, is Chu coming home with his parents at the end of the day and being tucked into bed, which assures all children that they too will come back home to their parents after school.
Charlie and Lola: I’m Too Absolutely Small for School – This is an absolutely delightful book that shows Lola feeling anxious about attending school for the first time, and making funny excuses to not have to. Charlie patiently explains why she should go to school. But the best reason to attend school, is one that Lola finds out for herself on her first day of school, when she makes a new friend! We read this book often nowadays, in preparation of physical school re-opening, and I find it perfect to convey that school is more than just academics – you will have tons of fun there too.
The pigeon HAS to go to school – This is a hilarious book on starting school by the acclaimed author Mo Willems. The pigeon is worrying about school and feels that he does not need to go, but through funny monologue realises that school is going to be wonderful.
I have to start at school today – The story is about a little girl about to start school, but she is extremely worried – what if she can’t find the entrance? What if there’s a rhino at the entrance who demands a password to enter? What if there are no chairs left to sit? Her brother doesn’t make it any easier for her, by telling her that these are all very possible scenarios, as they have happened to him before. Her grandmother then steps up and shows her the brighter side of all these scenarios – what if all these things go right? What if your perspective of looking at it just needs to be tweaked a little to enjoy it? What if school is full of fun and frolic? If you have a child who has ever expressed anxiety or worry over small or big things, please get this funny book to help them see things differently. What I love about this book is that it is non-serious and it deals with anxiety and worries through storytelling.
Books on Following a Routine
Peppa’s Busy Day – This book shows how Peppa and George wake up on time, eat breakfast on time, go to school on time, etc and at the end of the day go to bed on time. It helps toddlers understand how to follow a routine. Comes with a clock face that kids can play around with as per the story. Eventually, it helps children learn to tell the time. Excellent book, highly recommended.
What George Forgot – What George Forgot is the story of a boy, George, going through his morning routine – from waking up, making his bed, bathing, brushing, getting dressed, eating breakfast, etc. But, he knows he’s forgetting something. What is it? Will he figure it out before he steps out of the house? This book is amazing if you are struggling to establish a morning routine with your little one, get them to brush, bathe and dress without a fuss. It is also really good if you are trying to encourage your little one to be more independent as it shows the main character doing everything independently, including eating by himself (promotes self feeding). It also promotes environmental protection (switching off the tap) and good hygiene.
Books on Making Friends
Meesha Makes Friends – Making friends is hard, especially when you feel you are different. How do you make friends when you see the world differently than others? Tom Percival tells you how to in the most beautiful way possible. This one is not only for the kids, but for all of us adults too.
The Children’s Book on Making Friends – The book addresses various issues like sharing, taking turns, being kind through short stories. What I loved about the book is that it is interactive, and asks the children to think how they would feel in the situation and what they would do, rather than telling them out rightly what is right and wrong. It also comes with reward stickers, and a wipe clean chart that can be used to design the child’s own reward goals.
Are You Ready To Play Outside? – Elephant and Piggie books are amongst our favourite. They have very few words but address issues very well. This one is all about what being a good friend is about. It also highlights how one must make the best of a situation and have fun, no matter what – thereby helping them build resilience.
Books on worrying and separation anxiety
Ruby’s Worry – A wonderful picture book about dealing with anxiety and worries by sharing them with others instead of keeping them to yourself. A very powerful book for children (and anxious adults) that is capable of equipping them with crucial life skills, and make them more empathetic as well.
Owl Babies – This one is our absolute favourites for dealing with separation anxiety. It is the cutest book ever on the topic. Three owls wake up to find their mother gone, and wonder what could have happened to her. They go through different emotions, and even try consoling each other. In the end, the mother owl returns back to them, telling them why all the fuss – mommy will always come back na?
I’ll Always Love You – This book reminds the children that they will always be loved no matter what they do. I believe that’s an important thing for a child to know, and no child should grow up fearing that they may lose the affection of their parents due to an action of theirs. This book does a perfect job of explaining that every unwise action (like keeping the fridge door open, or deliberately spilling paint all over) has a consequence, but that consequence is never losing the love of the parent. That is always assured.
Kiss it Better – Sometimes only kisses can make things better, especially when you are having a bad day or dealing with anxieties. What I really really love about this book is that we end up hugging and kissing more than usual afterwards, because the book never fails to get us into the huggy-kissy mood!
Hugs (can also be ordered from Scholastic via kbc’s special storefront, especially since many of the outstanding books by award winning author Robert Munsch are in stock!) – There’s nothing as comforting as a mother’s hug. The book is about a pair of siblings who walk away from home when their mother scolds them. But soon they want a hug. They try out hugs from a snail, skunk, porcupine and gorilla, but none are as comforting as their mother’s hug. This book is one of those that gets us all mushy and makes my 5 year old give all of us lots of hugs, assuring him that we’re all there to hug and kiss him once he gets back home from school.
Books on Sharing
It’s Mine! – A wonderful book to teach sharing and selflessness. It’s a beautiful story about three frogs who are petty and self centered. A huge storm and incessant rain that threatens to drown them, forces them to take a relook at their attitude. I like the book also because it isn’t about sharing a toy or material, but about helping and being selfless which is the essence of sharing.
Thatha’s Pumpkin – This book has my heart forever. The most beautiful way to depict sharing, community bonding and break gender stereotypes. A grandfather harvests a huge pumpkin from his garden, and not knowing what to do with it, wedges of it are distributed to the entire community (with each person sharing the name of the recipe they would like to cook with it). This is one book that will make your child adore pumpkin and also make them nudge their fathers/grandfathers into the kitchen!
Books on Best Behaviour
Be Kind – Be Kind. That’s what we strive to teach our children. But is it something that you can ‘teach’? And does being kind mean you have to do something big? What does it mean to be kind? That’s what this book explores, in a beautiful way. I was so mind blown at how well the book has explained kindness – through very limited text, amazing illustrations and especially the cascading effect of kindness. The impact of one small act of kindness does not end there, it carries on and touches many more people.
How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids – If you decide to get only one book from this list, get this one. This has been a life changing book, and I’m sure the learning from this book will stay with my child till he is an adult. The book is how we all have an invisible bucket and how each action of ours either fills our (and other’s) bucket or empties it. Beautiful book with wonderful illustrations.
Horrible Bear! – No child likes to say sorry. We went through a phase where saying sorry was the hardest thing for my son. This book helped us tremendously. There are so many things that I love about this book but most important is its simplicity. A girl’s kite gets broken by mistake by the bear, she’s furious, the bear is even more furious (how can the girl be angry at me, when I didn’t break it, it broke by mistake), then the girl realises her mistake, and says sorry. With that one sorry, she feels better, the bear feels better, and they are able to repair the broken kite! The power of sorry could not be better told really.
Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book – My 4 yr old is a big Richard Scarry fan, so this was a natural choice when he seemed to have forgotten his magic words. However, the book turned out to be much more than just magic words. It encourages children to listen, to say yes and try out things, to be good friends, to not be mean and be good citizens. All of this through sweet, cute stories involving Lowly the worm and Pig Will and Pig Won’t. It also comes with stickers!
The Children’s Book of Manners – This book has short stories that focus on manners, but again rather than telling the child what is right or wrong, the book is interactive and asks questions (so avoids being preachy.) eg: Do you think Boy X’s behaviour hurt others? What would you have done if you were in his place?
A Hero Called Wolf – This is a book that is about so much more than just manners – it turns the traditional fairy tales on their head, and conveys the message that being a hero means being kind, not being handsome, or being strong. If you are kind, and help others, then even if others have misunderstood you so far (like the wolf has been in fairy tales), people will see the goodness. Bonus: The book promotes reading and conveys the wonderful message that books have solutions for everything.
Books on Big Feelings
Ravi’s Roar – Kids can often turn into tigers with a roar, especially in this pandemic and this book has helped us tremendously in calming ourselves down. A beautiful picture book that illustrates a little boy getting frustrated and angry, and ultimately getting over it. The illustrations and simple text help even young kids understand the emotion of anger and help them gain control of their emotions.
Dealing with Feelings books by Sonia Mehta. – An absolute must have boxset (this is boxset 1) for all pre-schoolers. The books help pre-schoolers understand not only their emotions but also that of others. The stories are set in a forest, are extremely engaging, have colorful pictures and have had my son hooked to them! Dealing with Feelings Boxset 2 (6 books) is also apt for 3 yrs+.
Books on Being Confident
Almost Anything – It’s a lovely story about a little bear, too scared to try anything because he feels he can’t do it. A little wisdom, and some confidence building later – he realises that with the magic that is within us, we can try almost anything and keep trying it till we succeed. Great book to build self confidence, and get kids to try something new. The illustrations are cute, and the story is heart warming.
Dream Big, Little Mole – Tom Percival books are beautiful, and this one helps children believe in dreams and that even though the journey towards attaining those dreams may sometimes be bumpy, it is always worth it.
Lion vs Rabbit – There are two things we strive to teach our children – it is not nice at all to be a bully and that you must stand up to a bully without fear. Lion vs Rabbit, addresses both these issues and much more. Lion bullies everyone in the forest, and nobody has the courage to stand up to him except a rabbit who arrives from a far away land. They have a series of competitions, and the lion loses, pledging to give up bullying.
What I loved about the story is that it conveys to the children that sometimes the bully is so big or so mean that you can’t deal with him alone. In such cases it is important to rope in the help of others, be united and stand together. The story also beautifully explains that intelligence trumps physical strength when it comes to dealing with bullies. Still want more from a book? It brings up the topic of fairness. What is fair when dealing with a bully. If a bully is being mean, should you really think of being fair? Isn’t being unfair, fair, when dealing with a mean bully?
Engibear’s Dream – Engibear is a bear and an engineer, but more than that he is a dreamer. He wants to build a robot. He tries building one, and each one has a problem. Refusing to get frustrated by failure, he learns from the mistakes and ends up building the perfect robot.
The book is a complete package for little curious minds. Each attempt is described in detail, each mistake is described scientifically (using diagrams also), that sparks the desire to learn something more – be it about the speedometer, fuel indicator, circuits or switches. Through the various (hilariously described) attempts children learn the importance of hard work and persistence. The beautifully rhyming words, and brilliant illustrations along with the scientific drawings of circuits, holds their attention really well.
Tilda Tries Again– Another beautiful book by Tom Percival, this one is about trying again and again, and not giving up even if you feel frustrated and confused. I love that this book has very simple language and equips the children with a powerful line of “Tilda Tries Again”.
Books on Being Safe
My Body Belongs to Me from My Head to My Toes – Sometimes a child does not like to be touched, but does not know how to deal with it. It is not always about “Good Touch, Bad Touch”, it could also be about simple invasion of personal space – another child tickling them when they don’t want to be tickled, or picking them up when they don’t want to be.
My 5 year old (who still looks like a 2.5 year old), comes across as this cute baby in the park, and all the elder children will pull his cheeks and hug him, pick him up. For a child who hates being cuddled by his parents, this is obviously very distressing and I have seen him completely lose it and scream sometimes. The book is very gentle in explaining that it is okay to like certain types of touch (hugging your parents) and not liking the very same actions with others:
“It feels nice and cozy when Papa hugs me” but a few pages later it states, “I feel trapped when someone hugs me too tight, I don’t want to be held like that”.
The book gently explains that you and only you get to decide who touches your body, and also who you should touch. So, neither should anyone forcibly touch you or force you to touch them. This book will not only teach kids about being safe from abuse, but will help them stand up for themselves against physically being pushed around on the playground too. It gives them a statement
“Please stop, I don’t want to be touched”,
which empowers them to be assertive when needed.
I Won’t go with Strangers – How do you teach a child stranger danger without making them paranoid about everybody? This book manages to do that really well. The story is about a girl who has been told by her mother that she can go home only with her mother, father or brother. While she waits outside school in the rain, several people come by – some of whom she knows really well and some who she doesn’t know. The story shows the thoughts that go through her mind with each person – what must be that person’s favourite food? What must be their favourite soft toy? In most cases, she doesn’t know the answer to all the questions (meaning she doesn’t know them well, and so there is no question of going with them), but in one case she does know all the answers (her neighbour) but even then, she remembers the list her mother gave her, and says out loud that mumma said that I must wait for her.
I’ve been using this book to teach my son that he must not wander off with anyone except mumma and papa (not even with his best friend).
Germ Academy – Staying safe during the pandemic includes having adequate knowledge about the pandemic and how to stay safe, including maintaining hand hygiene. This lovely book wonderfully explains how dangerous Covie the virus is, and how we can stay safe from it by keeping ourselves clean using lots of soap and water. I’m hoping this book will get my child to use the sanitizer often and encourage him to maintain some sort of social distancing. You can read a detailed review of this awesome book HERE.
Books on being inclusive
Marshall is new to school and he has very different habits and belongings when compared to his classmates – so no one wants to interact with him. They notice that he has rashes on his skin, eats only liquid, well labelled food, stays out of the sun and does not play physical sports. The children think he is utterly boring. One day, all of them are invited to his house for his birthday – how boring or exciting is it going to be? And how does interacting with Marshall change his classmates? When a new child enters the school, what are they going to do?
This book explains inclusion and tolerance like no other book. It explains how we can all be different, yet we are all the same – we all have different things, we may like to eat different things yet at the very core, we are all the same.
Books On Weaning off Screen time
Look Up – Look Up by Nathan Byron is a lovely story of a girl named Rocket, who is fascinated by astronauts and all things to do with space. Her brother Jamal, though is addicted to his phone, and never looks up. There is going to be a meteor shower in their city, for which Rocket makes pamphlets, invites other people to the park to gather and see it along with her. She convinces Jamal to take her shopping for some things and then to the park. Through these trips we see life through Rocket’s as well as Jamal’s eyes (Jamal’s eyes are glued to the screen, Rocket sees the fascinating world, the birds, the clouds, the bookstore). Now, will Jamal give up his phone and look up to see the meteor shower? Will he realise how his little sister feels all day when he constantly looks down at his phone and not at her?
An absolutely brilliant book to let kids know that spending time with electronic devices makes you miss out on real life (the illustrations explain this wonderfully, while the text refrains from being too preachy about this), and you also miss out on bonding with your family. The book also has tidbits of information about meteors and astronauts.
Fabulous Friend Machine – This book highlights the beauty of real friends over the fake online world, through a very simple and easy to understand story that is so powerful that it is sure to have an impact on young minds.
Like all DK books this one is superb too. What I loved about this book is it covers all the aspects of going to school in one place. Starting from who you are, what are manners, the clothes you wear depending on seasons, staying clean, the different array of emotions a child can feel, how can you stay happy, how can we look after our planet, how to make friends and many more! There are also a few nursery rhymes at the end and things to say hello to when you reach school the first day! Definitely a great book to have for our little ones who are getting ready to step into the real world! Tomorrow is the last day of online school and I have mixed feelings. A mother hen in me is anxious but yes reading this book together and seeing their excitement I am getting ready for the big day! We start school on Monday and our energy levels are super duper high!
Wemberly gets worried over everything… she worries too much and that worries her parents as well. She worries over small things, big things and all things around. And now she had a gigantic worry about her new school! What if she doesn’t like it there, what if this happens or that! But when she goes there and makes a new friend she soon forgets all about her worries and starts enjoying each moment.
This is a great book to not only address little worries our tiny ones often have but also to specifically address the worries related to starting school. School can be really a big worry when they don’t know what to expect. After two years of staying indoors all childoos are excited and anxious at the same time about getting back to school. This could be a wonderful addition to the library if you have a little one starting school soon.
Time for School… No Worries! (Worry Monsters) – Asha has this book and highly recommends it. It’s colourful, very fun, rhyming and addresses all the issues children going to school for the first time, as well as children starting a new year while going back to school would have. The concept of Worry Monsters brilliantly tackles different concerns. Asha has done a read aloud in the kbc facebook group.
BACK TO SCHOOL ACCESSORIES – Here is a curated list of the back to school (and other) accessories our members have recently ordered.
[Note from Team Kids Book Café: For your convenience, affiliate links (MARKED IN PINK) to some of the book titles & images have been added to enable you to buy the books from AMAZON, should you wish to! A very small amount of money comes to kidsbookcafe.com when you purchase a book via the amazon affiliate link provided (at absolutely no extra cost to you!). Do let us know if you need information about other children’s books by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.]