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  • Writer's picture Clara Maria Fiorentini

The best books about starting school

The transition to primary school is a huge one. Never just an event, it's an immense process and both children, parents and teachers need time to navigate the experience smoothly.

As preparations veer towards talk about 'the big day' and 'big school' let's pause for a moment and think about all the 'big feelings' and 'big deals' that can arise from starting school.

A helpful way to support children in preparing for beginning primary school is to talk, share and question the process. An accessible invitation into the experience, is through reading picturebooks and stories relating to the topic of changes and beginning school. This can be ongoing for months in advance and can really support young children in feeling more secure and settled about the process. It's important that we create an atmosphere wherein the children are enabled to understand that starting school isn't just a once off 'big day' - it's the start of a long and exciting journey, filled with fun, learning and friends.

As parents, we can prepare the children through comforting and familiar picturebooks.

As teachers, we can share suggested texts with our incoming infants and their families.

As early childhood educators, we can read and provide access to texts that deal with the process of beginning school in the months leading up to the transition from one setting to the next.

Useful picturebooks and texts to support the transition to primary school:

The Kissing Hand - Audrey Penn - an oldie, but a goodie. A nice one to help alleviate the worries and fears about leaving our parents at the door.

Splat the Cat - Rob Scotton - because we need to laugh and build excitement and giggles about the process of starting school!

Do I have to go to School? - Pat Thomas

Owl Babies - Martin Waddell - because we need to remember that although we might feel a little abandoned our parents and guardians come back to us at home time!

Starting School - Janet & Allan Ahlberg - another classic and a keeper, helpful and reassuring for parents and children alike!

I am absolutely too small to go to school! - Lauren Child - many children will recognise Charlie and Lola from the television. Another gem from Lauren Child's collection.

Llama, Llama, misses Mama - Anna Dewdney - dealing with an emotion many school starters will experience and relate to!

The Pigeon HAS to go to School - Mo Willems - anything by Mo Willems is a treat, and this spin on the 'Pigeon' series will not disappoint!

All are welcome - Alexandra Penfold - one of my favourite texts to support conversations around diversity and inclusion in the classroom. All are welcoming and all must be welcoming.

Starting School - Jane Goodwin - a beautiful, straightforward text - perfect to explore the procedures behind starting school.

The Invisible String - Patrice Karst - a reminder that although we are temporarily separated, we are still connected to those we love and miss.

We don't eat our classmates - Ryan T. Higgins - a hilarious spin on the do's and don'ts of treating our classmates!

Maddie's first day - Penny Matthews - a comforting account of Maddie's first day at schoool.

Winston was worried - Pamela Duncan Edwards - a lot of young children associate new beginnings and big events or changes with worry. Winston the dog is always worried and this plot shows how he overcomes those worries!

David goes to School - David Shannon - an entertaining but thought provoking look at how David gets up to mischief at school and how that pans out! A nice one for exploring expectations and behaviours in the classroom.

My Teacher is a Monster - Peter Brown - Bobby reckons his teacher is so bad that she is a monster. But is she really? An entertaining look at a young boy's perspective of his teacher!

Monsters Love School - Mike Austin - a lively look at the Monsters' experiences of starting school.

Tomorrow I'll be kind - Jessica Hische - creating a culture and expectations of kindness are key. A lovely text to explore kindness with young children.

Waiting is not easy - Mo Willems - one of the biggest challenges starting school is all the waiting and turn-taking! Mo Willems explores this in another accessible masterpiece. Giggles galore despite navigating the tricky concept of learning how to wait our turn.

School's First day of School - Adam Rex - a fabulous spin on the starting school process, this time, from the perspective of the school itself!

You're Finally Here - Mélanie Watt - creating a warm and welcoming environment for the children is key; and part of that is sharing your excitement to meet them and have them in your class. Precisely the message shared by Watt in this text as the bunny expresses their delight that YOU, the reader, have finally arrived!

Well in advance of the transition to school, it's extremely helpful to spend time exploring texts that deal with navigating the transition, behaviours expected in school (waiting, turn-taking, kindness) and those that will build excitement for this special part of life.


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