Here is a comprehensive list of the best first day of school books for every elementary school grade. I even included a book for those starting preschool as well as some back-to-school books for teachers. During my 25-year teaching career, I have taught all elementary grade levels. Now I’m an elementary school librarian, which is my dream job. Anyone at your home suffering from first-day-of-school anxiety? In my home, I’m the one who gets nervous and excited before the first day of school. The first day of school books on this list are just as much for me as for the kids. Maybe one or more of the first day of school books on the list below will help ease the anxiety of someone in your home, whether a child or an adult. Perhaps you’re a classroom teacher looking for a new first-day-of-school book to read to your students. How do you make the first day of school a great day? If your home or classroom is full of excitement when the school year starts, these might build upon that anticipation or ease some nervousness. What is a good first day of school book? I hope you find one that’s just right as you peruse this list!
How This List of First Day of School Books Was Compiled
I belong to a few librarian discussion groups on Facebook which have thousands of members. Many of them are school librarians, as I am. Members have posted questions about favorite books to read to kids at the beginning of the school year. The responses were many, with a number of back-to-school book titles that kept popping up over and over. I included those first day of school books on this list. If librarians read them to their young students, chances are good that you and your family might appreciate these first day at school books.
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A Great First Day of School Book for a Preschooler
Just look at the illustration of Pete the Cat when he was younger. Who can resist such a cute kitty? Pete the Kitty’s First Day of Preschool by James Dean is a story about Pete the Kitty as he experiences the fun of going to preschool. Pete the Cat is such a popular literary character, I couldn’t resist this board book for kids getting ready for preschool. Pete’s energy and enthusiasm about his fun day at preschool is contagious!
First Day of School Books for Kindergarten
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn was first published in 1993, and has since become one of the favorite books about the first day of school. Young Chester Raccoon is worried about going to school for the first time. His wise, empathetic mother finds a way to let him know that she is always with him, even when they are apart. Written with kids ages 4-8 in mind, it’s tough for parents to make it through this book without shedding an emotional tear or two.
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney is the third book in the gentle rhyming series about a little llama, and this time, Llama Llama is headed off to school. As the title implies, Llama Llama is sad about this. The author introduces compassionate characters to help Llama Llama make it through the school day. They comfort him with “Don’t be sad, new little llama!/It’s OK to miss your mama./But don’t forget-/when day is through,/she will come right back to you.” This reassuring picture book, designed for kids ages 4-8, provides a relatable, supportive off-to-school message for students and parents alike.
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes is another story about a young student who is anxious about many things, large and small. Naturally, she is quite nervous about her first day of school. Then Wemberly, a little mouse, finds a friend, and everything changes for the better. Is your child wondering, “How do I not stress on the first day of school?” Kids ages 4-6 will enjoy relating to Wemberly as she learns there are some great things about going to school.
Here are some other excellent books for the first day of school for those starting kindergarten:
|On the First Day of Kindergarten by Tish Rabe||
In this fun adaptation of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” tune, the lyrics are revised to reflect the many fun things happening in kindergarten. It’s a perfect way to build anticipation.
|Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarden by Laura Purdie Salas||
Clover Kitty is worried that kindergarten will be too loud, and feels overwhelmed. Find out what happens to change her mind in this engaging story, perfect for anyone who has sensory overload issues.
|Kindergarten, Here I Come! by D.J. Steinberg||
Celebrate kindergarten milestones throughout the year with a special set of stickers and humorous poems to commemorate each occasion. Helps the anticipation build for each special day!
|The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing||With inspiration from the classic Christmas poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, catchy rhymes help the kindergarten excitement to grow.|
|Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Schoes by James Dean||This fun, musical book is a favorite of many. The kids like to sing and read along with the repetitive text. Beware, the tune WILL get stuck in your head!|
First Day of School Books for First Grade
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold is a colorful, rhyming book about embracing diversity in the school population. “No matter how you start your day./ What you wear when you play./ Or if you come from far away./ All are welcome here.” Written for kids ages 3-8, the text and illustrations draw readers in, celebrating schools as common ground and advocating for unity.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes tells the tale of a young mouse named Chrysanthemum who is excited about going to school. How do you introduce yourself on the first day of school? Coming from a sheltered, loving, family environment, Chrysanthemum is devastated when the students make fun of her name. A sensitive, compassionate music teacher comes to her rescue in this heartwarming story written for kids ages 4-8.
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins follows a young T. Rex, Penelope, as she begins her school year, surprised to learn that all of her classmates are humans. With macabre humor, the author writes about Penelope eating her classmates, because “children are delicious”. What should you not do on the first day of school? You should definitely not eat your classmates. The teacher, Mrs. Noodleman, demands that Penelope “Spit them out at once!”, and her classmates, covered in slimy dinosaur spit, understandably avoid Penelope after that. Will Penelope ever learn to get along? Find out by reading the rest of the story, written for kids ages 4-8. If many of your students enjoy this book, be sure to check out the sequel, We Will Rock Our Classmates. It’s a fabulous choice for the beginning of the school year as well.
Check out these other amazing titles for the first day of school for first graders:
|The Night Before First Grade by Natasha Wing||Like its kindergarten counterpart, this book contains revised lyrics inspired by the classic Christmas poem that reflect anticipating the first grade experience.|
|The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi||
Rather than get frustrated at not being able to do something YET, the author offers inspiration and encouragement in this uplifting book about using difficult learning situations to help us grow.
|Off to First Grade by Louise Borden||
Multiple characters in this book, from a student named Anna to the principal, Mr. Zimmerman, share their relatable feelings about getting the school year started.
|The Pigeon HAS to go to School! by Mo Willems||
books by Mo Willems fly off the library shelves, and this installment in the beloved Pigeon series is perfect for getting first graders interested in reading the rest of his books.
First Day of School Books for Second Grade
School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex is a story about first-day anxiety told from a different perspective. The brand new school building, Frederick Douglass Elementary, who knows only the janitor, is worried about the kids who will be attending. Through conversations with the janitor, we learn about the thoughts and feelings of the school, who overhears comments such as “I don’t like school” and “This place stinks”. Written with kids ages 4-8 in mind, this colorful tale told from a different point of view is entertaining and clever.
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg follows Sarah Jane Hartwell as she reluctantly makes her way to school, sharing her worries and complaints as the story progresses. Readers don’t see Sarah Jane until the end of the story, and (spoiler alert) she is not a student. This is a hilarious example of what teachers might do on the first day of school if they are nervous about being new. Kids, especially those ages 4-9, love the surprise ending. They realize that students are not the only ones who get nervous before school starts!
If those first-day-of-school titles are already in your home or school collection, here are some other fabulous books to consider:
|Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things||
Second-grader Alvin is afraid of everything, including school. Although he is silent when in class, he’s also got a secret identity: the very loud superhero Firecracker Man. Will Alvin ever be able to overcome his fears?
|If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen||In this engaging tale, a boy fantasizes about what he would include in a perfect school. The ideas are fantastic, fun, and great for prompting discussion.|
|The Truth About My Unbelievable School by Davide Cali||
When asked to give a tour of the school to a new girl, the main character nonchalantly guides the new student through the amazing features of the building, the teachers, and the creatures. Highly entertaining!
|Keena Ford and the Second-Grade Mix-Up by Melissa Thomson||
Eager for a fresh start in second grade, Keena is excited and wants to impress her new teacher. When there is a mix-up involving chocolate cake, will Keena have the courage to tell the truth?
First Day of School Books for Third Grade
A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech relates the tale of an over-enthusiastic principal, Mr. Keene, who believes that the students, teachers and school are so fine that everyone should attend on the weekends. No one has the courage to disagree with the principal until young Tillie confronts him with a discussion about all of the things that the students aren’t learning, such as how to climb trees. Readers will have fun hunting for humorous illustrated details throughout the book like a cafeteria banner that reads, “Why Not Study While You Chew?” Written for kids ages 4-9, this book will delight adults as well with its timely message.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson: It’s a terrific book about being new and different at school. The award-winning author presents a gentle story about being brave and stepping out to make connections. Though a great story for any age, kids ages 5-8 will particularly appreciate the plot.
Take a look at these other titles for third graders on their first day of school:
|Third Grade Angels by Jerry Spinelli||
Will third grade student Suds ever earn the class halo from his teacher, Mrs. Simms? Does this mean he has to be good even when no one is watching? Laugh as Suds persues the elusive halo goal with good intentions. 112 pages
|This School Year Will be THE BEST! by Kay Winters||
On the first day of school, students are asked to state what they wish for in the coming school year. Learn what each student hopes for in this humorously-illustrated book.
|What if Everybody Said That? by Ellen Javernick||
In this companion to the popular book What if Everybody Did That?, kids imagine what the world would be like if everyone refused to share, was dishonest, and made fun of each other.
|Third Grade Outsider: Meet Me, Brix Wilder||
When his third grader Brix tries to complete his class assignment of filling a paper bag with items that describe him, what could possibley go wrong? Find out in this relatable story written by a school librarian.
First Day of School Books for Fourth Grade
Back-to-school books for upper elementary students might be picture books or chapter books. Build a welcoming fourth-grade classroom community with these selections:
|Fourth Grade Wierdo by Martha Freeman||
Fourth grade student Dexter just can’t relate when his teacher, Mr, Ditzwinkle, tries to entertain the class. When an unexpected situation arises, will Dexter be able to save the day? 160 pages
|A Letter From Your Teacher by Shannon Olsen||Lay the foundation for building positive relationships with this picture book written from a teacher’s point of view.|
|Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen||
Strengthen the sense of community in a classroom by reading this affirming book about acceptance no matter who you are, where you are from, or mistakes you might make.
|Fourth Grade Rats by Jerry Spinelli||
Now that Suds is in fourth grade, he gets to act tough. When he tries to be a fourth grade rat, things don’t work out so well. Enjoy this sequel to Third Grade Angels with your fourth graders. 160 pages
First Day of School Books for Fifth Grade
Fifth grade is a special year for many students, as it marks for many the final year of elementary school. These selections were written with fifth graders in mind, and would make memorable books to read for the first day of school for fifth graders:
|A Week in the Wood by Andrew Clements||
Mark Chelmsley is looking forward to the traditional Week in the Woods for fifth grade students and is hoping to impress his teacher. When Mark makes a poor decision, survival skills are put to the test.
|The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary||Inspire students with this novel-in-verse about a class putting together a time capsule to commemorate their school, which is scheduled for demolition.|
|The Best School Year Ever by Barbara Robinson||
Fans of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever will be delighted by the return of the Herdman family as Beth Bradley struggles to complete her assigned task of thinking of a compliment for Imogene.
|President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston||
When Brianna Justice learns that a person she looks up to attributes her success to being president of her fifth grade class, that’s all Brianna need to know before launching her campaign in this entertaining story.
First Day of School Books for Teachers
Teachers need back-to-school and first-day-of-school inspiration as well. Here are some titles written with teachers as the target audience. These offer insights and encouragement for the coming school year:
|I Wish My Teacher Knew by Kyle Schwartz||
When third-grade teacher Kyle Schwartz gave this writing prompt to his students, little did he know that their answers would give him such valuable insights.
|What it Means to be a Teacher by Jenn Larson||Get some inspiration, motivation, and encouragement in this lighthearted look at life as a teacher.|
|Today I Made a Difference by Joseph W. Underwood||This collection of true stories celebrates the everyday challenges and triumphs faced by teachers in many situations.|
What Are Your Favorite First Day of School Books?
I hope you found a title or two on this list of best first-day-of-school books you might enjoy. These first day of school books are great for kids in preschool, kindergarten, first grade and beyond. What are some of your favorite books to read when it’s time to head back to school? You might have a title to share that is not on the list. I’m always looking for more book ideas. You might also enjoy reading my other book posts, such as this one about inspiring technology books for kids. If you would like free resources for readers, such as some free printable shelf labels for popular children’s books, please consider subscribing. There are over 40 free resources in the FluxingWell resource library, which subscribers can access anytime.
Thanks for visiting the FluxingWell site, and may you have a wonderful school year!