12 brilliant books about starting school

Do you remember your first day at school?

It’s such a huge milestone in life yet I have not a single recollection of that probably scary, possibly exciting day. I’m sure my mum and dad do though, and I sometimes wonder if the fear around starting school is more the parents’ own anxieties than the child’s.

Whether you have a confident, unselfconscious little one or a shy, retiring tot, this selection of books will ensure they (and you) feel ready and equipped for the emotional and academic challenges that lie ahead this coming term – and beyond…

1. All You Need To Know Before You Start School by Felicity Brooks, illustrated by Marina Aizen. £9.99 (hardback), Usborne

There’s lots to spot and discover in this clear guide to the school day and what your child will learn there, centred around five animal friends embarking on this new adventure together.

The book is broken up into easy chapters and the large pages are packed with details and text to spark discussions between parent and child. Topics such as colours, farm animals, your family and weather are all covered, making it a great way to reinforce what they know and give them confidence during those first few weeks. Available from Amazon

2. Boo Who? by Ben Clanton. £11.99 (hardback), Walker

Making new friends or worrying other children won’t like you can be a big anxiety around starting school. Ben Clanton tackles the topic in a novel way, with a ghost called Boo, who is new and afraid, even though he’s usually the one doing the scaring.

When Boo struggles to play games like catch the ball, collecting twigs and tag due to his spectral form, the fearful phantom wonders if he should just disappear. But during a game of hide and seek, he discovers he has a skill that the other students love and his worries disappear. Available from Amazon

3. I Am Too Absolutely Small For School by Lauren Child. £6.99 (paperback), Orchard

It’s almost time for Lola to start school but the little sister with the big imagination is certain that she knows enough not to need lessons. It’s down to dependable big brother Charlie to explain why counting and knowing your letters are important skills, with the help of Father Christmas and some elephants.

As with every book about these most lovable siblings, the dialogue is sharp and very funny, the illustrations are charming and we also get to meet Lola’s imaginary friend Soren Lorenson for the first time too. Available from Amazon

We meet Charlie and Lola creator Lauren Child

4. I Love My Teacher by Giles Andreae and Emma Dodd. £12.99 (hardback), Orchard

The creators of I Love My Mummy and I Love My Daddy turn their attention to all the wonderful things your child can do at school in this simple, bright and upbeat book.

From hanging up coats and show and tell, to learning numbers and playtime, the day is filled with smiles and friends – not to mention a lovely, kind teacher. A great read for reinforcing what your child can expect and taking the fear out of the teacher authority figure. Available from Amazon

Cover of Starting School by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

5. Starting School by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. £6.99 (paperback), Puffin

This sweet but practical book guides parents and children through each step of the first day, week and term with knowledge and humour. Like anything by the Ahlbergs, its simplicity is its genius and as Allan was actually a teacher, you know it is well considered and accurate.

We love the little cast of pupils (with brilliant names like Errol and Sushma) who each have their own fears, strengths and interests, along with the soothing, repetitive structure of Allan’s text and Janet’s charmingly detailed artwork. Available from Amazon

Allan Ahlberg reveals the five books of his own that are his favourites and why

6. Prince George Goes To School by Caryl Hart and Laura Ellen Anderson. £12.99 (hardback), Orchard

When Prince George’s parents send him off for an adventure,  he’s expecting to fight dragons and conquer new lands – not go to a strange and scary new ‘kingdom’ called school.

It takes the young royal time to get used to taking turns and playing dragon rather than prince during dress-up time, and there are a few tantrums along the way. But with the help of his new friends, he discovers that this land away from the palace is lots of fun. A reassuring read with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour and delightful rhyming text. Available from Amazon

What we’re reading: Meet The Planets by Caryl Hart and Bethan Woollvin

7. Alfie at Nursery School by Shirley Hughes. £11.99 (hardback), Puffin

Shirley Hughes’s perennial pre-schooler has been charming children for decades with his relatable everyday adventures. In this new book from the celebrated storyteller, Alfie navigates life at Parkside Nursery School, from playground games and friendships to concerts and his toddler sister Annie Rose stealing his thunder.

There’s a familiarity to seeing Alfie playing in the sandpit and singing with his classmates – painted in a detailed and realistic way by Shirley – that is hugely comforting for all ages. It makes the big step of starting nursery or school seem less daunting. Available from Amazon

What we’re reading: Dogger by Shirley Hughes


8. Never Take A Bear To School by Mark Sperring and Britta Teckentrup. £6.99 (paperback), Orchard

However tempting it might be, it turns out there are lots of good reasons why you need to leave your bear at home on your first day at school. Quite aside from the panic in the playground, it won’t endear you to your classmates if your furry friend snaffles their packed lunches.

We love the warm humour to this fabulous rhyming tale, which also explains all the good things about taking this big step alone – and how your bear (or your parents or favourite toy) will be waiting for you at home with a hairy hug. The illustrations by the brilliant Britta Teckentrup also have a gorgeous retro feel with a bold colour palette and diverse cast of kids. Available from Amazon

15 of the best books about bears

9. The Pigeon HAS To Go To School! by Mo Willems. £6.99 (paperback), Walker

He’s strong-willed, grumpy and makes a terrible fuss about everything. But Mo Willems’s quirky Pigeon has become one of the best and most amusing children’s picture books characters of the last 15 years, as he frets about baths, buses and more.

This time he’s set to start school except he claims to know everything already – until his protests are revealed as a deep fear of the unknowns, like whether his teacher will like him, if his backpack will be too heavy and if the fingerpaints will stick to his feathers.

The question format and dialogue with the reader that makes this series work so beautifully is also a funny way to get children to open up about their own fears and by laughing at the Pigeon, they can laugh at themselves too. Available from Amazon

10. The Colour Monster Goes To School by Anna Llenas. £6.99 (paperback), Templar

We all go to school – but when you’ve yet to start, how do you know what it is? In this second title in the Colour Monster series, our charming little chap has lots to learn as he becomes a classroom fixture with his friend Nuna.

There’s plenty of humour to this tale, as Colour Monster eats the storybooks and hogs the swings, showing children that it is okay to throw yourself into the experience, even if things go a little wrong. The artwork is huge fun too. We love Spanish author-illustrator Anna Llenas’s funky combo of childlike drawings and scrapbook-style collage. Available from Amazon

11. When A Dragon Goes To School by Caryl Hart and Rosalind Beardshaw. £6.99 (paperback), Nosy Crow

Behaving at school isn’t always easy, especially if you breathe fire and have a fierce roar. But little dragon shows that every pupil can be a good friend and a helpful student in this second book by Hart and Beardshaw’s charming series.

We love the bright and warm artwork as our dragon and her two pals navigate their way through the school day as well as the repeated refrain of “Why no! Dragons don’t do that” – perfect for little kids to join in with. Available from Amazon

Caryl Hart shares the books that have inspired her

12. I Have To Start At School Today by Simon Philip and Ged Adamson. £6.99 (paperback), Simon & Schuster

Starting school anxieties are tackled in a humorous but reassuring way in this sweet new book with a wonderful rhyme by I Really Want The Cake author Simon Philip.

The little girl is fretting about her first day and what might go wrong, from rhinos blocking the gates demanding passwords to bears hogging the last spare seat and scoffing all the lunch apart from one sardine. It doesn’t help that her older brother is telling tall tales about what to expect.

But when her wise granny steps in to listen to her fears, she discovers that maybe the rhino, bear and baboon could be allies and help her first day go more than right? Buy from Amazon

You may also like…
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10 of the best books about babies
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