Thanks to commenter Rachel for this suggestion!
Right, we’re on the countdown now, aren’t we? Two weeks left to buy all of H’s uniform, get his feet measured for shoes, practice writing his name and cry a bit into my pillow at night. We’ve talked a lot about starting school, and he’s been for a practice morning, but we’ve still got a whole avalanche of newness coming towards us.
I think there’s nothing like a picture book to help a preschooler visualise change. It means that when the first day comes, even the new things are a little familiar. Reading about it has helped both of us to get used to – and excited about – the idea. Here are our five best books about starting school.
Lucy and Tom Go to School, by Shirley Hughes
We got this one from the library just the other week. Honestly, is there any better comfort-author than the lovely Hughes? We love the Alfie books, and one of my favourite poem-and-story books of all time is her Out and About. Lucy and Tom Go to School is a brilliant introduction to the change when one sibling is old enough to start school, and the other isn’t. The classroom in the illustrations looks just like the one I remember from my own primary school: peg, ‘home corner’ and all. Gorgeous.
Harry and the Dinosaurs Go to School, by Ian Whybrow
The Harry and the Dinosaurs series is always a favourite here: the illustrations are colourful and fun, the stories tend to have an undercurrent of sly family humour, and of course anything with dinosaurs in it gets an automatic stamp of approval. We enjoyed this one very much: Harry isn’t sure about his first day at school, especially when he has to go into his classroom without the dinosaurs. But then he makes a new friend, the dinosaurs come to the rescue, and everyone has a jolly old time. I’m impressed by Harry’s four-year-old drawing at the end, by the way. In this house we’re lucky if we get semi-coherent scribbles.
Charlie and Lola: I am Too Absolutely Small for School, by Lauren Child
In this book, Lola is finally ready to start school – phew, thinks Charlie, a bit less underage childcare for me – but she’s not convinced she’s big enough. As ever, while she raises objection after objection, good old Charlie talks her out of them with wit and patience. And Lola has a marvellous first day. The usual creative illustrations, fabulous wallpaper, and true-to-life toddler speak from Lauren Child. It’s beautifully produced. Can Charlie come and live at my house?
Starting School, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
If you really want to get inside a school-aged child’s head, go to the Ahlbergs. Please Mrs Butler – still on my shelf, and just about in one piece! – was one of the first books that showed me poems can be relevant and fun for children. Some of the first poetry I memorised, too. This one is great too, particularly if you have a detail-oriented child who wants to know the specifics of absolutely everything (*raises hand*). It’s quite methodical and not the most dynamic of reads. But it takes in just about everything a child will encounter in that first year, and is invaluable for that. Lovely illustrations too.
First Day, by Andrew Daddo
I have been trying hard to get hold of this one after it was recommended to me, and so I recommend it to you in turn: if you find a second-hand one on Amazon or eBay, snap it up! From what I’ve been able to see, it’s a book about first day nerves written with humour and warmth, and the illustrations are distinctive and beautiful. And apparently there’s a twist at the end. What is it?! I must know. I’ll keep looking.
Happy reading! And hey, good luck to all of us with new starters this September. Our kids will be fine. And with the judicious application of cake and hot chocolate, so will we.