The summer is over before it’s begun, and suddenly we’re packing lunches again, finding matching socks, and bustling kids out of the door on time to get to school. It can all feel like a manic rush and a shock to everyone’s systems after weeks of slow summer days. As parents and kids (and teachers) head back into school routines, we’ve included a few of our top tips to make those transitions as smooth as possible.
Ease into your routine
The back-to-school routine can often come out of nowhere and somehow bring chaos with it. It can help to do a couple of practice runs of how the mornings will go during the last days of vacation—set your alarms, get up, and prepare for your days as if you were doing the school run.
Be aware of mental health
Going back to school is an anxious time—for both children and their parents. They say that anxious parents lead to anxious children, which is also true of back-to-school routines. If you have elementary school-aged children who are already nervous about a new class and teacher, they are even more likely to pick up on your nerves, worsening theirs. Sit down with your child and reassure them that they don’t need to be nervous and try not to openly express your fears.
Teachers matter too
It’s key to remember how important teachers are—both from your child’s perspective and as individuals in their own right. Teachers can often make or break a child’s year and be a source of anxiety at the beginning. See if you can speak to your child’s new teacher before school starts on the first day, or see if there is a photo on the school website so an anxious child can match a face to the name. You as a parent need to be aware of your behavior towards teachers, since they are often teaching large classes of children with limited support. Your attitude and actions can shape how your child responds to their teacher on the first day and throughout the school year.
The best way to feel ready for the school year is to be prepared. If you can, make sure that you and your kids get backpacks, pens, textbooks, and notebooks ready at least a few days before school starts. Preparation includes tasks like sharpening pencils and checking reading lists so your children can start the year on the right foot.
As useful as it is to prepare, don’t go too far. Both children and their parents need to relax and spend quality time together over the summer, and kids need to have some free time where they don’t have to think about tests, grades, or learning. With how much children’s brains develop throughout their school years, it is as beneficial neurologically that they get to rest and play time as well as learn.
If you do want to provide your kids with relaxing yet beneficial reading over the vacation, we have a selection of recommendations for you:
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When Ms. Underwood asks if anyone wants to help Kyle, Zahra always volunteers. She loves spending time with Kyle—he’s creative and generous, and he makes the funniest jokes at lunch. But when Zahra’s other classmates start teasing her for helping him, she starts making choices she regrets.
I Can Help is a gentle, sensitive portrayal of reaching out, facing peer pressure, and learning from past mistakes. With thoughtful storytelling and poignant illustrations, this book will open discussions about choosing kindness in the classroom and beyond.
Written by Alexandra Garibal
Illustrated by Sibylle Delacroix
Translated by Vineet Lal
A school story to encourage friendship and understanding among children of all abilities.
When the other kids mock her at recess, Nanette doesn’t listen. She’d rather focus on puddles, spider webs, and whatever she can create with her hands. One day a boy named Noah—who’d rather fly paper airplanes than listen to the lesson—starts sitting at Nanette’s table. At first, Noah finds Nanette confusing and a little frustrating. But her ideas look like so much fun…
Expressively illustrated in colored pencils, this school story will foster discussions about navigating differences and embracing creativity. A Head Full of Birds is a sensitive portrayal of neurodiverse friendships and the joy that comes when we reimagine the world together.
Ages 4 to 8
In this poignant story, a girl finds it funny when her classmate starts blushing on the school playground. Her friends laugh along with her, but one student takes the teasing too far. Torn between her sympathy for her classmate and her fear of the bully, the girl must make a difficult choice.
This heartfelt book will inspire readers to find the courage to take a stance against bullying and show compassion towards others.
It’s the principal Mr. Slipper’s birthday, and while the rest of the class gets busy writing cards for the occasion, Stan becomes frustrated when his letters come out all in a muddle. Stan is afraid to ask for help, until a friend assures him that nobody’s good at everything. And after lots and lots of practice, Stan’s letters come out the right way round and the right way up.
This delightful book deals with a common childhood frustration and will remind readers that practice pays off and that everyone has to ask for help sometimes.
Kids can add their own personal touch with a coloring page. Crayons not included.
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Seventh grader Jun Li is a brilliant student, more comfortable around computers than people. But his world turns upside down when the principal accuses him of a cyberbullying incident. To prove his innocence, Jun has seven days to track down the true culprit.
Jun’s investigation will bring him face-to-face with computer hackers, a jealous boyfriend, and more than one student who has been a victim of bullying. But he discovers along the way that everyone’s story is more complicated than it seems — and that the people he meets might have more in common than they think.
As he tries to find his way in this new world, Ethan also struggles with issues from the world he left behind — guilt about the events surrounding his suspension, anxiety about his parents’ separation, loneliness for the company of his family and friends.
Slowly, Ethan adjusts. He makes a few friends; he joins the jazz band and learns a new instrument; he even gets used to dried-out dinners at 4:30 pm. Along the way he learns a lot about prejudice and acceptance — and about himself and his changing family situation.
A unique twist on the first day of school
Khepri lives in ancient Egypt, happily fishing alongside his father in the waters of the Nile. But today, Khepri will have to replace his fishing pole with the reed pens of a scribe: it’s his first day of school. As he and his father travel to Thebes, Khepri faces his anxieties about starting school and eventually finds a sense of peace.
From the author of Brother Hugo and the Bear, this gorgeous and poignant book delivers a relatable story in an unusual historical setting.
He was always so normal!
Todd Farrel attends tiny St. Luke’s Episcopal School in rural New England. Each year the sixth graders finish winter term with their big social studies reports. Wanting to make his report something special this year, Todd finally decides to write about mystical experiences — something definitely not normal. After doing some research, Todd determines that he needs to have his own mystical experience.
While practicing soccer with his best friend, Nitro, listening to an unusual teacher who encourages original thinking, and giving in to his curiosity about Leda, the intelligent but unusual (in Todd’s opinion) girl from California, Todd discovers some pretty extraordinary aspects to life in his ordinary world.
Not Exactly Normal is a book about being different and about fitting in, about accepting the differences of others and seeing ways that everyone is alike. It will challenge readers’ assumptions and help them look at the world and their lives in new ways.
A story for anyone who has felt like a fish out of water
There’s a boy in class who doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t yell when a student steps on his foot, and he writes his answers to the teacher’s questions on the board. One of his classmates is trying to understand why he’s so quiet, but she can’t figure it out. But then one day the class goes to the science museum, and she discovers a phone with an aquarium full of fish on the other end of the line. And the fish, as it turns out, aren’t silent after all—they just have their own way of communicating.
This empathy-building story will encourage readers to approach others with compassion and understanding.
The bus driver, the principal, the teachers — all these and more wait behind doors, ready to welcome new students. Each school setting offers warm and friendly characters perfect for reassuring any child nervous about starting school.
Children will be delighted by the colorful illustrations and the exuberant text of this book, and its unique format that allows readers to open flaps revealing the school settings waiting for them behind. Ready and Waiting for You is the perfect introduction to the first day of school, and will leave young readers eager to be on their way!