Books to help ease children and teens back into school

There is excitement as the school year starts up again, but some children may be feeling stress or anxiety because of a new classroom, bullying or perhaps younger children are sad to see an older sibling head off to kindergarten. Books can help ease some of those worries, writes Mandy Brouse.

Books can help children prepare for the return to the classroom

Books can help ease possible anxiety and stress your child is feeling about going to or returning to school. (CBC)

There is always excitement in the air when September begins.

The first day of school can mean many great things – new notebooks! – but for some children who experience bullying or social anxiety, who have transferred to a new school, or are starting for the first time, school can be a source of stress.

Giving your child a book with relatable characters who experience the same worries and uncertainty can be a great way to prepare them for school.

Here are some titles to help ease your child into the new school year. 

Ages 1-4

For the youngest siblings who stay home as their brothers and sisters head to school, there can be some separation anxiety.

Waiting by Kevin Henkes is a sweet ode to this anticipation for a loved one to return home. A collection of toys waits by the window, each for a different thing. They won't know when to expect an arrival but their friendship and mutual waiting is comfort enough.

Waiting is the perfect book to share with children at home while older siblings go off the school. 

Ages 5-8

An instant classic since it was published in 1993, The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is the perfect book for children heading to school for the first time or starting a new school.

Chester is nervous to start school because he is uncertain – what if he is afraid? His mother shares a special family secret, called the kissing hand, that will keep them connected throughout his day. Chester takes comfort in knowing that whatever happens while he is away from his mother, remembering her love will give him courage.

The Kissing Hand is like Robert Munsch's Love You Forever but for new school starts. 

Ages 9-12

August is ten and he's used to people staring rudely at his face by now. Born with undetermined facial abnormalities, he's also been home schools all his life.

But then his parents decide it's time for Auggie to join his peers at a prestigious private school. Even though August will have his fair share of bullies, they hope his kind personality will also attract an empathic friend. And so they lead him in like a lamb to the slaughter – a phrase that keeps running through Auggie's mind.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio is a humane and also painfully realistic look at the trials and tribulations of fifth grade when you don't exactly look like every other kid. At once heartwarming and heartbreaking, read this book with a box of tissues.

Age 16 and up

Challenged by some school libraries for its profanity and realistic portrayal of domestic abuse, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell has also received a Michael Printz Award among other accolades.

It is gritty, but it portrays the anxieties of bullying, family abuse and social pressures at school in a way that is lacking in many other teen books.

It also happens to be one of the sweetest, most believable teen romances written.

Eleanor and Park can't stand each other at first but after their mutual interest in comics and 1980s music brings them together, they are inseparable. That is, until Eleanor finds out that love isn't always enough to keep two people together. 


Mandy Brouse, the co-owner of Words Worth Books in Waterloo, is an occasional contributer to CBC KW's The Morning Edition and is writing a series of columns this summer with book suggestions to keep children and teens reading.


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