“Am I nervous?
About the first day of school?
I mean … sure. After all, have you ever seen how slowly sloths walk? Like … I probably should have left yesterday.”
~~ Sloth, in First Day Critter Jitters by Jory John, 2020
(This article first appeared in Kingston Neighbours magazine, September, 2021)
The morning air is crisper now, the trees are tinged with hints of gold and crimson, and the evening light fades to a purple duskiness much earlier these days. Suffused with an indelible bittersweetness, September typically marks the end of summer and the start of a new school year here in Ontario. For many kids, it will be especially hard to put down that beach bag and pick up the backpack this month after more than a year of COVID interruptions. However, I have some new book suggestions that might help remedy those back-to-school jitters.
Picture Books, ages 4+
David Jumps In, Alan Woo, 2020 — Recess time is often anxiety-provoking for kids, but in this sensitively written and illustrated story, one boy makes friends by sharing a new game.
First Day Critter Jitters, Jory John, 2020 — On the first day of school, a variety of animals worry about problems like being on time, missing their moms, not being able to sit still and repeating words. The armadillo-teacher even worries about forgetting names, but together they help one another.
Superhero Vs. School, Ethan Long, 2020 — Superhero Scotty confronts his greatest foe, school, with a little help from his friends.
The Truth About Dragons, Jaime Zollars, 2020 — A young girl approaches a castle of scary dragons filled with dread, only to discover that even though the beasts roar and clamor, the truth about dragons is that they also wear mismatched socks, still need naps and might even sometimes see her as a dragon. Cleverly illustrated to reflect the girl’s growing awareness and confidence, this book can be used over and over again when children are anxious about new situations.
Chapter Books, ages 7+
Geeger The Robot Goes To School, Jarrett Lerner, 2020 — A heartwarming early chapter book about a robot named Geeger who is nervous about going to school with human kids. There are some hilarious mishaps, but along the way he makes friends and learns that it is okay to make mistakes.
Middle School Novels, ages 9+
The 47 People You’ll Meet in Middle School, Kristin Mahoney, 2019 — Written as a letter to her younger sister, this narrative depicts all the people that Augusta meets during her first year of middle school like the assistant principal, the tomato kid and the kid with questionable hygiene.
As these books wonderfully illustrate, no matter how young or old you are, nervousness about a new grade or school is normal and natural. Sharing these new books with your kids might help them open up about their own concerns regarding the new school year.
However, if their anxiety continues beyond the first few weeks, more intervention might be needed. Please talk with your child, your child’s teacher and possibly your healthcare provider to get to the root of the issue. Children can only do their best learning when they feel safe physically and emotionally.
Best wishes to all students, parents and teachers out there for a happy, healthy, and inclusive school year!