Ruth Spivak: Kiducation


Top 8 Children's Books About Life at School

From mean teachers to first day jitters to friends: These books have it all covered.

What is life at school REALLY like? A friend today can become an enemy tomorrow. A mean teacher is nice; a nice teacher is mean. And that "dumb kid?" Actually pretty smart. Just thinking about the twists and turns of school ife is enough to tie a child's stomach in knots.

The books in this list offer both reassurance and entertainment. These books tell the "truth," and show how characters deal with difficult situations. Use these books as springboards for conversations, or just read them for fun.

Whether your child is just starting school or is a seasoned pro, these books are a great way to get kids ready for the upcoming school year.  Happy reading!

Preschool - Grade 3

Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard.

Miss Nelson is a sweet teacher, but the students in her class are noisy and disrespectful. When a foul-tempered substitute teacher, Miss "Viola Swamp" takes over, the kids are swamped with boring assignments. The kids really want Miss Nelson to return, but where is she?  Will the kids ever have the chance to tell Miss Nelson how much they appreciate her?

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes.

Chrysanthemum believed she had the perfect name. And then she started school. "I'm named after my grandmother," said Victoria.  "You're named after a flower." Life at school got worse. Will the support of her parents and a caring teacher be enough to get Chrysanthemum through the year?

The Worst Best Friend by Alexis O'Neill.

Mike and Conrad are best friends. Until Victor, a new, cool, and big boy arrives. Conrad forgets all about Mike, and becomes the worst best friend ever. How can Mike make Conrad see that Victor is not a true friend? A great message for young children about the ebb and flow of true friendship.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.  

Chester Raccoon is afraid to go off to school on his own. He would rather stay home with his mother. His mother eases his anxiety by showing him the power of the "kissing hand." Yes, it's saccharine, but it's a beautiful message about the power of love to comfort us when we are nervous or sad. Great for kids and parents dealing with separation anxiety issues.


Grade 3-6

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco.  

Trisha really wants to read, but when she looks at a book all the letters get jumbled up. Kids in the class call her "dummy." Trisha is  devastated, but her teacher, Mr. Falker, doesn't give up on her. This story is based on Polacco's own struggle with dyslexia. Many students and teachers have cried while reading this book, because it shows what a difference a teacher can make in a child's life.

Blubber by Judy Blume.

"Blubber is a good name for her," the note from Wendy said about Linda. That's where the "fun" teasing about Linda started, but nobody  in grade five expected it would go that far. No author portrays the mentality and social dynamics behind bullying better than Judy Blume. Every reader can see herself somewhere in the story. Excellent.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. 

Sleeping through class is considered educational. Mean Mrs. Gorf sometimes turns students into apples, and every student is rather odd. 30 short chapters contain satires on school that will ring true for kids: Inedible school lunches, the nice but useless teacher, the kid who always gets in trouble. Funny, plus lots of school life-lessons.

Matilda by Roald Dahl.

Matilda is a very bright little girl who teaches herself to read. Unfortunately, she has to deal with her two idiotic parents and a cruel headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Matilda's only comfort is her nice teacher, Miss Honey. Kids will cheer Matilda on, as she uses her own creativity and talents to get revenge.  Clever and witty, this is Roald Dahl at his finest.  Follow up with the movie.

You can learn even more ways to get organized and transition from summer to school on our Back-To-School 2014 page.