There aren’t many events in a child’s life that are so packed full of emotions like the transition from summer to a new school year. Whether attending a new school or the same one, kids change over the summer. They grow up, little by little, and their friends from last year may act and look differently than they did in May. Reading about a character in a book that they relate to can help ease these feelings tremendously by instilling empathy, confidence, kindness, and bravery to do what is right in tough situations.
Bedtime is a prime time for reading together. It provides the comfort needed to navigate through the tough emotions that come with life’s transitions. The following is a list of books to read together that will help make all of the new emotions that come along with starting school, growing up, and making new friends feel not so tough.
Book 1: The Day You Begin by Jaqueline Woodson
“There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.” This is the most beautiful example of validating real anxieties children have about being different, recognizing the tiniest of similarities, and celebrating new friendships that make both differences and similarities shine. All of the children portrayed in this book are different, allowing every child to recognizes themselves and resonate with the message of the book. An important story not to be missed. Everyone should read this book.
Book 2: All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
This is a cute, quick, sweet story told in rhyme with the repeating phrase, “All are welcome here”. On every page different families, ethnicities, cultural traditions, and physical differences are featured. A gaggle of smiling children is featured on every page in the motions of their day, through story time, recess, lunch, and going home. Mostly told through pictures with a sweet and simple text, this book is best for the younger child to learn that though we are all different, we can all be happy together.
Book 3: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Everyone has those days. The days that seem like nothing can go your way and it doesn’t get better. One thing about childhood that books and movies often don’t portray is the not happy ending. It is imperative that we teach kids not every day will be great, and that bad days are something everyone has. That it’s okay to go to bed and not feel like anything went right that day, and that its days like those that make the good days even better. This book provides an honest look into those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days and provides comfort in the fact that everyone has those days, and that your child is not alone.
Book 4: Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller
This book is a gentle look into what kindness means. It starts with a girl named Tanisha spilling grape juice all over her dress. While most of the class laughs, one student tries to figure out how to be kind and help her to feel better. The rest of the book explores different ways one can be kind. It ends in the sweetest way, with one small act of kindness. This book is a perfect conversation starter with your child about how it feels to be on either side of this situation, how those feelings may or may not resolve right away, and how the right path may be one of many.
Book 5: My New Friend is So Fun! By Mo Willems
One can never go wrong with sharing an Elephant and Piggie story. In this one, Gerald and Snake bond over how much they love their best friends, Piggie and Brian Bat. Then they start to worry about Piggie and Brian Bat having too much fun and forgetting about them, their original best friends. This story is perfect for kids who are hesitant to make new friends because of the possibility of leaving old friends behind. A fun picture book depiction of the song “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.” This book provides laughs, addresses worries, and depicts a resolution that will ease the basic worries that come with developing new friendships.
Madeline Helser-Howard, MLIS, is the Youth Services Coordinator at Beaufort County Library.