Back-to-School Roundup

Every student deserves to start a new school year with confidence, and what better way to help kids prepare for the leap from summer to school than . . . you guessed it—books! Common themes in many of the books below are inclusivity and how to be a good friend, particularly to those who are different from you. Several titles here also offer remarkable examples of courageous and determined people, whose stories can inspire your students to blaze their own trail this school year. Other topics, like the first day of school, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness, will help send students back to your classrooms and libraries with self-assured steps.

The Fuss on the Bus

The Series: Early Bird Readers — Blue (Early Bird Stories ™)

  • Interest Level: Preschool-Grade 2
  • Reading Level: Kindergarten

There’s just one rule on Sid’s bus: no fuss. But then the children and animals climb on board and things get out of control! This delightful story includes age-appropriate text and a reading comprehension activity to support emerging readers.

Let’s Talk about It!

A Sesame Street® Guide to Resolving Conflict

  • Interest Level: Preschool-Grade 2
  • Reading Level: Kindergarten

Everyone experiences conflict, even on Sesame Street! This guide comes with simple steps to help readers become kind and independent problem solvers.

Many Ways to Be a Friend

From the Series Sesame Street ® Celebrating You and Me

  • Interest Level: Preschool-Grade 2
  • Reading Level: Kindergarten

A friend is someone you care for and who cares for you. Friends can be new or old, live far or near, and have the same or different interests. Celebrate the many ways to be a friend with your pals from Sesame Street!

That’s Not a Hippopotamus!

  • Interest Level: Preschool-Grade 1
  • Reading Level: Grade 1

An irresistible read-aloud story about a class trip to the zoo with rhyming word play and madcap energy.

A school trip to the zoo descends into a chaotic hunt for the missing hippopotamus. Teacher, zookeeper and all the children join the search. The noise and drama reach a pitch, and no one thinks to listen to quiet Liam, who really might know where the hippo is hiding.

School Days

  • Interest Level: Preschool – Grade 2   
  • Reading Level: Grade 1

Get ready for the first day of school—and beyond—in this reassuring photo book.

From bus rides to reading and math to recess and field trips, simple text and bright photos offer young readers a look at what happens throughout the school year. See a diverse range of kids taking part in morning meeting, visiting the library, going to lunch, playing on the playground, and much more. Perfect for preschoolers preparing to start school as well as early elementary students getting ready to begin a new year!

Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Silly School Mystery

From the Series 

Monkey with a Tool Belt

  • Interest Level: Preschool – Grade 2  
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

Inspiration for the Netflix series Chico Bon Bon!

Chico Bon Bon and his friend Clark are having the most unusual day at school. Half the library books are missing, the taco shells for Taco Day are nowhere to be found, and someone (or something!) has chewed up the classroom map. It’s up to Chico Bon Bon to crack the case—with his trusty tool belt, of course!

Be a Bridge

  • Interest Level: Preschool-Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

In this upbeat picture book, acclaimed authors Irene Latham and Charles Waters bring key themes from their earlier collaborations (Can I Touch Your Hair? and Dictionary for a Better World) to a young audience.

Rhyming verse describes different ways in which readers can “be a bridge,” from welcoming a new student and listening respectfully when someone else is talking to standing up to a bully and comforting a classmate who is upset. Nabila Adani’s cheerful illustrations depict a diverse group of students, including young versions of Charles and Irene. Scan a Page Plus QR code at the end of the book to download a Bridge Builder Pledge. An ideal book to share with students in the fall to set the tone for the whole school year!

Read about School (Read for a Better World ™)

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten-Grade 2
  • Reading Level: Grade 1

Prepare new learners for school with this kid-friendly series. From the bus to recess to the 100th day of school, kids learn what to expect. Reflection questions and family/educator engagement tips provide social and emotional connections.

Emotion Ocean

Interest Level: Kindergarten-Grade 3
Reading Level: Grade 1

Helping kids name, understand, and express their emotions is an important part of social and emotional learning. These entertaining stories feature ocean animal characters experiencing big feelings in situations kids will relate to. Readers will discover strategies to help manage their own emotions.

Today Is Different

Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3

Reading Level: Grade 2

Standing together makes all of us stronger.

Mai, a young Hmong girl, and Kiara, a young Black girl, are best friends. They do everything together—riding the bus, eating lunch, playing at recess. But one day Kiara misses school and Mai goes looking for answers. When she learns that her best friend is protesting an act of police violence against the Black community, Mai decides to join the protest too. Her parents at first want to protect her by keeping her at home, but she shows them that standing together makes all of us stronger.

Written by author and actor Doua Moua, who played Po in Disney’s live-action Mulan, this picture book provides an inspiring look at the value of allyship and solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

Back-to-School Rules

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3 
  • Reading Level: Grade 2

School’s in session! When it comes to surviving school, Percy’s at the head of the class. If you can follow his ten simple rules, making the grade will be a piece of cake (and school will be a lot of fun). But there’s more to school than showing up on time and staying awake in class. If you have any doubts, Percy also shows exactly what not to do.

• No spitballs!
• No running in the halls!
• No bouncing off the ceiling!
• No crazy scheming!

See what other trouble—and tips—Percy has in mind!

Can I Touch Your Hair?

Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship

  • Interest Level: Grade 3 – Grade 6   
  • Reading Level: Grade 4

Two poets, one white and one black, explore race and childhood in this must-have collection tailored to provoke thought and conversation.

How can Irene and Charles work together on their fifth grade poetry project? They don’t know each other . . . and they’re not sure they want to.

Irene Latham, who is white, and Charles Waters, who is black, use this fictional setup to delve into different experiences of race in a relatable way, exploring such topics as hair, hobbies, and family dinners. Accompanied by artwork from acclaimed illustrators Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (of The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage), this remarkable collaboration invites readers of all ages to join the dialogue by putting their own words to their experiences.

10 at 10

The Surprising Childhoods of Ten Remarkable People

  • Interest Level: Grade 3 – Grade 6   
  • Reading Level: Grade 5

Audrey Hepburn, Roberto Clemente, Albert Einstein—kids know the names, but do they know what some of history’s most famous figures were like at the age of ten? Carlyn Beccia presents ten brief and beautifully illustrated biographies to give young readers a fresh look at the lives of people they may only know through history books. Colorful timelines provide context and add additional details about these extraordinary lives.

Teen Innovators
Nine Young People Engineering a Better World with Creative Inventions

  • Interest Level: Grade 5 – Grade 9
  • Reading Level: Grade 6

Teen Innovators tells the stories of discovery and the inventions of nine young students. While each profile tells a different story, the reader soon sees the common threads of determination and ingenuity.

Science educator and professor Fred Estes explores the motivation, challenges, and lives of these teen scientists and explains the science behind each invention simply and clearly. Readers will see how the science they study today in school relates to these important discoveries.

60 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet

  • Interest Level: Grade 6 – Grade 12  
  • Reading Level: Grade 6

Sixty remarkable Americans and their inspiring stories are included in this unique book.

Intended as a starting point for learning more about these important American heroes, each biography has a photo-illustrated double-page spread devoted to them. With an updated, modern design and Dennis Denenberg and Lorraine Roscoe’s contagious, enthusiastic writing style, this book is a great introduction to authentic American heroes. New heroes in this edition include Amanda Gorman, Dolly Parton, Fred Rogers, and Kamala Harris.

Revised by the original authors, the book includes up-to-date websites and book lists, as well as the most current biographical information available.

Mindfulness and Meditation: Handling Life with a Calm and Focused Mind

Interest Level: Grade 6 – Grade 12  
Reading Level: Grade 8

From hormones to homework, parents to peers, health issues to bad habits, life can be a pressure cooker. How can we find relief? 
Author Whitney Stewart introduces readers to the practice of mindfulness. With its roots in ancient Buddhist teachings, mindfulness—the practice of purposefully focusing attention on the present moment—can change a person’s approach to stress, develop skills to handle anxiety and depression, and provide a sense of awareness and belonging. Stewart guides readers through how to get started with meditation as well as provides specific exercises for examining emotions, managing stress, checking social media habits and wellness routines, and setting intentions to increase happiness.

Attention Hijacked
Using Mindfulness to Reclaim Your Brain from Tech

  • Interest Level: Grade 6 – Grade 12  
  • Reading Level: Grade 8

Technology surrounds us every day: a phone alarm wakes us up, an electronic calendar tracks assignment deadlines, GPS directs us to the new dentist’s office, social media keeps us connected to friends and family, and streaming platforms make sure we’re never without something new to binge-watch. Our devices and apps can make life much more convenient and entertaining.

But for years, scientists have warned that too much screen time may have negative effects on our health. With portable devices and remote learning, it is even more difficult to put down electronics. Being intentional about how and when to unplug can help teens and young adults to protect their physical and mental wellbeing in a world where screens and technology are increasingly becoming necessities rather than just conveniences.

Attention Hijacked offers a roadmap for those deciding how they want to deal with technology, exploring the ways technology affects the individual, dispelling common misinformation, and using this knowledge to make personalized decisions. Page Plus links in the book lead to mindfulness and meditation audio clips. Using mindfulness techniques, this book gives readers the power to take charge of their technology use.

More Than Stress: Understanding Anxiety Disorders

From the Series Healthy Living Library

  • Interest Level: Grade 8 – Grade 12  
  • Reading Level: Grade 8

Many teens struggle with anxiety disorders, the symptoms of which include elevated stress hormone levels, depression, and heart problems. The prevalence of anxiety disorders among teens today makes this a timely, informative, and helpful book for readers. Readers will learn about the causes, symptoms, and diagnosis of anxiety disorders as well as coping strategies and treatments. Resources for identifying, managing, and treating anxiety disorders are provided in the text.

We know your students’ needs are diverse, and hopefully you’ve seen something here that will resonate with the particular kids who will soon be walking your halls again. For other suggestions, check out this Books for Back to School post as well.

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