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Top 10 books for starting school

Recommended by Emily Guille-Marrett, an early reading specialist, publisher and founder of Reading Fairy.

Starting school is a big milestone in a child’s life – not to mention a parent/carer’s too! And sharing engaging stories and picture books about starting school is a great way to gently prepare your child for their first day.

My little boy Albie starts school this September so I’m experiencing first hand a range of emotions: from excitement to nerves to curiosity. These are the picture books about starting school I am sharing with my son – I hope they help you and your little one too.

Janet & Alan Ahlberg
A number of children’s first experiences are followed in this now classic picture book - from their first day through to the end of the school year. Various emotions are sympathetically explored so every reader can find things to identify with. Small images are interspersed throughout the text offering plenty to talk about. This is a book to enjoy reading again and again – far beyond the first day at school!
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Carrie Weston & Tim Warnes
Who doesn’t love a picture book bear? And Boris is no exception as we follow him on his first day at school. Throughout Boris’s first day of activities, from reading and writing to lunch, play and home time, things just seem to go wrong for him. Being large, hairy and a little bit grizzly, Boris doesn’t mean to scare all the other animals at school; he just wants to make friends. Then something unexpected happens and Boris becomes a class hero.
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Shirley Hughes
This book explores the idea of children at “big school” from a nursery child’s perspective, which is very relevant to my son’s experience. Little Alfie watches in wonder as the older children play rough and tumble games from the nursery playground. In awe of the big boys, Alfie wishes he could be part of their fun. But then an event at a community plant sale demonstrates that all children, even in Year One, are vulnerable and sensitive.
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Margaret Roc & Laura Hughes
Beena, called Jellybean by her family and friends, is excited about starting school. But as the big day approaches Jellybean’s tummy gets jittery and she starts to feel nervous. This picture book explores new friendships and the wonder and fun of learning at school. After a busy action-packed day full of songs, stories, counting, painting and more, Jellybean happily falls asleep. Her imagination has been ignited and her curiosity for learning fuelled.
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Ian Whybrow & Adrian Reynolds
Harry and his bucketful of dinosaurs experience being separated for a time in the classroom. Although there are lots of fun things for Harry to do at school, like make new friends and play on the monkey-bars at breaktime, he just wishes he could be with his dinosaurs. Then things start looking up for Harry. The teacher doesn’t mind it when the dinosaurs let out a big roar. And a little boy who hasn’t uttered a word all day is so inspired by Harry’s prehistoric pals, he tells a dinosaur joke in front of the whole class. School can be fun– for children and dinosaurs!
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(And if your child loves dinosaurs, she or he may also enjoy the amusing Dinosaurs in My School by Timothy Knapman and Sarah Warburton.)

Roderick Hunt & Alex Brychta
The UK’s number one reading programme has taught millions of children how to read. It is perfect then that as children prepare for starting school, Oxford Reading Tree’s much-loved character Kipper is too. From finding his peg to painting a picture and making friends to losing his teddy, a lot happens to Kipper on his first day. There is advice for parents and carers at the end of the book and a fun activity to talk about and share with your child too.
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Lauren Child
This humorous, colourful picture book follows Lola as she deals with her thoughts and feelings about starting school. Big Brother Charlie is full of advice and responds tirelessly to his little sister’s endless reasons for not needing to go to school. And the relationship between Lola and her imaginary friend are sensitively explored as the big day gets nearer. Of course, at the end of a successful day at school, it was always her imaginary friend Soren Lorenson who was nervous – and not Lola!
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Jean & Gareth Adamson
Famous from many parents’ childhoods and now on CBeebies TV, the cheerful twins Topsy and Tim are always ready to explore first experiences. And this book is no exception as Topsy and Tim start school. The artwork has changed from its original style, having being redrawn by Belinda Worsley and is fresh and appealing to a contemporary audience. Many children can relate to these famous characters and follow them through their busy school day – from the classroom to the playground and canteen. In true Topsy and Tim fashion, we learn at the end of the story that school can be fun.
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Adam & Charlotte Guillain; Illustrated by Ada Grey
This is a magnificently silly book and works especially well for children who enjoy having fun with their dads. My boys find it utterly hilarious, which I why I’ve included it in my list. Little Anna is fed up with her father always being late for school pick up. But then roles are reversed and it’s the dads who have to go to school run by their children. This book is a refreshingly light-hearted way to introduce children to the concept of school and how fun it can be.
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Emma Chichester Clarke
This book is a gentle and imaginative way of exploring school. It works well for children who are either starting school for the first time or moving to a new school. A classic picture book character, Blue Kangaroo is Lily’s special toy. He responds to her thoughts and feelings throughout Lily’s starting school journey. I found this a great way of encouraging my son to talk about his feelings too. The adventures really begin for Blue Kangaroo when he gets left in the classroom overnight. By exploring his night time antics, readers get to experience the classroom in a magical way.
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Sticker Books

Although this is an article about picture books, it would be remiss not to mention sticker books. Like many children at this age, my little boy still loves stickers. Usborne’s book Starting School is packed with lots of pictures and stickers to talk about and fun activities to do on the topic of starting school. It’s great for the summer holidays too as children can easily dip in and out – especially if you are going on long journeys this summer.

Good luck to you and your little one starting school!

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