The Best Books for Back-to-School Season

Celebrate the start of a new school year with stories that teach lessons of independence, bravery, friendship and kindness.

As the summer comes to an end, it’s time for all things back-to-school. While a new school year brings lots of excitement with it, some students experience anxiety about new classes, new teachers and being away from home.

Reading is a fantastic way to not only help children and teenagers brush up on literary skills, but also teach them lessons about independence, bravery, friendship and kindness. In celebration of the new school year ahead, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite back-to-school books to read with students from preschool to junior high.


Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

This adorable tale is perfect for easing your child’s jitters about the first day of preschool or kindergarten. Llama is very nervous about going to school without her Mama, but she quickly learns that school is fun. She learns that it’s okay to love being at home with Mama and love being at school too!

Early Elementary (Grades 1-3)

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

This touching and comforting story is also a wonderful resource for children struggling with the anxiety of being away from home. Ideal for that first day of school, The Kissing Hand gives children an action they can model to always feel close to mom and dad while at school: Parents can kiss their child’s palm when it’s time to say goodbye, and the child can press their palm to their cheek whenever they miss their parents during the school day. It’s just like getting a kiss from mom or dad.

Zen Ties by John J. Muth

Beyond classroom learning, friendship plays an important role in a child’s school experience. Zen Ties teaches valuable lessons about friendship, compassion and kindness, making it an ideal resource to help kick off the school year ahead.

Later Elementary (Grades 4-6)

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

This touching story is about loss and the importance of friendship. Although it deals with some tough emotions, it’s a wonderful resource to inspire children to read as the school year kicks off. It tells the tale of Jess and Leslie, who become fast friends through their love of running. Together, Jess and Leslie create a secret and imaginary world called Terabithia. But tragedy strikes one morning, and one friend is left to cope with a life-changing loss.

Later Elementary (Grades 4-6)

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

The book tells the tale of Holling Hoodhood, a teenage boy who spends his Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. The rest of his classmates have their respective religious studies classes, but Holling, the only Presbyterian in class, must stay put. Convinced that his teacher hates him (because he’s intruding on her spare class), a surprising tale unfolds about Holling’s Wednesday afternoons when he gets to read Shakespeare.

Does your family have a favourite book to read together? Carving out time to read with your family is important all year long, and back-to-school is a great time to get started. If your child or teenager is struggling with literacy or math skills, The Reading Foundation is here to help with a number of unique one-on-one programs.

Wishing you all a wonderful school year!

Dr. Steve Truch, founding director of The Reading Foundation, is a thought-leader in learning and literacy who has worked as both a teacher and a school psychologist. Find him at

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