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    25+ Diverse/Multicultural Children’s Books for Back to School

    It’s almost back to school season!  I love the excitement a new school year brings for our entire family.  I always look forward to starting anew with a clean slate and getting back into our school year routines.

    Soon many parents and educators will be scouting libraries, websites and bookstores for the perfect “going to school” books.  I think the most popular topics for these books fall into a few different categories:

    • Making new friends
    • Separation anxiety
    • Dealing with new situations, routines and schedules
    • Helping children (and some parents) cope with feelings of anticipation, excitement and nervousness

    This year my “Back to School” list includes picture books for preschoolers, elementary students and a few recommendations for middle grade readers.  I hope you’ll find these helpful and possibly a few to read with your children, grandchildren or students.  Enjoy! (Note: This post contains affiliate links.)

    Picture Books

    All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

    Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps.  All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.

    A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices by Sally Derby

    In a unique narrative, readers meet a diverse group of six children ranging in age from Kindergarten through fifth grade. With nerves and excitement each child gears up for a new school year by hustling in the morning, meeting new teachers and new classmates during the day, and heading home with homework and relief by day’s end.

    Back to School: A Global Journey by Maya Ajmera and John D. Ivanko

    BACK TO SCHOOL invites young minds to sit in the front row and share the exciting experience of learning with kids just like themselves all over the world. Whether they take a school bus, a boat, or a rickshaw to get there, kids around the globe are going to school and growing smarter and more curious every day.

    Elizabeti’s School by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen and Christy Hale

    In this contemporary Tanzanian story, author Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen and artist Christy Hale once again bring the sweet innocence of Elizabeti to life. Readers are sure to recognize this young child’s emotions as she copes with her first day of school and discovers the wonder and joy of learning.

    I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien

    Three students are immigrants from Guatemala, Korea, and Somalia and have trouble speaking, writing, and sharing ideas in English in their new American elementary school. Through self-determination and with encouragement from their peers and teachers, the students learn to feel confident and comfortable in their new school without losing a sense of their home country, language, and identity.

    Lailah’s Lunchbox by Reem Faruq

    Lailah is in a new school in a new country, thousands of miles from her old home, and missing her old friends. When Ramadan begins, she is excited that she is finally old enough to participate in the fasting but worried that her classmates won’t understand why she doesn’t join them in the lunchroom.

    Lola Goes to School by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw

    Lola and her family prepare for the first day of school the night before, then get up early, take pictures, and head to class. Lola puts her things in her cubby, chooses her activities, reads, plays, and has a snack. Before she knows it, it’s time to sing the good-bye song and rush into Mommy’s arms for a warm reunion. A comforting, cheerful read that demystifies the school day for preschoolers and kindergarteners.

    Ming Goes to School bDeirdre Sullivan and Maja Löfdahl

    This is a very sweet story with soft, evocative watercolor illustrations that will help kids to grow comfortable with the idea of starting preschool. Ming is curious and playful and ready for adventure, but even she gets scared of new things sometimes. Kids will relate to her desires and fears and will be excited to see Ming at the top of the slide by the story’s end.

    Princess Arabella Goes to School by Mylo Freeman

    A delightful addition to the popular ‘Princess Arabella’ series. Princess Arabella and her friends embark upon their first day at Princess School. They find themselves taking some very unusual lessons – and when they are allowed to bring their pets to school, fun and games ensue!

    Rosie Goes to Preschool by Karen Katz

    A very cute and diverse set of children are seen putting their belongings in their cubbies, playing together, eating lunch and using the potty. They also participate in circle time, story time, sing songs and clean up before laying down for nap time. The sequence of events shown in this book is very similar to the schedule the kids follow at school so it’s very familiar to them. A wonderful back-to-school book for preschoolers to help them get acclimated to routines and adjust to school.

    Ruby, Head High: Ruby Bridge’s First Day of School by Irene Cohen-Janca

    Inspired by an iconic Norman Rockwell painting and translated from an original French text, this is a story about the day a little girl held her head high and changed the world.

    Rulers of the Playground by by Joseph Kuefler

    Both Jonah and Lennox want to be the rulers of the playground, but who will reign as the king or queen of the “kingdom”?

    School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson

    It’s the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and everyone’s just a little bit nervous, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him?

    The school has a rough start, but as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he’s not the only one going through first-day jitters.

    Sumi’s First Day of School Ever by Joung Un Kim

    The first day of school can be lonely and scary, especially when you don’t speak the same language as everyone else. Sumi only knows one phrase in English, “Hello, my name is Sumi.” This doesn’t seem nearly enough to prepare her for a big school with wide stairs, noisy children, and a mean classmate.

    The Buddy Bench by Patty Brozo and Mike Deas

    Having seen what being left out is like, children become agents of change, convincing their teacher to let them build a buddy bench.

    The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López

    There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.

    The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton

    Starting kindergarten is a big milestone–and the hero of this story is ready to make his mark! He’s dressed himself, eaten a pile of pancakes, and can’t wait to be part of a whole new kingdom of kids. The day will be jam-packed, but he’s up to the challenge, taking new experiences in stride with his infectious enthusiasm! And afterward, he can’t wait to tell his proud parents all about his achievements–and then wake up to start another day.

    The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

    Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning.

    The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah

    The smallest things can pull us apart-until we learn that friendship is far more powerful than difference. In a glorious three-page gatefold at the end of the book, Salma, Lily, and all their classmates come together in the true spirit of tolerance and acceptance.

    The School Book by Todd Parr

    With his trademark bright colors and bold lines, Todd Parr introduces readers to a perennial source of childhood anxiety and excitement both: school! From morning routines to meeting new people to learning and playing together, Todd explores all the different things that can happen in school, all the while sharing a cheerful, child-friendly message of sharing, inclusion, and community.

    The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts and Christian Robinson

    Sally notices everything—from the twenty-seven keys on the janitor’s ring to the bullying happening on the playground. One day, Sally has had enough and decides to make herself heard. And when she takes a chance and stands up to the bullies, she finds that one small girl can make a big difference.

    Twindergarten by Nikki Ehrlich and Zoey Abbott Wagner

    It’s the night before the twins are starting kindergarten, and they have the just-about-to-start-school jitters. After all, they will be in different classrooms! What will kindergarten be like when they’re not together all day? But Dax and Zoe will learn that kindergarten is full of new surprises and adventures, and being apart for a short while isn’t so bad.

    Middle Grade

    President of the Whole Sixth Grade by Sherri Winston

    Brianna Justice is determined to raise enough money for the big class trip to Washington, D.C., but she’s up against a lot: classmates who all pretend to be something they’re not, a new nemesis determined to run her out of office, and the sinking feeling she’s about to lose her two best friends for good. But just when she begins to lose hope, she comes to realize that sometimes surprises can turn out even better than the best-laid plans.

    Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

    Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common — but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.

    The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf

    The whole class is curious about this new boy–he doesn’t seem to smile, and he doesn’t talk much. But after learning that Ahmet fled a Very Real War and was separated from his family along the way, a determined group of his classmates bands together to concoct the Greatest Idea in the World–a magnificent plan to reunite Ahmet with his loved ones.

    Balancing humor and heart, this relatable story about the refugee crisis from the perspective of kids highlights the community-changing potential of standing as an ally and reminds readers that everyone deserves a place to call home.

    Your turn: What books would you add to this list?  Feel free to share some of your favorite school-themed books in the comments.










    back to school books

    Back-to-School Giveaway with Brightly!

    It’s no secret that I am a huge advocate of reading aloud and literacy.  Over the fast few years I have watched my children develop a love of reading and literacy.  I’ve also noticed their increased vocabulary and watched them make connections in the world through books.  It’s truly amazing to see how far they have come in such a short period of time!  That’s why I’m always thrilled when I get the opportunity to spread the word about reading, books and valuable resources like Brightly!

    I first learned about Brightly two years ago when they emerged on the scene while doing an online search for children’s books.  Naturally, I was immediately intrigued by heir content.  Brightly is a site that helps parents raise kids who love to read.  It’s is a wonderful resource from Penguin Random House that features book recommendations from all publishers for every age and stage, reading tips, author essays, and more.


    Most recently, Brightly created a page on the site called, Back to School Essentials, which includes books for kids at every age level (Pre-K through High School), plus tips for parents to get back into the school groove. I’m sure you’ll agree, Brightly has a lot to offer when it comes to getting your family ready for back to school. Broken down by age and stage, our Back to School Essentials contains:

    Are you excited yet?  Also, if you’re not already signed up to receive Brightly’s newsletter, I’d highly recommend that you do.  They deliver book recommendations and reading tips right to your inbox!

    The Giveaway!
    I’ve teamed up with Brightly to let you know about this fantastic giveaway where you can enter to win a back-to-school prize pack for your kiddos!  Contest ends Monday, August 29th at 11:59pm EST.  Winner will be announced on Tuesday, August 30th!

    The prize pack includes:

    • a Brightly tote bag
    • back to school printables pack
    • a book from the back to school roundups based on the age of the winner

    Good luck!

    Back-to-School Giveaway with Brightly!

    back to school books, children's books, read aloud

    You Should Meet: A New Biography Series for Kids!

    You Should Meet by Laurie Calkhoven, illustrated by Monique Dong

    I am super excited about this amazing new nonfiction Ready-to-Read biography series from Simon and Schuster (Simon Spotlight) called “You Should Meet.”  These biographies will feature inspiring people who have achieved amazing success in their field.  The first books in the series are being released on September 6, 2016 and a third book will follow in January 2017.

    Each book also includes extra historical information, math and trivia.  I think these would make great additions to any home school, classroom or home library.  Recommended for children ages 6 – 8 in grades 1 – 3.  Check them out!

    (Available September 6, 2016)

    Meet the women who programmed the first all-electronic computer and built the technological language kids today can’t live without in this fascinating, nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read, part of a new series of biographies about people “you should meet!”

    In 1946, six brilliant young women programmed the first all-electronic, programmable computer, the ENIAC, part of a secret World War II project. They learned to program without any programming languages or tools, and by the time they were finished, the ENIAC could run a complicated calculus equation in seconds. But when the ENIAC was presented to the press and public, the women were never introduced or given credit for their work. Learn all about what they did and how their invention still matters today in this story of six amazing young women everyone should meet!

    A special section at the back of the book includes extras on subjects like history and math, plus interesting trivia facts about how computers have changed over time.

    (Available September 6, 2016)

    Blast off into space and get to know Mae Jemison—the first African-American woman to ever go to space—with this fascinating, nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read, part of a new series of biographies about people “you should meet.”

    Meet Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut! Did you know before Mae was an astronaut, she went to medical school and joined the Peace Corps? But she never forgot her childhood dream to travel to outer space. So in 1985 she applied to NASA’s astronaut training program. On September 12, 1992, Mae flew into space with six other astronauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavour and made history—just like you can if you follow your dreams!

    (Available January 17, 2017)

    Pirouette across the stage and get to know Misty Copeland—the first African-American woman to become a principal ballerina with the American Ballet Theater—in this fascinating, nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read, part of a new series of biographies about people “you should meet.”

    Misty Copeland had always dreamed of becoming a dancer, but she had many obstacles to overcome before she could reach her dream. Although she was always challenged by the things that set her apart from other dancers, with a lot of hard work, dedication, and exceptional talent, Misty has become one of the most well-known dancers in America.

    On June 30, 2015 Misty stepped on stage as the first female African-American principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater and made history!

    A special section at the back of the book includes extras on subjects like history and math, plus a fun timeline filled with interesting trivia facts about dance.

    (Available January 17, 2017)

    Meet Jesse Owens, an African American runner who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin! What made his achievement even more memorable was that Adolph Hitler expected the Olympic Games to be a German showcase. In fact, he criticized the United States for even including black athletes on its Olympic roster. According to many reports, after Owens won his fourth gold medal, Hitler stormed out of the stadium. In 1936 Jesse Owens took a stand against racism and made history.

    Your turn:  Are you excited about this new biography series too?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    back to school books, book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    Milk Goes to School by Terry Border (A Book Review)

    Milk Goes to School by Terry Border
    Publisher: Philomel Books
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 32
    Age Range: 3 – 7 years
    Grade Level:
    Preschool – Grade 2

    From the creator of Peanut Butter & Cupcake and Happy Birthday, Cupcake! comes THE back-to-school must-have picture book of the year!

    First days of school are tough, and making new friends is even tougher. Milk’s dad gave her a sparkly new backpack and told her that she was the creme de la creme, but most of the other kids don’t seem to agree. In fact, some of her new classmates think Milk is just little a bit spoiled. . . .

    In this latest hilarious picture book from Terry Border, our food friends go to school and learn that it’s not just Milk that’s the creme de la creme. Some other food can be just as sweet.

    The first day of school is nearly upon us – say it ain’t so!  This year my daughter will be starting Pre-K4 and my son will be in Pre-K3.  With the last few days of summer winding down my mind has been spinning thinking about the first day of school.  I want the kids to have a wonderful back to school experience as it sets the foundation for the entire school year.

    What better way to discuss those first day jitters, fears of the unknown and separation anxiety than by reading some relevant and fun Back to School books.  I think books can be used as a springboard for discussions on how we are all feeling.  I think Milk Goes to School is a good example of one such book.

    milkgoestoschool (2)

    We haven’t read the two previous books Peanut Butter & Cupcake and Happy Birthday, Cupcake!, but from the titles I can imagine they are also filled with lots of clever and funny food puns too.

    Just like most kids, Milk was nervous about the first day of school.  It doesn’t help that she encounters someone difficult like Waffle who think she’s a total spoiled brat.  Waffle constantly ridicules Milk for being “spoiled” which in turn hurts Milk’s feelings and makes her second guess her father telling her that she’s “the creme de la creme”.


    Although this book has some funny jokes that made my kids laugh, I think it also does a good job of tackling some tough subjects in a lighthearted way.  There are valuable lessons on feelings, treating others with respect, coping with differences and bullying.  My kids seemed to get a kick out of seeing actual photographs of faceless food with wire limbs like waffles, eggs, cupcakes and chicken nuggets appear in the book.  The food objects seemed to each have their own personalities.  I appreciate the amount of time (and patience) it must have taken to set up the props and the scenes on every page.

    Overall, I think this is a fun back to school book for little readers.  Although I think some of the jokes may go over the youngest readers’ heads.

    Print out this fun Milk Goes to School activity kit for your kids!

    To learn more about author Terry Border visit his website here.

    Your turn: Have you read this book or the other two books in this series?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    back to school books, children's literacy, read aloud

    My Favorite Back to School Toddler and Preschool Books

    Ah, back to school, the smell of new clothes, crayons, scented markers, and the excitement of a new school year. For some children, September means starting anew with a clean slate.  For others it’s a reunion of friends being united once again.

    Soon many parents will be scouting libraries, websites and bookstores for the perfect “going to school” books.  I think the most popular topics for these books fall into a few different categories:

    • Making new friends
    • Separation anxiety
    • Dealing with new situations, routines and schedules
    • Helping children (and some parents) cope with feelings of anticipation, excitement and nervousness

    Last year when my daughter started preschool in a program for two-year old toddlers, I discovered that starting a new school year is a big transition for the whole family.  Therefore, to help ease this transition for her I started reading books about school.  In addition, I took her to the school regularly to play in the playground so she became familiar with the outside environment.

    I think both of those things helped tremendously although like many of her other classmates she suffered from separation anxiety the most.  It took most of the kids in her class about two weeks to fully adjust.

    I believe reading a variety of books about school and school related topics can help children relate to various situations they might encounter.  And it may also help to spark conversations about their thoughts on a new school year.

    My “Back to School” list includes books for toddlers preschoolers since that is the age range of my own children.  I hope you’ll find these helpful and possibly a few to read to your little ones as well.  Enjoy! (Note: This post contains some affiliate links.)

    O U R   E S C A P E

    Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
    Reading this book to my daughter last year was by far the most helpful in helping with transitioning to school.

    It’s Llama Llama’s first day of preschool! And Llama Llama’s mama makes sure he’s ready. They meet the teachers. See the other children. Look at all the books and games. But then it’s time for Mama to leave. And suddenly Llama Llama isn’t so excited anymore. Will Mama Llama come back?  Of course she will. But before she does, the other children show Llama Llama how much fun school can be!

    Oh My Baby, Little One by Kathi Applet
    When Baby Bird says good-bye to his mama at school each morning, he feels sad. Mama Bird feels sad, too. Sometimes it’s hard to be apart. But as Mama Bird says, the love they share is with them always, keeping them close until the best part of the day–when they are together again.

    The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
    School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester’s fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called the Kissing Hand to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary.

    My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits
    This book is similar to the book The Name Jar also featured below.  Such a great book for all children!

    Yoon’s name means “shining wisdom,” and when she writes it in Korean, it looks happy, like dancing figures. But her father tells her that she must learn to write it in English. In English, all the lines and circles stand alone, which is just how Yoon feels in the United States. Yoon isn’t sure that she wants to be YOON. At her new school, she tries out different names–maybe CAT or BIRD. Maybe CUPCAKE!

    First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
    Everyone knows that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach just before diving into a new situation. Sarah Jane Hartwell is scared and doesn’t want to start over at a new school. She doesn’t know anybody, and nobody knows her. It will be awful. She just knows it. With much prodding from Mr. Hartwell, Sarah Jane reluctantly pulls herself together and goes to school. She is quickly befriended by Mrs. Burton, who helps smooth her jittery transition. This charming and familiar story will delight readers with its surprise ending.

    Dad’s First Day by Mike Wohnoutka
    All summer Oliver and his dad played together, laughed together, sang together, and read together.  Now it’s time for Oliver to start school!  On the first day, Oliver’s dad isn’t quite ready. . . . Suddenly he feels nervous. His tummy hurts, and he would rather stay home.  But Oliver isn’t convinced. What if the first day is really fun? What if it’s the start of an exciting year?

    My Preschool by Anne Rockwell
    Join a happy little boy during a day at preschool, from cheerful hellos in circle time, to painting colorful pictures and playing at the water table before snack time. The best part of saying good-bye at the end of the day is that the little boy knows he will come back tomorrow.

    Starting School by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
    This wonderfully warm and humorous book will put any preschooler’s jitters to rest. “The first four months of school for eight first graders are chronicled in wonderful watercolor detail.

    Pete the Cat: Too Cool for School by Kimberly and James Dean
    In this funny My First I Can Read Book, Pete just can’t decide which outfit to wear to school! He has so many options to choose from. Fans of Pete the Cat will enjoy Pete’s creativity in choosing the coolest outfit.

    The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
    I recently wrote a review for this wonderful book.  You can read it here.

    Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from.

    Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry Allard
    Ok, who else remembers reading this book as a child?  I used to love this one!

    The kids in Room 207 were misbehaving again. Spitballs stuck to the ceiling. Paper planes whizzing through the air. They were the worst-behaved class in the whole school.  So begins this quirky classic, first published in 1977 and still relevant today as a lighthearted reminder to show our appreciation to those we value.

    Maisy Goes to Preschool by Lucy Cousins
    Preschool for Maisy means a day filled with friends and things to do, from the time she hangs her coat on a special peg to the time she says good-bye. There’s painting and snack time, stories and nap time (and a bathroom break in between). Soon everyone is ready to haul out the instruments and make some noise, then head outside for a turn at the sandbox or slide.

    Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus by James Dean
    Join Pete as he rides on the bus to school with his friends and hears all the different sounds a bus makes as it drives. Fans of Pete the Cat will sing along with Pete in this rendition of a classic favorite children’s song.

    Froggy Goes to School by Jonathan London
    Froggy’s mother knows that everyone’s nervous on the first day of school. “Not me!” says Froggy, and together they leapfrog to the bus stop — flop flop flop. Froggy’s exuberant antics, complete with sound effects, will delight his many fans and reassure them that school can be fun.

    The Night Before Preschool by Natasha Wing
    It’s the night before preschool, and a little boy named Billy is so nervous he can’t fall asleep. The friends he makes the next day at school give him a reason not to sleep the next night, either: he’s too excited about going back! The book’s simple rhyming text and sweet illustrations will soothe any child’s fears about the first day of school.

    Curious George’s First Day of School by H.A. Rey
    It’s the first day of school, and Curious George has been invited to Mr. Apple’s class to be a special helper! George is just the right monkey for the job—until he starts to wreak his usual havoc, that is. Red and yellow paint makes orange, yellow and blue makes green . . . and a mixture of all the paint colors makes a big mess!

    Your turn: What are your favorite “going to school” books to read with your children?  Feel free to share in the comments.


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