I think I dread back to school time as much as my kids. They don’t want to do homework and I don’t want to pack lunches. Maybe your family has a different experience? Regardless, there are many feelings that abound during the back to school season - whether it’s first day of kindergarten nerves or your youngest is now off to middle school, there are plenty of books to help your family kick off the school year.
Here are some of my family’s favorite authors who write about going back to school and all that happens there.
For your pre-school to early elementary kids, author Kevin Henkes captures the anxiety that can accompany going to a new school. His sweet mouse characters – Owen, Wemberly, Chrysanthemum and Lily, to name a few – represent the worries, and individual strengths, found in all children, and children will be reassured that they too can find new friends, learn new things and be themselves at school.
To enhance your reading experience, visit www.kevinhenkes.com for downloadable activities, teaching, and discussion guides.
For middle elementary grades, the books of Dan Gutman cannot be beat. My family continued to read these aloud together until the kids were into their double digits. Set at Ella Mentry School, the series begins in the 2nd grade with the My Weird School series, followed by My Weird School Daze (3rd grade), My Weirder School and My Weirdest School. Titles include Miss Small is Off the Wall!, Mr. Granite is from Another Planet!, Mr. Harrison is Embarrissin’!, and Miss Brown is Upside Down!
Try using different voices for the characters in each of the books (Dr. Brad from Dr. Brad has Gone Mad! Is one of our favorites, as voiced by my silly husband) or assigning roles for each person to read. There are over 50 books all together, so consider visiting your local public library to find them all.
For extra stories, book trailers and videos, and information about the author, visit www.dangutman.com
For the 5th & 6th grade crowd, Rick Riordan is legendary. Many kids can relate to his most famous character, Percy Jackson. Percy begins the series as a 12 year old who hates school, especially reading, and comes to discover that his learning difficulties are the result of his brain being wired to read Latin because he is a demigod – son of a Greek god and a mortal. Riordan engages kids with relatable well-developed characters, lots of action, and sneaks in some good clean learning about Greek mythology. The Percy Jackson series is also available as graphic novels, a legitimate format that visually engages kids while getting them to read willingly.
Also consider these related series that my kids and I fight over when the newest installments are released: the Kane Chronicles (Egyptian mythology), the Heroes of Olympus (Roman mythology), the Magnus Chase series (Norse mythology), and the excellent compendiums Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes and Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods.
Check out www.rickriordan.com for teacher guides, school project ideas, and reading recommendations from the author.
When summer is over, reading time can be harder to come by. Make reading a priority outside of assigned homework time. Reading just 20 minutes per day will expose your kids to 1.8 million words a year, so insist your kids read (or even better, read with them) from a book of their choice. If your kids are participating in the BOOK IT! Program this may count toward their monthly reading goal.
I am a BOOK IT! Team Member who is passionate about reading and pizza. It has been less than 1 day since I last ate Pizza Hut pizza, and about 20 minutes since I stealthily read a few pages of a book.
I truly believe that kids shouldn’t read because they have to, they should read because they want to! Find the right book, and get them hooked on reading for the fun of it. These recommendations are based on my 20+ years as a public library director, my 13+ years as a mother, and my 40+ years as a reader. Please don’t try to do the math - I’m experienced, let’s leave it at that.