Our 50TH POST! 50+ Bibliotherapy Books for Back to School!

For our 50th post (I can’t believe it!) I wanted to share some love. I think all of us—kids, parents, grandparents, and teachers—can all use a little extra love right now. Under *normal* conditions, back-to-school can be a stressful or abrupt transition from carefree summer days. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt Back-To-School 2020 looming over the entire summer—a far-off but nevertheless dark shadow, following us all around through the lazy warmth of an eerily quiet and peaceful summer.

In addition to all the “regular” stresses of back-to-school (academic meetings, supply lists, IEPs, morning routines, homework battles, etc.) we are all about to navigate an entirely new set of back-to-school challenges, concerns, and . . . let’s be honest . . . WORRIES. 

back to school 1

virus worries

mask worries

classroom management worries

“suddenly-homeschooling” worries

socialization worries

cultural and political climate worries

mental health worries 

overall well-being worries

It’s a lot. So, I wanted to do my part to help shed a little light and spread a little love over this upcoming back-to-school season. This post is a combination of three loves of mine: fall, “back to school,” and BOOKS— a Back-To-School Read-Aloud Fall List for kids of all ages!

back to school 3
Back to School??? Or Homeschool???

When we don’t know what to say to our children . . . let’s READ to them instead!

Our kid(s) may have a lot of questions and concerns about this school year, and it’s really hard to know exactly what we should say, or what we shouldn’t say for that matter. So, when we don’t have the words to explain a particular issue or help our kids work through something they are struggling with, let’s do our kids (and us!) a favor and pick up a book. Do not underestimate the power of bibliotherapy. Let’s communicate to our kids the topics they need addressed, the lessons they need to learn, and the struggles they need to vicariously overcome through the power of STORY.

back to school 2
Homeschooling in Fall 2020?

Whatever you or your child’s feelings are toward Back to School 2020—excitement, nervousness, concern, dread, anxiety, fear—the books on this list will walk alongside you and your kid(s) as you process through them together. If nothing else, these books should help infuse some “normalcy” into a possibly weird back-to-school season.

About this Back-To-School Bibliotherapy Book List

back to school 31

All the books I have included on this list share the following characteristics:

  • celebrate school, education, or a love for reading & literature
  • promote positivity or infuse normalcy for back to school 2020
  • offer beautiful writing and/or beautiful/fun illustrations
  • are inspiring, hopeful, or therapeutic
  • are either personal family-favorites or have been carefully reviewed
  • each have a 4.5 star or higher rating on Amazon

Other than for the books whose titles and covers are very self-explanatory (such as most of the titles for the very littles), I have included a brief description and/or guide for how the title relates to Back-To-School Bibliotherapy. For example, if a book title would be specifically helpful for a child experiencing anxiety for the first day of school, or a book that introduces a child to the concept of bullying or teasing, I have made note and bold-faced those key-target-topics in the descriptions. Titles with no descriptions are simply normal, neutral, fun back-to-school books which I believe to be no less therapeutic for being less specific. For full book summaries on any of the titles, click the link provided and it will take you directly to the description and summary on Amazon.

*Please note: I love books and I love having money to buy them . . . so this post includes Amazon Affiliate links. If you purchase a book on this list using my link, I will receive a small commission on the sale. I will never, ever, ever commit book-sacrilege and recommend a book that I do not personally love or recommend. Money is awesome, but books are sacred. 

~The Pre-Preschool Years~

back to school 15
illustration from Bunnykins Back to School

1.) Spot Loves School by Eric Hill

Amazon link

2.) Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

*A book for little kids who are ANXIOUS or WORRIED about going to school for the first time.

Amazon link

3.) If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff

Amazon link

4.) Froggy Goes to School by Jonathon London

Amazon link

5.) Clifford Goes to Kindergarten by Norman Bridwell

Amazon link

~Preschool & Kindergarten~

back to school 22
illustration by Ernest Shepard from The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

1.) Charlie Goes to School by Ree Drummond

Amazon link

2.) The Pigeon HAS to go to School! by Mo Willems

*A humorous, light-hearted approach for helping a child navigate some back-to-school ANXIETY or DREAD.

Amazon link

3.) If You Ever Want to Take an Alligator to School, Don’t! by Elise Parsley

Amazon link

4.) Dear Teacher by Amy Husband

*About a child who writes letters to his future teacher outlining all the fun he is having during the summer, ultimately explaining that he is having too much fun to start school in the fall. His to-be teacher is very understanding and writes him back expressing her disappointment about everything he will miss out on during the year. A great title for kids who are RELUCTANT to start school this fall.

Amazon link

5.) Curious George’s First Day of School by H.A. Rey

Amazon link

6.) The Night Before Preschool by Natasha Wing 

Amazon link
Amazon link
Amazon link

7.) David Goes to School by David Shannon

*A little therapeutic trouble-making never hurt anybody.

Amazon link

8.) Biscuit Goes to School by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

Amazon link

9.) Go To School with the Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Amazon link

10.) The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

*A new school year, and a new school, and no one can even pronounce her name. So, Unhei announces to her classmates that she will select a new name for herself the second week of school. The kids in her class begin filling a jar with name suggestions, but when one of the students discovers Unhei’s real name and it’s secret meaning, something unexpected happens.

An incredible choice for a child who is SHY, ANXIOUS, or feels like an OUTSIDER.

Amazon link

11.) The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes

Amazon link

12.) Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School by Herman Parish

Amazon link

13.) Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell

*An empowering first book about BULLYING/TEASING and having enough SELF-ESTEEM to dare to be different. Plus, the illustrations are so incredibly lovely and unique.

Amazon link

14.) How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Mark Teague

*A last great adventure of summer book to ease the transition back to schedules, rules, and homework routines. Great for active kids who are RELUCTANT to return to school

Amazon link

15.) Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (read-aloud novel)

*Back-to-School Beverly Cleary style, need I say more? Kindergarten isn’t easy for Ramona since everyone thinks she’s a pest. She has to learn how to give people their space and sit still when the teacher tells her to, but it doesn’t come easily!

Amazon link

~1st-3rd Grade, Picture Books~

back to school 11
illustration from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

1.) Carla’s Sandwich by Debbie Herman

*”I like to be different” Carla boldly tells her classmates whenever they criticize her outrageous sandwich choices. A book that inspires and celebrates individuality. A perfect choice for kids who STRUGGLE TO FIT IN, or who are WORRIED ABOUT WHAT OTHERS THINK OF THEM. Also great for kids who tend to TEASE or CRITICIZE OTHERS.

Amazon link

We LOVE this book! Especially as read by Allison Janney, here:

2.) It’s Back to School We Go! First Day Stories from Around the World by Ellen Jackson

*A cross-curricular and multi-cultural back-to-school read!

Amazon link

3.) School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex

*Back to school from the . . . SCHOOL’S perspective.

Amazon link

4.) First Day Jitters by Julie Dannenberg

*A fun and humorous approach to addressing back-to-school ANXIETY.

Amazon link

5.) How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander

*This book got my attention because it is a book about . . . books, so heck yes, but also because it is illustrated by Melissa Sweet! If you are unfamiliar with Melissa Sweet books and illustrations, you and your kids are missing out. She is one of the most creative children’s writers and illustrators I have ever come across. Her books are always inspiring and innovative. This is a great title to inspire a LOVE OF READING.

Amazon link

6.) A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon

*A classic and eccentric depiction of back-to-school ANXIETY. Also includes a strong message for daring to be different and accepting your INDIVIDUALITY. May also help children to see their back-to-school troubles and INSECURITIES in a less dramatic light as compared to a girl who breaks out in . . . stripes, spots, and calicos.

Amazon link

7.) Decibella and her Six-Inch Voice by Julia Cook

*A book to help kids ADJUST to a classroom setting. Great for kids who struggle with VOLUME-CONTROL and tend toward DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR.

Amazon link

8.) The Night Before First Grade by Natasha Wing

Amazon link

The Best Seat in Second Grade (I Can Read Level 2) by [Katharine Kenah, Abby Carter]
Amazon link
9.) The Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson

*A book about TEASING, BULLYING, and STANDING UP for what’s right.

Amazon link

10.) Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen

*A back-to-school book that emphasizes UNITY and KINDNESS.

Amazon link

11.) The Day You Begin by Jaqueline Woodson

*A back-to-school book that inspires courage for a child who is feeling SHY, NERVOUS, or downright SCARED about the first day of school.

Amazon link

12.) A Letter to My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson

*In celebration and affirmation of teachers, this book will help children to RECOGNIZE, APPRECIATE, and VALUE their educators.

Amazon link

13.) I Didn’t do my Homework because . . . by Davide Cali

*A hilariously wild (yet applicable) story for the CHILD WHO HATES HOMEWORK.

Amazon link

~1st-3rd Grade, Chapter Books~

back to school 18 (2)
illustration by Garth Williams from Stuart Little by E.B. White

1.) Junie B. Jones, First Grader (at Last!) by Barbara Park

*The ever-famous Junie B. Jones is starting first grade, and she has a quite a few unexpected bumps during her first few weeks of the new school year. This book is a great all-around back-to-school read-aloud for incoming 1st graders, especially for kids who are SHY, ANXIOUS, or STRESSED about the new school year.

Amazon link

2.) How to Be Cool in the Third Grade by Betsy Duffey

*I love how approachable this book is for a young kid who wants to be cool and accepted. The issues that Robbie faces are seemingly so small (to the adult reader) but are the cause for real concern for a third grader. This is a great all-around back-to-school read for an incoming third grader, especially for kids who are CONCERNED ABOUT BEING ACCEPTED AND LIKED.

Amazon link

3.) Ramona Series by Beverly Cleary

*Back-to-school Beverly Cleary style! Need I say more?

*1st grade has a ton of surprises in store for Ramona, and a lot of them are pretty scary! Ramona has to face her FEARS of being a big girl and learning to be BRAVE throughout the school day.

*The famous Ramona Quimby faces third grade and it’s no walk in the park! Her back-to-school woes include dealing with STRESS, being TEASED, and facing her FEAR of riding the school bus by herself.

4.) Horrible Harry Moves up to the Third Grade by Suzy Kline

*A hilarious tale of school rivalry and revenge. This book is a good example of laughter being the best medicine and would be especially relatable for kids who are WORRIED about friendships at school or who have existing school RIVALS.

5.) The Chalk Box by Clyde Robert Bulla

*This book checks so many back-to-school boxes: new town, new school, LONELINESS, FITTING IN, and SELF-EXPRESSION. Gregory faces the challenges of the new school year through artistic expression in a lovely and heart-warming way.

6.) The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

*This 1942 Newbery honor-winning classic is as relatable and applicable to our kids as it was to our grandparents. An incredible back-to-school title that focuses on the big picture of TEASING, UNKINDNESS, and ACCEPTANCE. This is an incredibly eye-opening and convicting story to read to both BULLIES and VICTIMS.

7.) Frindle by Andrew Clements

8.) The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

*This book is as relatable as it is charming. It is the perfect back-to-school book to read with our kids as the first half takes place during summer and then transitions to fall with a hilarious depiction of the swan in the classroom. Our children can face their INADEQUACIES and INSECURITIES subtly and vicariously through Luis’ (the swan’s) quest to find his voice in song. The writing is lovely (I mean . . . it’s E.B White), the illustrations are divine, and the story is inspiring and heart-warming.

This book is our family’s pick for back-to-school read-aloud.

Amazon link

~4th & 5th Grade, Picture Books~

tom sawyer masks
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

1.) Journey by Aaron Becker

*Although wordless and not directly back-to-school themed, this book welcomes a child to visually escape through artistic expression. A child who is STRESSED or ANXIOUS about the upcoming school year will love getting lost in the pages of this adventurous and beautifully artistic book.

2.) Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

*From LONELINESS, to DYSLEXIA, to BULLYING, to struggles with SELF-ESTEEM, to EMPOWERMENT . . . this book is a back-to-school dream. However, it could be a difficult read for some kids, so maybe read it with a cup of tea and some cookies.

*A lovely tribute to a life-changing teacher.

*This book is a celebration of DIVERSITY, RESPECT, and a powerful story of COURAGE and OVERCOMING ADVERSITY.

~4th & 5th Grade Chapter Books~

back to school 24
On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

1.) Matilda by Roald Dahl

*Reading about Matilda will make your child’s back-to-school problems seem a whole lot smaller. This little book-loving hero has no support from home as she faces a new school and a headmaster from hell. A book of EMPOWERMENT, COURAGE, and KINDESS with a very happy ending.

2.) The Best School Year Ever by Barbara Robinson

*Sequel to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, this book is an incredibly hilarious read-aloud the entire family will love. The laughter that it will afford will work wonders for back to school jitters and ANXIETY.

3.) Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

*With plenty of antics, an at school first love, and hosts of wild adventures throughout, Tom Sawyer is a perfect read-aloud for middle elementary . . . particularly for an active and adventurous child who is RELUCTANT to go back to school.

4.) Heidi by Johana Spyri

*”Go to school, Peter!” Oh how I love this story. This book captures the senses and makes you feel that you really are in the alps with the sheep and the goats and the wildflowers. A beautiful farewell-to-summer-read with a subtle dose of back-to-school. 

5.) Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

*From TEASING/BULLYING, to INADEQUACIES and INSECURITIES, to AWKWARD ADOLESCENT MOMENTS, this graphic novel is hilariously relatable for virtually all upper elementary or early middle school students.

6.) Judy Blume, Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing by Barbara Park

7.) The Flying Classroom by Erich Kastner (author of The Parent Trap)

8.) On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

*The third story of the Ingalls family, this book features Laura and Mary’s first time going to school in a few of the chapters. The rest of the book focuses on the beauty and simple pleasures of living on the prairie and creek, and the hardships of the pioneer life.

*I love this book for so many reasons. But be forewarned: there is an incredibly violent chapter in which a teacher whips a boy who was going to beat the teacher up and possibly even kill him. It’s intense.

This book celebrates school and the GIFT OF EDUCATION, emphasizes RESPECT FOR TEACHERS, and takes the reader on a beautiful sensorial-journey through the practical-life skills of farm life.

9.) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K Rowling

*Although this book may feature a very different sort of school than our children will be attending this fall, Hogwarts in my mind is merely a heightened literary version of the back-to-school experience. From first-day jitters, to relatable classroom dynamics, to overcoming hardships and enemies, to finding one’s true authentic identity, Harry Potter interprets your child’s back-to-school journey through a magical, fantastical, unforgettable lens.

~6th-8th Grade, Picture Books (yes!)~

back to school 17
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

Although the picture books below are marketed for much younger audiences, I think they are PERFECT for Middle School. The words may be few, the pictures may be cartoony, but the content is rich and discussion-worthy.

As a former middle school teacher, I would claim that the biggest challenge of the early teen classroom is definitely more social than academic. In the adolescent years, confidence and self-esteem can take a hit when suddenly what other people think becomes of paramount importance.

Middle Schoolers need to feel accepted and celebrated, sometimes even desperately so. As their parents and teachers, we need to gently but steadfastly walk with them through the angst and insecurities that often abound at this age—hopefully helping to guide them toward their true and authentic unfolding of self.

1.) They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

*This book is an incredibly simple yet profound look at the incredible range to be found in perspectives. Through minimal words and bold illustrations, middle school students will be confronted head on by the power of perspective. Because the early teen years deal so heavily with IDENTITY ISSUES such as SELF-ESTEEM, INSECURITIES, and an overwhelming desire to be LIKED and to “FIT IN,” every middle school student should read and discuss this book. 

2.) The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

*What is it like to be invisible? What could be done to change that? This book paints that picture through incredibly moving illustrations which speak almost all for themselves. For the LONELY, OUTCAST child. Or for the child who needs to learn to be KIND.

3.) Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson

*A comprehensive, and big-picture look at the ripple-effect of KINDESS.

~6th-8th Grade, Chapter Books~

back to school 28
unknown illustration for Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

1.) Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

*BULLYING and ADVENTURES IN NATURE. A classroom favorite for a reason.

2.) Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Is there anything better than reading the school days antics of Anne-with-an-“E”? If I could travel into the world of Avonlea and have Miss Stacy for a teacher, I would. A beautiful, wonderful, happy back-to-school escape.

3.) The Giver by Lois Lowry

*Although this may seem a stretch for a “Back To School” Book List, the beginning chapters take place at school in a fictional future in which stringent rules and orders of conduct are the cornerstones of the society. The dark side of this order brings about an incredible transformation and adventure for Jonas, the young hero of the novel. I feel like it is the perfect “Back to School” Read for Middle School.

4.) Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

*A reverse-psychology celebration of teachers, education, literature, and history.

5.) Ghost by Jason Reynolds

*An award-winning book and fan favorite. About a middle school boy who runs for his track team, runs from his past, runs toward his future.

6.) The View from Saturday by E.L Konigsburg

7.) The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

*Based on the author’s real life-experiences, this book shows Junior’s transition from his former school on an Indian Reservation to an all white school in another town. Junior faces ADVERSITY, ACCEPTANCE, INSECURITIES, and eventually embraces his new identity.

8.) Schooled by Gordon Korman

*From hippie homeschool to mainstream public school, Capricorn’s new school year is about as different from his education on his at-home education on his grandmother’s commune as you could possibly imagine. This book checks basically all the back-to-school boxes from ANXIETY, to FITTING IN, to AUTHENTICITY and IDENTITY.

~9th-12th Grade, Chapter Books~

back to school 29
To Kill a Mockingbird

1.) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

*Trouble at school, trouble on the street, trouble in the world. A book that shows like no other the power of the spoken word, the power of the written word, and the power of standing up for the truth.

2.) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

*Book banning, book burning, book saving. This is the powerful classic that will show your kids the POWER OF LITERATURE and the freedom of the written-word in a way they could have never imagined.

3.) Lord of the Flies by William Golding

*Schoolboys on the loose with no supervision, no rules, no protocol . . . what could possibly go wrong? 

Happy Back-to-School Reading!

Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~


11 Replies to “Our 50TH POST! 50+ Bibliotherapy Books for Back to School!”

  1. Oh I do miss lesson planning and how helpful this list of fall reading would have been back in the day! There was this little book we all used called Honey for a Child’s Heart that listed books in age categories but without the pictures and personal experience that you have included in your posts. And of course it is outdated now. This post is a treasure for any young family looking for homeschool help or public school supplement help. Let’s face it, in this brave new world of virtual everything, curling up to read a REAL book that you hold in your hand with your family face to face will be unforgettable.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: