Ten Picture Books for Back To School Anxiety


Do you have a young kiddo at home who’s got back to school anxiety? Personally, I have a first time preschooler who is pretty uncertain about starting his program and a first grader who’s feeling jittery about having a new teacher. 

Books can be very helpful in easing a child’s anxieties around new experiencesThey also make a great gateway to talking to kids about their big feelings. As a certified English and Special Education teacher, books are my go-to for just about everything! So, as usual, I reached out to my local seacoast library for some stellar suggestions. I also enlisted the help of Sharon Kahler, M.D., a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist, for her book recommendations to help kids with anxiety. 

If your child doesn’t struggle with anxiety or nervousness around school, it might be better to skip some of these stories in order to prevent worries from starting. I suggest reading these books before you share them with your little ones to ensure they’re a good fit. I previewed the suggested titles and then with the help of my boys, we narrowed down our favorites. Here are the winning books recommendations to ease a younger child’s back-to-school butterflies.  

Back-to-School Books for Anxious Younger Children 

The Kissing Hand written by Audrey Penn

The Kissing Hand is a beautifully written book about a small racoon who’s nervous about going to school and being away from his mother. When mom raccoon kisses his hand as a reminder to take with him, it makes him feel much better. A warning – the sweet ending may cause parent readers to tear up a bit. I definitely did!

The Invisible String written by Patrice Karst

I love this book’s special message about how we are all connected by an invisible string that you can feel on your heart. The Invisible String is a wonderful choice for a child who misses family members while away at school. There is a small mention of death, so if this is something that’s triggering for your child, maybe save this book for a later time. 

Here Comes Teacher Cat written by Deborah Underwood

Here Comes Teacher Cat is an entertaining read about a cat who steps in as a substitute teacher at Kitty School. The twist? Teacher Cat is not looking forward to the job! This book is unique because it shows that teachers can have nervous feelings, too. 

The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! written by Mo Willems

Always a fun series to read, The Pigeon Has to Go to School! is a story about Pigeon who doesn’t want to go to school because he thinks he knows everything already. Pigeon comes around at the end of the tale and admits to being scared, which is a nice reminder that it’s okay to express your feelings. 

Maple and Willow Apart written by Lori Nichols

This adorable book is about two sisters who miss each other when the older sibling goes off to school. Reading Maple and Willow Apart would be a great way to address a child’s anxiety around big life changes. 

Lena’s Shoes are Nervous written by Keith Calabrese

Lena’s Shoes are Nervous is a creative take on first day of school nerves. Lena might not be nervous, but her shoes definitely are! This makes going to school quite a challenge! Kids will love reading this book to find out if Lena can convince her shoes to be brave. (Spoiler alert, she can.)

Llama Llama Misses Mama written by Anna Dewdney

If your child is a fan of the Llama Llama books, they are sure to enjoy this installment. In Llama Llama Misses Mama, Llama has to go to school and, therefore, ends up missing his mama. Luckily, the other children at school show Llama that school is fun and he realizes that his mama will return. 

Wemberly Worried written by Kevin Henkes

Wemberly worries about absolutely everything – even shrinking in the bathtub! She’s especially worried about starting school. However, when Wemberly arrives and meets a friend, she soon discovers that school is too much fun to spend time worrying. 

What Do You Do With A Problem? written by Kobi Yamada

What Do You Do With A Problem is a story about a boy who has a problem that follows him around. The beautiful illustrations show his problem gets bigger and bigger when it’s not addressed. It also shows that our problems challenge us and teach us how brave and strong we really are. 

The Whatifs written by Emily Kilgore

Cora worries about everything and when she does, little creatures called the Whatifs appear to give all kinds of additional doubts. As her worries get larger, the Whatits cling even tighter and threaten to bring her down. If your child has been diagnosed with anxiety, this is definitely the book for them.

If you’re looking for books about starting school that aren’t necessarily focused on nerves, check out our resident librarian’s fabulous book list here! Also, our Pediatric occupational therapist has wonderful suggestions for getting your kids ready to go back to school.

What types of books do you read with your kids when they’re feeling anxious?

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I’m a Maine native and after a long stretch of time living in Chicago, I feel lucky to again call the Seacoast my home. I currently live in Kennebunk with my husband, two sons, and a spaniel mix who truly believes he is a furry big brother to our boys. I hold a Master of Education degree from the University of Maine and as a certified English and Special Education teacher, a passion of mine has always been helping students and connecting them to reading and writing. Free time is best spent in the sunshine with family and friends, curled up with a good book, eating my husband’s incredible cooking, or creatively writing for the kids in my life. Being a mom is the most challenging and amazing job I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.