COLUMN: Mackie Library’s books help beat those back-to-school blues

Frances Thomson, community librarian at North Delta's George Mackie Library, suggests some books to ease kids' back-to-school jitters.

While January marks the start of a new calendar year, September is a month of new beginnings for students and teachers.

For children, September can be both scary and exciting as a new school year begins. Whether they are off to school for the first time, or returning to school after the summer break, it can be fun to share books about the excitement and/or apprehension of the new year.

Children who are just starting Kindergarten may enjoy books with characters that are also nervous about it. The library has many books that can help introduce children to what to expect at school.

In Not This Bear, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, it’s Bear’s first day of school and he does not want to go because he likes being at home with Mama.

“All the bears love school,” says his Mama.

“Not this bear,” says Bear.

Once there, whenever the teacher introduces a new activity, Bear answers “not this bear” to every invitation to join in. Eventually he settles in on his own terms and finds another bear that is reluctant to participate.

In School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, it isn’t just the students who are nervous.

Does anyone ever think about how the school building feels? School has the jitters too, and hearing comments like “I don’t like school” doesn’t help. Rex’s droll story and bold illustrations are delightful.

Another story that puts a fresh twist on the typical first day of school scenario is First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg.

Sarah Jane Hartwell does not want to start her first day in a new school, despite Mr. Hartwell’s pleas. Eventually she is persuaded to get up, get dressed and eat breakfast before being dropped off at school.At school she is welcomed by the principal, taken to her classroom and introduced – as the teacher!

The surprise ending provides humour and children may take comfort in knowing that they are not alone in their apprehension about starting school.

Children in grades other than Kindergarten that are returning to school might enjoy stories about children and schools in other countries of the world.

It’s Back to School We Go: First Day Stories from around the World, by Ellen Jackson, includes first-person accounts by 11 children, with interesting facts about children and schools in that country. This allows readers to learn the similarities and differences they share with children around the world.

For example, in Japan, the school year begins in April; children attend classes five days a week and two Saturday mornings each month.

School Days Around the World is an informational picture book based on real children who taught author Margriet Ruurs about their schools.

We meet Marta who goes to school in Ethiopia in a class of 70 students, and Ana in Honduras, who walks an hour to reach her school. Each story is accompanied by colourful cut paper collages by illustrator Alice Feagan.

Celebrate the new school year with books!

Frances Thomson is the community librarian at the George Mackie Library. For more information about books and events at the library, visit fvrl.bc.ca.