Does your kid need a bit more inspiration to get in the mood for the first day of school? Instead of trying another pep talk, why not suggest a book? Authors have long found inspiration in the beginning of a new school year, but a good book can do more than just entertain: It can remind our little readers that any of their own struggles, separation anxieties, and first-day-of-school fears are totally normal. Another reason authors find school to be such a compelling setting? It’s also a place where kids are doing way more than just learning. Most of the books on our list go beyond just the jitters of the first day of school to look at the social issues kids confront every day.
For help finding a round-up of fun, diverse books that will appeal to all age levels, we did what any smart parent would do: Ask the librarians. Betsy Bird is a librarian and author of The Great Santa Stakeout. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center is part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s library school and releases an annual best-of list of books for kids and parents. Their recommendations come from past publications of CCBC Choices. We also consulted best-sellers lists to find a few of our fan-favorite picks.
From books that follow nervous kindergarteners all the way to high schoolers taking stands against systematic injustice, there are books for every grade level and reader in our roundup ahead.
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A version of this story was first published in 2019.