Starting school and meeting new friends

School is starting up around the country and with that means meeting new people. This can be an incredibly scary idea for some kids, especially when they may not look or talk like the majority of the people around them. But all kids should feel proud of who they are and walk tall. Here are a few books that help illustrate that idea and would be great read alouds.

Sara O’Leary and illustrator Qin Leng approach this idea in their new book A Kid is a Kid is a Kid. This simple book shows how being the new kid can be really hard, but that you are not alone. One of the worst things is when people ask you a question that isn’t very nice, like if you’re a boy or a girl or why you are so small. Rather than those awful questions, it suggests that kids should ask each other questions that open up a conversation and help you get to know the other kids better. Something like what you named your new dog or if you can try their lunch. But the very best question of all? “Hey, kid! Do you want to play?” Such a brilliant concept, much like their earlier book, A Family is a Family is a Family.

Sonia Sotomayor wrote a picture book in 2019 that also addressed questions. In her book, Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You, Sotomayor writes about children of all abilities and the super powers that each of them have as well. The book focuses on a group of children creating a garden together. Just as all of the plants are different, so are the children. A garden made up of only one flower isn’t as beautiful as one with a variety of beauties.

Bestseller The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael Lopez addresses this idea head on. Woodson suggests that you might go to school and be different from those around you, be it your hair, clothing, skin color, or something else. You might find yourself feeling badly when someone doesn’t understand your accent or jealous when others have had experiences that you have not yet had. But the beautiful thing is that when we open up and share about ourselves, we can find all of the ways that we are similar. This is a must have for the beginning of school.

I’ve shared this one before, but I always feel that it is worth repeating. All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman is a marvelous first day book, especially given how divided our country is at the moment. The messages behind this book is that everyone is special, diversity should be celebrated, and that we welcome everyone with open arms. What makes it so perfect for the start of school is that there are lots of fears at the beginning of school. When you know that you are “different” in some manner, the fears are even larger. Penfold’s story can help release some of the fears about making friends at a new place, as everyone in this book comes from a different background, yet become good friends.

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