While looking at the library last week for new ones for us, I found four new titles that I am pretty darn excited about. They cover different aspects of school than the norm, and they seem to work well for my kiddos:
- Meet the Barkers–Morgan and Moffat Go To School, by Tomie DePaola (2001): I love, love, love this book because it deals with a set of twins who are heading to school for the very first time, and the focus of the book is teaching kiddos to balance friends and achievement.
Moffie (the girl) tends to be an over-achiever, always seeking to earn gold stars and trying to answer every single question, while Morgie (her brother) and her classmates watch. DePaola does a great job–like always–of using his illustrations to convey the emotions of his characters, so readers can tell how Moffie’s classmates feel about her “hogging” the spotlight all of the time. Obviously, not too happy. . .
While she’s busy as the teacher’s pet, Morgie is busy making friends, and by mid-book, you can pretty much tell what needs to happen–Moffie has to learn to share the spotlight and make some pals, and Morgie needs to start talking to the teacher, or it’s going to be a long road for both of them.
They both figure it out, and, in the end, Moffie gets a best friend, and Morgie gets a chance to earn a gold star. It’s a happy ending, and–I think–a great way to facilitate a discussion about sharing the spotlight with others and meeting new friends in school.
- Tom Goes to Kindergarten by Margaret Wild (1999): This book is a riot. I particularly liked it because it begins with, “Every day, Tom and his mother and Baby went past kindergarten on their morning walk. . . ” His mother tells him, “That’ll be you soon, Tom,” much like I said to Maddy every day when we watched the big neighborhood kids walk up the hill to school. (And it will be her soon–like in 4 days!?)
Tom is excited for school, and he even shouts, “YES!” when he wakes up on the first day. But once he’s there, he doesn’t want his parents to leave–so they don’t. They stay at school with him that day, and they stay the next, until Tom strongly suggests they go home. His mom and dad and baby brother leave–reluctantly–but they do very silly things when they get home, mirroring all of the activities they loved in the classroom.
It’s one of those books that makes you giggle when you read it, and that’s why we loved it–and read it over, and over, and over.
- Jessica by Kevin Henkes (1989): We LOVE Kevin Henkes over here but have never read this book. It’s a great back-to-school book for our house because it’s about a little girl, Ruthie, who has an imaginary friend named Jessica. Ruthie is an only child who does just about everything with Jessica, including taking her to school with her on the first day. (Yikes.)
Ruthie doesn’t do anything at school to meet new friends; rather, she plays with imaginary Jessica. We talked a lot about how Henkes shows us how Ruthie really feels about playing with Jessica in school by the way he draws sad faces and slumped shoulders on her, but after she makes an effort to meet a new friend, Ruthie’s whole body clearly changes into a brighter, more alive little person.
My big Owen has a tendency to talk quite often about his own imaginary pal, so this book seemed a good fit for him. We are not discouraging his pretend friend or the stories Owen makes up about him, but we do want him to see how important it is to make friends in school and to have fun with them while he’s there.
- It’s My School by Sally Grindley (2005): This book is great for siblings who will be sharing a new school for the first time. Tom is the big brother who does not want to share his school with his little sister, Alice, who is completely and totally excited for Kindergarten. Tom acts very angry towards his sister, and he even runs away from her on the school yard. However, after he hears her yell and scream for him when she loses her teddy bear, he comes to her rescue like a good big brother should.
Owen and Cora will share a school this year (okay, for one day a week. . . ), but I used this book to discuss how Tom’s behavior toward his sister was not okay, was not kind and loving, and how that behavior is not the kind of behavior that we show toward anyone, especially a family member–ever. But even though we used it as a teaching tool that way, it still worked to talk about playground behavior for Maddy and the idea of being kind and helping others when they need it.
Along with the other few–and very simple–things we’re doing over here to prepare for the new adventure that will be Kindergarten, these books also help to make the road a little less scary for Maddy–and even for the rest of us.