The best books for children starting school

Our edit of the best children's books about starting school and making new friends.

Starting school can be a challenge for both parents and children, with worries about missing mum and dad, fitting in and making friends. This selection of books for children starting nursery and primary school deal with first-day nerves, making friends and feeling different, and are sure to put kids’ – and parents’ – minds at rest. And we've also included some titles for older children and teenagers at secondary school. 

Books for toddlers starting nursery

I'm Starting Nursery

by Marion Cocklico

Book cover for I'm Starting Nursery

Watch Ben and his friends play with trucks, paint pictures, dress up and listen to a story in this fun-filled novelty book with flaps and mechanisms. Each page has really helpful tips for parents and carers that are endorsed by The Good Play Guide and leading Early Years Consultant, Dr Amanda Gummer. With delightful illustrations from Marion Cocklico, I'm Starting Nursery is the perfect book to share and to reassure every little person starting nursery.

Keep Smiling!

by Floella Benjamin

Book cover for Keep Smiling!

Vina's Mum has always told her that a smile is the best gift you can give someone. And as Vina loves smiling more than anything else, she gives the gift of her smile to anyone who needs it. But on her first visit to her new school, Vina's own smile gets a bit . . . lost. She can't find it under the slide, or on the climbing frame. Then, a smile appears, in the most unexpected place!

Odo: Show and Tell

by Odo

Book cover for Odo: Show and Tell

Based on the preschool animated series shown on Milkshake, Odo: Show and Tell is a charming picture book which captures all the warmth and humour of the TV show. Odo's visits to Forest Camp gently introduce preschoolers to the idea of new environments as they prepare for nursery or school. Today it's Show and Tell, but Odo has forgotten to bring anything. He goes looking for something to show and meets Reggie, the fox. Odo thinks it's a great idea to take Reggie to Show and Tell – but will everyone else agree?

Books about starting school

Mooncat and Me

by Lydia Corry

Book cover for Mooncat and Me

With colourful pages thronging with modern city life, Mooncat and Me tells the story of Pearl as she overcomes the anxiety of moving house and starting a new school, with the help of a giant white cat. We can all empathise with Pearl's fear that 'I won't know anyone, and no one will know me' but as we watch her grow in confidence, we will learn that with a bit of imagination and determination, there's nothing we can't do.

Hello Friend!

by Rebecca Cobb

Book cover for Hello Friend!

Hello Friend! Is the heart-warming story of a confident little girl who is determined to make friends with a shy little boy. Although these two might be different in lots of ways, it doesn’t take too long for true friendship to blossom. 

Beautifully illustrated, this book is the perfect story for teaching children starting school about kindness, empathy and friendship.

Anna and Otis

by Maisie Paradise Shearring

Book cover for Anna and Otis

This is an endearing and very funny story about overcoming fears and making new friends. Anna and Otis the snake love having fun together. But Otis knows people are scared of snakes, so he usually just plays at home or in the garden. He is nervous when Anna suggests a new adventure.

At first people are afraid, and Otis feels he isn’t welcome in the town. But Anna encourages Otis not to give up, and it soon turns out that maybe snakes aren’t as scary as people thought!

Vera Jewel is Late for School

by Nicola Kent

Book cover for Vera Jewel is Late for School

When Vera Jewel finds herself running late for school, she takes matters into her own hands and is determined to get there, any way that she can! This picture book, filled with charming illustrations and written in catchy rhyme, is a warm and funny story about a little girl learning to stand on her own two feet. 

For children starting school, taking independent steps can be hard, but this story teaches children the reward of hard work and inventiveness, showing them they can be just as brave as Vera Jewel. 

Mouse's Big Day

by Lydia Monks

Book cover for Mouse's Big Day

Meet Mouse, Mole, Owl, Frog, Rabbit and their teacher Miss Hoot at their fun-filled treetop school in this warm and funny story about friendship that is perfect for any child who is starting school or nursery.

It’s Mouse’s first day, and she’s feeling a little nervous – in fact, she doesn’t want to go to school at all! But with a little help from her new friends, she finds that perhaps school isn’t so bad after all . . .

Frog Hops Off

by Lydia Monks

Book cover for Frog Hops Off

Another book in Lydia Monks’s Twit Twoo School series, Frog Hops Off is the story of excitable Frog who can’t wait to go on his first school trip. But when Frog’s excitement gets the better of him, he finds himself lost and unsure of his way back . . . 

This warm and funny adventure story carries a gentle message about the importance of listening in class and following instructions from the teacher.

Rabbit Races Ahead

by Lydia Monks

Book cover for Rabbit Races Ahead

Part of the Twit Twoo School series, Rabbit Races Ahead, is a fun-filled story about empathy and kindness. When Sports Day comes around at the Twit Twoo School, no one is more excited than Rabbit, who is determined to win every race. But, as Rabbit starts to collect medals and lose her friends, she starts to realise that thinking of others might feel even better than winning.

With bright and bold illustrations from Lydia Monks, children are sure to enjoy this sweet story about friendship, preparing them for their first days at school.

Cyril and Pat

Book cover for Cyril and Pat

A beautifully illustrated tale about how differences shouldn’t stop you making friends. Cyril is a very lonely squirrel, until he meets Pat, the big, grey . . .  other squirrel. Together he and Pat have plenty of fun and adventures, but everyone is adamant that Cyril and Pat can’t be friends, because Pat is actually a rat!

But Cyril’s life is duller and scarier without Pat around, and the two of them learn that friendship is more important than being the same, or listening to others.

Goat Goes to Playgroup

by Julia Donaldson

Book cover for Goat Goes to Playgroup

From beloved children’s author Julia Donaldson, Goat Goes to Playgroup is the perfect book for children going to nursery or playgroup. With instantly recognisable illustrations from the award-winning Nick Sharratt, this is a fun and silly story about the mischief Goat and all the other little animals get up to at playgroup.  

Spending time away from parents or familiar carers for the first time can be unsettling for some little ones. Reading this book together is sure to take away all those fears, as children are swept away in the antics of Goat and his friends.

Chu's First Day at School

by Neil Gaiman

Book cover for Chu's First Day at School

This charming book follows Chu, a little panda with a big sneeze, as he gets ready for his first day at school. Chu has all the usual first day worries - will the other girls and boys be nice? Will they like Chu? This warm and funny story is perfect for little ones who are nervous about those first days at school.

I Am Too Absolutely Small For School

by Lauren Child

Book cover for I Am Too Absolutely Small For School

This classic Charlie and Lola story deals with those first-day fears with warmth and humour. Charlie’s little sister is nearly big enough to go to school, but Lola isn’t so sure. She already has enough important things to do around the house. Luckily big brother Charlie is there to reassure her that school isn’t so scary after all.

Victor, the Wolf with Worries

by Catherine Rayner

Book cover for Victor, the Wolf with Worries

Victor the wolf has lots of worries. He worries that he isn't brave enough, that he isn't big enough and that he isn't fierce enough. In fact, Victor feels anxious about almost everything. But when Victor shares his concerns with his best friend Pablo, he starts to feel a bit better. And with Pablo's help, Victor learns even more ways to deal with those pesky worrying thoughts. And as the worries grow smaller, Victor feels a bit bigger, a bit braver, and bit fiercer inside! Victor, The Wolf With Worries is a comforting and reassuring tale that is especially helpful for little ones who have trouble talking about their feelings.

Books for older children and young adults

Clicks - How to Be Your Best Self Online

by Natasha Devon

Book cover for Clicks - How to Be Your Best Self Online

There are three billion people online. Each of those people has their own biases, agendas and issues. It’s little wonder when young people step into the digital world and are bombarded with ‘hot takes’, calls to cancel ‘problematic’ individuals, trolls, fake news and celebrity sales pitches they’re likely to find it overwhelming and confusing. This book wants to change that. It will teach young people how to see and evaluate all sides of an argument, spot fake news, explain their ‘take’ persuasively, use the internet to campaign for a fairer world and show allyship to marginalised groups.

Yes You Can – Ace School Without Losing Your Mind

by Natasha Devon

Book cover for Yes You Can – Ace School Without Losing Your Mind

Secondary school can seem overwhelming – but it doesn't have to be. In Yes You Can: Ace School Without Losing Your Mind, mental health campaigner and education expert Natasha Devon uses her expertise to show you how to navigate school and stay calm in the face of exams.