Books That Lessen Back to School Anxiety
by Cynthia Lappala
Here at Danbury Library it seems as if summer has just started, but the shorter days, the occasional cool September-like day and the rush of students doing their last-minute summer reading are reminders that it’s time to go back to school.
Kids look forward to their new shoes and clothes, a freshly lined notebook and sharpened pencils. All children have a sense of excitement and apprehension. The new-to-school younger child may experience anxiety and fear about what this new experience holds, especially separation from the familiar.
Experts recommend getting children in the school routine before it actually starts, which includes a set bedtime and being sure clothes and items are all organized ahead of time. Take advantage of a school orientation to get kids familiar with their classroom and discuss their fears beforehand. One great way is to use picture books as a springboard for talking about what to expect.
For the little “worry wart,” Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes is a good book to add a little humor to the word worry. Even a young child can see the amusement in the little mouse who is afraid she will shrink in the bathtub, or that snakes are in the radiator. Her biggest and most recent fear is going to school, and her imagination is on overdrive. But, she forgets all about those things when she and her toy bunny Petal are introduced to another worried child named Jewel and her stuffed cat Nibblet. After some brief introductions, they become best buddies, and before they know it, it’s time to go home.
Katie Davis’ book, Kindergarten Rocks, portrays Dexter as the brave, I know-all-about-kindergarten boy because his older sister Jessie, who is already in the third grade, has given him the rundown on what to expect. Dexter has no problem, but his stuffed friend Rufus has a few fears about things — like getting lost on the way to school, what if the teacher is mean, how will he get his lunch and more. His sister helps Dexter make a list of all the things troubling his stuffed pal, and is able to reassure “Rufus.” When he arrives at school, Dexter discovers Joey, a friend he knew in preschool, and gets so involved in the fun activities he misplaces Rufus. After a short search, he is found and he arrives home saying, “Kindergarten Rocks!”
Discussing school behavior, what’s acceptable and what’s not, can be another source of fear — “What if I get in trouble?” David Shannon’s book David Goes to School hits the nail on the head with his humorous illustrations of little David who is reprimanded for his mischievous behavior — “Sit down David,” “Wait your turn David!” All his antics get
him into trouble, but in the end his behavior earns him praise and a gold star. Kids are quick to recognize David’s bad behavior, and are fast to correct him.
Some children are shy and worried about making friends. Enrico Starts School by Charlotte Middleton explores the plight of a shy young cat who tries to fit in with the other boys by imitating their actions. But, Enrico doesn’t seem to quite measure up with the others no matter how hard he tries. When he attempts to gain favor at lunchtime by sharing his “carefully prepared sardine in lobster-jelly sandwich,” the kids show more interest in his sandwich than they do in him. After a few other failed tries to gain their approval, he decides to take his younger brother Chico’s advice and just be himself — even when it means playing alone at recess. It’s only a matter of time before he makes a new friend, Pepe, and invites him home to play.
Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come by Nancy Carlson shows Henry going through the routines familiar to school children on the first day of school. Henry is so excited about school he can hardly contain himself. He brushes his teeth, washes up, gets dressed and eats his breakfast. On the way to school, Henry and his mother discuss all the fun things he will be doing in kindergarten, and he is beside himself with excitement — until he arrives at the BIG school with lots of children he doesn’t know. Then, fear sets in and he decides he wants to go home. His loving teacher, Ms. Bradley, gently urges him to come in and take a look at all that’s going on, so he decides to stay after all.
Events at the Danbury Library
Danbury Library offers storytime sessions year-round for children, ages 3 months to 3 years. They begin at the end of September and run for approximately eight weeks, with a short break between each session in the winter and spring. After school crafts, special programs and science and engineering activities for school-aged kids are also offered.
Homework help by high school teens is available beginning in October, on a walk-in basis Monday-Thursday from 3-6 p.m. There is also an ongoing Chess Club.
The Danbury Library is located at 170 Main Street. For more information, call 203-797-4505 or visit www.danburylibrary.org.
Cynthia Lappala is the Junior Program Coordinator at the Danbury Library.