Across Australia children are labeling pencils and covering books, getting ready to start a new school year. For some that might be daunting. So who better to help manage their anxiety than a friendly animal character?
Many young readers will know Fiona the tidy pig, created by former Australian Children’s Laureate, Leigh Hobbs. Fiona the Pig’s Big Day leads readers through this sassy and cheerful pig’s first day at school. Look out for the sweet note in her lunchbox.
Another lovely picture book which may help anxious students (and parents) is My First Day at School by award-winning Rosie Smith and Bruce Whatley.
I love the way this story includes a variety of animals, encouraging readers to make friends with those who might be different; whether big or small, feathered or furry. Using animal characters rather than humans makes the story inclusive of children from any background.
After the animals get ready for school, they enjoy activities that are common to many junior classrooms, helping children know what to expect. The octopus finger painting looks especially fun.
So many animal characters are out there waiting to help anxious kids prepare for their first day. In A Tiger Tail by Mike Boldt, Anya wakes up and discovers that she has grown a tail. Are children with tails allowed to go to school? What are the rules?
Familiar characters are the stars of many Back to School stories. In Wombat Goes to School (Jackie French and Bruce Whatley), little Mothball, learns important rules; lunchboxes are interesting, being mistaken for a ball is not! Mo Williams‘ cheeky Pigeon character is back in The Pigeon HAS to Go to School. This cute clip shows children telling Pigeon why school is important. Hazel Edwards‘ lovely hippo is also standing by, ready to help reassure young children about what to expect on their first day in Look, There’s a Hippopotamus in the Playground Eating Cake.
Want more animal characters? The following books feature all kinds of creatures, including a sloth, snake, stick insect, tortoise, panda and dinosaur; First Day Critter Jitters, Twig, Back to School Tortoise, Chu’s First Day at School, We Don’t Eat our Classmates,
Reading any of these anthropomorphic picture books before school begins will help your child know what to expect and ease your child’s first-day journey. Rereading them at the end of the first week of school could then spark discussions about what actually did happen. Was your child’s experience the same or different from those of the story animals? First days are big. Best wishes to all those little people starting out.