Aug 25th 2023
min read
Parent Resources

Top Back-to-School Books for Kids: A Reading List by Grade Level

Lauren Sittel
Literacy Specialist

As the summer break comes to an end, it's time to gear up for the new school year. While preparing for the academic journey, don't forget the essential tool that fuels a child's imagination and enhances their learning experience—books! Here are some of our favorite back-to-school books to read with your child to make this transition an exciting and positive experience.


The start of a new school year can bring up big emotions for the youngest elementary schoolers! So we’re including back-to-school books for you to read with your child in the weeks before school, as well as the first few weeks after school starts.

1. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

This heartwarming story is perfect for easing separation anxiety. It follows the adventures of Chester Raccoon, who learns a special trick from his mother to carry her love with him wherever he goes.

2. First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

Join Sarah Jane Hartwell as she experiences the first-day jitters at her new school. This book turns the tables on the typical first-day-of-school story and offers a dose of humor and empathy.

3. Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes by James Dean 

Join Pete the Cat as he explores his school and embraces the adventures that come with it. This groovy story is perfect for easing kindergarten jitters.

First Grade

1. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Encourage empathy and inclusivity with this beautifully illustrated book. It explores the courage it takes to embrace one's unique qualities and connect with others.

2. If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff

The beloved, mischievous children’s character definitely deserves his own back-to-school book. Follow his antics as one thing leads to another in this delightful tale of cause and effect.

3. The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! by Mo Willems

Mo Willems' hilarious Pigeon series continues with this book, where the Pigeon expresses his reluctance to start school. It's a fun way to address common back-to-school concerns.

Second Grade

While the back-to-school books for Kindergarten and 1st Grade on our list are all about the start of school, by 2nd and 3rd grade, students are pros at the back-to-school game. Here are some books to ignite their excitement about another year of learning, growing, and exploring!

1. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Meet Ada Twist, a curious and determined young scientist with an insatiable desire to understand the world around her. This book celebrates curiosity, perseverance, and the joy of discovery.

2. The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne

Adventure awaits with Jack and Annie as they embark on exciting journeys through time and space. This series blends history, fantasy, and education, making it a favorite among young readers.

3. ​Judy Moody Was in a Mood by Megan McDonald

Dive into the world of Judy Moody, a spirited and imaginative second-grader. Follow her hilarious antics and adventures as she navigates school and life.

Third Grade

1. Frindle by Andrew Clements.

Join Nick Allen as he embarks on a quest to challenge the status quo and invents a new word: "frindle." This thought-provoking story explores the power of words, creativity, and the impact of a single idea. It's a fantastic choice for sparking discussions about language and innovation in a school setting.

2. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

A timeless story of friendship, empathy, and the power of words, "Charlotte's Web" introduces readers to Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider as they navigate the challenges of life on the farm. (This also happens to be my favorite childhood book, so I recommend it a lot for 3rd-graders).

3. The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies

This engaging novel follows siblings Evan and Jessie as they embark on a business-savvy competition during summer break. With math, entrepreneurship, and sibling dynamics, it's a great read for third graders.

As you gear up for the new school year, don't underestimate the influence of a good book. Whether it's calming first-day jitters, sparking curiosity, or fostering empathy, these back-to-school reads offer more than just entertainment—they provide valuable life lessons and academic inspiration.

But why stop with just reading back-to-school books at the start of the year? An Ello subscription can help make reading a part of your everyday routine the whole school year to help your child's confidence and motivation to read soar to new heights. Wishing you and your whole family a reading and a successful school year ahead!

Ello has made reading really fun and engaging. The books are reader level appropriate and it’s fun to earn a prize in the next month’s box! Highly recommend for anyone with a young reader who could use some extra support and looking to make reading fun!
Emily B