A Mighty Girl's favorite back-to-school books for young children!
It can be easy for adults to forget that, for kids, school is an adventure: sometimes exhilarating, sometimes nerve-wracking, and always full of new experiences! Each year at school, kids face new challenges like building relationships with peers, meeting new expectations from teachers, and discovering their own talents and gifts. And, like any time you start an adventure, it helps to be prepared — with a few good books to reassure Mighty Girls that they're ready to take on whatever comes their way!
Whether your Mighty Girl is starting school for the first time, moving to a new school, or just anticipating the start of a new year, these books will help her feel prepared. By answering some of her questions about what it will be like — and reassuring her that there are wonderful things to learn and do there — you can help your Mighty Girl get excited about her first day.
If you have a young child who is just starting school for the first time, you can also find girl-empowering books focused on calming first day jitters in our blog post, The Big Day: Picture Books About Mighty Girls Starting School.
And, to help your kids feel prepared for school -- whether they are just starting out or are heading back to middle or high school -- you can also find many encouraging books, as well as girl-empowering school supplies, in our Girl Empowerment Back to School Guide.
School Is An Adventure!
Kids may not always think of it this way, but school is an adventure! From meeting new friends to discovering unexpected interests to finding your place among your peers, school is full of experiences that will get your Mighty Girl heading in new directions. These books will help kids look forward to the exciting new adventures they'll find at school.
Ming is ready for school! She's ready to use paint and glitter and glue; to meet new friends; to build sandcastles and make snow angels. And while she's brave enough to stick her hands in the mud to touch the worms, she's not quite ready to go down the big red slide on the playground... yet. With the encouragement of her friends, teacher, and family, though, it's only a matter of time! This gentle confidence-building story, with its short sentences and soft, evocative watercolor illustrations, is sure to help kids feel ready for their first preschool day.
Kids sometimes struggle to find out where they fit in among the wider world of their peers. Peppa's school day is full of fun, but she's most excited for Special Talent Time, when each member of the class will get to show off something amazing they can do. But Peppa's excitement turns to worry when, one after another, other students pick her talents to demonstrate! Fortunately, with a little help from her sympathetic teacher, Peppa realizes that everyone has special gifts — and that even seemingly simple things like hopping in puddles can make for a special day at school.
It's almost Lola's first day of school, and she can't wait! She's visited the school with her mother, so she knows it "will be a bit like story time at the library, but Lola will stay by herself." When the big day comes, she wears her special first day outfit, gets a quick picture, and heads off with a backpack full of special gifts from her loving family — and before she knows it, it's time to greet Mommy again at the end of the day! This charming addition to the beloved Lola Reads series is the perfect read for soon-to-be preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Pearl is the smallest ballerina at her mother's ballet school, but she loves practicing dance moves (at a barre she can't even reach) with her stuffed mouse Violet by her side. But when her mother suggests Pearl could try preschool, Pearl isn't sure. "Violet and I already go to school," she says. But Pearl's mother answers her questions about what this new experience would be like. pointing out that she will learn fun new things, like the alphabet, and counting, and even how to paint a sugar plum fairy! — and Pearl concludes that she and Violet are ready for preschool after all. This charming picture book, with its winsome illustrations, looks at the transition to preschool through a child's eyes in a way that's perfect for budding dancers!
In this clever story based on the poem "The Night Before Christmas", the soon-to-be kindergarten students are full of excitement, anticipation... and a few worries. But on the morning that school comes, the kids are ready to face a day full of adventure — it's the parents who shed a few tears! Fortunately, they're mostly tears of joy at watching their big girls and boys head in through the classroom doors set out on their school adventure!
This little hero proves that the ideals that get Wonder Woman through a day of fighting supervillains can also get a kid through a tough day at school! She'll demonstrate her courage, leadership, compassion, and more as she helps classmates share, faces her nemesis (the playground ladder!), and tries again and again to get a project just right. A checklist at the end helps reinforce these heroic values! This book emphasizes the power of working together and positive choices to make any place better, making it the perfect choice for budding superheroes!
Every day is an adventure; every day is a chance to be fierce! This exuberant young narrator starts her day by putting on "armor" (a rainbow sweater) and prepares to face the challenges of her world. From monsters (dogs on a walk) to giants (big kids at the bus stop), she knows there's no beast she can't overcome. Her courage can also help others, like when she refuses to let a classmate sit alone in the cafeteria. After a busy day, she returns home to rest... after all, tomorrow, she'll be fierce again! This joyous celebration of bravery, compassion, and imagination is a reminder that you can be a hero every day.
When the boys at the school playground tell her that "girls can't be superheroes," Lucía suddenly doesn't feel so mighty in her long red cape. Then her grandmother lets her in on a family secret: Lucía comes from a long line of luchadoras, bold and valiant women from the Mexican lucha libre wrestling tradition! Lucía returns to the playground with a bold new identity that has the whole class buzzing. But when she witnesses an injustice in action, Lucía faces a moral quandary: does she break the sacred rule not to reveal the identity behind her mask, or does she do whatever it takes to support someone in need? Full of energy, this fun book gently tackles sexism, bullying, and the importance of standing up for people around you.
There's lots to do if you're going to help your teacher be ready for the first day of school — let alone all the other big days of the school year, from picture day to concerts to the 100th day of school! In this hilarious book by the author of the bestselling How To Babysit A Grandma, a diverse class of kids do their best to help their teacher make it through a busy year — and along the way, they feel more prepared too. Full of role-reversal humor and detailed illustrations that will get kids laughing, this book is sure to be a hit.
Penelope Rex is startled to discover her classmates are all children, so she does what comes naturally... and eats them. Children are delicious, after all! Her teacher immediately gets her to spit them out, and tells her firmly that classmates are not snacks. But Penelope is always hungry, and no matter how hard she tries, she keeps forgetting the rule — until an unexpectedly voracious class pet teaches her what it feels like to be eaten! Beloved author/illustrator Ryan T. Higgins has created a laugh out loud story with a gentle message about the importance of treating others how you want to be treated. Penelope returns in We Will Rock Our Classmates.
Every year, Mrs. Millet's class puts on a nutrition pageant: "Every kid plays a food. Every kid gets a line. It is a big deal," says the narrator. But this year, Mrs. Millet's class is extra big... which means that the narrator is Second Banana. Second Banana is the only food that appears twice, and she only gets three words to say. Her dejection is palpable, but when she confesses it to First Banana, she discovers that First Banana has stage fright and wishes she could disappear! Fortunately, Second Banana comes up with the perfect solution — and makes a new friend. This funny and sweet story about disappointment, kindness, and ensuring the show goes on celebrates making the best of a rotten situation.
Lilly loves school, and her teacher Mr. Slinger — until he confiscates her wonderful, musical purse because she’s interrupting the lessons. Furious, Lilly channels her outrage into an elaborate drawing of “Big Fat Mean Mr. Stealing Teacher” that she slips into Mr. Slinger’s bookbag. But when she gets her purse back at the end of the day — with a kind note from Mr. Slinger tucked inside — Lilly has to figure out a way to make up for her impulsive act of revenge. This book is a great way to remind kids that mistakes can be forgiven if you’re willing to make amends.
Maude has just moved to a new town, and she's feeling lonely — so she draws a blue puppy, names him Scribbly, and he becomes her new best friend! They do everything together (even if Mom thinks Maude is a bit old for imaginary friends.) When she's invited to a neighborhood birthday party, Maude is so nervous about being "the new kid" that she brings Scribbly along — and to her delight, all the other kids want to play with him. And with a nudge from Mom, Maude realizes that it's her own creativity and playfulness that helped her make the friends she craved! This charming book combines a reminder that imaginary friends are real friends with an authentic and compassionate look at a child's emotions about moving.
Summer may seem to be in full swing, but this little girl notices hints that the season is changing, from the smell of ripening apples to the sight of sunflowers starting to droop. The days are hot but the nights are cool, and the ripe blackberries are perfect for making delicious jam. And she knows that soon there will be school supply shopping, picking the perfect first-day outfit, eating an extra-special breakfast, and finally, a trip on the bus to meet her new teacher! This picture book full of joyful anticipation, with a family that exudes love and calmness, is a lyrical ode to the transition between summer and fall — and the transition into a new school year.
An adventurous spirit is welcome at school — as long as you still know when to follow the rules. Annie is sure she’ll have some tremendous stories to tell about kindergarten — she even comes prepared with her Adventure Annie cape! But Mr. Todd’s Gold Star Rules are hard to follow when you’re seeking a grand adventure. Annie wants to be that day’s Gold Star Deputy, but it looks like the chances of that are slim — until two helpers get lost, and Annie gets to have her adventure and follow the Gold Star Rules.
Sometimes, your school adventure has to happen without familiar friends by your side! Penny is excited for the first day of grade one — until she discovers that her best friend has been assigned to the other class. Although she's temporarily upset and anxious, soon Penny is exploring everything her new classroom has to offer and making some new connections with other classmates. Imagine the fun stories she and her best friend can share when the school day is done!
Few things are as exciting as when a child discovers a special interest or talent! Velma doesn’t think anyone will ever notice her — her two older sisters were perfect, and Velma can’t possibly compete with that. So if she can’t compete by being the best, she decides she’ll compete by being the worst. But when her class goes to the butterfly conservatory and a monarch decides that Velma’s finger is the perfect place to perch, Velma discovers her own way to stand out. A great way to reassure kids that everyone has talents — and to foster an interest in science and bugs — this book will get your Mighty Girl thinking about what new interests she’ll discover once she starts school.
Little Molly Lou has always been proud of who she is...even if she is tiny, buck-toothed, and clumsy. Even her singing voice is like nothing anyone's heard before! When Molly Lou moves to a new school and has to face a bully's jeers, she remembers her grandmother's advice and turns every "disadvantage" to good use. Soon, everyone at school has learned that you should never underestimate Molly Lou Melon! Kids will love feisty, funny, and completely confident Molly Lou and will enjoy figuring out their own ways that they can "sing out clear and strong." Fans of Molly Lou can also check out the sequel, Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon.
A common challenge kids face at school is deciding what to do about a bully — whether they're the target or a bystander. Mary Jean is the Recess Queen at her school, bossing everyone around under threat of temper tantrums and worse. Then a new girl comes to school...a girl who doesn't know that Mary Jean is Recess Queen. After innocently doing all the things that are forbidden under Mary Jean's rule, Katie Sue halts the coming meltdown in its tracks with an invitation to play. This funny book is a great way to talk to kids about bullying tactics — and how a courageous kid can short-circuit them.
At first, Hayley is excited to return to school: kindergarten was fun, and she feels like an expert compared to the confused new kindergarteners. But first grade, with its increased structure, decreased playtime, and higher demands, is frustrating and upsetting for Hayley. Even storytime proves exasperating when Ms. Gray stops reading before the story ends! When Hayley's worries and anger bubble over, though, Ms. Gray is there to reassure her that first grade can be challenging but that exciting adventures — like reading chapter books all by herself — are on the horizon. This sympathetic story addresses a transition that's just as important, but less recognized, than starting kindergarten.
When Alice Paul Tapper noticed that girls in her class were less likely to participate than boys were, she wondered why. The boys made mistakes too, but for some reason, when a girl made a mistake, she stopped raising her hand, even if she thought she knew the answer. So Alice decided she had to do something to help girls build their confidence and leadership skills, and with the help of her parents and her Girl Scout troop, she came up with an idea: a patch and a pledge that girls across the country could earn if they promised to raise their hands! This spirited and enthusiastic picture book encourages girls to follow Alice's lead and make their voices heard.
Cowgirl Kate is finally off to school — but horses aren't allowed, which means that Cocoa has to stay at home. Cocoa is lonely, and follows Kate's bus to the school; he's also a bit jealous when he sees her making a new friend. And it's exasperating that she has to do homework when Cocoa just wants to ride! Fortunately, Kate is able to reassure Cocoa that he's always her partner...and when schoolwork is done, there's still plenty of time for them to adventure together! Fans of Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa will love this story, with short illustrated chapters that independent readers can even enjoy on their own!
Expectations get tougher when you move into first grade, which can cause conflicts between students and teachers. Zoe's wild hair, which can pet the cat and play on the computer, was acceptable for kindergarten — but her new first grade teacher, Ms. Trisk, declares, "No wild hair in my class!" Zoe's hair gets subdued — along with her spirits. However, when Zoe's sentient hair breaks free just in time to help with a lesson, Ms. Trisk has to admit that there's a place for Zoe's hair in her class after all. In addition to providing a look at the transition between kindergarten and grade one, this book provides a funny reminder that teachers learn from their students too.
Keena Ford is ready for a fresh start: she has a brand new journal to write in, and in the second grade, she's hoping to do her best to change her reputation as a bit of a troublemaker. And even though her best friend, Eric, won't be in her class this year, her new teacher Ms. Coleman seems awesome. But then Keena accidentally mixes up her dates, making Ms. Coleman think it's her birthday... and next thing she knows, Ms. Coleman has a big chocolate cake, a sparkly crown, and other fun things for the supposed special occasion. Keena knows she should tell the truth, but the cake looks so good... Told through Keena's journal, with black and white illustrations throughout, this realistic predicament will ring true to young readers and inspire them to find their own way through tough moments.
Judy Moody is NOT impressed with the idea of third grade. She misses her old desk's armadillo name sticker, her old classroom's pet porcupine... the idea of giving up summer freedom and all the fun of second grade has her in a very bad, mad-faced mood. Then her new teacher, Mr. Todd, sets the class an exciting project: Me Collages! As Judy collects pictures to represent all the things she wants people to know about her — from her aspirations as a doctor to her rather eclectic collections — she discovers that her individuality, attitude, and even her moods are all an important part of her. This funny first chapter book will get kids imagining what new discoveries their upcoming school year could bring.
Sometimes, school provides unexpected opportunities for adventure — like a mystery to solve! Smashie McPerter's class is not only facing the worst substitute in the world, Mr. Carper, but also dealing with the unexpected disappearance of the class hamster. As the students of Room 11 start peering suspiciously at one another, Smashie and her friend Dontel have to start puzzling out motivations, establishing alibis, and looking beyond immediate suspects if they want to solve this mystery! Fans of this book can check out the sequel, Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of the Missing Goop.
Third-grader Meena is an exuberant, creative, color-loving kid.... but recently, she's been feeling a little more blah. Her best friend since kindergarten, Sofía, has stopped playing with her, and she doesn't know why. Worse, she's noticing weird things happening: stretches of time she can't remember, jerky arms, and more. When Meena has a seizure, it means hospitalization, medical tests, and a diagnosis of epilepsy. As she grapples with managing her condition, Meena becomes even more determined to find a way to bring the color back into her life. That means figuring out what's going on with Sofía — and understanding her own part in what happened. This charming illustrated chapter book, perfect for fans of Ramona Quimby, explores friendship, personal secrets, and the ups and downs of life. Meena's adventures continue in Never Fear, Meena's Here.
When kids move into a new school, they have to find their place in a group that's already established. Watertower Elementary School isn't sure what to make of newly-arrived second grader Gooney Bird Greene: her wild outfits — never the same twice — make her stand out wherever she goes. But once she starts telling her "absolutely true" stories, her peers are fascinated. Most importantly, though, Gooney Bird's new perspective allows all of her classmates to see new potential in themselves.
Remembering all the rules of school — and following them — is another challenge for many Mighty Girls! Beverly Cleary's irrepressible Ramona Quimby is excited to learn all the important things school has to teach her, but how can she resist the many temptations in front of her — like writing the letter Q instead of turning it into a cat, or resisting the urge to pull on a classmate’s “boing-boing” curls. Cleary depicts Ramona’s struggles with compassion and optimism, and in the end, even exuberant Ramona finds her place. This book is great as a read-aloud for younger girls — and you can tell your Mighty Girl that someday soon, she can read it to you!
A class musical, a new girl in class (maybe a new friend?), changes at home...there's a lot going on in Izzy's life this year. No wonder she has butterflies! In a series of poems, Izzy wonders how many of these butterfly problems she can take, and contemplates how things are changing as she gets older and life inevitably gets more complicated. Thoughtful and gentle, this novel in verse explores all of the big and small moments that make up a school year — and celebrates the determination and resilience of kids who face their butterflies every day.
One of the great things about school is that it introduces kids to the many different people around them! The Mighty Girls in these books demonstrate how school can broaden their own — or others’ — view of the world.
Even something as simple as a name can be a point of pride — or contention. Chrysanthemum loves her unique, fancy name, but when she gets to school, her classmates make her question if it's "normal" to be named after a flower. And even that small difference is enough to get Chrysanthemum singled out on the playground, making her normally secure self-esteem wilt like a plucked blossom. Fortunately, it's not long before the class is introduced to their music teacher, Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle, and Chrysanthemum realizes that her long and unusual name is still something she can be proud of.
Yoon is a recent immigrant from Korea, and just wishes she could go back. Her name means Shining Wisdom, and written in Korean characters, it’s beautiful — but in English, YOON is just all sticks and circles. So at school, she tries other names like BIRD, CAT, and CUPCAKE. But Yoon realizes that, whether it’s written in English or Korean, Yoon is still Yoon — and that she can belong here just as she did in her previous home. For another book with a similar theme about appreciating your heritage in a new country or culture, check out The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (age 4 - 8).
Isabel is starting at a new school — and she does NOT want to go! She knows she'll have to learn English, which sounds like "stormy blues and blizzard whites" to her; she likes the "pinks and yellows and purples of español" better. As expected, her first day is rough; she misspeaks words, makes some blunders, and even misunderstands an offer of friendship from a classmate! But when coloring time begins, Isabel realizes she can talk to Sarah without saying a word... and that there is a place for her, in both English and Spanish, at her new school. Poetic text — including Spanish words sprinkled throughout and a full Spanish translation of every page — and vibrant illustrations celebrate bilingualism and how friendship can cross almost any border.
If your child is shy or struggles with a speech disorder, she may want a book that features a Mighty Girl like her — or, for kids who don't wrestle with these issues, that same book can help build empathy for the challenges other children face. Willow's voice is so quiet that she's bared heard at home; in a busy, loud classroom, Willow gets drowned out completely. Her father reassures her that there's a big voice inside her, and that she'll find a way to let it out...so at craft time, Willow makes herself a magic megaphone that gives her the volume she needs. But when she breaks the megaphone, will Willow still have her voice? This book reminds kids that everyone deserves the chance to make themselves heard.
Bea was born with a full head of hair — but by the time she turned 4, it was gone. She has alopecia areata, and most of the time, she doesn't mind being bald (although she's sometimes jealous of her best friend Shaleah's hair clips.) But when spirit week arrives at school, Bea realizes there's a big problem: the last day is Silly Hair Day, and how can you have Silly Hair Day with no hair? She and Shaleah try a couple of solutions, but the wigs are itchy and the home-made yarn hair looks like "a nest of gummy worms." Finally, Bea decides to decorate her head with temporary tattoos... and is delighted to discover that, from now on, it will be "Silly Hair OR Head Day"! This empowering picture book includes an author's note with facts about alopecia and other forms of childhood hair loss.
Culture clashes can appear in surprising places — even inside a lunch box! Salma and Lily are best friends until they get into a fight over whose lunch is better, Salma's hummus or Lily's peanut butter and jelly. Soon, their argument has polarized the school and resulted in a very messy food fight! Fortunately Lily and Salma realize that their friendship can overcome such minor differences and, before long, they're helping organize a multicultural lunch swap that celebrates everyone.
Zura's school is celebrating Grandparents Day, and her Ghanaian grandmother Nana Akua is "her favorite person in the whole universe" — but she's still hesitant to invite her. Nana Akua's family are Akan, and she has traditional tribal markings on her face. "What if someone at school laughs at you or acts mean?" Zura worries. Fortunately, Nana Akua reassures Zura, and when it's her turn to speak, her poise and gentle explanation help ease her classmates' uncertainty about the markings. Before long, she's painting Adinkra symbols on the faces of anyone who wants one! This charming story about cultural diversity and explaining differences celebrates the special connection grandparents can provide to ancestral culture.
Everyone in class is excited about the big Mother's Day party... except Stella. She has two daddies who make her feel more loved than anyone else could. She also has lots of other people who love her: a large extended family who support her and encourage her in everything she does. But she doesn't have a mom to bring to the party. In the end, though, thanks to that same supportive crowd — and a little inspiration from a classmate — Stella finds the perfect solution to celebrate her very special family. This book provides a good reminder that there are all sorts of families behind the kids you meet at school.
Heidi's first day at Bug School proves to be more difficult than she expected: the stick insect finds that her camouflage is so good that her classmates don't even notice her! Even her teacher, Miss Orb, seems to miss Heidi among the crowd. When one final indignity — being selected as a craft material by a fellow student — proves to be the final straw, Heidi speaks up and her class comes up with an innovative solution to ensure that Heidi doesn't get left out. Beautiful illustrations of an imaginative forest world's school provide an elegant backdrop for a story about feeling invisible and making others feel welcome.
School-aged kids start thinking more and more about whether or not they "fit" with their peers — but not everyone wants to be part of a crowd! Stephanie is determined to stand out by wearing her hair in a way that nobody else does. Every time she arrives at school with a new hairstyle — which is always proclaimed, “ugly, ugly, very ugly!” by her classmates — she returns the next day to find nothing but copycats. Her frustration grows as more and more people copy each new style she tries — until she thinks of the perfect way to show everyone the value of individuality and independent thought. The end of this book will have your Mighty Girl laughing, and it’s a great way to start conversations about peer pressure and personal style.
An important part of celebrating differences is making sure that everyone can participate in special events. Zulay is blind, but she can do everything her three best friends and classmates do, even though she feels a bit self-conscious about learning to use a cane in front of her peers. When their teacher starts talking about Field Day, Zulay decides she wants to run a race, but her classmates fall silent at the suggestion: how can she possibly do it? Fortunately, their teacher is confident that Zulay can find a way -- and with a little help, Zulay gets to cross the finish line to her friends' cheers! This joyful story is a great way to show how a little ingenuity can allow kids of all abilities to join activities.
A student in a new country might not be dealing with just a new school — they may also be wrestling with language and cultural differences. Farah is a Muslim girl, recently immigrated to America, whose dupatta and minimal English make her feel like she’ll never belong. But when her class takes a field trip to an apple orchard, Farah discovers that many things are familiar in her new country. And when Farah selects a green apple to go in the cider press, instead of red apples like all the other children choose, she teaches her classmates that there is great value in intermingling different things.
Geraldine the giraffe is a bit of a drama queen, who brings her expressive neck to bear as she tells the story of her move from Giraffe City to a new town where she'll be the only giraffe at school! Being called "That Giraffe Girl" by her new peers turns Geraldine into a quiet, deflated, and lonely creature. Then Geraldine meets Cassie, who can empathize with being different: "I’m that girl who wears glasses and likes MATH and always organizes her food," she tells Geraldine. Soon, the pair has formed a fast friendship... and Geraldine is feeling much more at home. Clever (and funny) illustrations of Geraldine's melodramatic behavior will get kids giggling, but the story about the challenges of being the "new kid" or feeling excluded will resonate with many young readers.
When other kids tell you that your interests aren't valid, it can be hard to know what to do. Grace loves acting out stories from books, so when the school decides to perform Peter Pan, she's determined to be Peter. Her classmates protest: Peter is a boy, and he's not black! Fortunately, with the support of her Ma and Nana — who take her to see a famous black ballerina and tell her she can be anything she wants if she puts her mind to it — Grace returns to school determined to fight for the role. It turns out that a black, female Peter Pan is just right!
Sometimes a little creativity can make a difference into something fun! Ginny can’t figure out why she sees two of everything until vision screening day at school, when the nurse diagnoses her with double vision. An eye patch solves the vision problem, making reading, running, and scissor-snipping much easier, but Ginny wonders at first how her classmates will react. Soon, though, she comes up with a creative new identity: the Pirate of Kindergarten! This story provides encouragement for kids who are worried about how peers will react to their own difference.
Lola's class is full of kids from all over the world, so when her teacher asks them to draw pictures of where they're from, most students are excited... but Lola feels left out. She's from The Island (which adult readers will recognize as the Dominican Republic) but her family left when she was a baby, and she doesn't remember it. So she sets out to learn more about The Island, asking family, friends, and neighbors. The picture she gets is complex — it includes beauties and joys, as well as heartbreak and fears — but the most important thing Lola learns is that a family's shared story is an important part of every member, even those who don't remember it for themselves.
Some children love showing off their family's culture, even if it's different from the rest of their peers. Suki's obachan brought a beautiful blue cotton kimono when she visited over the summer, and Suki is determined to wear it to her first day of first grade, despite her sisters' protests and her schoolmates' laughter on the playground. But when the kids in class get to talk about favorite moments from the summer, the kimono is the perfect thing to wear as Suki energetically demonstrates a traditional dance! This book celebrates multiculturalism and pride in heritage, as well as all girls who dance to the beat of their own drummer.
There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.... There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look or talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or because you are quiet when others' voices fill the room. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson lyrical text and two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López's dazzling art celebrates the courage it takes to go out into a world where you feel strange and alone, and the acceptance and friendship you can find if you do.
School may also be the first time children are exposed to people from different economic circumstances. In this book, Chloe and her friends refuse to play with the new girl, Maya, when they see her hand-me-down clothes and old toys. Every time Maya tries to join in, they reject her; soon, Maya doesn't even try, and eventually she stops coming to school altogether. However, a lesson from Chloe's teacher about the effects of small actions strikes home, and suddenly Chloe realizes what a kindness the simple act of playing with another child would have been. This stunning book is an excellent lesson in empathy, as well as a reminder to Mighty Girls that there are some actions you don't get the chance to take back.
Kids need to know that differences in ability don't change the value of a person. Tricia, who has dyslexia, is horrified to discover that the special education classroom at her new school is called "the Junkyard" — the kids, including a student with Tourette's Syndrome, a mute girl, and a boy with a visual impairment, are the misfits of the school. But their teacher, Mrs. Peterson, teaches them to adopt the name with pride, taking them to an actual junkyard and showing them the potential that lies within it — and them. And when one of their classmates dies, the Junkyard Wonders pay special tribute to him with something that most people would write off as trash. This heartfelt book will teach readers to seek the unique talents in every person.
Maria's name is long and important — Maria Isabel Salazar Lopez, from both her grandmothers, her grandfather, and her father. But when she arrives in her new class after moving from Puerto Rico, her teacher declares that there are too many Marias, so she’ll be called Mary. How can Maria explain to her teacher that her special name is a reminder of where she came from? Fortunately, when the class is assigned a paper titled “My Greatest Wish,” Maria finally finds the words to tell everyone how special her name is — and why she will always be Maria Isabel. Spanish-speaking Mighty Girl fans can read the Spanish-language version of the book, Me Llamo Maria Isabel.
One of the most important things we can communicate to our Mighty Girls, though, is how special it is to be going to school. Whether you’re celebrating the value of a great teacher, a dedicated librarian, or simply education itself, these books will help you encourage your daughter to treasure her opportunity to learn. For more books about girls who will do anything to learn, check out our blog Honoring Malala: Mighty Girl Books on Children's Fight for Education.
Teachers are amazing! They teach you new things, make you laugh, and help you meet new friends. They always encourage you to do your best. They make the classroom a great place to be! Beloved author/illustrator Todd Parr's new book is bursting with positivity about school and the people who make it special. It even includes a free pull-out poster that's perfect for making either your home or classroom a celebration of the special teachers in the world.
A great teacher is even more important when a child is struggling. Trisha is excited to go to school and learn to read — until she discovers that all the letters in her books are just a jumbled mess, no matter how hard she tries. Her classmates don’t understand and think she's stupid, and soon, she starts to agree with them. Fortunately, Mr. Falker, a new teacher at the school, is able to recognize what’s keeping Trisha from being able to read — and to identify her remarkable artistic talent. Based on author Patricia Polacco’s real experiences as a child with dyslexia, this book will teach kids that determination — plus support from a great teacher — can help anyone learn.
Trisha's story continues in this book that highlights how teachers can advocate for their students. Now that Trisha has discovered a passion for art, she's thrilled when she gets into Miss Chew's exclusive art class at the high school, where she learns to see art in a whole new way. But a substitute teacher chides Trisha for wasting her time on art when her schoolwork is so poor, and refuses to give her the extra time she needs to write her tests. Fortunately, Miss Chew is ready to help her student fight for what she needs to thrive — both the extra time and the art she loves.
A good teacher can help kids test their limits and move out of their comfort zones! Trisha is dismayed when she ends up in drama class because she hates speaking in front of people. Mr. Wayne gives her a backstage job painting scenery, and she cheerfully works away while the actors rehearse — all the while unintentionally memorizing the lines. But a few days before opening night, the girl playing the lead suddenly moves away. Can Mr. Wayne help Trisha overcome her stage fright so that the show can still go on? It's a beautiful story for capturing a teacher's power to help kids build confidence.
A demanding teacher can push you to achieve more than you had ever thought possible. In Patricia Polacco's most recent book, Trisha is excited but nervous about being selected for Miss Keller’s special writing class — “Killer Keller” is infamously picky and never gives out As. To her dismay, Trisha discovers that the rumors are true, and despairs of ever making Miss Keller happy with her work. But when Trisha struggles with an unexpected loss and pours her heart out onto the page — without worrying about her grade — she’s shocked when Miss Keller praises her, saying “You've given your words wings.” Polacco’s story teaches kids a valuable lesson about perseverance and the power of a teacher’s high standards to drive their students’ success.
Librarians also play a special part in children’s lives at school. Hildamar is experiencing her first chilly New York winter after moving from Puerto Rico in 1929. She wonders how she can celebrate her beloved Three Kings Day in this strange, cold new home. But when librarian Pura Belpre, the first Puerto Rican librarian hired by the New York Public Library system, comes to Hildamar’s classroom, Belpre tells her that not only is the library open to children and non-English speakers, but also that it can be a place for everyone to learn about the heritage of their friends and neighbors. Soon, the whole class is helping with the Three Kings Day celebration at the library.
For kids from struggling families, teachers and librarians can provide a world of opportunities they might not have otherwise. Emma loves books, but her migrant family doesn't have the money to buy any for her. She comes up with a plan: if she saves all the money she makes picking apples and puts it in Mama's hard times jar, surely there will be enough extra to buy at least one book. But when Mama tells Emma that she has to go to school instead of working, Emma thinks her plans are ruined. Fortunately, the school library is a revelation, and even when she breaks a rule, she learns that there are people out there who understand and appreciate her hunger for the written word.
Once kids realize the value of education, they will do almost anything to get it — but fortunately, most children today don’t have to teach themselves! Ida wants to be a teacher — which means finishing 8th grade and going on to high school. So when her one-room schoolhouse in her remote Colorado town is closed, Ida figures there’s only one solution: keep the school open, even if it means keeping it secret. And since a school needs a teacher, Ida has to step in. But when the county administrator finds out, he gives her an ultimatum: he’ll keep their secret — but only if every student passes a final exam. If your Mighty Girl enjoys playing school, she'll love reading about a girl learning just how hard it is to be a real-life teacher.
School is the beginning of an amazing, life-long journey of learning. Hopefully, with a few good books — and supportive friends and family — she’ll feel ready to take her first big steps into the wider world!
Additional Recommended Resources
- For more back-to-school resources, including books, clothing, backpacks, and gear, visit our Girl Empowerment Back to School Guide.
- For books for all ages dealing with school, visit special feature on the Top Mighty Girl School Stories.
- Honor the special people who will be teaching your Mighty Girl by checking out our books featuring great teachers and librarians, or read a biography of an inspiring teacher from the past.
- To encourage the quest for knowledge both inside and outside the classroom, visit our selection of books celebrating the value of curiosity.
- If you’re a parent looking to foster your children’s love of reading and learning, visit our parenting books about literacy and book clubs or sign up to receive information about forming your own Mighty Girl book club.