By Margaret Chatfield
One of my absolute favorite back-to -school children’s picture books is titled “First Day Jitters” by Julie Danneberg, published by Charlesbridge in 2000.
The story begins the morning of the first day of school. Sarah Jane Hartwell is the main character. She is afraid to start at her new school. Sarah does not want to get out of bed, she pulls the covers over her head and says, “I’m not going. I hate my new school.” Mr. Hartwell gently offers Sarah all kinds of support and patience. “Think of all the new friends you will meet.” Sarah groans and insists she won’t know anybody, it will be hard and she just will hate it. After many more moments of stalling and complaining, Mr. Hartwell puts his foot down and says, “Sarah Jane Hartwell, I’m not playing this silly game one second longer. I’ll see you down stairs in five minutes.” Sarah grudgingly tumbles out of bed, stumbles into the bathroom, fumbles into her clothes and drags her feet down the stairs to the breakfast table. At the table she complains about a headache. Sarah eats toast and is presented with a brand new lunch box. On the drive to school, Sarah says, “I can’t breathe.” Arriving at school, she says “I feel sick.” “Nonsense,” says Mr. Hartwell. “Look, there’s your new principal, Mrs. Burton.” The principal greets Sarah and eagerly shows Sarah where to go. Sympathizing, the principal says to Sarah, “Don’t worry, everyone is nervous the first day.” As they arrive to the classroom most of the children are already in their seats. The principal clears her throat and says, “Class, class, attention, please.” After a few moments the class quiets down and the principal says, “I would like you to meet your new teacher, Mrs. Sarah Jane Hartwell.”
What a surprise ending! Who would have thought a new teacher could be so anxious about the first day of school. I always enjoy the role reversal of this story. Your child will get a happy surprise from the ending too. We can all appreciate the fact that everyone, including the teachers, is nervous and anxious about going back or starting at a new school. Just knowing that even teachers can feel worried can be a great comfort for your child. It is normal. And the more you talk about their feelings of apprehension, the easier the new school transition will be.
There are many things you can do to help your child overcome their own first day jitters. Start by establishing a sleep routine before the first day. Take your child school supply shopping. Allow them to pick out some special item they will look forward to using. Have a permanent study/homework area for your child to complete school assignments. If possible, tour the school before the first day so your child will have some familiarity with their new school. Talk with your child about expectations regarding the upcoming school year. Add some surprise notes, favorite treats or pictures to their lunch box. And, always, always continue to read to your child. I have listed a few of some other great back-to- school picture books.
“Monsters Love School” by Mike Austin
“Splat the Cat Back to School, Splat!” by Laura Bergen
“Click, Clack, Quack to School” by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin
“Lena’s Shoes are Nervous, a First-Day-of School Dilemma” by Keith Calabrese and Juana Medina
“We Don’t Eat Our Classmates” by Ryan T. Higgins
“Kindergarten Countdown! 10 More Sleeps Until School Starts” by Marjorie Blain Parker
“First Day Hooray!” by Nancy Poydar
“On the First Day of Kindergarten” by Tish Rabe
“School’s First Day of School” by Adam Rex
“First Day of School” by Anne Rockwell
“The New Bear at School” by Carrie Weston
“This School Year Will Be the Best!” by Kay Winters.
There are plenty more back-to-school picture books to enjoy with your child at the Middlefield library, 16167 East High St. (44062). Stop in anytime or call 440-632-1961. The library is open Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.