Empowering Your Child: How to Cope with Back-to-School Jitters?
The Summer season is coming to an end, and this means Back-to-School season is here!
As a parent, you may be preparing your child for their return to the school building. You may have gone school shopping: buying notebooks, pencils, new sneakers, etc.
However, while you may be preparing your child for his or her physical return to the classroom, the question is are they mentally & emotionally ready?
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When I was a child returning to school was an exciting yet fearful idea. I often thought about:
● Will I make friends?
● Will my teacher be nice?
● Will the classwork be too challenging?
It has been many years since I attended elementary school. Yet, my childhood back-to-school concerns are still prevalent amongst children today. In addition to the fears listed above, elementary school-age children of today have so much more to be concerned about.
For instance, recently, your child may have experienced worldwide school shutdowns, attending school remotely during a pandemic, school shootings, and cyberbullying. Having these experiences can affect a child's outlook on school.
With so much calamity happening in the world. Leaving the safety of the home and going to an unfamiliar place every day can be a drastic change for a child. It is important that parents not only physically prepare their children for their return to the school building but mentally and emotionally make sure their children are ready to tackle their back-to-school jitters.
So how does a parent fully prepare their child for returning to school?
Picture books not only motivate reluctant and struggling readers to read. By reading picture books to your child, you can also promote positive emotions and self-awareness.
When a story is read aloud, children become more comfortable discussing their emotions with others. Promoting positive emotions within your child is important. Positive emotions facilitate learning and higher-order thinking. While negative emotions inhibit learning and higher thinking.
Exposing children to stories that explore emotions allows them to feel socially and emotionally supported. Here is a list of 12 books that are written by very talented writers. These books can help you address children's fears and concerns in a comforting age-appropriate way.
These books are organized into 3 categories:
1. Social Emotional Learning
2. Academic Struggles
3. School Violence
The selected books provide real-life situations to which children can relate. The major themes within these books are acceptance, choices, conflict resolution, differences, respect, relationships, and perspectives.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) allows children to understand their own emotions and the emotions of others. With this understanding, children can reason in their choices and relationships. These books can help your child develop empathy, talk about feelings, and identify with others.
Zero by Kathryn Otoshi
Zero invites young readers to learn about numbers and counting while also introducing them to the message of self-worth. Students can explore topics of accepting different types of people, and developing social skills, and character. Also, learning what it means to find value in oneself and others. Zero has a complex—she finds herself unattractive. Furthermore, with a hole in her center, she feels she doesn't count as much as her fellow numbers do. Twisting herself into the shape of 8 or 9 doesn't work; her attempt only leaves an empty feeling inside. Then one-day Zero discovers that by joining together with another number, 1, for example, she can become 10, or 100, or 1,000, increasing her value. Soon, in the end, all the numbers escalate their worth by joining with one another and Zero finally feels complete.
The illustration in this book is genius with stark white or dense black pages as a background. Zero is even more depicted in broad silver brush strokes. In contrast, the other numbers tumble across the pages in bright splashy colors, bringing out the message of the book even more.
Ruby the Copycat by Peggy Rathmann
Every child is searching for acceptance and approval; so, this charming humorous, sensitive tale would be great for helping children who struggle with self-identity. Ruby, a new student, joins a class and admires another student, Angela's style. Ruby admires Angela so much that she copies everything Angela does, right down to the red bow in her hair. When Angela becomes annoyed, Miss Han, the teacher, helps Ruby to realize her self-worth, urging her to "be Ruby first." The illustrations capture both girls' expressive personalities perfectly.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Children can relate to having an awful day, a day when it seems as if nothing is going right. Alexander wakes up with gum in his hair and from the beginning of the day until the end, it seems like everything goes wrong. From tripping over his skateboard to not finding a prize in his cereal box, then going to the dentist and finding out that he is the only one out of his two siblings who have a cavity. Alexander decides that he wants to move to Australia. He believes that life would be better there.
At the end of the day, Alexander finds out from his mother that everyone has terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days sometimes, even in Australia. The illustrator does a fantastic job of capturing the mood of the story. The black-and-white line drawings depict Alexander's emotions.
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
This book is one of the best conflict resolution-based books ever invented. To help his son get rid of a perceived "enemy," a wise father agrees to bake his famous enemy pie. The suspense around the mysterious pie builds. As the boy fulfills his end of the bargain by spending what becomes a very pleasant day with his "best enemy."
The illustrations are adorable. The illustrator gives every character a large bobblehead and small body frame. This clever tale is pretty lengthy, so it would be best to read it to 3-5th graders.
Reading can be difficult for some children. They may have dyslexia, a learning disability, or learn differently. Because it's comforting to know you're not alone, here is a list of recommended children's books for kids. These books feature characters with varying strengths and learning abilities.
Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
This story is a memoir about Patricia Polacco. Polacco describes the frustration, self-doubt, and shame she feels while growing up struggling to learn how to read. The story pays tribute to the understanding fifth-grade teacher who discovered Polacco's secret and helped her. The illustration enhances the story and emphasizes the emotional trauma experienced through bullying and struggling to read. Thank You, Mr. Falker is a great book for encouraging the child who feels like a failure. This book can be used to motivate older children who are reluctant to read.
The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard
This inspirational biography is about Mary Walker. Walker is the nation's oldest student, who is still committed to learning to read despite the hardships she faced in life. Born a slave in the mid-1800s, Mary was not allowed to learn to read. Even when emancipation came, she was unable to learn to read because all her time was used to making very little money. Walker's humbling and admirable story is one of tenacity and perseverance from start to finish.
Her story is told through beautiful, moving illustrations. These illustrations have deep colors, words, and picture cutouts. This story will encourage your child to know that with perseverance and dedication, you're never too old to learn.
Aaron Slater, Illustrator by Andrea Beaty
Aaron Slater enjoys having stories read to him and wishes to write his own. One day, his teacher assigns this task to the entire class, but Aaron is unable to write a single word. He has always had difficulty deciphering letters. These strange squiggles scurry across the page. He is dreading his turn to present to the class, but then inspiration strikes. Even though he can't write the words, he has another way of telling his story, and it changes his life. This simple but colorful and lively book contains many elements.
Aside from amusing, quirky illustrations and rhyming text, the font was designed to assist readers with dyslexia. At the end of the book, there is an explanation of dyslexia as well as a motivational message. This fantastic story of creativity, acceptance, and finding your own way to overcome insecurities and challenges will inspire all children. Especially those who, like Aaron, struggle with reading and spelling.
Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus
Leo the Late Bloomer is a children's book about Leo, a young tiger who can't seem to get anything right. He is unable to write, read, draw, eat, or even speak like the other animals. Leo's dad is concerned for him. But his mother is not worried at all because she knows he will eventually "bloom" like the rest of the animals. If you have a child who is a late bloomer in any way (talker, writer, drawer, etc.). Or a child who feels like he or she is falling behind his or her peers. Then this book is a gentle reminder that everything happens in its own good time.
The illustrations are witty, lovely, and playful. This is a book that celebrates the fact that many children are on their own developmental path, finding their way in a world where those around them worry about not being "normal."
Acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten a child. After a traumatic event at school, your child may feel threatened or concerned about the safety of their friends or loved ones. They will look to adults for advice and information on how to react. Parents can help children feel safe by instilling a sense of normalcy and security in their lives and talking with them about their concerns. These books can help get the conversation started:
The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill
This story offers a lighthearted look at a serious topic in school and on playgrounds everywhere—the bully. Mean Jean is the recess queen, and no one dares touch a ball, swing a bat, or slip down the slide until Jean says so. Until that is, the day Katie Sue shows up at school. The new girl, Katie Sue, freckled face, cheerful, pig tailed. Is unaware of the hierarchy in the playground. She enthusiastically kicks, swings, and bounces before the recess queen gets a chance. In a nice twist, when confronted by Mean Jean, instead of backing away. The newcomer invites her to jump rope and be her friend. Suddenly, Mean Jean transforms into a likable character at the end of the story. Now surrounded by friends on the playground rather than foes.
Both the text and the art are energetic with vibrant colors, as the text dips, swirls, and slants around the action of the art. The carnality of the words makes the wild nonsense rhyme great for reading aloud and joining in.
The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
When something bad happens, Taylor doesn't know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. How various animal pals attempt to assist brilliantly reflects their character. The bear yells, the ostrich hides its head in the rubble, and the snake hisses about getting even. But what Taylor needs is to explore a whole range of emotional responses to loss, without being asked to perform any specific feeling. A cuddly rabbit shows up and just listens...which is just what Taylor needs. The Rabbit Listened is a book about giving the people in your life the comfort and healing that they need. By giving them the time to listen thoughtfully, kindly, and softly.
The Ant Hill Disaster by Julia Cook
A little boy ant is afraid to return to school after the Ant Hill School is destroyed. His mother gently explains to him that sometimes in life things happen that we have no control over. But we must find a way to keep living and growing. The Ant Hill Disaster tackles the difficult task of discussing natural and man-made disasters with children. With violent events taking place in our world today parents and educators are at a loss for what to say and how to say it. Julia has addressed the issue of moving forward when events beyond our control occur.
As much as we would like to keep these tragic events from our children, they are a part of our reality and must be addressed. This book can reassure children that they can stand strong even in the face of uncontrollable events, if they are surrounded by love, empathetic understanding, preparation, and effective communication.
Come With Me by Holly M. McGee
When a young girl watches television and hears news reports about "anger, hatred, and people against people." She asks her parents what she can do to make the world a better place. "Come with me," is a simple phrase shared with the main character by her parents to help assure her to not give in to her fears. The story concludes with the idea that to improve the world, one need only to carry on and be kind.
The characters receive praise for recognizing that human connections are important. Yet, the young girl, who is eager to do something to change the world, is never made aware of any other possibilities. It would be helpful to explore other ideas on how to make the world better with your child both during and after reading the book.
Remember the suggested books are only a tool to help generate conversation. However, it is up to you to engage your child in the discussion.
General guided reading questions:
● What is the main character concerned about?
● How do you know that the main character is concerned?
● What do they do or say? Who helps the main character feel better?
● What does the main character do to try to feel better?
General discussion prompts:
● Have you ever felt ________ about something at school?
● How did it make your body feel? Your mind?
● Who can you talk with when you feel __________?
● Can you think of something you could do to feel better when you feel _________?
Involving your children in meaningful conversations is a great way to make them understand that sharing their joys, frustrations, or anxieties with you is very helpful. Most importantly, this would lay the foundations for a relationship that both of you would value greatly.
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