Back-to-School Stories

These stories from around the world are perfect for settling into another school year! From the back-to-school jitters to the stories of children who run many miles to attend school each day, kids will love to learn about what going to school means in a variety of places. Related booklists from Colorín Colorado and Reading Rockets include:

A Thousand White Butterflies

Girl near snowy window
Illustrated by: Gina Maldonado
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish

Isabella has recently arrived from Colombia with her mother and abuela. She misses Papa, who is still in South America. It's her first day of school, her make-new-friends day, but when classes are canceled because of too much snow, Isabella misses warm, green, Colombia more than ever. Then Isabella meets Katie and finds out that making friends in the cold is easier than she thought!

All Are Welcome

Diverse students walking with teacher
Illustrated by: Suzanne Kaufman
Age Level: 6-9

Discover a school where — no matter what — young children have a place, have a space, and are loved and appreciated. Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other's traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be.

Angels Ride Bikes and Other Fall Poems

Student riding bike
Illustrated by: Maya Christina Gonzalez
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

Celebrate city life, school, and family while sharing loss, earthquakes and even Ángeles del mar (sea angels) in vivid illustrations and short poems presented in both Spanish and English. Though some poems are distinctly southern Californian, all resonate with universally recognizable emotions.

Armando and the Blue Tarp School

Product description: A truck horn sounds through Armando's neighborhood near the city dump. Señor David is back, setting up school on a blue tarp spread on the ground. Armando longs to go to this school, but he knows he must help his father pick through trash in the dump for things his family can use, recycle, or sell. When Armando's parents finally decide to let him spend afternoons at Señor David's school, Armando is overjoyed. Classroom activities available.

Carmen Learns English

By: Judy Cox
Illustrated by: Angela Dominguez
Age Level: 3-6
Language: English

Starting school can be especially frightening if you don't yet speak English. But Carmen is determined to learn English well in order to teach her little sister. With a supportive teacher and growing confidence, Carmen gradually learns the new language. Expressive illustrations complement this recognizable story.

Elizabeti's School

Young girl in school
Illustrated by: Christy Hale
Age Level: 3-6
Language: Swahili

Product Description: Elizabeti was excited and fidgety on her first day of school as she admired her school uniform and shoes and walked to school with her older sister. Once there, though, Elizabeti becomes shy, wishing she had not come. Elizabeti is not sure at all she wants to return, but once she finds that she can use her knowledge at home, she decides to return. While warm watercolors depict a child's first day of school in Tanzania and the text is sprinkled with Swahili words, the emotions conveyed are universal.

First Day of School

Illustrated by: Alexandra Artigas
Age Level: 3-6
Language: Spanish

From saying goodbye to Mom to finding a new friend, a young Latino boy experiences a range of emotions on his very first day of school. Spanish version available.

I'm New Here

Pictures of three new immigrant students at school
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Maria, Jin, and Fatimah are new to their American elementary school. The words that they hear around them and see on the page are confusing. They each long for the language that they understand and the friends who understand them back home. They feel as though they don’t fit in—they are alone, confused, and sad in their new school. After observing those around them, each new student slowly gains the confidence to interact with their new surroundings. They realize that their peers and teachers are very supportive, welcoming, and excited to learn what these new classmates have to share.

I'm Your Bus

Illustration of a school bus
Illustrated by: Evan Polenghi
Age Level: 3-6

A bright yellow bus picks up and delivers its passengers to their school in this rollicking rhyming picture book. Anyone who has ever been on a school bus is sure to appreciate the humor in both text and illustration.

In English, of Course

On the first day of school, Josephine must tell her new classmates in the Bronx about her native Italy. Even though she understands English, she keeps thinking of the words in Italian! Based on the childhood experiences of the author, this book offers a tribute to the many immigrant children who have built a new life in this country — in English, of course.

Isabel and Her Colores Go to School

Isabel and Her Colores Go to School
Illustrated by: Courtney Dawson
Age Level: 3-6
Language: Spanish vocabulary featured

English, with its blustery blues and whites, just feels wrong to Isabel. She prefers the warm oranges and pinks of Spanish. As she prepares for class at a new school, she knows she's going to have to learn — and she would rather not! Her first day is uncomfortable, until she discovers there's more than one way to communicate with friends. This is a universal story about feeling new and making new friends.

Mina Belongs Here

Young girl in front of other girls who are playing
Illustrated by: Lars Baus
Age Level: 3-6, 6-9

At Mina's kindergarten she listens to stories, songs and chatter in an unfamiliar language. She tries out sounds that roar in her throat and tickle her tongue until the new words feel like her own. Then one day, Mina realises that this language now belongs to her, and she belongs to this new world. Mina Belongs Here is a heartfelt and uplifting story of a migrant experience and discovering a sense of belonging through shared words.

Moony Luna

Language: English, Spanish, Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

Five-year-old Luna is afraid she'll find monsters at her new school until a kind teacher and her new classmates show her that she has nothing to fear in this touching bilingual story.

My Name Is Maria Isabel

My Name Is Maria Isabel
Illustrated by: K. Dyble Thompson
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: For María Isabel Salazar López, the hardest thing about being the new girl in school is that the teacher doesn't call her by her real name. "We already have two Marías in this class," says her teacher. "Why don't we call you Mary instead?" But María Isabel has been named for her Papá's mother and for Chabela, her beloved Puerto Rican grandmother. Can she find a way to make her teacher see that if she loses her name, she's lost the most important part of herself?

Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan

Young Afghan girl with book
Age Level: 6-9

Young Nasreen has not spoken a word to anyone since her parents disappeared. In despair, her grandmother risks everything to enroll Nasreen in a secret school for girls. Will a devoted teacher, a new friend, and the worlds she discovers in books be enough to draw Nasreen out of her shell of sadness? Based on a true story from Afghanistan.

Nimoshom and His Bus

Man in front of a school bus
Illustrated by: Karen Hibbard
Age Level: 0-3, 3-6
Language: Cree

Nimoshom loved to drive the school bus. Every day, on the way to and from school, he had something to say to the children who rode his bus. Sometimes, he told the kids silly stories. Sometimes, he taught the kids a new word in Cree. Nimoshom and His Bus introduces readers to basic Cree words. A glossary is included in the back of the book.

René Has Two Last Names

Illustration of a boy standing in front of his classmates
Illustrated by: Fabiola Graullera Ramirez
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

"René, a new student from El Salvador, doesn't understand why his second last name is missing from his desk's name label. Adding it results in a name so long that his classmates make fun of it by comparing it to that of a dinosaur…When his teacher assigns the students the project of creating a family tree, René is determined to show his classmates and teacher why he has two last names and the importance of his dos apellidos." — School Library Journal

Running Shoes

Illustrated by: Jason Gaillard
Age Level: 6-9

Sophy longs with all of her heart to attend school, but it is too far away to walk without running shoes. When a kind stranger sends her a pair of shoes, Sophy doesn't waste any time running all 8 kilometers straight to the school. She is the only girl and the boys ridicule her, but once given the opportunity, Sophy is determined to realize her dream. Lovely paintings evoke Sophy's spirit and the beauty of the Cambodian countryside.

Running the Road to ABCs

Illustrated by: Reynold Ruffins
Age Level: 6-9

Product description: Six island children are running at daybreak over the hills, through the fields, across the city square — to school! Never before has the love of learning (and learning together) been such a joyous time. Denise Lauture's buoyant, poetic text captures the happiness and youth of energetic children on the way to school; Reynold Ruffins perfectly illustrates the rich beauty of Haiti with the bright-colored vibrance of Haitian folk art. A great read-aloud book for the classroom.

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation

court building people
Age Level: 9-12, Middle Grade
Language: English, Spanish vocabulary featured

When Sylvia Mendez, an American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, was forbidden from enrolling in her local school, her parents organized a lawsuit that eventually brought the end of school segregation in California seven years before Brown vs. Board of Education. Based on interviews with Sylvia Mendez, as well as court files and news reports, award-winning author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh brings the Mendez family's story to life in this compelling title that remains as relevant today as it was in 1947. A glossary and an author's note are included.

Serafina's Promise

Young girl dancing
Age Level: Middle Grade

11-year-old Serafina lives in the rural mountains of Haiti, helping her mother and grandmother with chores and hauling water up to the house each day. Secretly, however, Serafina wishes to go to school and become a doctor. Yet when the rains wash away their house and the 2010 earthquake strikes in Port-au-Prince, where her father works, the possibility of attending school seem even more tenuous — but Serafina isn't ready to give her dreams up yet. Ann Burg's lyrical, award-winning story is told in free verse with Haitian proverbs and French and Creole phrases woven throughout.

Sumi's First Day of School Ever

Illustrated by: Joung Un Kim
Age Level: 6-9

When Sumi arrives at her big new school, she thinks that it is a lonely, scary, and mean place. Throughout the day, however, little things begin to change her mind and give her hope. An excellent portrayal of what the first day of school is like for both new students and ELLs. Expressive illustrations convey Sumi's emotions throughout the course of her first day.

The Bus for Us

Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

Tess can't wait for the school bus to arrive! "Is this bus for us, Gus?" she continues to ask as a taxi, ice cream truck, and fire engine pass by. The repetition of questions and answers throughout the story will make this a great read-aloud for young students and English language learners. Colorful watercolor illustrations complement the text. Bilingual edition available.

Yasmin's Hammer

Yasmin's Hammer
Illustrated by: Doug Chayka
Age Level: 6-9

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, as two girls work hard all day to help support their family by chipping bricks into small pieces, older sister Yasmin seeks a way to attend school and learn to read so that she can have a better life one day. Includes author's note about conditions in Bangladesh, child labor, and how to help.

¡Vámonos! Lets Go!

Illustration of school bus with children
Illustrated by: Joe Cepeda
Age Level: 3-6
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

From their window on the bus, a girl and a boy see a fire truck that goes woo-ooo-ooo, also known as a camión de bomberos--uuuah uuuah uuuah. They see a train, an ambulance and an airplane too! With this rollicking adaptation of "The Wheels on the Bus," young people can sing out the names of their favorite vehicles and the sounds they make -- in both English and Spanish.