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:

Angels Ride Bikes and Other Fall Poems

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 Domínguez
Age Level: 3-6

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

Illustrated by: Christy Hale
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: In this contempory Tanzanian story, it's the first day of school and Elizabeti can hardly wait. She puts on her new uniform and feels her shiny shoes. Shortly after arriving at school, however, Elizabeti begins to miss her family. What if Mama needs help cleaning the rice? What if her baby sister wants to play? What if her little brother wants to go for a walk? But soon Elizabeti is making friends and learning her lessons. Best of all, she shares her experiences with her family that evening — and can apply what she has learned right away.

Elizabeti's School

Illustrated by: Christy Hale
Age Level: 3-6

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.

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.

I’m New Here

Age Level: 6-9

It can be scary being new in school. 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, however, each new student slowly gains the confidence to interact with their new surroundings.

Moony Luna

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.

Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan

Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: 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, this inspiring book will touch readers deeply as it affirms both the life-changing power of education and the healing power of love.

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

Age Level: 9-12

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

Age Level: 9-12

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

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.