The Kissing Hand by: Audrey Penn

The Kissing Hand is a popular back-to-school read aloud used by teachers every September. It is an endearing story that tells of a young raccoon named Chester Raccoon who is reluctant to leave his mother, because he is anxious about starting school for the first time. To ease his anxiety, Mrs. Raccoon tells him about a special secret that will help him should he begin to he miss her during the school day. The special secret is called the kissing hand.

The Kissing Hand demonstrates the strength each parent must show when their child achieves a milestone toward independence; the bitter sweetness of pride at their accomplishment and loss as you realize your child is growing up a little more each day. It also shows that while children grow and need us less and less, their love, like ours remains constant.

This is a wonderful story to share with your child and offers a great opportunity to start a discussion about any fears they may have about going to school. If you’d like to do a fun follow-up activity with your child, Pinterest has plethora of story-related ideas.

Other books by Audrey Penn:

$chool $upplie$  

Every September, supply list in hand, wallets open, parents and their children flock to the stores to purchase the items required by the new teacher. This is an expensive time of year, the items on those supply lists add up. I once overheard a child ask their parent, “Why does the teacher make us buy all of this stuff?” That’s a very good question, and lucky for anyone asking the same thing, I have a very good answer.

While families are dolling out money on notebooks, paper towels and hand sanitizer, teachers are doing the same thing. As a former public school teacher, I can tell you with confidence that teachers are out there right now buying pencils, markers, crayons, construction paper, and whatever else is needed to ensure your child succeeds in their lessons. This may come as a surprise to some, but not all public schools have the necessary supplies to make it through a successful school day. Tissues and toilet paper were a hot commodity at one school where I taught. I know it sounds absurd, but it is a sad truth.

My first year teaching Kindergarten, I was assigned to a classroom that furnished me with tables, chairs, lined paper, a disintegrating carpet, and leveled books for guided reading. I had to buy everything else: scissors, markers, crayons, pencils, containers for storage, the list goes on and on. I spent over $1000.00 dollars that school year on basic supplies and other educational items I needed to properly instruct my students.

All in all, school supplies are costly for everyone involved and ‘everyone’ is the key word in this situation. As parents and educators, we are all responsible for the education of our children; whether we like it or not, part of that education requires everyone chipping in for school supplies, toiletries, office supplies, snacks, field trips, fund raisers… Did I mention school supplies?

The Second Day of School

So, your child’s first day of Pre-k or Kindergarten came and went. Everything was perfect, you took your first day of school pictures, kissed your little one good-bye, and watched as they bravely walked into school with a big smile. At dismissal, the teacher told you your child had a wonderful first day and you felt relieved that you didn’t have to deal with the back to school blues.

But then…

Yes, I know, the second day of school arrived and with it came the water works and pleas to stay home. You feel confused and worried? You thought that your child liked school. They were so excited to go and when they came home they talked for hours about how exciting everything was. What happened in 24 hours to change their minds?

There is so much excitement on the first day of school that some children don’t have time to process everything right away. I think for these children the first day of school is like a field trip or a special visit to a new place. After a few days, they begin to realize that this “school thing” is real and that they have to go everyday, and guess what? They don’t want to go.

What are you going to do now?

Fortunately, I have a few suggestions to help with this dilemma.

*Understand that your child has been thrust into a brand new place, with new faces and new rules. We feel the same way when we start at a new job.

*If your child is having a hard time adjusting to a full school day, discuss a temporary 1/2 day option with the teacher and the school office. The school may not approve of this strategy, but it’s worthy of a conversation.  An alternative strategy may come up during this discussion.
*Give your child a family photograph to keep with them during the school day.
*Many children who arrive to school in tears are often fine once they get settled in their classroom.
*Develop a routine and stick to it. When children know what to expect they feel safe. When they feel safe, they learn. When they learn, they thrive.

I hope this helps ease the transition for those children and parents who need extra time getting used to a new school year. If you have additional strategies that you think would be helpful please comment.

A really good book to read with your child about the anxiety of going to school:

Back to School Blues  

The sales, the supplies, the first day of school–the tears?

For many children, parents, and teachers back to school is a time for tears. It can be very stressful for everyone involved.

Take a deep breath, all of you will get through this. Trust me, I taught for 20 years and my students, their parents, and I survived. It wasn’t always easy, but we made it work.
It’s all about communicating with each other and working together to ensure each parent, child, and teacher is successful.

A few things parents can do to help ease the transition:

  • To prepare your little one for their first day of school spend time preparing them for what’s to come. Talk about how the daily schedule will change when school starts.
  • Visit the school. Even if it’s closed, take a walk through the school yard and try to guess where your child will line up on their very first day.
  • Start a bedtime routine a week or so before school starts. Read a book together and try to have your child in bed by 8:30. A good night sleep goes a long way in keeping stress levels low.
  • Give your child a family photo to keep in their book bag or hang in their cubby. Sometimes being able to look at a picture of their loved ones throughout the school day provides comfort to children who are homesick.
  • Make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast each morning. Hungry students don’t learn as well.
  • Dress your child in comfortable shoes that are made for school work and recess. (No open-toed shoes or sandals. Sneakers or the school recommended shoe are best.) For safety reasons, I had to exclude children from playing in the school yard when  they wore the wrong shoes. Talk about tears!
  • Let the teacher know about any difficulty that is occurring in your family. When a teacher knows about a hardship affecting a student, he can better understand the child and prepare a plan-of-action to use if the need arises.
  • When school is over ask your child specific questions about how their day was. Ask them what they ate for lunch, what books the teacher read, if they made new friends and what their names are, what was their favorite/least favorite part of the day and why.

Books about back to school:

Even More Bedtime Stories With Mo Willems

Hello Readers!

I was at the library the other day and I found the third installment of Knuffle Bunny. It’s called Knuffle Bunny Free and it’s just as witty and heartwarming as the first two. I may be a grown-up, but I was super excited to discover there was another bunny book. I’ve been reading the other two installments to my students for years and I get a real kick out of them.

In this installment, Trixie goes on a family trip to visit her grandparents in Holland. She, her parents, and Knuffle Bunny board an airplane and settle in for a long flight. Once they’ve landed there’s great excitement when everyone is reunited. After the hoopla dies down, Trixie realizes something. I’m sure by now you know what it is that she realizes, but you’re going to have to read the book to find out if you’re correct.

After you’ve read all three books, you and your child could do a character study of Trixie. Discuss how she changed over the course of the trilogy: the things that she learned, how she dealt with the loss of Knuffle Bunny, the difference in her physical appearance. If you go on Pinterest, I’m sure you’ll find a ton of fun ideas for each and every Knuffle Bunny book.I hope these book reviews have given you a starting point into exploring the wonderful world of literature with your child. Please share any comments or ideas you have to expand on this topic.

Other books by Mo Willems: