Back to School

     Paul R Hewlett here. It’s that time of year again. It’s time for parents and children to prepare for the upcoming school year. Soon, if you haven’t already, you will take your lists of needed school supplies and head off to WalMart, Target, or some store like them and cross items off of your lists as you fill your cart. Children will attempt to savor the remaining days of summer vacation, wondering where it went. While some will count down until they return to the familiar school year routines, others will enter their school building for the very first time. Maybe they are starting kindergarten, or high school, or maybe they have moved to a new town. These children look at the calendar and their pulse quickens. It’s time to go back to school.


     It is always a scary and sometimes terrifying event to start a new school. True, it has been a while (we won’t mention just how long) since I’ve had to do that, but some things never change. Unfamiliar surroundings, new kids to get to know, schedules to learn, new teachers; it can be a very difficult time for most kids. I’d like to suggest that as we fill our carts with pencils, paper, binders, and scissors, that we do not forget one important item: books. Not school books, books for entertainment.
    When I was going into the 5th grade, I was beginning my third school in five years in a very small farming community. I was very nervous to say the least. There were only twenty eight kids in my class, less than half of them boys. What if no one liked me? What if I had nothing in common with anyone? Luckily, I had a wonderful teacher. Mrs. Jacobson was a tough old school teacher who had been at it forever. Everyday she took time to read the class a book aloud. This was wonderful. Not only did it give me an escape during the day, an escape where I didn’t have to worry about making new friends (or math, which I am no good at), it provided some common ground with other kids. Sure, some kids weren’t the least bit interested in this, but those that were quickly became my friends. It appeared that I did have something in common with them after all. A few of them liked me enough to become my good friends all the way through high school. It may sound silly, but reading books was that important to me.

“Okay, so it wasn’t THAT small of a school, but it sure felt like it at the time.” Photo by Jasmaine Mathews

      I continued this tradition even as I got older. Not necessarily reading aloud in class, but reading in general. This always has been a comfort zone for me, helping me escape in difficult and trying times. My first year at college was very stressful, as it is for all freshmen away from home for the first time. I spent a lot of time rereading J.R.R. Tokien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It gave me comfort as well as a sense of familiarity. It was an escape from the stress of adjusting to college and meeting new people. It was also common ground with some kids on my floor that I became friends with.
     So, I urge parents and children alike, as the back to school hustle and bustle begins, don’t forget to throw a book or two in the cart, or download an ebook for your electronic reading device or smart phone. At worst, it will provide entertainment somewhere down the line. At best, it may provide a stable, settling influence and escape in the otherwise stressful and uncertain world of a child going back to school, as well as a lifelong love of reading.


Some of you may need recommendations for entertaining books to read during the coming school year. Others may already have a list of favorite books, either from your school years or later. If so, please share in your comments. One of us may write another post featuring those books. Thanks!

Share A Heart

Indie author-friendly freelance editor, children's book blogger for picture books through YA, kid lit, SF/fantasy lover with special fondness for middle grade, pun-loving SCBWI member, meter-maid for poetry and rhyming picture books.


  1. Many thoughts came to mind while reading your post-
    1) How much I loved reading when I was a kid (especially during the summer). I remember the thrill of going to the book stores and being allowed to buy 3 or 4 books at at time to read. I still have some of those paperbacks in my classroom today.

    2) No matter what grade I teach, I always read aloud to the students. It’s amazing how otherwise “disinterested students” can come alive when a story touches them in some way.

    3)A former student of mine, who is now a colleague of mine reminds me all of the time what an impact I had on her when I would read books to the class. She reads some of the same stories to her students now.

    4)A new school year may not only be uncomfortable to the students but for the teachers as well. I remind my students each year that I have some anxiety too…I think it helps them to realize we are all in the boat together.

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Thanks for the great comments. I must apologize, I did indeed overlook the teachers. I’m sure that a new school year with new students is difficult. You’re right, teachers & students are all in the boat together. Sounds like you are great at what you do! Thank you for doing such a difficult job. And thanks for helping spread the love of reading. By the way, what are some of the books in your classroom from point 1 and what are some of the books in your former students classroom, if I may ask? Thanks again. Have a great school year.

    Paul R. Hewlett

  3. There’s a Boy in the Girls Bathroom by Louis Sachar and
    The Sideways Stories of Wayside School are two of my former student’s favorites.

    I use two books that I believe Scholastic put out some years ago with Shocking and Twisted endings. They are short stories and certainly hold the kids interest…one of my favorites from here is The Tell-Tale Heart. I always try to read that story around Valentine’s Day. I set it up nicely telling them it’s a story about love…most girls smile, and most of the boys cringe. Then when I follow up that the person was loved to death…the boys start to smile and the girls cringe. By the end, most students think it was a good story and believe the main character was crazy!

  4. Fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing. I am not familiar with those books, but I want to make sure that I read them now. Thanks again. Have a great night.

    Paul R. Hewlett

  5. I was often nervous about a new school year, too, even though I knew most of my classmates and had few good friends. I strayed from reading back then but I remember loving the boarding-school series from Enid Blyton(perhaps too girlish for boy readers) and they made me excited about school again! You’re absolutely right: parents might want to throw in a book or two to calm their children’s nerves during this time.

  6. Thanks for the comment Claudine. I wasn’t familiar with Enid Blyton, but I just read up about them. They sound wonderful, certainly something a child would enjoy. Who was your favorite character? I’m glad that you had these books to read. Have a great day!

    Paul R. Hewlett

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