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Free School Fears Discussion Guide Countdown to Kindergarten by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Harry Bliss

countdown-to-kindergarten-book-coverThis post has a short book review and a free school fears discussion guide for discussing back to school. Countdown to Kindergarten is about a girl who worries excessively that she will be made fun of at kindergarten because she can’t tie her shoes. She counts down the days until kindergarten starts by worrying.  The first page of the book is startling because she is in bed with her hands in the air yelling, “I am in BIG trouble!”

She imagines school police who will confiscate her stuffed animal, a teacher who will refuse to tie her shoes, and even a group of teachers who say she can’t ask for help, ever! She devises several ways to get rid of her shoes, but her parents rescue the shoes. She imagines breaking her leg because of the laces being undone, and her crying parents feeling sorry they made her wear the awful shoelaces.  The illustrations and voice balloons help make this book interesting and not frightening. They are done by Harry Bliss who is a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine, so adults will enjoy this book as well as children.

This very clever and humorous book ends happily when quite a few of the kindergarteners confess they also are unable to tie shoes, the teacher says she will help, and a stuffed animal day is coming up.

Actually, children do worry about everything from tying shoes to whether or not they will be able to get lunch. They worry about missing their bus and losing lunch money. I taught first grade and know that first graders are also expert worriers.

Free School Fears Discussion Guide



My free printable has pictures of things children may have worried about before school starts that could be used on the first day of kindergarten or first grade. Students should be kind and not make fun of the worries as everyone has a few at least. The first conference in kindergarten and first grade is about the huge amount of learning that has taken place already in the school year. Knowing which bus to take, where the nurse’s office is, and what to do in the lunchroom are all part of that learning.

The discussion guide has serious questions.


Also just try to orally ask a few silly questions, such as asking if students are worried the teacher might not wear shoes to school. Humor helps break the tension.

Free School Fears Discussion Guide

Or what about if they worry they might have to sit by someone with bad breath?


Of course, discuss how we might politely tell someone of such a situation. Encourage kindness and those first days for a big pay off the rest of the school year.

Thank you for reading, Carolyn

You may also like the informational blog post about preparing children to be successful in reading when they get to kindergarten and first grade. No flashcards or worksheets required!