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Posted by Elke, August 17, 2021

How to help children prepare for their first day of preschool

Starting school is a big milestone. Knowing what to expect can help ease that transition. Caryl Hart’s new book, When a Dragon Goes to School, follows a dragon as it explores the routines and manners that children, will experience in preschool.

Read on to discover why the author decided create a story to help toddlers get ready to start school for the first time, why good manners matter in school and the challenges around creating the book. You may pick up some handy tips to make sure your little ones are all set for this next big phase in their lives. When a Dragon Goes to School is available to buy now.

Question: What inspired you to write When a Dragon Goes to School?

Caryl Hart: The first book in the series, When a Dragon Comes to Stay, was so popular that my publisher, Nosy Crow, asked if I’d like to write a second book where the little dragon starts school. Of course I said yes straight away!

I remember only too well how difficult it was to settle my own children into school when they were small – we had lots of tears and leg-clinging, which was hugely upsetting at the time. Little did I know that, while I felt terrible for the rest of the day, my girls skipped off to have fun as soon as I was out of sight!

Starting school is such a huge milestone for young children and creating fun, reassuring books is a great way to help prepare them. Our story includes common routines like hanging your coat and bag on a peg, entering the classroom, sitting in your special place, listening to the teacher and being kind to your new friends – all things that most children will experience during their first days at school.

Children who are already familiar with the school environment can sometimes struggle to talk about their experiences and might not know how to tell their grownups when things don’t go quite right. Reading books like When a Dragon Goes to School can help open up this dialogue and give children the tools they need to process difficult, exciting, or new experiences, ultimately helping them feel happy and safe.

Question: Why are manners in school so important?

CH: Young children are often used to being the sole focus of attention at home, so learning to get along with others can be quite a challenge. Understanding school routines and learning to consider other people’s feelings help the school day run smoothly, which ultimately makes the experience a pleasant and rewarding one for everyone!

Most children do actually want to behave in a way that will please the adults in their lives, and modeling appropriate behavior in picture books can help them work out what is expected of them. Demonstrating funny scenarios of what would never do is a funny and endearing way to discuss the behaviors they are aiming for.

Question: Can you recall a teacher that you had in school who helped you learn good etiquette?

CH: I can’t remember anyone at school specifically teaching me about manners – my parents were pretty good at that!  I think learning good manners is just part and parcel of the fabric of school life.

We raise our hands when we want to speak, we share our toys and equipment, we cooperate in our role play, we look at the teacher when they are talking…I’ve met many, many very patient  teachers who reinforce this good behavior constantly throughout the day. And many, many fabulous children who know what is expected and delight in helping to create a positive atmosphere in their classrooms.

My favorite teacher at primary school was a lady called Mrs. Jack. She could play the guitar, and sing, and was great fun. We used to think she lived at school and I remember being very surprised when I saw her in the street once!

Question: Why did you choose a question-and-answer format for your Dragon books?

CH: This concept actually came from Nosy Crow – they came up with the idea of putting a Little Dragon into a home setting in the first book, When a Dragon Comes to Stay,  to see what she would do. The refrain, “Why no! Dragon’s don’t do that!” was also their concept. All I had to do was create a story to fit!

I actually think this format works brilliantly as it gives young children a chance to think about how they might behave in certain situations. Or perhaps how their friends or siblings might behave. Children love to take the moral high ground and the When a Dragon books give little ones a perfect opportunity to identify the right way to go about things. It also gives us, as creators, an opportunity to inject a great deal of humor into the story and to show that, just like the little dragon, we are all still learning!

MP: What was the most fun part of creating When a Dragon Goes to School? What was the most challenging part?

CH: I hesitate to use the term “naughty” because I think it’s rather judgmental and negative, but the best bit about writing the book was thinking up some cheeky things that our little dragon might do when she started school. I wanted to choose things that young children would find funny and endearing without making our little character seem mean or unkind. I hope we succeeded!

This article first appeared on the Magination Press Family blog. Click here to view the original post. 

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