How 'The Kissing Hand' Led to One Mom's Heartwarming Back-to-School Tradition

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Children’s librarian and former educator Melissa Harrington knows her stuff when it comes to books — so when a parent asks her for recommendations on the perfect kids’ book for back-to-school, she has just the thing: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. It’s about an adorable raccoon named Chester who is wary of starting school, and the sweet way his mom, Mrs. Raccoon, soothes his fears with a kiss on his paw to remind him that she’s always there. The book has more than 6,000 perfect reviews on Amazon, and parents are raving, saying things like: “This book, above anything else we tried, helped my daughter adjust to going to school,” and “I read a ridiculous amount of books to my little one. This one I will remember forever.”

For Melissa, the recommendation isn’t just professional; it’s personal. “The Kissing Hand was a book I read in a Children’s Literature course in college, and I promised myself that when I had children, I would read this book the night before their first day of school,” she told SheKnows. Her daughter Joslyn was born in 2005, and Melissa kept that promise.

“The night before Joslyn started Kindergarten we read the book,” she said. “The next morning I drew a little heart on her hand, so she could feel those tingles straight to her heart and know that if she were to ‘feel lonely and need a little loving from home’” — which, adorably, is a quote from the book — “she could look down at the heart and remember that I love her.”

As all parents know, our kids aren’t the only ones who need some first-day reassurance, so Melissa also had Joslyn draw a heart on her hand and kiss it, too. It helped both of them so much that they decided to keep the tradition going — and at the end of this month, Joslyn will start her senior year of high school, bolstered by the presence of what might be the very last little heart drawn on her hand.

Courtesy of Melissa Harrington

This has got to be one of the sweetest back-to-school traditions we’ve ever heard of (we’re hoping for a continuation into college, TBH — or maybe making it permanent with a mother-daughter tattoo).

If you’re inspired to start your own Kissing Hand tradition, you’re in luck, because the classic book is on sale for under $10 right now at Amazon … and you can get it just in time for the first day of school.


The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn



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For the Harrington family, what started out as a way to safeguard against first-day jitters ended up being a cherished tradition that has lasted through every first day of school (and is now being continued with Joslyn’s younger brother Cameron). When a simple story has the power to turn into a treasured memory, it’s the kind of thing you want to pass on.

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