The following article comes from Primary English Consultant Kate Heap, who shares her favourite picture books to celebrate World Book Day.

World Book Day – Thursday 4th March 2021

As a very different World Book Day approaches, many teachers are chatting about activities that will work well for the children who are in school as well as those who are learning at home. There are so many fun and creative ideas being shared that will fan the flames of a love of reading and build up the reading for pleasure culture across the school.

It’s wonderful to see teachers planning brilliant “Masked Reader” videos, exciting virtual author visits and lots and lots of reading!

Many schools are looking at using the same picture book with every year group from Reception right through to Year Six. This is one of the many wonderful things about picture books – they speak to readers of all ages and everyone can take something different from their pages. Recently, I have been recommending the same fantastic books to many schools so I’d love to share them here as well.

The Invisible

by Tom Percival, Simon and Schuster Children’s Book

The Invisible is a beautiful and powerful story of identity and sense of self. Everyone is someone and everyone is important. This is a wonderful picture book for building empathy and helping young readers to understand issues of poverty and valuing each individual.

Isabel always notices the beautiful things in life. She is visible and vibrant. Despite life being hard, her family have everything they need – each other. When money gets too tight, her world changes and her family are forced to leave their home for a small flat in another part of town. She soon realises that life has turned cold, sad and lonely. No one seems to see her – she has become invisible.

Isabel makes an important choice – to make a difference to herself, to others, to her community and to the world. Through an honest and empathetic portrayal of a very real issue, young readers will see that everyone deserves to be seen and valued.

Bloom

by Anne Booth & illustrated by Robyn Wilson-Owen, Tiny Owl

Words have power – power to build up, power to tear down, power to encourage and power to defeat. Words can cause someone to wilt but also help someone to truly bloom. Such is the wonderfully significant message of this beautiful story.

Every day, a lovely little girl visited a magnificent flower on her way to school. She would speak to it gently and tell it just how special it was. She loved the flower and made sure she told it so each time she passed. One day, the owner of the flower, an unhappy man, heard her speaking to his flower and shouted at her to go away. Without the little girl’s kind words and daily encouragement, the flower began to wilt. No matter what the man did, he could not get it to bloom. Eventually, the self-centred, angry man came to realise that he was not giving the flower what it needed. He was not telling it how wonderful it was, how happy he was that it was there and just how much he loved it. Once he realised the importance of his words and attitude, he discovered the secret – the magic words to make the flower bloom again.

There are many lessons to learn from this gorgeous story. Lessons about how we speak to each other, the importance of appreciation and kindness, and how speaking positively to someone else makes us feel good inside too. The man needed to learn that he couldn’t do everything on his own. Asking for help is ok and working together makes everyone happier.

The bright, beautiful illustrations bring these key messages to life. Readers are drawn into the story of the wilted flower and long for it to bloom again. The contrast of the friendly children and the lonely man leaps off the page with expression and emotion as the story of kindness and community takes centre stage.

People need more than just their very basic needs fulfilled in order to grow. Food, water and shelter are very important but love, care and kindness are essential for everyone to truly bloom.

I Talk Like a River

by Jordan Scott & Sydney Smith, Walker Books

I Talk Like a River by Canadians Jordan Scott and Sydney Smith is a powerful picture book told through the thoughts of a young boy who stutters. He is surrounded by sounds. When he wakes up in the morning, the sounds of the words that are all around him become stuck in his mouth stopping any other words from coming through. These sounds grow roots, get tangled and stuck. Through clever personification, these sounds come to life and the boy battles against them in his desire to speak.

School is too much of a challenge and, in the end, it’s easier to stay quiet, to hide, to avoid having to talk, to go home. It’s a bad speech day. He is lost and lonely, isolated and embarrassed, trapped…

Thankfully, Dad understands and takes him somewhere quiet, somewhere where the sounds are calmed. The natural imagery of the river creates a beautiful picture of the boy’s speech. The twists and turns, the bubbling, whirling, churning, crashing of his words as they make their way out. He talks like a river.

With this realisation, the boy feels more centred and focused. He finds clarity and a sense of who he is. He feels valued and free. There will be bad speech days but he is able to make sense of himself and express who he is in a way both he and others can understand.

Sydney Smith’s incredible illustrations give power to the boy’s words and build on the emotion of the text. As a Canadian, I’m reminded of the strength and beauty of the river and the calming influence of nature.

This is such a valuable story for building empathy in readers – not just in children, but in everyone who picks up this beautiful book. It is a must-have for every classroom.

The Song for Everyone

by Lucy Morris, Bloomsbury Books

The Song for Everyone is a beautiful story celebrating the power of music and community. What would your song look like if we could see it? What colour would it be? What shape? What would it say? How would it touch others?

A delicate tune from a tiny window builds a bridge between people, wrapping around them like a blanket and telling people what they need to hear. Life, love and happiness travel on these notes communicating emotions and truth.

My daughter is always singing. The joy she finds in music is infectious and lifts everyone who hears it. In 2018, she was a finalist for Leeds Children’s Mayor with her manifesto about making music accessible for all children. She strongly believes that music has a significant impact on mental health and learning. During the first lockdown of 2020, she was a member of Gareth Malone’s Great British Home Chorus. Being able to sing every day with thousands of others lifted her spirits and gave her purpose. Music is comforting, healing and a true friend.

Author

Kate Heap

Kate Heap is an experienced Primary English Consultant from Leeds.  She is passionate about helping children to be inspired in their learning through adventure and imagination. Kate is also an author for teachers with her Developing Reading Comprehension Skills series (Years 5-6 Classic Children’s Literature & Years 5-6 Classic Poetry) published by Brilliant Publications.

Read more from Kate on her blog, and follow her on Twitter @KateHeap1.

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