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Transition Books for Year 6 Children

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Or, Movin’ On Up

As I write, I can see the most beautiful blue sky—spring-blue, not winter-blue. There is finally some warmth in the air, and the ground is drying. We’re all feeling blessed that summer is teasingly around the corner. However, not everyone will feel relief as the weather and our moods transition to something more positive.

This side of year 6 is the time when things start to feel ‘real’. When growing up once seemed like it would never happen, you now realise it is inevitable. Apart from your own home, primary school will be, for most, the place they’ve spent the most time and with people they’ve also known the longest. Then it ends. Changes.

There will be those who take this in their stride. Some will appear to, but hide lots of fear and worry. Some will find it easy to talk about their worries, but plenty of others won’t. Transition texts for year 6 are books which help with this change. Where new schools can be daunting, new friendship groups can be confusing, and emotions can come crashing into your life like a world-ending asteroid.

The texts I will be writing about include characters, situations, and emotions that children will experience, either firsthand or through someone close to them. What’s important is preparing children so these changes won’t seem so overwhelming. If an asteroid does head towards them, they can boot it back into space.

Best Books fro children: Secondary Transition 1

Poetry can address something in a way other mediums cannot. Without sounding like a broken record, it’s something I’ve repeated quite a few times in these blogs. Everything All At Once by Steven Camden won the CLiPPA poetry award in 2019 and expresses what secondary school can be like.

It’s a collection of familiar experiences for anyone who has been through these five tumultuous years. Some memories came back to me as I was reading. Not all pleasant. That’s not to say each poem is a warning of how harrowing school is. Not at all. But they are real. The poem ‘New Guy’ offers a wonderful twist, which puts into perspective everyone’s experiences of a new school. ‘Snow’ shows us the beauty and simple pleasures something so mundane can give.

Poems show the point of view of various year groups. The final poem is the perfect end of positivity and contemplation. A child in year 6 might very well be looking into the future while reading this. And although it doesn’t reveal lottery numbers, it does show that things will be fine in the end.

Something that goes really well with positivity is humour. For some readers, it’s an important part of a story. Heck, it’s an important part of living, so I would say these readers have got their heads screwed on even when they are laughing them off.

Sleepover Takeover by Simon James Green is a riot. And if you’ve ever seen the film The Hangover, you’ll know the premise. OK, so it’s not set in Vegas, and there isn’t any alcohol involved, but after a party and sleepover, no one has any memory of how the house got trashed. Or why Otis is woken by a donkey licking his face and wearing a wedding dress. Oh, and Rocco has a tattoo on his forehead.

This story, though, isn’t about preparing children for teenage parties. The two main characters are both misfits and only have each other. But Otis finds out that Jagger won’t be going to the same secondary school as him next year, which hits him like a brick. But disaster and necessity can bring others together and form friendships you hadn’t expected. It always helps to start somewhere new when there’s at least some certainty about something. It makes things much easier. 

Jenny Pearson’s The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates does something similar with lots of laughs. “Journeys never take you where you think they will.” Whether that’s to Wales to find your dad or the next stage of your life.

Everyone needs a boost now and again. Going from big to small fish over the summer can somewhat shrink your confidence. You Are Awesome by Matthew Syed is a nonfiction book about building confidence and belief in yourself. It’s not particularly aimed at this transition phase, but it is the perfect time to read it.

It doesn’t shy away from telling the truth. Fear of failure is something to overcome, so BE BRAVE! “You don’t get good at stuff if you are so worried about looking foolish”. You have to put in the hard work. Syed also highlights that you should not get lazy when you are good at something. If people have always told you you’re a maths genius, you can easily start thinking you don’t need to do any more hard work. Don’t get complacent and “overtaken by others who didn’t opt for the sofa after their first taste of success.”

Famous failures, making plans, having goals and a growth mindset (check out a previous blog on this) and feeling under pressure. We can all benefit from the lessons here. But we have to want it, have to believe it. Of ourselves and those children we very well might not see again.

I couldn’t write this without a graphic novel or two. I’m a huge fan of these two books by the same author and think they fit perfectly for this article. Frankie’s World and the sequel Finding My Voice by Aoife Dooley are about the titular Frankie, who not only has to cope with her autism but also meets her biological dad and moves up to secondary school. The sequel wonderfully gives us her first year at her new school, where the challenge is making new friends. It’s impossible not to empathise and root for Frankie and then celebrate her success. 

I don’t doubt she will have many ups and downs during her time in secondary school. But from reading these books, I do know she will be OK. Look at me thinking she’s a real person! I think this is a good thing. The character might not be real, but the experiences completely are. It’s what makes these books work. Written by people who know what it’s like and can remember the confusion and pain. The embarrassment, relief and success.

Another author who knows what it’s like is teacher Matt Goodfellow. His book, Final Year, got a lot of attention when it was released. I know a year 6 class who recently had this as a class read-aloud. And as I feel integrity is important, I must admit it isn’t one I have read yet. However, the reactions from this class and a book chat I had with some of them meant I couldn’t leave it out.

They thought it was the best book they had read to them this year. I got the impression that they felt collectively ‘seen’. Your year 6 class might be the one you remember the most, and it felt like this book cemented that bond. Even though the story mainly focuses on one character, the children I spoke to saw themselves in him. Which is what makes it work. What makes so many books such amazing tools for navigating whatever journey you may be on.

For more recommendations, take a look at our Transition to Secondary School collection on Best Books for Schools.

Best Books for Children in Year 6. Moving to Secondary School

Listen to Simon James Green talking about his novel, Sleepover Takeover with Nikki Gamble