Last week I looked at how you can support children to bounce back as individuals. This week let us look beyond ourselves to our friends, family and the wider community. I have included books – some of which I hope you will have in school already and some I hope will be new to you.

I have been equally awed and humbled by the many acts of kindness I have read about during the lockdown period. Now is the perfect time to harness community spirit and encourage children to be altruistic and caring to others.

Friendship and Kindness

Friendships may well have changed after a long period away from each other. It would do no harm to revisit friendship as a PSHE topic and remind children to be kind to one another.

Children’s experiences of ‘lockdown’ will vary enormously from region to region, towns to villages and from household to household. This is an opportunity to develop empathy skills; to consider those less fortunate and to celebrate what we have.

Community and ‘real-life’ heroes

‘People who help’ us has taken on a whole new meaning in recent months. With the spotlight quite rightly on doctors, nurses and others in the medical profession. Focussing on what is ‘essential’ has also given us a new respect for those in ‘essential’ roles such as supermarket staff, farm shops and fruit pickers, village stores, postmen and delivery workers.

You may want to use this opportunity to link with Significant People in History who have achieved amazing things for their communities. In addition to our curriculum collection, our Hall of Fame land in The Reading Journey includes inspirational heroes including children who have been a force for change in their local and wider community. This would also be a wonderful opportunity to share stories of children who have used this time to support fundraising initiatives for the NHS or charitable causes.

It is also timely to look at sustainability: where the food on our table comes from and the processes it goes through to get there. Jo Readman’s George titles serve this purpose brilliantly for younger readers.

Despite the easing of restrictions, it is likely that many children won’t be going away this summer. Many children sadly are not afforded the opportunity to travel within the country they live in let alone to other continents. As we know there is much cultural capital to be gained through story and also through non-fiction titles. Not being able to go on holiday shouldn’t restrict children’s experience of other countries though so dig out your countries books and let children go on a virtual holiday or day trip through story and nonfiction.

Salvatore Rubbino’s beautiful picture books could see them taking a walk through London, Paris or New York. Steve Anthony’s The Queens Hat is perfect for a day trip to London for EYFS or KS1.

The City Trail series from Lonely Planet Kids include titles for London, Paris, New York, Washington, Tokyo, Singapore and Sydney. These books include a blend of high-quality photographs of landmarks combined with cartoon-style characters and fact boxes for maximum appeal.

There are many interesting atlases including the new travel edition of Atlas of Adventures and the detailed collection of counties of the UK from Rachel Dixon in Maps of the United Kingdom. You can read Jo Cummins review of this title and listen to Rachel talking to Nikki Gamble on our podcast series In the Reading Corner. Atinuke’s brilliant Africa, Amazing Africa is a comprehensive exploration of this fascinating continent in all its cultural variety. 

Restricted travel is no barrier to exploring the world. An explorers display is easy to put together with a pair of binoculars, a map and compass. The Reading Journey: Explorers Camp and International Port collections offer a range of stories from all around the world.

Cherishing our World

The period of lockdown gave many of us the opportunity to stop our busy lives and really see the world around us. Naturalists are celebrating this ‘anthropause’ and it really is the perfect time to celebrate nature and to reflect on our impact upon it.

Recycling, reusing, not wasting food and gifting to neighbours has become prevalent in some communities during ‘lockdown’. Wartime attitudes of ‘make do and mend’ have been adopted. This is a time to teach creativity and resourcefulness. With the Committee for Climate Change recently reminding us that we are the closest we have ever been to achieving net-zero, now is the ideal time to educate the global citizens of the future about global warming and pollution. So gather your ‘environment’ titles, share and display. There are lots of ideas in our Go Green collections.

Children are naturally curious about the world around them and there are a wealth of beautiful books that really engage and delight. In The Reading Journey resource, the Curiosity Caves book collection includes nonfiction titles to pique an interest in the world.

Probably my favourite titles that draw together the idea of cherishing our world with community and friendship are The Extraordinary Gardener (shortlisted for the Klauss Flugge Prize) and The Secret Sky Garden (featured in Take One Book)

Just Imagine Director, Nikki Gamble along with guest speaker
Christopher Lloyd will be discussing critical issues around nonfiction in our Online Exploring Children’s Literature Summer School, starting in July. If you’d like to find out more about the other topics we will be thinking about, details can be found here.

Sometimes words are not even necessary to comfort and heal. Our Wordless Watermill in The Reading Journey includes titles such as Footpath Flowers – about the gift of giving and wonder in everyday things and Chalk Eagle in which a young boy uses his imagination to escape the confines of his house and his situation. In our recent webinar Teaching with Wordless Picture Books, Nikki Gamble shared a wide range of stimulating wordless texts.

A selection of the titles from this blog can be found in our Bounce Back bookpacks designed to help support children through the current changes. Topics include Coping with Change, Cherish Our World, Taking Control and Containment & Quarantine (10 books in each set). Please email assistant@justimaginestorycentre.co.uk for further details and ordering.

Next week I will be looking at escapism and humour as a coping strategy and of course spotlighting some of the many brilliant titles available within which to escape.