When the beginning of a new term comes around, it can make us parents worry about whether our child is equipped enough to cope with the daily issues which school can bring up. We do our bests, we try to explain how to react to certain situations, how to be a ‘good person’, but sometimes, it’s difficult for us to know exactly what to say or difficult even to get our children to listen to us at all!
But there are ways in which you can help your children, without them thinking you’re lecturing them and without you putting pressure on them. One of the best ways to help prepare your child for school, is by reading with them.
By reading to your child, I don’t mean just any book (although of course, any book is fabulous!) but I mean by choosing books that are based around problems which could come up at school; bullying, starting a new school, friendships problems, coping with children who are different etc. Below are some books which will help children to cope in various school-related situations but that will also entertain and have your child enjoy reading the story too.
One of the biggest worries we parents have is bullying. Will our child be bullied at school? Will they know how to cope? What if they see someone else being picked on? What should they do? One book which really emphasises how much bullying can impact a child and also gives the child tools to cope in any bullying situation is A Very Important Power by Wendy Jo Bradshaw.
A very Important Power, is a story about a child, Wendy-Jo, who is being bullied because she is ‘different’. Her hair is different, her style is different, she’s singled out and it makes her not want to go to school. She writes to her favourite TV character to tell him about it. This TV character is Vippi Mouse, who is fun and exciting and goes to visit Wendy-Jo and takes her on an adventure. Whilst they are on their adventure, Vippi gives Wendy some very important tips on how to cope with bullies. It includes ways to react if she is being bullied, what she should do if she sees someone else being bullied and, best of all, he gives her the confidence to feel like she knows what to do and is happy in herself. The story is magical with time-travel, magic tools and talk of treasure so, when reading this, a child is engrossed and excited to find out what happens. The illustrations are vibrant and fun and will draw your child in. We think this is an ideal book to read to tackle bullying, whether your child is being bullied, sees bullying or even IS the bully as it shows the upset bullying can cause.
Another book that we think helps children be ready for school is Autism with Lola – Playing with Bourbon Badger by Jodie Issit. This story is an all-rounder. It teaches children about friendships, being kind, understanding those who may be atypical and, most importantly, acceptance.
The main character in this story is Lola who is a little bunny with autism. She is struggling at school because there are lots of extra-sensory things happening; it’s noisy, it’s inconsistent, there are lots of smells and different activities going on. Lola struggles because play time is confusing for her, she wants to play with things in a different way to the others and she doesn’t understand the rules to some games. Her class-mate Bourbon Badger sits quietly with her, he helps her by giving her her ear defenders which help block out some noise and he plays with her following different rules. The story shows children that it’s OK to be different, that if you see someone who is alone it is kind to go and check on them and it introduces children to what it must be like to have autism or other neurodiverse conditions. It is a very gentle story, told with lovely descriptions with beautiful, pastel illustrations that will have your child engaged. It is hard to not read this story and feel compassion and empathy with Lola, so a perfect story to read with a child before they go into a school-environment and may be intimidated by the atmosphere or making friends.
Being in one of the younger classes at school can make a child feel intimidated. The older children may look much bigger and seem scary. The book Alfie and the Big Boys by Shirley Hughes is a fantastic book which shows that older children can be just as intimidated and afraid as younger ones.
When Alfie is at nursery, he sees the older children in the big school playing. He notices one of the biggest boys, Ian Badger, and he instantly feels in awe. He wants to befriend Ian but he is also intimidated by him – he is the most popular boy, why would he ever want to be friends with little Alfie? But then, whilst Alfie and Mum are at a plant sale, they see Ian and he’s on his own, and he’s crying! Ian has lost his mum. He holds Alfie’s hand as they help to find his Mum and Alfie is delighted – perhaps big boys aren’t quite so grown up after all and everyone gets afraid at some stage. This story shows children that everyone has the same feelings deep down and that the bigger children within school are nothing to be afraid of and, instead, could actually be a future friend.
A very popular book at the moment is The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams. It is geared towards slightly older children than the three above, but it helps to highlight issues which can come up in school and there is no reason why younger children can’t enjoy listening to this story being read to them and learning from the message.
Dennis loves football… but he also loves fashion and this makes him different. He loves designing dresses and is convinced by a friend one day, to dress up as a girl for school and pretend to be an exchange student. Dennis enjoys wearing the dress, but soon people find out that it is him and most people begin to ridicule him – even his own Dad. But then, Dennis saves the day as part of the football team and people begin to realise that it doesn’t matter what you wear or what you’re interested in, it’s being a good person that counts. This story is full of humour and daft antics – similar to Roald Dahl – but underneath it all is a very important message, helping children to be open-minded about others around them and to accept differences. This is a great story of friendship, team-work and understanding.
There are many books available which can help prepare children for school. These are just a select few but we hope that they will give you and your children some tools to help cope with the various issues which school can bring into our children’s lives.
Is there a book that you enjoy with your child which helps them feel prepared for situations at school? We’d love to hear your recommendations!