Why Picturebooks? -10 picturebooks forYear 6 #picturebookpage


I firmly believe that if we can truly get reading cracked in our primary schools we will go a long way in getting other subjects cracked as well. I would love to say we can get kids to love reading but I know that for some that will never be the case however much we try.  As a minimum we should aim that all the children in our schools can read but the aspiration must surely be that we try to get children to enjoy it as well.

If we want  to create readers in our school we need

  •    Talk with children about books. (we need to be careful that we don’t see reading as comprehension… its way more than that)
  •    read to children everyday. (Its great, you don’t really have to plan it, pick something that challenges)
  •   Provide a language rich environment
  •   Explicitly teach vocabulary in the context of great books (If we want children to understand words then the context is king)
  •   Enable children to learn a range of stories, poems and rhymes. (this starts right down in our Early Years, knowledge of language patterns and structures)
  •   Use a variety of strategies to explore texts including drama. (Make room to dig in and explore a book)
  •   Access to books. (Giving children a voice in the choice is important as well)
  •   Provide a full reading curriculum.
  • Teacher Readers/ Teachers who are knowledgeable about book. (If we know books we can perhaps find that gateway book for a child or expand their reading horizons) or in other words “The better we know the  books we are using.The more effectively we will be able to help children explore them.”

Why should picturebooks part of that?

I firmly believe that picturebooks should form a part of that full reading curriculum. The key bit about picturebooks is the talk we generate with them. Creating time to explore /discuss/ challenge our interpretations and helps us understand that there are many ways to interpret a text. The discussion part is one of the key elements in creating enjoyment around books. Finding there is more that one answer or interpretation can be a profound revelation for children.

as Margaret Meek (1988) says

“Compare the textual variety of children’s picture books with that of reading schemes. You will see how the interactions made possible by skilled artists and writers far outweigh what can be learned from books made up by those who offer readers no excitement, no challenge, no real help… What texts teach is a process of discovery for readers, not a programme of instruction for teachers.”

Thanks Mat for the quote.

Or as better people than I have suggested about picturebooks…

  • “They provide a swift democracy, a shared world and experience that can mitigate and compensate for varying levels of experience of the world.” Martin Galway.
  • “There is an accessibility to picture books that the written word cannot offer,” Matt Tobin.
  • They are an amazing resource to enable children to “make meaning through thinking and discussion“ Mary Roche

Key to this therefore we need to see the illustrator as an author and therefore understand that there is intent in the way an image is presented this is a vital part of the process.

Key Questions

  • Why has the illustrator put that there?

  • What do they want us to think at this point?

  • How does the word and image work together?

With that in mind I’ve been sharing amazing picturebooks on twitter using the hashtag #picturebookpage. Firstly to help people see the huge variety and brilliance of books out there but also to hopefully help people see that they are not just for younger children but are a resource that can kick start our reading and exploration at any age.

Not sure I’ve achieved that but I think I’ve cost people lots of money.

So the aim of this #picturebookpage blog is to provide some picturebooks that may help in Year 6. I don’t normally do lists but these would be a great start point for Y6 picturebooks. Some here would work with younger, thematically however I believe that greater nuanced conversation would happen with older children around these books.

1 The Water-tower by Gary Crew and Steven Woolman.

In the finest tradition of Sci-fi b-movies, a fantastic body-snatcher-esque tale, with an ending that is completely open to interpretation. Just brilliant. A gateway book for the fab sci-fi. I’d follow it with The Boy in The Tower by Polly Ho-Yen or the Stepford-esque Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan or if I were feeling daring I’d dig out the John Wyndham.

2 The Lizsts by Kyo Maclear and Julia Sarda

A delightfully quirky, stylish picture book about a most unusual family – think The Royal Tenenbaums meets The Addams Family – and their growing list obsession. The devil truly is in the detail.

3 The Wall by Peter Sis

A fantastic picturebook biography in which Sis through annotated illustrations, journals, maps, and dreamscapes, shows what life was like for a child growing up behind the iron curtain. Fantastic for comparing to our life.

4 The Island by Armin Greder

Poignant and chilling, this allegory is an astonishing, powerful, and timely story about refugees, xenophobia, racism, multiculturalism, social politics, and human rights. Challenging and hard-hitting. Use with caution

5 Small Things by Mel Tregonning

Fantastic, powerful wordless picturebook exploring depression and mental-health. Small Things tells the story of a boy who feels alone with worries but who learns that help is always close by.  AS a starting point for discussion on challenging issues there aren’t many better.

6 Enormous Smallness A Story of E.E.Cummings by Matthew Burgess and Kris Li Giacomo

Delightful Nonfiction picture book about the poet E.E. cummings. Here E.E.’s life is presented in a way that will make children curious about him and will lead them to play with words and ask plenty of questions as well. Could be used with younger children. We found the most impact was in getting older children to really play with language.

7 Can I build Another Me by Shinsuke Yoshitake

A truly profound picturebook that dares to explore big, philosophical concepts in an hilarious and inventive way, it explores notions of existentialism, individuality, selfhood and life experience. Amazing book.

8 Varmints by Helen Ward and Marc Craste

The most overlooked threat in the world is that of the loss of peace and quiet. The Varmints come and build their city where once was grass. Before they realise what they have done, there is nothing but a huge dark city. Can someone find the time and space to stop, think and plant seeds of change? A wonderful book about the environment  and the challenge we have in preserving it. There is a rather lovely animation as well.

9 Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith

This beautifully understated and haunting story brings a piece of Canadian history to life. The ever-present ocean and inevitable pattern of life in a Cape Breton mining town. Cyclical patterns, lack of aspiration lead to a stunning picturebook about how our communities create barriers. Here’s a blog I did earlier.

Book blog No 5. Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith.

10 Death, Duck and the Tulip by Wolf ErlBruch

In a strangely heart-warming story, a duck strikes up an unlikely friendship with Death. Death, Duck and the Tulip will intrigue, haunt and enchant readers of all ages. Simple, unusual, warm and witty, this book deals with a difficult subject in a way that is elegant, straightforward, and thought-provoking. Amazing discussions come from this book. Beautiful and profound

I will add another 10 soon… Hope it helps.


15 thoughts on “Why Picturebooks? -10 picturebooks forYear 6 #picturebookpage

  1. Thank you for this – I have only previously taught The Water Tower and The Arrival. Very helpful and great timing too!


  2. Great post. Thoroughly agree that picture books can be read much later than they often are. With the rise of graphic novels we should embrace how art and text combine to add meaning. Have used The Watertower and Varmints but will have a look at some of the suggestions for next year. The Watertower is now hard to find new in UK . We ended up using the Ebook which has a naff narration – we muted it! The Island sounds like my first port of call. Thanks.


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