I had such a lovely response to yesterday’s blog post with lots of Twitter discussion about the importance of books in the school transition process. It all made me feel so privileged to have access to such a wonderful range of picture books to support my daughter, her friends, and the children from The Rainbow Library through their transitions and tricky patches. Because books matter! They work magic. They weave spells of comfort and reassurance.
As adults we know that a good book can help us make sense of the world, to find and affirm who we are and where we want to be. It’s surely even more important for children to have access to good books – they are facing new experiences and challenges every day and their only job is to learn about themselves and the world around them. That’s why I started The Rainbow Library. That’s why people get so passionate about children’s books. And that’s why books have been a constant and crucial part of the starting school shenanigans over the last few months.
To prepare Mollie, we read all sorts of books about starting school. Check out Loll’s post on Storyseekers for some great recommendations. We read Starting School by the Ahlbergs. Dear Panda. Bobbo goes to school. Lucy and Tom go to School. Lucky Wish Mouse. Martha and the Bunny Brothers I Heart School. We talked about them and played schools and had a uniform tester day. I made a story sack for the Martha book and we played with puppets of Martha, Pip and Monty, acting out last minute worries. These books made school exciting and real and helped with any lurking fears.
I think they made a huge difference. The first day of school was a huge success. Hurrah! But the power of books didn’t stop there. Oh no! Day two in The Big School Building and Mollie is scared of the big lunch hall. And who isn’t? She makes a deal with her teacher that if she is brave at lunch she will be allowed to take a book home from school. Oh the power of that promise! She was so proud to bring a school book home and that night we threw away the worries of the day and celebrated our successes by dancing around the lounge acting out the animals from her school book – Emily Gravett’s Monkey and Me.
Along comes tricky week two and it brings its own set of problems. Out come the books about being brave, finding friends, understanding other people. Out come old favourites for comfort and stability. For us, Week Two will forever be known as ‘Oh my god where has my teacher gone’ week. Because suddenly, she disappears off for a morning to do her paperwork. Mollie copes by taking herself off to the book corner and looking at books until she feels a bit braver. And it works!
The next day Mollie does not want to go to school. Her beloved teacher could vanish at any time. Mummy has to stay Right By Her Side! But hold on… What was that? Her genius Teaching Assistant has got Mollie sussed already. ‘A trip to the school library? Just Me and my favourite TA? Yes! Bye Mum, I’m off!’ And she was, without a backwards glance. Phew! So there we are, the worst of it over, all ok now. A nice cup of tea and maybe a bisc..I’m sorry… what? A MOVING DAY? A SUPPLY TEACHER?! Seriously? Now?!! But books are to the rescue yet again. We talk to Mollie about supply teachers. We nurture. We prepare. We provide ideas for getting to know the supply teacher and making her seem less worrying. What does Mollie do? She takes in her current favourite book from home to share with the beloved TA who took her to the library.
The Ghost Library is clutched tightly in hand and used as a physical barrier between her and Scary Supply.
Then it is a discussion point.
Then it is a shared story.
Then there are smiles and Things In Common and safety.
Books are incredibly powerful things you know! Mollie has survived Week Two!
And it’s not just Mollie who has survived and benefitted from the power of books this week. Books have been my way in to a school where I knew no one and was very much the outsider from the cliques of mums whose children have all been at nursery together for years. On spotting The Ghost Library yesterday, one of Mollie’s TAs said “Oh I love books! My house is full of them, I just can’t get enough of them. Can I see?”
And suddenly, I was safe too.
PS The Ghost Library was sent for review by Hodder Children’s Books. And it’s made such a difference in our lives this week that, later this weekend, I probably will!