This year I will be reading books in assemblies once a week. Sharing stories, discussing what we can learn from them and encouraging reading for pleasure. The books will be selected because of their suitability to the Primary age group and the time of year and their ability to make the readers reflect and enjoy. Headteacher and children’s book enthusiast, Simon Smith pointed me in the direction of the hashtag #assemblybooks which has been a great source of research and inspriation for the books I plan to read every week.
The Squirrels who Squabbled – by Rachel Bright and Jim Field
A great story about the importance of friendship and teamwork. When the two squirrles eventually work together they find life much more enjoyable and they are much more successful. The book also touches on themes of laziness and greediness.
Perfectly Norman – by Tom Percival
A lovely book that encourages children not to hide their light under a bushel, but to be proud of what makes them special and the things they enjoy. When you let your light shine and are proud of who you are, you will give others the confidence to do the same. Life is for living.
Go To Bed, Doodlehead – by Ian Whybrow
I don’t remember why or when I picked up this book, but it’s become a real favourite at home as well as in school because it’s really rather funny.
It features a rather grumpy and rude cat, and the story is based around how his friends try to encourage him to cheer up, but he’s not interested. It’s all because he’s tired. When his friends help him get a sensible bedtime routine, the cat turns into a smiley cat. An important message for children and parents alike.
The Cow Who Climbed A Tree – by Gemma Merino
Tina is a cow who has big dreams. She wants to climb trees and meet a dragon and fly in a rocket into space. Her sisters though know all of these ideas are, ‘impossible, ridiculous, nonsense!’ as they are only interested in eating grass. Everytime Tina suggests something to do they simply say ‘no’. That is until one day when she is not around at breakfast and leaves a notes saying, ‘Gone flying with the dragon in the woods, Tina’. One things leads to another and the cows find their sister and their eyes are opened to the endless possibilities available to them.
This book teaches the importance of being open to new ideas and saying ‘yes’ to the exciting and wonderful oportunities that can crop up in this world.
Something Else – by Kathryn Cave
Something Else is the story of an outsider. He does his best to fit in with the others. He smiles and says ‘Hi’, he paints pictures and he plays their games. However, he looks different and sounds different and just isn’t accepted by the others. It’s all a bit sad, until he finds someone else who is different and eventually they become friends.
A strong message of treating others how you’d like to be treated and celebrating differences.
Also, I am becoming quite the fan of Chris Riddell’s illustrations. He does another splendid job with this book.
On A Magical Do-Nothing Day – by Beatrice Alemagna
A great reminder to ditch the digital devices and get outside to experience the world around you. The girl at the centre of the story is stuck in the same old cabin, in the same old forest, in the same old rain while dad is back in the city and mum is writing on the computer. She is encouraged to go and do something by her mum and she reluctently goes outside where she finds nothing much to do apart from loads of exploring of the pond and stones and soil and seeds and plants etc…
Could be good for an assembly before a school holiday, during an internet safety week or to encourade a bit of cultural capital if you like. It certainly goes well with our Sidlesham 101.
The Rise and Fall of Claude the Magnificent – by Chris Capstick
If you like reading stories in a dodgy French accent, then you will enjoy this one. Claude is a cat with an artistic flair, so he moves to Paris to follow his dreams and make his fortune. He achieves success, but gets carried away with himself and forgets his humility. The message is to keep your feet on ground and don’t let your ego get the better of you.
There’s Room For Everyone – by Anahita Teymorian
At first I was reminded of the ‘Jar of Life‘ story, where the jar appears to be full, but more and more things are added to it. But this story goes deeper into the futility of war in a very child friendly way. There is room for everyone in this world and we should all get along. I particularly enjoyed the message from the author at the back of the book where she gives the reasons that she wrote the book and how angry she got when she watched the news. For assembly, it is useful to be able to develop the discussion around the text by hearing directly from the author at the end of the book.
Leonardo the Terrible Monster – by Mo Willems
Leonardo is a terrible monster, as in, he’s terrible at being a monster. He’s just too small and cute to scare anyone, until he meets Sam. Then Leonardo discovers it’s better to have a good friend than to be good at scaring people.
Incidently, I found these rather useful ideas for teaching philosphy for children using the book. You’re welcome.
The Sea Saw – by Tom Percival
This is the story of a toy bear who is lost at the beach by a little girl called Sofia. The bear goes on an epic journey to get back to Sofia, all the while being guided and protected by the sea. Eventually the bear is discovered in a stream by a little girl who turns out to be Sofia’s granddaughter. All rather lovely, and the moral of the story is, ‘nothing is ever truly lost if you keep it in your heart.’
The Dot – by Peter H. Reynolds
Vashti thinks she can’t draw. Her teacher thinks she can and encourages her just to try. To start. To make a mark. From the simple beginning of a dot and with some carefully nurtured support from her teacher, Vashti develops a passion for art and becames ‘a really great artist’, who is able to encourage others to take the plunge themselves.
‘The Dot’ has a great message for pupils and teachers alike, encouraging pupils to be brave learners and take risks in their work to find their own style and enjoyment. It’s the role of the teacher in the story that I really enjoy though, she cares for the child and really values their work, making a special fuss of what they have done encouraging them to greater achievements.
How to Catch a Star – by Oliver Jeffers
As Oliver Jeffers is an author/illustrator, all of his books look beautiful, with the pictures carrying and developing the narrative. The boy at the centre of the story is on a mission to catch a star and although he faces many set backs, eventually he (kind of ) does. ‘How to Catch a Star’, has a few positive messages for assemblies, anything is possible, life is what you make it, dreams can come true as well as highlighting the importance of perseverance.
Beware of the Storybook Wolves – by Lauren Child
You’ll probably know Lauren Child from ‘Charlie and Lola’, ‘Clarice Bean’ and possibly my personal favourite, ‘That Pesky Rat’. She has a very distinctive style of illustration which is instantly recognisable to the children. ‘Beware of the Storybook Wolves’ is the story of a boy called Herb, whose bedtime stories come to life and he has to think fast to get other characters to help him when the storybook wolves turn up in his bedroom. But be warned, it may scare your socks off!
The Book With No Pictures – B.J. Novak
This book is hillarious. The reader is made to read ridiculous words and phrases, much to the amusment of the children listening. It’s full of laughs, but makes the point that the authors have the power to make the audience say, feel, think and see what they want them to.
Here is a clip of B.J. Novak reading the book to a school in Walthamstow. Enjoy.
Thankyouplease – Pierre Winters
Nina is being a proper grumpy little madam and so her mum sends her out to the garden for a bit of time out. While there, she visits the circus and the ringmaster teaches her the importance of manners.
This book is great for talking about the importance and simplicity of showing respect for others by having good manners and being aware of other people’s needs.