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Thinking back on our own time at primary school, we feel nostalgic about the friendships that we made. Seemingly endless summers in the playground playing ‘tig’, chatting in the corridors about our Tamagotchi’s and eating school dinners together or swapping treats from our packed lunches. For a few lucky people, the friendships we make in primary school last well in to adulthood; becoming relationships that we treasure above most others.

For all their magic and wonder, friendships in primary school can also be tricky to navigate. Children are just beginning to develop the social skills needed for cohesive relationships, and many of these skills have not yet been mastered. Children can find starting school a challenging transition, and the move in to new year groups can also be difficult. As children learn more about themselves and their peers, their interests and therefore their friendships inevitably change.

For many children, the first few years of school can be their first experience of instances of bullying, name calling or fall-outs. This has a significant impact on children’s wellbeing, and can in extreme cases effect their mental health. This is especially true of bullying or other similarly serious experiences with classmates. For KS2 children, as the initially hormone changes of puberty begin to kick in and sights turn towards Secondary School, friendship woes can be magnified.

As educators, we have the ability to support the children in our classes so that they learn resilience, kindness, courage, team work and all the other vital qualities needed for a happy and harmonious life with others. It is also important that we help our children to recognise when they have made mistakes, say sorry, and support their friends in times of need.

There will be still be situations that they find hard of course. Even as adults, finding our way through relationship ups and downs can be a minefield. However, with the use of books, we can begin to sow the seeds of empathy and friendship that children can take those first steps with confidence.

6 books for navigating tricky times with friends:

Tiny and Teeny by M Chris Judge

Age Range: EYFS

A very sweet tale about two friends who help out their neighbours, and in return are helped by others when disaster strikes. This is a lovely, brightly illustrated, book to help children understand the importance of kindness and community. Great for starting a discussion about why kindness is important in friendship groups.

The Girls by Lauren Ace and The Boys by Lauren Ace

Age Range: KS1

Two beautiful stories that show the ups and downs of friendship groups. Both have an important overarching theme; that friendships are a powerful force for good. Two of our favourite books, possibly ever!

Milo’s Monster by Tom Percival

Age Range: KS1

There probably isn’t a school in the land that doesn’t own at least one Tom Percival book, and with good reason. The ‘Big Bright Feelings’ series is perfect for talking about common friendship issues and worries. This particular instalment features Milo, a young boy, who finds the sudden appearance of a new kid on the street a test for his existing relationship with his best friend. Jealously and sadness ensue, before Milo realises that it is ok to let a new person in.

Emmy Levels Up by Helen Harvey

Age Range: KS2

A unique and positive portrayal of gaming, which is a refreshing change from the usual narrative. This story focusses on Emmy, a girl who is a successful and confident gamer, but struggles with friendship in real life. She is bullied by other children at her school and decides to use her problem solving gamer skills to fix the issue. With some help from a few new friends, can Emmy find her place in the real world as she has in the gaming world?

Talking to Alaska by Anna Woltz

Age Range: Upper KS2

This story follows the tale of Parker and Sven, who take an immediate dis-liking to each other when they both join a new school. What follows is an endearing and powerful story of unlikely friendships and the bonds that bring us together. It also features a character with epilepsy, which we haven’t often seen in primary-aged books.

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