Booklist: Picture books for Year 5 and Year 6 (ages 9-11)
Picturebooks are brilliant for all ages in primary schools and are not to be left behind in EYFS and KS1 libraries alone. Shared with older children, the best picture books can allow children and adults to share a reading common experience made up of the interplay between the visual and the written word. In Upper KS2, picture books are excellent for opening discussion on important issues, for exploring philosophical or political concepts, for developing empathy and for challenging thinking. Sometimes they simply provide a fun reading experience that caters for a visual appetite that is excluded from chapter books offered at this age.
Some of the picturebooks most popular with older readers are quite a step away from their EYFS counterparts - at times haunting, mysterious or dark, and sometimes leaving more questions than answers, opening up space for critical thinking, visual analysis and discussion. A big hit with Year 6 is Gary Crew’s work, from sci-fi toned The Watertower to the mysteriously haunting The Viewer. Others are deeply thought-provoking and lean towards political or environmental themes, such as conservationist reflections of Varmints or the unsettling political musings of The Island. Other picturebooks can be used to open conversations into the complexities of mental health struggles, like Mel Tregonning’s powerfully emotive wordless book Small Things.
Picturebook-use in Upper KS2 does not have to equate darkness and gloom, though. Choose from a number of inspirational books telling the stories of real life heroes and heroines. Wilma Unlimited and Yusra Swims both explore stories of triumphant individuals displaying resilience and determination to reach for the stars in the face of great adversity. There are also some wonderfully playful picturebooks that go down a storm with Year 5 and Year 6. Try Shinsuke Yoshitake’s humorous and inventive Can I Build Another Me? for a fun dive into some deep, existentialist questions, or the fantastically detailed Castles by master-of-playful-picture-books Colin Thompson. We also love David Wiesner’s wordless underwater explorations in Flotsam - and be sure to check out this blog post by teacher Ceri Eccles to find creative ideas for using this book in the classroom.
If you are looking for graphic novels for Upper KS2, we now have these listed on a separate booklist. For further Year 5 and Year 6 recommendations, have a browse around our Reading for Pleasure booklists.