Social Emotional Learning Through Children’s Literature

Enthusiastic by nature, I became a school principal because of my steadfast belief that high quality instruction drives student success. I am a product of the school system I went through in Vancouver, British Columbia. My children are successful products of the school system in Coquitlam, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver. However personal experience and research through organizations such as the OECD, or a long list of individuals such as John Hattie, Michael Fullan, Peter DeWitt, Andy Hargreaves, Angela Duckworth, Carole Dweck, Linda Kaser, Judy Halbert, Jenni Donohoo, et al., we know we can do better. When I think of the old African saying “We know better, so we do better”, I also ways hear the voice of Rosa Fazio, my friend and mentor from my days as a vice-principal at Norma Rose Point Elementary and Middle School. It is one of her favourite sayings and represents why British Columbia is a leader in implementing educational change. It represents an ability to consider the options and pivot. COVID-19 has necessitated that responsiveness to the needs of our school communities. The research during school shut-downs and natural disasters speaks to the significance of specific and deliberate instruction in social emotional learning. The challenge is to create a sense of belonging for students not attending face to face programs, not crossing cohort groups, not participating the whole school activities that we’ve always incorporated into school life to build community.

As a lover of books, my go to place is to turn to reading.  Books have provided vicarious experiences, new learning, escape, a reflection of myself and new ways of thinking of the world or very specific situations.  They have also provided another way to connect with my friends and colleagues.  They created warm family memories and provoked conversations with my children that never emerge with the question “How was school today?”  The read alouds of the Harry Potter series alone stimulated some of our best family conversations about belonging, friendship, loyalty, sadness, fears, death, bravery, and risk.  It was natural response to turn to how we could use books to nurture a sense of belonging with the students in Livingstone Elementary School.

At the outset of the year, in my continued role as President of the British Columbia Literacy Council of the Literacy Association – BCLCILA- a literacy group that you join for the duration of your career in education, I floated the idea of asking members to contribute titles to a Social-Emotional booklist.    It seemed fairly easy-peasy and something that would naturally evolve.  Julie Pearce, another friend and mentor, notes that I always make a point, then go off in a wide circle, before bringing it all back to the point.  This past year has felt like the big circle as I’ve tried to define the best selection of books for a SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING CHILDREN’S LITERATURE BOOKLIST.  The fact that I got relatively few contributions submitted online, I believe this represents something larger than me overthinking almost everything. 

A few weeks ago, by chance more than planning, I ended up assuming the role of librarian for a few days in my school.  After the lesson in humility, as I tried to navigate the new library system, I had a chance to talk to kids about their book selections through my mask and plexi-glass barrier.  I also had a chance to peruse the recent purchases by the actual librarian, Marvin Muress, also a BCLCILA member.  I chose many titles to read for my YouTube channel, Ms. Froese Reads, another attempt to build community by bringing our students together for online story time, provoke discussions, and highlights great Children’s literature selections for home libraries.  I chose many more titles to add the BCLCILA list.

I added the selections to the list and went back to consider some of my other titles and how they fit. My Reading Challenge on my Goodreads account was helpful to access the book titles.  It took me back to a conversation with Anna, a Grade 7 student at Livingstone Elementary School when I came to the school as principal in 2019.  She challenged me to take the time to consider why kids liked graphic novels and put together a list of must reads.  Most of these books were about identity, coping with adversity, and retellings of historical events.  They belonged on the list.  After adding many of these titles, I realized my categories for sorting the books didn’t quite fit.  More circles of possibility to pursue. 

Yesterday, I started to write this blog post and ended up writing about race.  In the process, I picked up Tessa McWatt’s (2019) book, Shame on Me – An Anatomy of Race and Belonging.  The author helped me pinpoint what I really want to accomplish.  I do not want to create a booklist of didactic texts that provide instruction of how to identify feelings and self-regulate during COVID-19.  I want to create a safe haven where all students feel a sense of belonging to their school community.  I have come up with the following categories to provide titles to help explore issues of identity and belonging.  I want to avoid the trap of creating a sense of “other”.  If we shelve books as multi-cultural or Indigenous, aren’t we in fact assuming they are outside of our school community.  I want to include books that make us laugh, use our imaginations, and explore ways of coping with and myriad of feelings and adversity. 

I decided on the following categories:

Identity

Self-Regulation and Mindfulness

Challenge and Resilience

Wisdom from Ancestors

Playful Ideas

They are laden with what my notions of the things we need to develop in order to cope.  They provide many ways of belonging.  I’m curious about how they will work.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

I have included the Creating Belonging Through Children’s Literature list below.  It is a work in progress.  Please follow this link if you would like to contribute your book suggestions.  I encourage you to join the International Literacy Association.  I joined my first year as a teacher because my principal, Jack Corbett in SD #34 told it’s what we do here at Dormick Park Primary School.  I have never regretted it and my appreciation of books as a way to move mountains has increased exponentially.

Creating Belonging Through Children’s Literature

A List Compiled by members of BCLCILA

 The British Columbia Literacy Council of the International Literacy Association

Primary Students:

Identity:

Adderson, Caroline, Qin Leng (Illustrations (2014).  Norman Speak

This picturebook encourages us to consider how we judge intelligence and how we support those we love.  Perceptions of the adopted family dog shift when they discover at the dog understands Chinese and inspires the family to sign up for Chinese lessons..

Literary Awards  Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize Nominee (2015)

Ho, Joanna, with Illustrations by Ho, Dung (2021).  Eyes That Kiss in the Corners.  Harper Collins Publishers. 

A beautiful story that “I have eyes that kiss in the corner and glow like warm tea.” The refrain throughout the book as the little girl celebrates the eyes that she has i common with her Mom, her Amah, and her sister’s. Dung Ho was born and raised in Vietnam and studied graphic design at the Hue Arts University. Her illustrations speak as loudly as the text.  A book of celebration of Asian eyes.

Kinew, Wab with illustrations by Joe Morse (2018).  Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes.  Tundra Books.

Written as a celebration of thirteen modern day and historic Indigenous heroes.  Inspirational people for all readers to emulate.  Beautiful text written as a rap song by Wab Kinew.  Beautiful realistic illustrations that look like photographs at first glance.

Literary Awards  USBBY Outstanding International Book list for 2019.

“We are a people who matter.” Inspired by President Barack Obama’s Of Thee I SingGo Show the World is a tribute to historic and modern-day Indigenous heroes, featuring important figures such as Tecumseh, Sacagawea and former NASA astronaut John Herrington.

Khan, Rukhsana (2010)  Illustrator – Sophie Blackall.  Big Red Lollipop.  Viking.

The author, Rukhsana Khan, was born in Pakistan and immigrated to Canada as a pre-schooler.  A charming story of two young girls navigating the rules of their new cultural traditions and helping their mother to understand.  All this while navigating their relationship as sisters.  Great story.  A recent addition to the BCLCILA list of SEL books.  Also selected as a read aloud on the YouTube channel featuring Ms. Froese Reads.

Literary Awards SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text (2011)Charlotte Zolotow Award (2011)

Levitan, Sonia with illustrations by Wijngaard (1996).  A Piece of Home.  Dial Books for Young Readers.

This picturebook shares the experience of little boy’s immigration and experience of leaving Russia to be with extended family in Santa Monica, California. The two cousins discover they are united by a special reminder of Russia.

Martinez-Neal, Juana (2018).  Alma and How She Got Her Name.  Candlewick Press.

Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela gains a new appreciation of her very long name, once her father explains the story behind each name.  This book has been selected for Ms. Froese Reads on YouTube and the BCLCILA SEL Booklist.

Literary Awards  Caldecott Medal Nominee (2019)Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Nominee for Writer (2019)Monarch Award Nominee (2020)

Parr, Todd (2016) Be Who You Are. Megan Tingley Books, Little, Brown and Company.

The bright colourful illustrations beckon the reader to live out loud and claim his/her/their own identity.

Muhammad, Ibtihaj with Ali, S.K. / Art by Aly, Hatem (2019).  The Proudest Blue:  A Story of Hijab and Family.  Little, Brown and Company. 

This picturebook by Olympic Medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali tells the story of two girls on the first day of school.  For the older sister is 6th grade, it is a celebration of the first day of wearing hijab.  The younger sister tries to me sense of identity as a Muslim and the sometimes hurtful response of others.  Beautiful illustrations by Hatem Aly captures the strength of purpose represented by hijab and the darkness that comes from those intolerant of difference.

Literary Awards  Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Picture Books (2019)

Self-Regulation and Mindfulness: 

Mantchev, Lisa (2020).  The Perfectly Perfect Wish.  Simon & Schuster.

This story is a new twist on common theme of what would you wish for if you had 1 wish. As the little girl dreams of her wants, and talks with her friends, the needs of her friends come shining through. This book teaches that self-awareness of everything you have to be grateful for helps you to be empathetic to others who may not be as fortunate. The girl wishes that her friends’ wishes come true and highlights that giving helps others and also enriches your own life.

McCloud, Carol, Messing, David (Illustrator) (2014 – 7th printing).  Have You Filled a Bucket Today?  A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids.  Ferne Press.

Through simple prose and vivid illustrations, this heartwarming book encourages positive behaviour as children see how rewarding it is to express daily kindness, appreciation, and love. Bucket filling and dipping are effective metaphors for understanding the effects of our actions and words on the well being of others and ourselves.

Literary Awards Literary Awards

Nautilus Book Award for Children’s/Young Adults Non-Fiction (Silver Medal) (2008)London Book Festival Nominee for Children’s Book (Honorable Mention) (2007)DIY Book Festival for Best Children’s Picture Book (2007)Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Competition for Best Children’s Picture Book (2007)Purple Dragonfly Book Awards for Educational/Instructional (1st Place) (2011)

The Great Southwest Book Festival for Children’s Books (2016)

Mora, Oge (2019).  Saturday.  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

A great story of disappointment, self regulation, resilience, and the love between a mother and daughter.  Included on the SEL list being collated by the British Columbia Literacy Council of the ILA.  Also a selection for the Ms. Froese Reads YouTube channel.

Woodson, Jacqueline (2018).  The Day You Begin.  Nancy Paulsen Books

When you begin anything new and no none knows who you are, it can be difficult. This books highlights the internal struggle that often occurs when someone enters a situation for the first time and searches for belonging.  Sometimes all it takes is someone to make a connection with you that helps normalize being different. This book is an excellent resource for representing all children whether it be looks or feelings and to know that they are not alone. (Note: This book is strong in both the belonging theme and the representation theme and is suitable for primary and 4-5).)

Zietlow Miller, Pat, Hill, Jen (Illustrator). (2018).  Be Kind. Roaring Book Press.

When Tanisha spilled her grape juice all over her dress at school, her friend considers what kindness looks like and the impact it has.  A good book to faciliate this conversation with pre-school and primary aged children.

Literary Awards Monarch Award Nominee (2021)

Challenge and Resilience

Beckwith, Kathy with illustrations by Lyon, Lea (2005).  Playing War.  Tilbury House Publishers.

Sameer opts out of playing war with his new neighbourhood friends.  They start to understand when he explains his experiences with war. The child appropriate illustration of why playing war not a game.

Forchuk Skrypuch, Marsha with Tuan Ho with art by Brian Deines (2016).  Adrift at Sea.  Pajama Press.

This picturebook is set in 1981 when then 6 year old Tuan, his mother, and two of his siblings set out to escape civil unrest in Vietnam to make the dangerous journey to reunite with his father and older sister in Canada.  Tuan, now a father with a wife and two children of his own, is a practicing physiotherapist with a clinic of his own.  The art by Brian Deines captures the vivid colour of Southeast Asia, and the blurred lines of memory.

Literary Awards

OLA Forest of Reading Golden Oak Award

Red Cedar Information Book Award Nominee

Lindstrom, Carole, Goade, Michaela (Illustrator).  We Are Water Protectors.  Roaring Books Press. 

The first Caldecott medal winner of an Indigenous author.  A beautiful call to action to protect our water from harm and corruption.  Amazing, bold, illustrations by Michaela Goade.

Literary Awards:  Caldecott Medal Winner

Ruurs, Margriet with art by Nizar Ali Badr (2016). Stepping Stones:  A Refugee Family’s Journey.  Orca Book Publishers. 

A great book about the journey of a family’s journey as refugees from the Middle East.  Amazing artwork done photographs of made artwork of stones by Syrian artist, Nizar Ali Badr.  Text in English and Arabic.  Most recent addition to the BC Literacy Council of ILA Booklist.

Literacy Awards:  Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize Nominee (2017)

Wisdom from Ancestors:

Bouchard, David with paintings by Zhong-Yang Huang (1997).  The Great Race

A little girl, her grandmother, and twelve animal cut-outs recreate the origins of the Chinese zodiac in this picturebook.  Beautiful paintings by Canadian-Chinese artist, Zhong-Yang Huang.  A favourite book of mine to revisit during Lunar New Year.

Richie, Scot (2015).  P’eska and the First Salmon Ceremony.  Groundwood Books.

Scot Richie sets the story one thousand years ago and bases it on archeological evidence. The glossary, letter from Chief William Charlie, and added information about the Sts’ailes People bring depth to the text. HIstory unfolds around the Harrison River in British Columbia.

Vickers, Roy Henry with Budd, Robert with illustrations by Vickers, Roy Henry (2014).  Cloudwalker.  Harbour Publishing.

On British Columbia’s northwest coast lies the Sacred Headwaters–the source of three of British Columbia’s largest salmon-bearing rivers.  This ancient legend and the art of Roy Henry Vickers bring the Indigenous teaching about the need to care for our sources of water to life.  Beautiful.

Literary Awards  Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award Nominee (2015)

Playful Ideas:

Alexander, Kwame with art by Sweet, Melissa (2019).  How To Read A Book.  Harper Collins Publishers.

Melissa Sweet’s bright and enticing artwork draw you into this picturebook.  Kwame Alexander poetry bring the sensory aspect of reading to light.  For some, reading is a firm part of identity.  For some an opportunity for new adventures. For others a comfort.  For many of us, all of the above.  This book teases out and delights in the possibilities.

Literary Awards

Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Picture Books (2019)

Bates, Amy and Bates, Juniper (2018).  The Big Umbrella.  Simon Schuster / Paula Wiseman Books. 

When the big umbrella by the door opens wide, there is room for everyone.  A mother-daughter collaboration was inspired by sharing an umbrella in a rainstorm.  A recent addition to the the BC Literacy Council of the International Literacy Association booklist of Social-Emotional Booklist.

Bailey, Linda with illustrations by Bill Slavin (2003).  Stanley’s Party.  Kids Can Press.

It all started when usually obedient Stanley craws up on the couch, something forbidden by his people.  It triggers a series of events that culminates in a party that dogs are still talking about.  A fun book for anyone who has ever contemplated what their dog does all day.  Illustrations by Bill Slavin add to the festivity of the text.

Evans, Christine (2020).  Emily’s Idea.  Sounds True.

Emily folded, doodled, and snipped to create a chain of very unique paper dolls that are linked together in friendship.  Her idea spreads to school and throughout the world via social media.  The book includes a stencil to create a paper doll chain and the Marta Alvarez Miguens’s illustration inspire paper dolls of many abilities and ethnicities. 

Intermediate / Middle School:

Identity:

Craft, Jerry (2020).  Class Act (New Kid #2).  Quill Tree Books. 

Jordan Banks is back at the very prestigious private school for Grade 8.  This time the story focuses on his friend Drew, also a black student at the school and his quest to maintain his identity and have mutual acceptance of his friends.

Craft, Jerry (2019).  New Kid. Harper Collins Publisher.

Jordan Banks loves to draw cartoons.  His dream is to attend art school.  His Mom is very much in favour of his enrolling in a very prestigious private school across town where he is one of the few black students.  Jordan struggles with fittiCraft ng into his new school and keeping his neighbourhood friends as well as keeping his identity.

Literary Awards

Newbery Medal (2020)Coretta Scott King Book Award for Author (2020)Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature (2019)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Middle Grade & Children’s (2019)

Emerson, Marcus (2012).  Diary of a Sixth Grade Ninja.  Create Space. 

This book would have great appeal for intermediate students who like graphic novels and are navigating life in upper intermediate / middle school.  Funny.  Nice relationship between new boy at school and his cousin.

Parker, Kate T. (2017).  Strong is the New Pretty:  A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves. Workman Publishing Company.

An amazing collection of photographs of girls being girls.  The photographs are accompanied with quotes explaining the perceptions and strength of the girls.

“Strong girls never lose.  They only learn, and come back stronger.” 

                     Kylie, age 12

“I have always experienced the most immediate sense of strength when claiming my own personal freedom.”

                     Fiona, age 18

Peirce, Lincoln (2019).  Big Nate Hug It Out!  Andrews McMeel Publishing

My students insisted that the Big Nate series is a must for any graphic novel collection.  Kids relate to the perspective of Nate, both the outrageous and funny.  It reminds me of how I loved Dennis the Menace in the newspaper comics when I was a kid.

Sixth grade is no picnic for Nate Wright. His pal Francis won’t stop bombarding him with useless trivia. A wild pitch knocks him out of a ballgame and into the emergency room. And the only thing standing between Nate and summer school is a study session with the worst possible tutor: his too-obnoxious-for-words arch enemy, Gina. But a chance encounter on an amusement park ride could change everything. Meanwhile, the troubles are piling up in this hilarious new collection of Big Nate comics, and there may be only one thing for Nate to do: HUG IT OUT! In this brand-new collection of comics from the New York Times bestselling series Big Nate, everyone’s favorite sixth-grade prankster is back for more hilarious misadventures — and even a little romance! (less)

Telgemeier, Raina (2014) Sisters.  Scholastic.

Weeks, Sara, Gita Varadarajan (2016)Save Me A Seat.  Scholastic.

Grade 5 brings many changing and complex relationships to navigate.  Ravi comes from India and struggles to be seen as intelligent due to his accent and cultural experience that is different from his peers in a school in the US.  Joe is also misunderstood and underestimated from an auditory processing disability.  This is a great story for students to develop empathy and understanding.

Literary Awards

Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (2018)William Allen White Children’s Book Award Nominee (2019)Bluestem Book Award Nominee (2018)

Self-Regulation and Mindfulness:

Challenge and Resilience:

Kwame, Alexander (2014).  The Crossover.  Houghton Mifflin.

Kwame Alexander writes a series of poems about 12 year old twins, Josh and Jordan Bell.  The poetry mirrors the game.  The game is a metaphor for life.  They are awesome on the court but need to navigate relationships off the basketball court too. 

Literary Awards

Newbery Medal (2015)Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (2020)Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee for Grades 6-8 (2016)Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee (2017)Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (2016)

Evergreen Teen Book Award (2017)Coretta Scott King Book Award for Author Honor (2015)Charlie May Simon Children’s Book Award (2017)North Carolina Young Adult Book Award for Middle School (2016)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Middle Grade & Children’s (2014)NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor Book (2015)Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award (2017)

Alexander,  Kwame , Rand Hess, Mary (2018).  Swing.  Blink.

Another amazing poetic masterpiece by Kwame Alexander. A likeable kid navigating through adolescence. An older brother returns from war having done his patriotic duty. Clearly suffering from PTSD. Clearly having proved himself as a patriotic American. Yet it is not enough to stave off the racism that is rampant in the United States.

Alexander, Kwame (2018).  Rebound.  HMH Books for Young Readers.

I LOVED this book. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me appreciate the power of literature in helping us make sense of our lives. Kwame Alexander tells a story through poetry and makes the pain of loss palpable. Love of a supportive family and friendship helps Charlie learn to rebound on and off the basketball court.

Literary Awards

Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominee (2020)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Poetry (2018)Carnegie Medal Nominee (2019)

Colfer, Eoin, Donkin, Andrew, Rigano, Giovanni (Illustrat0r) (2018).  Illegal

Sourcebooks jabberwocky.

This graphic novel follows the perilous journey of Ebo from Ghana, to Europe in search of a better life and reunion with his family.  It challenges the notion that any human being can be illegal and explores the plight of immigrants in search of new beginnings with a more promising future.

Literary Awards:

2019 Excellence in Graphic Literature Award

Gold Medal Award 2019 by Parents’ Choice Foundation

Palacio, R.J., (2019).  White Bird.  Knopf Books for Young Readers.

The graphic novel format allows the depth of the realities of Hitler’s Nazi Germany to be exposed via pictures and text.  Auggie’s bully from Wonder is given depth through the story of his Grandmere’s experience and loss as a young Jewish girl in Vichy France during World War II.  The afterword, author’s note, glossary, suggested readings and resources for further study, make it a credible source for further learning.  The grandson FaceTiming with his Grandmere grounds the relevance of the story in the present.

Literary Awards

Sydney Taylor Book Award for Middle Grade (2020)

Palacio, R.J., (2012). Wonder.  Alfred A. Knopf.

August Pullman does not want his facial difference to prevent him from being treated like any other kid in Grade 5.  A must read for ALL middle school kids!  Great way to consider perspective of students who look different and reflect on your own reactions.

Literary Awards

Josette Frank Award (2013)Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominee (2013)West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award (WAYRBA) for Younger Readers (2013)South Carolina Book Award for Children’s Book (2014)Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award (2014)

Charlie May Simon Children’s Book Award (2015)Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis for Preis der Jugendjury (2014)New Mexico Land of Enchantment Award for Children (2014)California Young Readers Medal for Intermediate (2015)James Cook Book Award Nominee (2013)Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children’s Literature (2013)Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice for Grades 3-5 (2015)NAIBA Book of the Year for Middle Readers (2012)Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for 5-12 years (2013)Washington State Sasquatch Award Nominee (2015)Bluestem Book Award (2014)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Middle Grade & Children’s (2012)Carnegie Medal Nominee (2013)North Carolina Children’s Book Award (2014)Premio El Templo de las Mil Puertas Nominee for Mejor novela extranjera independiente (2012)Rhode Island Children’s Book Award (2014)FAB Award Nominee (2014)Rebecca Caudill Y

Telgemeier, Raina (2019).  Guts.  Scholastic.

Raina Telgemeier is a highly recommended graphic novelist, by my upper intermediate students.  We can’t keep her books on the shelf in our school library.  This author has been able to tap into the integrated use of pictures and text to allow stories about mental health issues that are not often talked about, and yet experienced.  In this book she shares her experience with anxiety, a therapist, and the reactions of her friends, family and teachers.  The author’s note at the end provides a pathway forward and underlines the importance of talking about your feelings.  Great graphic novel.

Literary Awards

Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Middle Grade & Children’s (2019)

Wisdom from Ancestors:

Yahgulanaas, Michael Nicoll (2009).  Red:  A Haida Manga.  Douglas McIntyre.

Classic Haida visual art is morphed with the Japanese manga in the book.  It tells a classic Haida legend that warns of the danger of the rage of revenge.  The artwork is amazing.  Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas creates his storyboard with overlying Indigenous image.  The first time I read this graphic novel, I didn’t understand the genre.  Coming back, I’m amazed with the Indigenous voice in a very original art form.

Yahgulanaas, Michael Nicoll (2017).  War of the Blink.  Locarno Press. 

This story unfolds in the newly emerging Haida manga style based on the original Japanese manga.  The imagery of the Haida culture has as much of role in telling the story as does the text.  A graphic novel about war and peace. It explores the bravery required to make peace. An earlier version of the artwork was displayed at the Vancouver Art Gallery a part of the groundbreaking exhibition “Raven Travelling.

Playful Ideas:

Secondary

Identity:

Self-Regulation and Mindfulness:

Challenge and Resilience:

Wisdom from Ancestors:

Playful Ideas:

Educators and Adults

Identity:

Self-Regulation and Mindfulness:

Carrington, Judy (2019).  Kids These Days.  Friesen Press.

This book is more for educators working with students than it is for students.  This book is about connecting with students and how Emotional Regulation works and why it’s the key to changing the world.

Challenge and Resilience:

Wisdom from Ancestors:

Playful Ideas:

Creating School Community in Time of COVID-19

Black Shirt Day

There has been a concerted effort in Canada to keep school open from Kindergarten to Grade 12 largely to address social-emotional needs for stability and predictability for students in their world. Other natural disasters have kept students from school with surprisingly little impact on their academic achievement. “When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita decimated Louisiana in 2005, student achievement did not plummet” (1). “Researchers who followed elementary students displaced from schooling after the Enschede fireworks disaster in the Netherlands in 2000 reported that short-term achievement increased” (2). What has remained constant is the need for responsive parents stepping in to establish a caring context and a sense of normalcy.

Classroom teachers have welcomed students back to school during the pandemic and gone about integrating rigorous handwashing procedures, staying in cohorts, sanitizing equipment, creating a safe and secure classroom environment, and assigning weekly outdoor play zones.  Kids were delighted to return to school full time in September and are going about the business of learning.  I have dealt with fewer office referrals for poor choices than ever before in my career as a vice-principal, or principal.  Students have a common language around self-regulation and restorative practices which necessitate empathy.  Teachers have developed a strong sense of personal efficacy in their ability to keep their students safe and learning in their classrooms.

Creating community across groups presents a greater challenge.  Building community on staff usually involves eating lunch together, discussions at Staff Meetings, participation in professional development and chatting while waiting for the photocopier or signing in at the office each morning.  The landscape for creating and solidifying relationships has shifted significantly.  This has made the development of collective efficacy a big challenge.  Yet, Hattie’s finding that collective efficacy yields an impact size on student learning of 1.39 (3) makes it a goal worth aspiring to. 

Teachers experienced the first pivot to the virtual world when all classroom instruction went online after Spring Break in 2020.  Our connection point was the TEAMS Meeting.  There were varying degrees of understanding and use of this Office 365 Platform.  The platform had been set up by the previous principal.  Thanks, Mr. Peeters.  I had attended training with a team of teachers and set up the channels like chapters of a book, for ease of access.  There was a steep learning curve on how to host a meeting and required Microsoft changes to make this process more transparent, like it’s ZOOM competition.  However due to the integration of options to set up instruction for students online and create portfolios of work, the district decided that the Office 365 platform was closest to hitting the target of meeting our needs in the Vancouver School Board.

The weakness of early meetings was on me.  I had already mastered creating a PowerPoint to engage staff in discussion during staff meetings with stopping points for discussion.  When I created the PowerPoint slides to share on a screen with my staff, I lost the ability to keep my finger on the pulse of the room.    My years of training as a facilitator fell by the wayside, as I invited people to a meeting, talked through the PowerPoint presentation, then asked for questions, comments, and input to icons with video off and muted microphones.  Minimal response.  No interaction between staff.  No community building.  Really bad meetings. 

As my background knowledge has increased, the meetings have gotten better.  Information items on shared on the appropriate channel of The LivingstoneStaff TEAM.  At staff request, a weekly SWAAG (Staff Week At A Glance) was published on the weekend.  I started to plan staff meetings with greater opportunity for staff to talk to each other.  I put people into break out rooms during TEAMS meetings with a question for discussion.  I facilitated a course for administrators through the British Columbia Principals Vice Principals Association in early July 2020 via ZOOM.  We were magically put into rooms with our group of 6 people first thing in the morning, at the end of the day, and for discussion throughout the day.  By the end of the four-day course, we had established a sense of rapport and we easily engaged in discussion.  Retirements, shifts to other jobs in the district and leaves have resulted in a significant number of new staff.  I have been assigning staff to random groups to help them get to know each other.  It has also provided more focused discussion around school goals. 

I have also now learned to visit each room during breakout sessions.  I’m going to date myself now – I feel exactly like Jeannie, from the 70’s sit com, I Dream of Jeannie.  I have an impulse to cross my arms and nod my head while I appear in a room.  I was concerned that I would stifle conversation, but that doesn’t seem to be the case when I miraculously appear in the room.  I have felt in some sessions that participants assume performance mode when a facilitator enters the break-out room.  However, the conversation has fluidly carried on.  I believe it is because we have already established a rapport.  I also don’t stay long in each group.

The International Literacy Association has offered professional development online and there are a number of excellent sessions focused on asynchronous and synchronous learning.  They suggest that the break-out session should have a time limit of about 10 minutes with a specific response task.  I have tried the reporting back to the group from each group but I have not had favourable feedback about this process.  This week, I provided an Office 364 form to complete with feedback about future directions and requests for additional support.  Looking forward, I intend to make better use of tools such as Padlet.   I’m looking for other suggestions if you have any. 

Student community is usually developed through shared activities that bring students together for a common activity, crossing paths on the playground, and work with buddy classes.   The only face to face community building is during outdoor play where each cohort is assigned a time and a play zone.  Two recess times and two lunch times.  Again, the landscape for creating and solidifying relationships has shifted significantly.

My first effort to build student community online in March was met with marginal success.  I would video-tweet out a message to students from various places to connect with students via the Twitter feed on the school website.  I was given good marks for risk taking, but I was fairly wooden and never happy with the end product. 

In September, I requested that an All-Students TEAM be set up for communication with the entire student body and staff.  There is a channel for online performances and the capability for me to do online school assemblies.  Again, I have been given high marks for risk taking as the students have witnessed my learning curve.  I have done a particularly nice job of modeling resilience in the face of failure.  I am fortunate to have a BFF from high school who is a digital media specialist.  I’ve learned to follow his direction and to understand what I did wrong when I opt for a short cut.  Thanks, Armando!    

As a school principal, I cross all cohorts and wear a mask when I am outside of my office.  After a school wide assembly in fall, a number of primary students mentioned that they really liked seeing my whole face.  Apparently, my eyes tell that I’m smiling but it’s nice when my mouth does some of the work.  I decided that I needed to engage with the students in a way other than being out on the playground in mornings, after school, and at breaks. 

My new tech challenge was inspired by Sol Kay, a parent in my school community when I was principal at University Hill Elementary School.  She invited me to participate in a documentary she was doing on mindfulness and posted as part of her series on Instagram – InnerLight Journey by Sol.  Along with scaffolding from Sol, Steve Dotto @DottoTech, and the iMovie Made Easy course by Shelly Saves the Day on YouTube @shellysavesthe, I stuck my toe into the water.

In my capacity as president of the British Columbia Literacy Council of the International Literacy Association, I have been working on a project with our provincial council.  We have put out an invite for people to participate in creating an annotated bibliography of books to share with students to support social emotional learning by representing the diverse cultures within our B.C. schools, as well as providing stories or resilience, and social justice.  Our goal is not to create a strictly didactic list but recommend high quality literature which share authentic voices and stories to nurture empathy and understanding.  Special thanks to Mr. Muress, our librarian at Livingstone, for the many selections he has added to the list. 

I wanted to create a YouTube channel with me reading these highly recommended books to support the development of shared understandings at our school.  I chose to read picture books that were accessible to primary students to read, but also provided models for the writing of students in the intermediate grades.  With Armando on speed dial, my product is getting better.  I wasn’t certain it was reaching my intended audience or worth the time and effort I was putting into the project.  Then last week, I was teaching in a Grade 6/7 class when we were short a guest teacher.  One of the students in the class told me that his brother listens to me read every night when he is going to sleep.  The highlight of the month for me.  I’m inspired to carry on and improve.  The power of positive reinforcement. 

I have since learned that I need better sound for it to be projected to the class.  I now have the appropriate adapter and a microphone to improve the sound.  Armando has provided more scaffolding for me to master green screen.  Ms. Lirenman and her class are providing Keynote support.  Speakers who are part of the International Literacy Association speakers via ILA Next have also provided a number of follow-up ideas to develop reading and writing skills.

Shirt days have also been a positive way of facilitating group activity and stimulating conversation, largely about social justice issues that are so closely tied to social studies curriculum, and social emotional learning.  Terry Fox shirts came out en mass for the annual Terry Fox Run.  Our favourite Canadian hero had lots to teach us, even if we participated at different times of the day in cohorts.  On Orange Shirt day, students learned about residential schools, and the learning shared with us by our Indigenous people.  Black Shirt Day refocused our attention on the purpose and meaning of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and Freedoms.  February 24th, Anti-Bullying Day is on the horizon.  Teachers, SSA’s, the supervision aids, the custodians, the Office Assistants, the Spare Time Coordinator, our Director of Instruction, and I will all be wearing the CKNW shirts with “Lift Each Other Up” for Pink Shirt Day and throughout the rest of the year.  Proceeds support local anti-bullying programs that teach empathy, compassion, and kindness.  We want kids to understand our shared role in supporting each other across cohorts and our collective responsibility.

Ms. Ferreira, our Kindergarten teacher, kicked off the first Wild Hair theme day.  It was followed up with Hockey Jersey day to celebrate the return of hockey to break the monotony of Netflix.  Mr. Bring, our Grade 7 teacher, is working with student leadership on other ways we can create school spirit. 

Student voice in our online school assemblies has been a great way to focus student attention.  Our Division 13 Kindergarten students and our Division 1 Grade 7’s have both done a great job at the Indigenous acknowledgment at the beginning of assemblies.  We have now scheduled regular, monthly assemblies, and plan to incorporate more student voice. 

We continue to look for ways to include parents more in our online school community.  PAC Meetings have all been online since March.  Access to the school has been limited.  Parents do have online access to the All-Students TEAM through their child.  This was most widely accessed during the Winter Show N’Share.  Some parents continue to enjoy the regular tweets about school activities and resources that are available to parents.  I am also trying to write more blog posts to provide parents with specifics around instruction and reporting.  My recent post, Reporting Student Achievement in British Columbia, provides parents with an overview of recent changes in reporting in British Columbia and what they can expect in the formal written reports being issued in January.  I’m looking for more ideas, if you have suggestions. 

Footnotes:

1 and 2 – “Lessons From Pandemic Teaching For Content Area Learning” in The Reading Teacher, November/December 2020, Volume 74, Number 3, page 341.

3 – Hattie, J. & Smith, R., (2021).  10 Mindframes for Leaders.  The Visible Learning Approach to School Success.  Corwin.  Thousand Oaks. 

BC Literacy Council in Action

After many years of inactivity, the British Columbia Literacy Council of the International Literacy Association was reinvigorated with new energy and revitalization last fall. We took off running. The executive council organized and facilitated three successful events and had a lot of fun doing it. You can read more about it on our website readingbc.ca. We also actively participated in social media @BCLiteracyCoun1. Then … COVID-19. It took the wind out of our sails during spring and summer, but we are back.

Graphic Novel Panel Discussion

The BCLCILA hosted it’s AGM this past week. Thanks to the interested members that attended the AGM and congratulations to our 2020-2021 Executive:

Past President – Mike Bowden

  • Also, a newly named director of the British Columbia Superintendent’s Association (BCSSA)
  • Recently published his 4th book – distributed by Strong Nations Publisher
  • Indigenous Leader and District Principal in Kamloops

President – Carrie Froese

  • Lifelong literacy and social justice advocate
  • Principal of David Livingstone Elementary in Vancouver
  • Blogger – Inquire2Empower;  Tweeter @CarrieFroese @BCLiteracyCoun1

Vice President – Linda Klassen

  • Principal of Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School in Langley
  • Champion of the arts and Indigenous ways of knowing

Treasurer – Garth Brooks

  • Lifelong International Literacy Association member and executive member Canadian National Special Interest Group of the ILA
  • Past National Coordinator of Project Love Letter Writing Project

Membership Secretary – Kelly Patrick

  • Librarian at Point Grey Secondary School in Vancouver
  • Author of The Kelman Sisters’ Cookbook

Secretary – Kathryn Self Ransdell

  • Orton Gillingham trained tutor and active PAC member of General Gordon Elementary in Vancouver

Our Provincial Coordinator – Karen Addie

  • Literacy Consultant with PhD in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Technology
  • Experienced teacher in public and private system, Vice principal in the public education system 

We are ready to pivot and explore other ways to involve and support literacy advocates in British Columbia in a COVID-19 world.  I have found Twitter to be an excellent source of professional development.  It has also been a way to develop relationships with people who have common interests.  One of my teachers at David Livingstone Elementary School, Karen Lirenman, wrote her book, Innovate with iPad – Lessons to Transform Learning, with a colleague, Karen Wideen, who she met and collaborated with online.  I recommend you follow @BCLiteracyCoun1 and executive members who are active on Twitter @CarrieFroese @k_addie @KlassenLinda @TheDuke_247 @tlslovebooks  Our ILA Provincial Coordinator, Karen Addie, is also exploring ways for us to engage and collaborate in virtual spaces.  We are planning to do some Twitter Chats this year to invite participation in the creation of our British Columbia Literacy Association Annotated Booklist 2020-2021 to support social emotional learning in schools.  This will be publicized through twitter so be sure to follow. 

The COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter Movement has focused attention on social emotional learning like never before.  We would be negligent as educators if we failed to acknowledge the need to carefully consider and implement supports for our students.  Our ultimate goal is to empower our learners with a sense that they are cared for and valued as a springboard for engaging in their learning journey.  As a bunch of book lovers in the British Columbia Literacy Council, we of course came to the conclusion that books are a perfect way to provide supports for our students at school and a home. 

There are many booklists that have been collated for a variety of purposes.  Our goal is to create a booklist that addressed the following:

  1.  Anecdotal Reference by educators to specify the appropriate audience and possible uses of the text in terms of social emotional learning and BC core competencies. 
  • Representation – In order to feel valued and included in our school communities, our students need to see themselves as part of the community.  This includes students who identify, live or learn in ways outside on the dominant group in the school community.  This also includes our Indigenous, Black, and people of colour. 
  • Stress and Coping – Books that help students to understand stress in our lives and possible coping strategies.
  • Working for Social Justice – Books to help students explore what makes us human, our basic rights, freedoms, and our responsibilities as anti-racists in our school, our community, and our world. 

This is a large task and will require that we engage not only our current membership but also capture the imagination of other literacy educators and parents in British Columbia.  We are inviting mass participation online.  Participants are asked to become International Literacy Association members.  All people who join the International Literacy Association in British Columbia are automatically members of the British Columbia Literacy Council of the International Literacy Association.  There are numerous membership options, and a hardcopy or online newspaper is included.  There is also the opportunity to add popular International Literacy Association publications, such as The Reading Teacher and Reading Research Quarterly to your membership.

BCLCILA members who contribute to the British Columbia Literacy Association Annotated Booklist 2020-2021 will receive one of the titles from our booklist to use with children.  Widespread participation in this project is encouraged.  You are invited to submit as many entries as you wish.  Please complete one form per book.  Please note one book will be sent to each BCLCILA member participating in this project to celebrate our collaborative online project.  All submissions must be made via THIS LINK.  The information submissions can be displayed in an excel spreadsheet and organized for publication. 

In March, my big risk-taking venture was connecting with my Livingstone students via Video Tweets.  I have upped my game and I’m reading an SEL books weekly  – Ms. Froese Reads on my own YouTube Channel.  It’s still a big risk but I’ve come a long way from my initial Video Tweets.  This is being published on my school wide Office 365  TEAM and tweeted on the school twitter account and @BCLiteracyCounc1   You are welcome to use it with your students.    I’m feeling very grateful to have a team of people still engaged in doing the work of supporting our teachers and students.  We hope you’ll enjoy us in this positive and proactive engagement.  We’re always open to new ideas.  We hope to hear from you.

Entering the World of Graphic Novels

Due to an unforeseen set of circumstances, I have been spending more time in the school library than I have for years.  As the once again, president of the the British Columbia Literacy Council of the ILA (International Literacy Association), and a lover of books, this is a bonus for me.  Talking to kids about books is as much about the kid, as it is about nurturing a love of literature.  This was something my elementary school librarian at The Marpole Public Library understood well with her “Now” section that lured us into the library on a regular basis.

At the ILA Conference 2019 in New Orleans this fall, there was again much conversation about graphic novels.  This was not conversation solely about high interest, low vocabulary sources, but discussion of graphic novels as literary sources.  I have two extremely intelligent friends who are both adult males who have tried to help me understand this concept over the years. One has a long time love of comics that he himself writes.  Some about childhood antics.  Some political cartoons.  The other has a love of graphic novels.  Understanding of this has been elusive.

Two game changers.  The well loved librarian is hired as a Vice-Principal and leaves to assume her new job.  I want to ensure kids keep coming to the library until our new librarian is in place.  The kids want graphic novels and Anna takes the time to explain why graphic novels are appealing.  She starts a list and kids start giving me purchasing ideas.

After professional development day, I venture to Vancouver Kidsbooks, another infinite source of information.  If ever there has been a case for why you hire well trained staff who are readers in a book store, it is Vancouver Kidsbooks.  Immediately I have two very knowledgeable people to guide me in the right direction.  However it is Jesset who has a passion for graphic novels and wants to answer all of my questions and share his learning about what is particularly good for readers at different ages and levels.  He helped me to understand that the beauty of a long series is that the characters and their motivations unfold over the course of the series.  That is why he loves long series because the plot and characterization develops over time.  He also made it clear that the pictures and the text do not function independently but are intertwined to create meaning.

My home work was clear.  I needed to do more reading.  Jesset carried the very heavy box of books to my car.  I carried them into the condo.  A strained back, recent gum surgery, a husband with the flu, and a long weekend created all of the conditions for a weekend of serious reading.   And now I am coming out the other side.  I do believe I understand more.

My mistake was that I was locked into the perceptions of my background experience of the Sunday funnies in the newspaper, the Archies, and superhero comics.  It was social reading that you did with your friends, or at Tatlow Park with my sister and cousins on Sundays.  It was something that I left behind in childhood.

Some graphic novels continue to focus on humour of daily life, relationships, and experiences.  Series like Will Henry’s Wallace the Brave  and Snug Harbour Stories; Aron Nels Steinke’s Mr. Wolf’s Class; and Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate are reminiscent of the Dennis the Menace and Calvin and Hobbes comic strips.  Yet they are much like Ramona and Beezus or Little House on the Prairie series with the ongoing antics and relationship issues.

The Harry Potter series create a fascination with fantasy that plays out in many of the graphic novel series such as Stephanie McCranie’s Space Boy, Tui T. Sutherland and Mike Holmes’ Wings of Fire and Emma Steinkellner’s The Okay Witch.  The characters in these stories wrestle with alienation and the quest to discover of self efficacy.  One series I have yet to explore is Kamome Shirahama’s Witch Hat Atelier series, which Jesset at Vancouver Kidsbooks, assures me is one of the best for upper intermediate students.

One of the big appeals of graphic novels seems to be the willingness of authors to share authentic experiences that matter to young readers, such as homelessness, physical health challenges, anxiety depression, therapy,  and death.  Jen Wang and Raina Telgemeier are both authors who trust their young readers with stories that matter.  As a result their readers adore them.

Kwame Alexander works with Dawud Anyabwile on the graphic novel adaptation of Crossover.  This adaptation is every bit as powerful as the original Newberry medal winning novel and audiobook.  Michael Nicoll Yahgulanagas incorporates Japanese manga with Haida imagery and story to create an entirely new art form.  Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg address the environmental crisis on earth with Astro-Nuts.   R.J. Palacio, George Takei and team, and Robert Freynet use comics and text to provide a comprehensive graphic novel on the topics of the Holocaust, Japanese Internment in the United states during World War II, and accurate analysis of Louis Riel and his role in Canada.

My homework has left me with a much better understanding of the graphic novel and an ability to weigh into an important conversation.  As my daughter so aptly portrayed in her stick figure drawing of me sitting on a stack of “fat, sad books” with tears streaming out of my eyes in her Grade 1 family drawing – I do love the fat fiction novel that delves into feelings and the injustices of life.  That will undoubtedly not change.  However what I now understand is that graphic novels are as multi-faceted as fiction or non-fiction books.  Reading enthusiasts may gravitate towards the humour of daily life, intricate fantasy worlds, a quest to explore relationships, self discovery, history, adventure or a new art form, and find it in a graphic novel.