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:

The Indigenous Voice

I grew up living, learning and playing in Vancouver, British Columbia, on the ancestral and unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.  I saw Indigenous people but I did not hear their voices.  In school we learned about a culture that was part of our past.  Not our present. Definitely not our future.  Yesterday on National Indigenous Peoples Day, the first day of summer on June 21, 2019, that had changed.  And to quote an expert on joy, Chief Dan George, ”And my heart soars”.

Raising of Indigenous poles at the VSB – proud moment in our quest for human rights in Canada

In the Summer 2019 edition of the Montecristo magazine, Robert Davidson talks about when he erected a totem in Masset in 1969.  It was the first one that had been raised since the 1880’s.  “…it opened the door for the elders to pass the incredible knowledge that was muted…Before the totem pole was raised we had no idea of their knowledge.  I had no idea that art was so important.”  I think Vancouver educators are hopeful that the poles raised at the VSB this week to advance reconciliation with Indigenous people and celebrated on National Indigenous Peoples Day with 1000 plus people to bear witness to the event, will be part of many positive and productive learning conversations.  I am deeply grateful that Akemi Eddy took her Grade 1 students to see the carvers in process and brought back wood shavings. Angie Goetz was able to support students in transforming the shavings into their own beautiful art.  Akemi also took three of our students with Indigenous heritage down to the VSB ceremony with our ever-supportive PAC parent, Kathleen Leung- Delorme.  These students were able to bear witness to the smudge at the beginning of the day in the presence of Judy Wilson-Raybould and Joyce Perrault.

I was fortunate to meet Joyce Perrault when I was the vice-principal at Norma Rose Point K-8 school in Vancouver.  It was one of the many schools that she was working as an Indigenous Education Enhancement Worker.  Not only was she able to establish a strong rapport with students in the relatively short weekly assignment at the school, but she was a sweet and gentle soul with a plethora of ideas to empower Indigenous students in finding their own voices, and to support non-Indigenous students in applying Indigenous teachings to explore their own pathways.  The hallway displays were inspired, interactive and collaborative ventures created with the Indigenous students she was working with.  She had put together a flipbook of the Medicine Wheel Teachings from her Anishinaabe/ Ojibwe heritage that she had implemented with students over the years.  She was looking for a publisher.  I had no doubt it would be published.  She thought the publisher would use her text and drawings.  I thought that the publisher would use the text and assign an artist to market it as a hardcopy version that could be used in libraries and on coffee tables, as well as a soft cover for use by individual kids.

The publisher smart enough to pick up the book was Peppermint Toast Publishing.  It is a small publisher in New Westminster that publishes one book per year.  They made a wise choice.  Joyce Perrault’s first book, All Creation Represented:  A Child’s Guide to the Medicine Wheel, was published in 2017 with Terra Mar’s amazing illustrations.  The Vancouver School Board alone has purchased 250 copies.  Her second publication is in process to support educators in teaching Indigenous ways of knowing through Medicine Wheel teachings.

This year, as principal of University Hill Elementary School, I did not have the number of Indigenous students, to warrant the assignment of an Indigenous Education Enhancement worker. However in Vancouver, it is mandatory for all public schools to have an Indigenous goal to support the quest to decolonize education. At University Hill Elementary, our Indigenous goal is: To increase knowledge, acceptance, empathy, awareness and appreciation of Indigenous histories, traditions, cultures and contributions among all students in an authentic way.

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Learning to Powwow dance with Shyama Priya

Our teachers took on this goal with enthusiasm.  When I arrived at the school, Melody Ludski, had already taken the lead in having a spindal whorl commissioned by Musqueam carver, Richard Campbell.  He came to unveil his amazing carving with his daughter shortly after the Truth and Reconciliation walk in 2017.  I was talking about how impressed I had been with the fluency of the young woman speaking Musqueam on the stage at the end of the Truth and Reconciliation Walk, only to discover that she was Richard Campbell’s daughter.  And she was standing in front of me.  Bonus! We had amazing teaching that day and our students were able to hear the welcome in the Musqueam language from Richard’s daughter, Vanessa Campbell .  Richard Campbell also shared the process of his carving, from the inspiration in the selection of wood to the finished product.  He also shared that he was a survivor of the residential school system.  Students, educators and parents in the audience witnessed first-hand the pain of the experience and the incredible support in the father-daughter relationship.

Many of our teachers have been engaged in personal, professional development around Indigenous teachings via VSB supported inquiry studies, school based professional development, book clubs and university coursework.  Our students have been the winners.  Delta authored materials published by Strong Nation Publishing have been implemented by primary teachers to teach core competencies. Ideas have been implemented from Jennifer Katz book, Ensouling Our Schools – A Universally designed framework for mental health, well-being, and reconciliation.

Staff got together to plan an outdoor learning space once the portables were removed from our site.  A large circle of twelve large rocks that were big enough to seat 30 students were installed to facilitate outdoor learning.  Some teachers wanted twelve rocks to teach time.  Many agreed one needed to be placed to indicate true north and all of the compass directions.  Some of us were excited with the possibilities for use as a talking / listening circle, as practiced in many of our classrooms, as well as integration of other Indigenous teachings.  The Musqueam have gifted the VSB with the word, Nə́ caʔmat ct, which means “We Are One”, as part of our move towards reconciliation.  I personally love thinking about it that way and calling it that as a way of honouring that our school is on Musqueam ancestral lands and demonstrating our openness to learning.

The intermediate curriculum benfited with the success of The Human Rights Internet Grant (www.hri.ca) for $1900.00 to implement new curriculum with Grade 4/5 students with a human rights lens on our Indigenous people.  Students learned about the United Nations Declaration of Rights and Freedoms which was adopted by Canada in 1959 and the implications of these rights for our Indigenous people.   It allowed us to show honour and respect by inviting Indigenous speakers to share Indigenous teachings with our students.  Intermediate students had inspirational drumming and storytelling sessions with Alec Dan and teachings about indigenous plants by Martin Sparrow in the Pacific Spirit Park.  This Human Rights Internet Grant also enabled UHill Elementary students to share their outdoor learning with students from Norma Rose Point during the Wild About Vancouver Celebration in April.  It also allowed us to invite Indigenous speakers to share their teachings with the entire school including: Debra Sparrow to talk about the replica of one of the MOA (Museum of Anthropology) weavings by her and her sister Robyn Sparrow that we recently purchased and display in our foyer; Shyama Priya to share her Powwow dancing, including participatory opportunities for our students; Martin Sparrow doing the Indigenous Acknowledgement and sharing his teachings at the 2nd Annual University Hill Elementary Multi-cultural Fair; Martin Sparrow sharing bannock and salmon pate at our Earth Day BBQ.  Joyce Perrault was also willing and able to request some of her teaching time allotment to come and share her book with our Grade 3 students and her process of writing it with our aspiring UHill Elementary authors.

Joyce Perrault in conversation with Vincente Regis about Indigenous teachings.

Vincente Regis, a new PAC member, came forward with an idea for a school community Arts Festival at a PAC Meeting this Spring.  He spoke passionately about the Arts Festivals he had implemented in Brazil as an educator.  With enthusiastic support from PAC, we  started meeting shortly after the PAC meeting to begin the planning for the first UHill Elementary Arts Festival.  He very much wanted it to unfold before the end of the school year while momentum was high.  When we decided on the date when we weren’t building the playground, and when I could access staging and tables for the event, Vincente immediately understood the significance of the Arts Festival taking place on Indigenous Peoples Day and the opportunity to honour the Indigenous voice and the contribution to Indigenous people in all aspects of the arts.  He promptly began planning to incorporate an Indigenous song from Brazil with our students.  I went to work to find an Indigenous artist willing and available to open with the Indigenous acknowledgement and put a spotlight on the Indigenous contribution in the arts.

The British Columbia Literacy Council of the International Literacy Association (BCLCILA) is currently going through a period of revitalization and relocation to Vancouver, British Columbia.  Due to the BCLCILA  / International Literacy Association membership of two UHill Elementary staff members and the support of BCLCILA, we were able to invite Joyce Perrault to not only facilitate an after-school session with educators in May, but also participate in the school community event on Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21, 2019 from 3:30 – 6:30 pm.  She graciously accepted even though her morning started with her participation in the VSB ceremony to honour the raising of the 13-metre pole carved by James Harry of the Squamish Nation, and his father Xwalack-tun, a master carver with 50 years’ experience, as well as the male and female welcome poles by Musqueam carvers, William Dan and his family and his siblings Chrystal and Chris Sparrow.  Big day!

Laura Tait, respected Indigenous educator, and current Assistant Superintendent at Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools (SD 68) has been cited to have said “If you want to know about Indigenous culture, make an Indigenous friend.”  That has been the basis of trying to provide opportunities for developing community with our Indigenous neighbours.  I have now participated with Joyce as she has engaged in learning conversations with students, educators, and parents.  Her pride in her Ojibwe / Metis heritage has remained constant.  Her voice has grown along with the number of people wanting to hear her story …”And my heart soars.” And more importantly, so does hers.  Our path to reconciliation needs to include more of these spaces for the development of Indigenous voice and friendships.

Superheroes Champion Syrian Refugees via CBC Podcast

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1947 This suitcase carried belongings of mother and her four young children to Canada to start a new chapter of life

It all started with a suitcase on Human Rights Day on December 10, 2015.  Tecumseh students were first asked to reflect on the Syrian Refugee crisis.  Students wrote letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressing their desire for Syrian boys and girls to live in a place without war where they could go to school in safety.  They wrote heartwarming notes to Syrian refugees so they would know that Canada is a country that values human right and was welcoming to people wanting to start new chapters of their lives.

This project captured the mind and heart of Grade 5/6 teacher Marion Collins, who worked tirelessly to provide learning opportunities for teachers and students throughout the year in the spirit of the redesigned curriculum in British Columbia.  With the help of a grant from Promoting a Culture of Peace for Children Society, the suitcase became a symbol of the refugee experience and a work of art welcoming individuals to add their individual voice to the multicultural expression of Canada.  With the help of a grant from ReadingBC (the BC council of the International Reading Association), the writing component of the project grew to include stories and photos of the journey to Canada of Tecumseh students, clothing with messages to Syrian refugees to go in the suitcase, reflections of what students would grab if they needed to leave home in a hurry like refugees.

Last week, Science World hosted the Digital Fair of the Vancouver School Board.  Grade 5/6 students presented their Graphic Novels inspired by CBC podcasts.  Graphic novels featured student created Refugee Superheroes to equip Syrian refugees with the skills to cope with the experience of settling in a new Canadian home.  They use captions, time labels, sounds and speech bubble to demonstrate their innovative, creative and unique style.  Most of all, they continue on the spirit of welcoming that comes from children who understand the challenges and difficulties that accompany leaving your home to start a new chapter of life in another country.


Shining A Light on Reading

Continue reading “Shining A Light on Reading”

#WelcomeSyrianRefugees

imageOn December 10th, 2015, Tecumseh Elementary School paused to celebrate Human Rights Day and to consider the plight of Syrian refugees.  If you had a chance to read the Welcoming Syrian Refugees blog (Dec. 2015), you will remember that Marion Collins was reading Hannah’s Suitcase with her students and we had the idea to create peace art with the old wooden suitcase that my paternal Grandmother brought to Canada in 1947 to start a new chapter of life with her four young children.   With the help of the grant from Promoting a Culture of Peace for Children Society, the suitcase has become an inspiration for representing ideas through art, reading, writing, listening, speaking and caring.

One side of the suitcase is decorated with messages of welcome to the Syrian refugees. The other sides are decorated with Jackson Pollock inspired art by Grade 3 students. Each colour represents each individual in Canada with all of our similarities and differences.  The finished masterpiece is the representation of all of us coming together to create something beautiful.  Tanya Conley’s students also made flags of the countries of origin of Tecumseh students and of the suitcase.  A local artist, Larkyn Froese, came into help the Grade 3’s with applying the flags on the project.  Grade 6 students wrote messages of welcome on fabric squares and sewed them on items of clothing to be displayed coming out of the suitcase.

The artwork became a catalyst for more questions and an inspiration for the reading and writing of Tecumseh students.  With the help of a grant from ReadingBC (The British Columbia chapter of the International Literacy Association –ILA), Ms. Collins continued to expand the project to include a literacy component with the entire school.   The experience of leaving home and family behind is a difficult experience as an immigrant and as a refugee. Many of the parents in our school community have given up good jobs in their home country and work hard, often with more than one job, to provide better opportunities for their children in Canada.  Ms. Collins spearheaded a writing project with intermediate students to interview their parents and discover family stories of hardship and triumph.  Several albums have been filled with the interviews and photographs for display with the suitcase.

This same family history vein was pursued by Ms. Conley’s HumanEYES art based initiative that celebrates the diverse life experiences of young people throughout the Vancouver, Coast Salish ancestral lands.  This project documented inter-generational and inter-cultural storytelling and celebrates the importance of family and maintaining cultural roots.  The project culminated with an intergenerational cookbook filled with recipes, art and family photographs of her 4th graders that has been included in the suitcase as well.

Ms. Collins, her enthusiasm and the desire of staff to get involved resulted in almost all of the classrooms in the school taking part in the project.  Several classes stopped to consider the notion of taking flight in war-torn areas with very few belongings.  They learned many refugees leave home with a house key in the hope their home will survive the war or as a memory of what was.  Several intermediate classes of students designed hamsa handsan old and still popular amulet for magical protection from the envious or evil eye in many Middle East and North African cultures.  They created keychains with the hasma hand, a key and a fimo sculpture of what they pack if they needed to leave home in a hurry.  Primary students wrote and drew about what they would bring and have created albums of their ideas for inclusion in the suitcase as well.

The #WelcomeSyrianRefugees project was first featured at the United Way luncheon for Syrian Refugees that was hosted at Tecumseh Elementary school this Spring.  The most common reaction from the adults viewing the project has been tears.  In the barrage of negatives on mainstream media and social media, there is comfort that Canadian children are welcoming their Syrian children with open arms.  There is also the hope that there are many Canadian adults who are doing exactly the same thing.

Note:  The title #WelcomeSyrianRefugees came from the Twitter handle of the same name that expresses messages of welcome not just to Syrian refugees.  This project will be on display at the Vancouver School Board during July and August 2016.  Our goal is for it to be displayed at a variety of venues as a way to warmly welcome refugees as they begin a new chapter of their lives in Canada.

 

Taking learning and purposeful play outside, rain or shine

imageInvestigating Our Practice Conference in the Faculty of Education on Saturday, May 14th.  The day was filled with poster presentations, talks and interactive experiences by undergraduates, grad students, faculty and alumni.  It was particularly exciting to see the level of engagement of the student giving up their very sunny Vancouver Saturday to consider a range of ideas and questions.  For those of you who are not Vancouverites, when the sun comes out in full glory, we go outside – never quite certain how long it will be around.

I had the pleasure of presenting The Outdoor Classroom:  Taking learning and purposeful play outside, rain or shine with Claire Rushton, Alli Tufaro and Ali Nasato.        We were pulled together by a common interest in the opportunity provided by outdoor learning.  This one interest was able to pull together so many elements that have been embraced as key ideas in the Redesigned Curriculum in British Columbia, such as:

  • The social emotional benefits of engaging with nature
  • The natural way in which we can engage students in practicing and understanding the First Nations Principles of Learning, including:
    • experiential learning
    • patience and time required for learning
    • exploring one’s identity
    • everyone and everything has a story
    • history matters
    • there are consequences to our actions
  • Ways to engage students in cross curricular learning opportunities
  • Connecting classroom lessons to the larger world
  • Using resources in the classroom to answer our questions about observations made outdoors
  • Reporting back about the things we care about to authentic audiences

Of course, the list goes on.  Another interesting aspect of our collaborative group was the power of inquiry in developing our professional practice as educators throughout different stages of our careers.  Both student teachers have found a way to focus their  professional learning throughout the practicum experience.  Claire Rushton, as the coordinator of the Social Emotional Learning cohort has used the outdoors to bring  Richard Louv’s work to life and introduce the power of “nature … as a healing balm for the emotional hardships in a child’s life..” by integrating the experiences in nature to frame discussions of social – emotional learning. I have engaged in a personal inquiry of how to use iPad APPS  (photos, Drawing Pad, Book Creator, Twitter) as a way to access information, document and share outdoor learning.  I’ve also been able to support the staff I interact with on a regular basis in their own inquiries.  Inquiry, as framed by Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser in Spirals of Inquiry, has provided a framework for beginning teachers as well as a school administrator and university instructor.  The learning has fuelled more questions and future inquiries.

 

I very much hope our collaboration continues…perhaps after the frenetic pace of the end of practicum, final observations and reports and end of year demands and celebrations!

Deborah Hodge Talks the Craft of Writing


There is nothing like the visit from a REAL author to bring to life the point that authors are real people, writing about their experiences or imaginings.  We are thrilled to welcome Deborah Hodge to speak to the Vancouver School Board.  Deborah Hodge will be joining administrators, librarians and two students from 55 Vancouver elementary schools at Shaughnessy Elementary School on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.

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Each year the Vancouver Elementary Principals and Vice Principals host an author to celebrated reading and writing with elementary students and educators.  Phyllis Simon of Vancouver Kidsbooks, is one of our keen supporters.  She selects a collection of some of the most wonderful picture books that have been recently published for the selection committee to peruse.  Of course, I love this committee and always manage to find birthday picks for my friends, family and my own collection.  It is also a source of inspiration for possibilities in the school.   From our shortlist of books, we then contact the authors to determine their availability during Canadian Children’s Book Week:  May 7 – May 14th, 2016 to share their book .

For 2016, we have selected a new publication by Deborah Hodge.  This author was born in Saskatchewan but lucky for us, she lives in Vancouver.  Deborah Hodge has written over 25 books for children, many of which provide a plethora of information about nature and history.  Her picture book , West Coast Wild – A Nature Alphabet, has been purchased for all of the elementary libraries in the district by the administrator’s association.   Several schools in the Vancouver School District participated in Wild About Vancouver Festival this year and interest in learning in the outdoor classroom is growing.  The First People’s Principles of Learning have also been highlighted in the Redesigned Curriculum in British Columbia and have opened our eyes to the experiential and reflective learning of Indigenous People who have lived and learned in British Columbia for thousands of years.   Both of these factors, along with the engaging text and illustrations make this book a perfect choice.

Students throughout the district are excited about the chance to meet Deborah Hodge and have their questions answered.    Grade 3 students at Tecumseh have been writing alphabet books about topics they have been researching.  Maria got new glasses this year and has taken off with her writing.  She is wondering if Deborah Hodge saw all of the animals she wrote about in her book or if she did an internet search to find the animal that matched the letter she needed.  Victoria is writing an ABC book about the aquarium and is wondering how the author got so many good ideas for her book. Hopefully they will find their answers on Wednesday.

Special Thanks to  Vancouver Administrators for funding this project,  committee members – Maureen McDonnell and Maria Donovan, as well as staff at Shaughnessy Elementary School for hosting this event.

 

 

 

 

 

   Welcoming Syrian Refugees

 

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I love December 10th. On that day in 1948, many nations came together to sign The United Nations Declaration of Rights and Freedoms. It is an annual reminder of the acknowledgement that human rights exist, despite what we read in the newspaper, see in the media, and witness all too often in daily interactions. It is also another reminder to have the conversation with our schools about human rights.

The quality of the conversation ranges from surface to particularly moving depending on the year, the person negotiating it and the students.  This year has been magic.  One of the teachers was reading Hannah’s Suitcase by Karen Levine, about the Holocaust with her 6th Grade students.  I was reading Playing War by Kathy Beckwith , to explore why war isn’t a  fun game for students coming from war torn countries with 3rd grade students.  With the help of a grant from Promoting a Culture of Peace for Children, the conversation morphed into a project to welcome Syrian refugees.

I went down to the storage locker to pull out my Christmas decorations and an old suitcase that Ms. Collins and her 6th graders could use to decorate with images and hold all our messages to welcome the Syrian refugees coming to Canada.  The suitcase holding some of my most precious and breakable Christmas decorations caused me to pause.  My paternal grandmother had gotten the suitcase on a trip to Russia.  She used it to take flight several times with her four young children away from the front line of war in Germany during WWII. Her brother sponsored her and her two sisters and all of their children to come to Canada in 1947. Margriet’s suitcase took her on to the Voldendam to travel to Canada and start a new life.

I am an administrator in a school where many families have made sacrifices to come to Canada with the promise of starting a better life.  At the Winter Potluck dinner, messages of support and advice were written to the Syrian refugees coming to Canada.  Ms. Collin’s Grade 6 students have been at a booth to tell people about the Syrian refugees and encourage them to write messages to add to the others in the suitcase.  Mable Elmore, our MLA for Vancouver-Kensington, has come to talk to students about her job and work with refugees.  Yesterday Ms. Collins, on the busiest shopping day of the year, with her daughter in tow, arrived at a community forum to discuss how to support the Syrian refugees that may be arriving in our area.  The conversation deepens, the project expands and the possibility for learning and caring expands exponentially.