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:

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.

Keep Going for Equity and Justice

Creating a space where each member of a community not only feels welcome but valued and respected is a gargantuan challenge.  I have been welcomed into spaces where there are is an unwritten code, or set of expectations, that you must identify and comply with if you do not want to fall into disfavour and subsequently have the welcome withdrawn.  All too often the rules are apparent after the fact.  Or perhaps, they are never are discerned.  Job places, schools, places of worship, and community gathering spots face the same challenge of how to create spaces where people with diverse cultures, belief systems, family structures and appearance can come together in a context where everyone feels valued and in the words of Marlo Thomas – free to be. 

I have lost heart that any set of rules will provide all the answers. The Declaration of Human Right and Freedoms was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 and enshrined the rights and freedoms of all human beings. Subsequent human and civil rights law have codified many of these basic rights. We have had time for full implementation. And yet, in wealthy countries the #MeToo #BlackLivesMatter #IndigenousLivesMatter echo the cries of people waiting for even basic rights to be extended to them. The citing or rules, finger pointing, and defining the work that others need to do, breeds anger and resentment rather than a collective, coordinated effort to do better.

If we are going to make a difference in the quest to create respectful spaces, we are going to need to capture the imaginations of the people within organizations whether it’s a workplace, school, club or social organization.  Co-existing in a space does not generate a welcoming or generous climate.  We need curiosity and empathy.  The kind of curiosity that inspires us to want to get to know each other, the patience to listen to someone’s story and the development of empathy.

The best place to start teaching this process is in schools, where we already have students brimming with curiosity, not afraid to ask questions, and ready to dive into the learning.  I have been inspired by Patrick Stewart’s reading Shakespeare’s sonnets and Michelle Obama’s story time online.  As part of the process of building community in our school, I decided to put a weekly story on YouTube for my school.  For my first book, I chose Fauja Singh Keeps on Going to dovetail with our recent learning about Diwali. 

I gathered the book, my tripod, my iPhone, and headed off to read the book to a Grade 5 class.  After I discovered there was too much noise and the student response to the book, I headed off to read to the Grade 3 class I was covering.   It is a newly published book by Simran Singh with illustrations by Baljinder Kaur that bring additional insight into Sikh culture.  Fauja Singh is 108 years old and will live on in my heart.  He experiences physical adversity, racism, loss, and becomes the first 100-year-old person to finish a marathon.  Fauja demonstrates resilience, perseverance and grace in moving forward to become an inspiration for all of us.  Before I went off to read with students, I called one of the parents in my school community to make sure I was pronouncing Fauja’s name correctly.  Turns out Bindy interviewed Fauja when she was doing the research for her doctoral degree and was able to provide a great personal story to bring additional insight to our students.    

My 15-minute YouTube time limit for Ms. Froese Reads, didn’t allow for me to include the fascinating conversation with students.  All of us immediately made the connections with Terry Fox, the Canadian hero who demonstrated the same kind of perseverance and integrity as Fauja.  The image of Canadians running beside Fauja was reminiscent of people running beside Terry to encourage him along his route and it made us proud as Canadians.  The racist treatment of Fauja in New York post 9/11 was a focus of both conversations.  A Grade 5 girl with white skin spoke of her embarrassment about people being racist, even though she wasn’t there.  A Grade 3 boy with brown skin gave an impassioned and well-informed speech about how Donald Trump and how his racist beliefs are taking the United States in the wrong direction.  These kids heard Fauja’s story.  They understand fairness.  They empathize.  They were inspired by Fauja’s mother ‘s message that “Today is a chance to do your best.”  How do we inspired everyone to take a step back and proceed with kindness on a path to equity and justice?

We are at another junction in history where people are pausing to consider our direction.   Certainly, it will take a willingness to listen more and to broaden our perspectives if that is to be a path towards equity and justice.  The route of how to get to a more social just society is widely disputed.  I still hold tight to the  principles laid out in the United Nations Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  I believe the process of continuing to articulate those principles in a Children’s Charter, an Indigenous Charter, and a Canadian Charter were important to further strengthen these basic rights and freedoms.  I will continue to live them and to teach them.  I believe in laws and their fair application to provide justice.  I also believe in mandatory training to outline expectations in the workplace and in public institutions.  Yet, they are not enough. 

How do we inspire curiosity and a desire to do better?  How do we break down the hierarchical and social structures that inhibit people from sharing their stories with the people in their schools, jobs, places of worship, and the cities we live in?  And how do we inspire people to want to empathize?  How do we encourage people to give each other the benefit of the doubt and not immediately assume the worst intention?  Any environment that creates a fear of making mistakes, is destined to become entrenched in camps.  Silence follows fear.  Growth requires a collaborative effort to understand. Authors like Margaret Atwood, Wab Kinew and Yaa Gyasi have the ability to shift perspectives within a few hundred pages.  Children are responsive to well written books with diverse perspectives, particularly when followed with engaging discussion.  Sitting face to face in a room and learning about someone’s journey is magic.  As a member, then community fieldworker for Amnesty International, I had the opportunity to listen to the stories or many people who had been imprisoned and tortured for their religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, political belief or relationship to someone else being persecuted and intimidated.  They were stories or hope, survival and gratitude.  They were inspirational and strengthened my resolve to work for social justice.   During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, hearts were broken listening to traumatic stories of residential school survivors  and family breakdown of our Indigenous people.  It brought a part of Canadian history, omitted in textbooks, to the forefront of our collective consciousness as a country.  Anyone involved in the process has a greater level of empathy and understanding of the complexity and importance of the path to reconciliation with our Indigenous people. Like Fauja Singh, we need to keep going until basic rights and freedoms are part of the lived experience of all people and we don’t even have to ask – Do you feel valued?  It will be a given.

Seeking Out Joy

Bhangra Joy with Gurdeep Pandher

The first tweet @GurdeepPandher that I saw was from his little cabin in the Yukon.  His bhangra dancing with abandon filled my heart with joy.  For those of you that know me well, this will not surprise you.  Dancing with abandon always fills my heart with joy.  And so, I retweeted.  And I have continued to retweet as he has danced his way around Canada through the COVID-19 pandemic.  He’s danced in Nova Scotia, in Ottawa, with the Canadian Armed Forces, and to bagpipe music. The list goes on. And every time he dances, he makes me smile.

I am on the Board of Directors for Wild About Vancouver.  Gurdeep has inspired the dream of people dancing their favourite dances outdoors throughout the Lower Mainland of Vancouver and tweeting it out @WildAboutVan.   It would be brilliant.  I am also back at school as principal of David Livingstone Elementary School. He has inspired the notion of teaching kids dances that they can do outside at recess and lunch. Socially distanced joy. Not a bad plan!

I went to Gurdeep’s website and was able to purchase and download music for bhangra dancing and sign up for an online dance class.  AND I was able to do my first class this morning and talk to Gurdeep.  He is just as lovely in person (which means on ZOOM in the COVID-19 world) as he is in his tweets.  His direction:

Stand up straight and engage your core.

Shoulders back.

Chin up.

Express joy in your face, and happiness in your heart and soul, with a smile.

This is certainly one pathway to mental health and physical fitness. I certainly need more practice to coordinate moving my arms and legs in sync with the hops but then … joy on the playground and around the Lower Mainland. Thanks, Gurdeep!

Check out his site ( gurdeep.ca) and join the celebration and opportunity to, as Gurdeep puts it – “Have some fun in the chaos.”

Eating Marigolds

When I was eight years old, I got my first dog.  My sister had gone down to California to live with my father and I was very lost and all alone.  A family friend convinced my mother that the answer was a puppy.  Scamper was a little, black, curly haired cock-a-poo.  She was an amazing playmate and helped me rediscover joy in my life. 

Joy came to Scamper particularly easily.  One of her greatest joys was in late spring when my mother planted rows of yellow marigold flowers and bright red salvias.  Scamper would promptly get to work biting off the marigold flowers.  She was not a particularly well trained little dog.  She would throw the flowers in the air.  Catch them.  Run in circles with them in her mouth. Roll in them.  And finally she would eat them.  We were left with long rows of green marigold plants with no flowers.  My mother did not find any joy in this.  My dog could not contain her joy.  We all find our moments of joy in different ways.

The big joys come from the relationships that develop with the people who are there for us over the long haul.  The people that let us know that we matter and that we are special.  We don’t even need to see these people frequently.  These are the kindred spirits that help to sustain us through the hard times and celebrate the good times.  Then there are the people who we cross paths with and we develop relationships that are situational.  They are fun and filled with laughter and open us to other ways of being and doing.  Often as the context shifts , the relationships fade into the background.  They are fun while then last.

As the complexity of life and the demands of work and home increase, joy can get lost.  People are not always kind and do not always give you the benefit of the doubt or struggle to find joy themselves.  Demands can feel insurmountable in a 24 hour period. 

For me, the answer is to go on a deliberate quest to find joy on a daily basis.  The beautiful thing  about working in a school is that it is filled with kids.  Joy is always close at hand.  Stories.  Smiles.  Questions. Explanations. Pondering. Witnessing joy in accomplishments.

I ran into a colleague not too long ago.  She said “Yeah, I was thinking about your joy thing.  I tried it.  I like it.  It actually works.”  I love being known for my “joy thing”.  I am looking forward to summer joy.  In summer, I don’t have to go looking for joy.  It finds me.  Beaches. Books.  Lakes.  Laughter. Friends.  Family.  Biking.  Golf.  I’ve even discovered that marigolds are actually edible and will definitely order a salad with marigold flowers in it.  Who knew, Scamper was on to something! The things you can learn from your dog!  Joy in eating marigolds.

Curriculum Learning at Gr.6 Camp

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Last week was the annual Grade 6 Camp Elphinstone experience.  For students on the South Slope of Vancouver, it is a game changer.  Most of the children come to camp and experience a plethora of “Firsts”.  This year some of those “firsts” included:

  • taking a ferry
  • staying in a cabin with friends
  • sighting a baby bear
  • watching a river otter poop
  • canoeing
  • kayaking
  • archery
  • catching a fish
  • swimming in the ocean
  • attempting to hit the bell at the top of the climbing wall
  • Meal time and Campfire ritual of songs and chants and debates
  • counting the seconds between the forked lightning and thunder
  • eating Mexican sushi (actually scrambled egg breakfast wraps)
  • setting the table, serving food, and cleaning up

The team building opportunity presented by the camp experience creates a  perfect opportunity to develop the essentials of social and emotional learning.  This results in a sense of belonging and a wonderful tone going into their final Grade 7 year of elementary school for Tecumseh students.  The YMCA has years of providing high quality programming for young people and has all of the elements of the camp experience down to perfection.  The camp rituals of family style food service and traditional campfire songs and activities challenge students to take risks, engage in experiential learning and explore their identity.  The young counsellors from Canada, New Zealand and Australia are able to keep up with the pace of energetic Grade 6 students and facilitate safe and memorable learning experiences.  Our Junior counsellors from David Thompson Secondary and sponsor teachers came together to ensure the best experience possible for our campers.

If you talk to our students, they will tell you they are on a holiday from school.  In actual fact, they have simply entered the outdoor classroom to engage in experiential learning masked as fun.  The learning is not in just one experience but many experiences in nature and with peers over time.  If you have the time and inclination, you may want to open up the redesigned curriculum in British Columbia-Grade 6.  The three-day camp experience touched on many big ideas, all of the core competencies and a meaty chunk of curriculum.  The social emotional learning is pervasive throughout all of the activities and experiences and indigenous ways of knowing are infused throughout the experience.

Meal time and camp fire included  action songs, chants, listening games and debates for students to hone their powers of persuasion.  Shelter building required teamwork to come up with a plan to build a shelter from materials on the forest floor that could withstand both the earthquake and water test.  Canoeing, kayaking, hiking, the climbing wall and archery challenged students to take risks, learn a new skill and took the development of flexibility, strength and endurance to new levels.  The range of games such Running Pictionary, Capture the Flag, Camouflage tag and Wink, Wink, Murder necessitate safety rules, game rules, social interaction, spatial awareness and verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

Upon reflection, the camp experience opens a myriad of possibilities for more intentional curriculum learning.  I am not proposing duo-tangs filled with photocopied worksheets.  I am proposing that we consider the aspects of curriculum that can be incorporated into the camp experience.  Place based Aboriginal perspectives and ways of knowing as outlined in the First People’s Principles of Learning could be clearly articulated.  The opportunity to directly teach social emotional skills to allow students to develop coping skills for dealing with stress and for dealing with conflict effectively are present throughout the daily schedule.  The consideration of opportunities for direct instruction in mindfulness by tapping into nature and social interaction are plentiful.  It means people with background knowledge about the solar system, constellations, local flora, fauna and primary resources become invaluable.  Materials such as compasses, Write in the Rain notebooks and field handbooks may need to be purchased. The camp experience may be re-imagined, not as an “extra” but as a vital pathway to develop and incorporate big ideas, core competencies and curriculum knowledge for our students in a meaningful way.

   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.

Fostering Self Regulation and Emotional Control

“Fostering self-regulation and emotional control” have become as much a part of instruction as reading and writing.  Kids that are not able to understand and manage their emotions are not able to learn and frequently make it difficult for others to learn.  Before this book was published, I used the graphic of a stop light to teach kids about how to define and consider their feelings and discuss strategies to keep from getting overwhelmed and making choices that created a whole new layer of problems for the classroom community.  The Zones of Regulation:  A Curriculum Designed To Foster Self-Regulation and Emotional Control (2011) by Leah M. Kuypers develops a solid approach to exploring these topics in a far more comprehensive way.  Adding a blue zone to talk about when you are sad or sick or tired or bored or moving slowly helps kids to understand their feelings with far more depth.  I was introduced to this book by a behaviour intervention support worker and have it reintroduced by ever other STIBS worker who I have crossed paths with in Vancouver.  It is generally proposed for use with a student struggling to manage their behaviour in the classroom and readily embraced by classroom teachers for use with the whole class.  The support poster is pricey at $12.00 but worth it because you can use dry erase markers and help students create personalized toolkits to manage the emotions listed in the four zones.  The reproducibles included in the book are well thought out and included on a CD.  I have just bought another copy of this book for my current staff because it has been wholeheartedly embraced by two of my teachers.  It isn’t a book to borrow, it’s a book to have on hand for your own reference.