Does this sound like you?:
“We’ve had so many social issues this week- Our students have forgotten how to get along with each other!”
While everyone was worried about the academic decline of students during the 6 months of remote learning, it’s actually been the social/emotional decline that’s been most noticeable for many teachers.
This calls for a focus on explicitly reteaching the social and emotional skills required to show kindness, get along with others and make and keep friends.
Here are 10 picture books to help you:
#1 Molly and Mae- Danny Parker and Freya Blackwood
This book, about a long train trip taken by two young friends, highlights the highs and lows of friendship. Sometimes friends annoy you or even make you upset. Sometimes you can say things to your friends that you don’t really mean. The important thing is that you make up for your mistakes and patch things up with people you care about.
This book would be a great discussion starter for talking about strategies for repairing issues with friends.
#2 Pearl Barley and Charley Parsley- Aaron Blabey
Pearl and Charley are best friends but they are also very different people; They like different things and act differently too. Others often wonder how people who are so different can even be good friends.
This gorgeous book highlights the fact that your friends don’t need to be exactly like you- opposites do attract and they can actually make for great friendships.
#3 Banjo and Ruby Red- Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood
Banjo (the dog) and Ruby Red (the chook) start out being enemies in the farmyard but ultimately become the best of friends. This friendship develops through an act of kindness on Banjo’s behalf. What things can you do to show kindness to others?
#4 My Two Blankets- Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood
This gorgeous story demonstrates the influence one nice action can have on someone else’s world: A young girl is new to a foreign country and another child shows her a smile each day and teaches her some new words to help her settle in.
This is a book about bravery, kindness and friendship. It could inspire a Random Acts of Kindness project where students aim to engage in at least one R.A.K by the end of each day/week. (Remember to develop an anchor chart of possible R.A.Ks to inspire ideas for students and give them something specific to try).
#5 Have you Filled a Bucket Today?- Carol McCloud
(Ok, this book isn’t Australian but it’s still a great book for this topic.)
Read the book ‘Have you filled a bucket today?’ to students. (If you don’t have a copy of the book you could use this youtube clip of John-John, an Australian teacher, reading the story). After reading the book, discuss things students can do to ‘fill’ other people’s buckets and things they do that ‘dip into’ other people’s buckets. (When I was teaching year 6 students we referred to these two things as ‘warm fuzzies’ and ‘cold pricklies’).
Have students decorate a receptacle of some description (eg. a brown paper bag or a paper cup) and put these on display so other students can ‘fill’ them with their kind written comments throughout the term.
#6 Sarah and the Steep Slope- Danny Parker and Matt Ottley
I really like this book. It’s about a girl who is suffering depression (although this is never mentioned by name), a doctor comes to see her and eventually her friends help her move through the tough times she is experiencing.
This book has a fantastic message about the power of friendship and it’s highly applicable for the current times (where unwanted steep slopes have been popping up all over the place).
#7 The Pocket Dogs and the Lost Kitten- Margaret Wild and Stephen Michael King
I LOVE the Pocket Dogs books, they always make your heart feel so full and warm.
This book touches on the classic issue of jealousy when someone adds a new friend to a friendship group. You know the old ‘you can only have one friend’ schoolyard problem?
The Pocket Dogs get jealous because their owner adds a kitten to their family and they eventually learn that everyone can get along and be friends-in fact, the more the merrier.
#8 Three- Stephen Michael King
This absolutely gorgeous and heart-warming book (and recent honour book for the CBCA awards) is all about highlighting gratitude for the small things in life. It encourages people to look for the small wins and hold on to those. It’s a book about kindness, friendship and being who you are.
# 9 The Thank You Dish- Trace Balla
This simple book is about valuing and showing gratitude for the simple things in life.
It features a conversation between a mother and daughter at their kitchen table, where they reflect on all the things they are thankful for.
This would be a good book for helping students to develop a gratitude diary or even start a quick gratitude check-in after recess or lunch.
#10 Two Mates- Melanie Prewett and Megan Prewett
This book is essentially a recount of a friendship between two best mates. It gives details about some of the things the mates enjoy doing together and reflects on why they like being friends. (The added bonus for this book is that it promotes diversity in the form of indigenous backgrounds and disability).
This book would be fantastic for getting students to reflect on a friendship they share with another person and even sparking a piece of writing about that friendship. What are the things you enjoy doing together? Why are you grateful for that friendship?
For more practical ideas on building stronger relationships in your classroom, check out this post on building a supportive classroom culture.
Do you have any other books you like to use to help build students’ social skills?
I’d love to hear about them!
Post a comment below or share your ideas in the Oz Lit Teacher Facebook group.