The Holiday Book Guide

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In addition to being an occupational therapist, I also run a social skills group called The Meeting House Juniors.  We are a recreational based social skills program for children ages 4-7 years old who have a variety of social struggles.  While our number one goal is to make them feel more socially comfortable and prepare them for the increasingly more demanding social demands they may face as they get older, we also want them to enjoy coming.  This means that we have had to find fun ways to talk to them and work on social skills.

As I was trying to develop our curriculum this year, I decided that one of the most effective and fun ways would be to use picture books to teach our social skills lessons each week.  We used to end each session at TMH Juniors last year by reading a picture book and it the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much they looked forward to that time of the afternoon.  It also made me realize that younger children have a hard time being able to identify and recognise their own social deficits but with the right platform, they are able to recognize it in other people and the characters in books.  Using picture books in our group has been a great way to talk about different kinds of social emotional challenges that kids might face and can be a great way to brainstorm, problem solve and include parents in our process so that kids can be better prepared for a variety of challenging social situations.

Below, I share just a handful of the very extensive number of books that make up my personal and professional library.  What they all have in common is that they are beautifully written, have amazing illustrations and teach a life lesson that will help our children become more socially aware.

After The Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Salent
We all know about Humpty Dumpty but do we know about what happened after he was finally put back together?  This is the story about Humpty Dumpty overcoming his fear of heights after taking that great big fall and building up the courage to climb the wall again.  So many of the kids I work with have giant fears and those fears may get in the way of them trying new things or doing things that they were once comfortable doing.  As they follow Humpty Dumpty through the story, they learn that sometimes it’s not easy and we still may be a bit scared, but if we are brave and show courage, we end up overcoming our fears and doing great things.

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtentheld
In this children’s book the main theme is about bullying and being a good friend.  Stick and Stone are both feeling alone and sad until Stick comes upon Stone being picked on by a pine cone.  They become fast friends and spend all of their time together until Stick is blown away during a storm.  Stone won’t stop searching for his best friend and they are eventually reunited.

Fair Is Fair by Sonny Varela and Peter Mahr

What parent or teacher hasn’t heard the words “It’s not fair!”.  Whether it be about not getting a special treat for dessert or going to bed earlier than their older sibling, kids are always worried about things not being fair and even.  In this book, three animals in the zoo (elephant, giraffe and a bunny) don’t understand or think it’s fair that one animal gets more than the other two.  Kids learn about fairness and just because someone may get something you want or more of something, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t equally loved.

The Color Monster by Anna Llenas
Teaching children about emotions and feelings is an important lesson that helps them not only understand their own feelings, but gives them perspective about other people and how they might be feeling.  The Color Monster is a beautifully illustrated popup book that helps children learn about emotions by matching it with a color.  Kids love this interactive book and it is a great way for parents and younger children to talk about feelings and what they can do when they are feeling certain ways.

Be A Friend by Salina Yoon
This is one of my favorite and most recommended books, especially for children who feel different.  Dennis is an ordinary little boy who likes to express himself through miming.  He doesn’t use his words to try and connect with his peers and because of that, he feels alone.  That is until he meets a little girl named Joy who accepts him for who he is and a beautiful friendship develops because of her willingness to be open-minded.  As more children are being integrated into mainstream classrooms, this book is a must for parents and classrooms to help children develop an open mind for children who are different than them and to not be scared of them.

We Are All Wonders by R.J. Palacio
One of my all time favorite books was the young adult novel Wonder so I was thrilled when I discovered that they released a picture book for younger children.  This book is a wonderful way to introduce kids to the importance of empathy and kindness.  We Are All Wonders is old from the perspective of Auggie, a young boy who was born with a variety of facial differences that has required countless surgeries which has kept him out of school.  He talks about how even though he looks different than other children, he does ordinary things and is much more like his peers than they think and how he wants them to see him for who he is and not how he looks.

The Smallest Girl in the Grade by Justin Roberts
In this book, the theme is about speaking up and making yourself heard.  Sally is the littlest girl in her whole class and nobody seems to notice her.  The thing is is that she notices everything, especially the kids who are bullying and getting bullied.  One day, Sally decides she just can’t take watching the mean kids any more and says something and makes herself heard by standing up to the bullies in her school.  We all know a kid (or many!) who need to be encouraged to use their voice and either stick up for themselves or for others.  This book is an important read, especially for kids who need to learn about the importance of speaking up and making themselves heard, even when they don’t think anyone will listen to them.

Pete The Cat: I love My White Shoes by James Dean
One of the biggest lessons we can teach our children is how to differentiate between little and big problems.  For most kids, when a something happens to them, it is the biggest problem that they will ever face. Pete the Cat shows us how to make the best out of a problem by not getting upset and just moving on. Many of the Pete the Cat books teach a similar lesson and because of the sing-song way the book is written, the kids can really get into reading with you.  In addition to working on size of the problems, Pete the Cat books are great for teaching kids about the importance of being a flexible thinker, especially when things don’t go the way  you want them to. 

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

We all have children (either our own or ones that we work with) who are resistant to try new things, especially if they are fearful that they may not be as good as they would like to be at it.  In The Dot, children learn about the power of persistence and taking the a risk of trying something outside of their comfort zone.   Vashti is discouraged by an art project.  At the end of her class, all she has is a blank piece of paper; instead of being angry with her, her art teacher encourages her to just draw a dot and and sign her name on the paper.  When she arrives in the classroom next, she sees her picture hanging up for all to see.  That is all it took to encourage her to draw and paint more.  As her artistic abilities grow, so does her confidence and self-esteem.

Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins
One of the things that many parents, teachers and caregivers have to deal with is a child who is not always polite. In this book, kids can begin to learn about being polite and the importance of being kind to others with a tremendous amount of humor.  Rude cakes never say please or thank you, are known to take things that don’t belong to them without asking.  He is known to be inconsiderate and ungrateful, bullies other sweets and disrespects his parents.  That is until he is taken to another land where Giant Cyclopses (who are silly but very polite) end up using rude cakes as a hat where he learns the importance of being kind and patient and is able to change his ways when he returns home.

Let’s Get Along Books-this is a series I found that works on more specific social difficulties.  These short and engaging books focus on raising awareness for positive behaviors.  In this box set, kids will be introduced to a handful of students from Miss Clayton’s classroom.  The illustrations are fun and the stories are easy for preschoolers (these are really targeted towards younger children/preschool age) to follow.  These are great books for any classroom setting as the issues that they focus on (being kind, sharing, working together and calming down) are things that come up all the time for children in all classrooms and schools!

So these are just a handful of the dozens and dozens of books that I recommend this holiday season.  I’m always adding to my book collection so if you have any books that you love or would recommend, please share them with me.  I know that my readers will also appreciate hearing any suggestions you might have.  If you have a child who has other social difficulties and would like some recommendations on books that might be good for your child, please don’t hesitate reaching out to me….I am always a click away and LOVE being able to share my recommendations with everyone.

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