Sunday, November 18, 2012

X-man's Influential Literature Library

We've been working a lot on self-acceptance and learning through social stories at our house this fall. X-man gets so moved by certain children books that sometimes he cries out of joy, other times he sobs in sadness, and more often than I like, he asks me to shut the book or skip pages because the storyline makes him nervous or scared. "One" by Kathryn Otoshi is one of the books that he always goes back to when he feels insecure. It makes him feel better about the world, and empowered to know that he can make a difference. He also likes that he can talk about how there are less bullies than one might think. In fact, most of the characters in the book are confused, scared and unsure about what to do to solve a community bullying problem. The hope from finding someone who might be afraid of standing up to the bully, but knows it's the right thing is a big deal.

So, when I found Otoshi's second book in the series, "Zero," on the shelf, I bought it immediately. It's about a number that wants to change who he or she is because he or she envies things in other people that he or she doesn't have. This is something else that is rampant in our house. It inspired us to take another look at all the good things we have in our lives, and remember why we rock.

Todd Parr is amazing. I have loved the social constructs in his books forever. I like that his crazy drawings to get to be themselves, that they eat macaroni in the bathtub, that Mommy's work and stay home, that some families have two daddies, or one parent or that children might live with their grandparents. It's Okay to Be Different really focuses in on how diverse humans are and why we should not only be okay with ourselves, but we should be okay with others' differences, too.

X-man is a sleuth. He wants to figure out what he doesn't understand and social situations challenge him. I found this book through the library system before he started with April Keaton. During X-man's second meeting with her, she came out and said, "He said he just read this at home with you." I smiled. This weekend, X-man had a play date with a new friend. The Mom stayed and she and I got to talking. It turns out that one of the elementary schools in town teaches their entire school about social thinking, because it helps everyone with what to do in social situations (bullying, teasing, communicating effectively and respectfully, etc.). For a moment, I was a bit jealous of that school, because maybe, just maybe there'd be more understanding for a child who is different in a more educated environment. CB has a social thinking class this year, but it's limited to just those that have special needs. It's a step in the right direction, but there could be more. Michelle Garcia Winner lives in Northern California. So here's hoping we get to do more with her work when we move.
 My mom read "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" to me when I was a child. It was a story that sometimes I'm allowed to read to X-man and sometimes I'm not. He gets sad for Alexander and gets worked up at how absolutely rotten his day is going. But at the same time, X-man understands that everyone has days like that. Days that suck because of bad luck and bad choices, and that tomorrow is a new day.
 We liked reading "The Art of Miss Chew" and "I Gotta Draw" because they're both books about children who learn differently from the majority of their classmates. They're also books about how teachers who are open-minded and able to adapt for their students can get some awesome results, that not only help children learn but make them happy about going to school.

We have been reading Violet the Pilot since X-man was three. Violet is a mechanical genius and none of her peers in her school want to hang with her. Her parents are amazingly supportive of her endeavors and encourage her (while also trying to set a few safety boundaries), but her only real friend is her dog and her brain. Even though she's ostracized at school, it doesn't affect her ability know what's right and what's wrong, and she self-sacrifices something she wants to save the lives of others in her community when she sees them in a state of distress. 

For a while, X-man was having some trouble following Ms. Frizzle's encouraging words in all the Magic School Bus books about learning through mistakes. He would often not try something because he was petrified of getting it wrong. He thought it made him a bad kid for not being the best at everything. He's chilled a lot between kindergarten and first grade with being anxious about showing vulnerability. He's become more accepting of himself and others. But in the heat of it knowing that there were other kids that were restricting their life experiences out of fear of error was fundamental in him learning to accept that he's human and that no one expects him to be perfect at everything.

X-man's librarian read him Memoirs of a Goldfish last year when he was in kindergarten. It's the story of an only goldfish who relishes his only-fish existence, until his owner decides to make his life a bit more interesting by invading his bowl with other elements and neighbors. Goldfish is very slow to warm to the idea of his quiet life being invaded by others. They make him anxious and unsure, but in the end, he figures out that he understands that his life has become richer with those others in it than when it was just him in a bowl of water. 

Julia Cook is this generation of parents "What do do" lady. We read X-man her "Teeth are Not for Biting" and other books when he was a toddler. And now she's moved on to more advanced social issues for the elementary school-aged. She has a book for almost every social issue your child might face (kicking, hitting, using words, etc.)

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