Consent and Social Emotional Learning in Early Childhood

Although giving consent and social emotional learning (SEL) have been topics of conversation and practice in education for some time now, I believe events in the national spotlight have brought the importance of these two concepts into sharp relief. I also believe that even the youngest children can learn they have agency about how, when, and why they interact with others and can learn self-care from a very early age.

Consent
Body autonomy is the right to control one’s body; it is the right to give or withhold consent. Consent has two parts: setting boundaries and clear communication. Young children know what feels “good” to them and what does not.

Some Things Are Scary written by Florence Parry Heide and illustrated by Jules Feiffer is one classic children’s book that shows children (and reminds adults) that kids’ experience their world from a different vantage point than “big” people do. The very first page of this book shows a large adult giving a small child a bear hug: “Getting hugged by someone you don’t like… is scary.” Another page reads: “Holding on to someone’s hand that isn’t your mom’s when you thought it was… is scary.”

Empathy, or perspective taking, is a life skill that can help young children (and all people) understand that individuals have the right to set boundaries for touch. Learning to clearly communicate one’s boundaries is another life skill that children can learn from an early age. Interactions with others that include “I” statements demonstrate to speakers and listeners alike that direct communication is important as we build healthy relationships.

Perspective taking (or empathy) and communication are two of seven research-based Mind in the Making life skills that support families as they offer young children opportunities for learning executive functions that impact social, emotional, and cognitive success. Visit their website for more information.

Social Emotional Learning
The family is the first place babies and toddlers learn about healthy emotions and positive social interaction. With caregivers and in preschool settings, children also learn behavioral norms that follow them into their K-12 education where SEL will help them succeed in an academic environment and throughout their lives.

As the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) notes on their website: “SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

Please Don't Give Me a Hug Book CoverPlease Don’t Give Me a Hug!
I am pleased that our board book Please Don’t Give Me a Hug! addresses both of these concepts—consent and SEL—for toddlers and preschool children, their peers, and caregivers. In the book, three non-gender specific children are shown in various social situations in which they and other characters use various gestures to say “hello, I see you” or “care” about you.

Written in the first person, the story emphasizes the importance of the child’s agency in setting boundaries and in communicating their preferences to peers, older children, and adults. The child-friendly illustrations by Estelle Corke clearly convey emotions. When receiving an unwanted bear hug, the expressions on these three children’s faces clearly show their discomfort. Their smiles when receiving or exchanging a wanted gesture show their pleasure in social exchanges that honor their boundaries.

Read Aloud and Early Childhood Education “Lesson Plan”
Of course, board books are intended for the lap listener and a reader who will engage a toddler in a reading experience. By sharing one’s thoughts to extend the print on the page, parents and grandparents, siblings, and other readers can enculturate young children into the pleasure of experiencing life through the words and illustrations of a book. Engaging book listeners in a dialogic reading experience through asking open-ended questions helps them enter into the story and express themselves through language.

Please Don’t Give Me a Hug! has the added benefit of showing young children various ways to communicate with peers and adults. For toddlers, engaging book listeners in mimicking the “acknowledgment” gestures in the book is fun. Learning to wave, smile, give fist bumps and high fives, use American Sign Language to say “hi,” and more make the reading experience physically interactive. And there may be gestures portrayed in the book that some children might not like, which present an opportunity for an additional conversation about consent.

Preschool children can actually practice using “I” statements that communicate how they want others to say “hello.” A group of children can practice this like they would a “Simon Says” game with the child in the center using “I (Susie) like fist bumps” with the other children making the fist-bump gesture. Preschool children can also stand or sit with a partner to share how they want to be greeted. Partners can rotate so that children can experience the fact that their peers have different preferences that can and should be respected.

More Information and Resources for Please Don’t Give Me a Hug!
Star Bright Books (SBB) published an excellent article about how to teach children body autonomy and consent. The article includes interior illustrations from the book that show how caring gestures are portrayed. SBB also published an artist spotlight interview with me about this book and writing for children.

In addition to addressing body autonomy and consent, Please Don’t Give Me a Hug! also may share important messages with young children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, their families, caregivers, and educators. Sprout Therapy offers a useful family guide: The Parents’ Guide: So Your Child Has Been Diagnosed with Autism.

Important side note: This story was first published as a donation on the Make Way for Books app. Thank you to MWFB for your vital early childhood education work in the greater Tucson community and for granting SBB and me permission to publish the board book.

Illustrator Estelle Corke, Star Bright Books, and I hope you will share Please Don’t Give Me a Hug! with the children in your care. Have fun practicing and talking about the gestures. Help young children understand their right to consent as they develop their social emotional life skills and think about how you, an adult, can make sure that you are respecting children’s body autonomy.

Pride From the Beginning and All Year Long

A Hand Print with Rainbow ColorsI believe that children’s sense of pride is instilled in their families right from the start. It is up to parents, caregivers, and educators to work together to help all children bring their self-esteem to their interactions with others and to feel a sense of belonging, safety, and security in our communities.

Librarians who share literature with children and youth may be guided at times by the concept of “bibliotherapy.” We often read and discuss books with children and young adults that touch on issues of social and emotional health. We are not trained therapists and most of us are not trained in responding in a clinical way to mental health issues; we do not “treat” book listeners/readers as patients. Still, we often recognize when a particular book will speak to an individual student or group of students in our care.

Self-Esteem Titles
A focus on positive self-esteem messages is a place to begin for young children. Books that celebrate the self and difference create in children a feeling that they are worthy and an expectation that people are different and all are worthy of our friendship.

To build self-esteem and caring for others, we read books like Karen Beaumont and David Catrow’s book I Like Myself (Harcourt 2004), Giraffes Can’t Dance written by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees (Cartwheel 2012), Red: A Crayon’s Story written and illustrated by Michael Hall (HarperCollins/Greenwillow 2015), I’m New Here by author/illustrator Anne Sibley O’Brien (Charlesbridge 2015), and I Like Being Me: Poems About Kindness, Friendship, and Making Good Choices by Judy Lalli (Free Spirit 2016).

LGBTQIA+ Books from the Beginning
For me, there are two types of Pride books that set children’s expectations for diversity and inclusion. Diverse books with LGBTQIA+ and gender fluid protagonists such as Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Candlewick 2018), When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (Candlewick 2019), and My Rainbow by DeShanna and Trinity Neal, illustrated by Art Twink (Kokila 2020).

Inclusion titles communicate a matter-of-fact stance with regard to diversity that can influence children’s expectations for differences in gender identity and family structure. My favorite books for young children in this category are The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ros Asquith (Dial/Penguin 2010), Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship written by Jessica Walton, illustrated by Dougal MacPherson (Bloomsbury 2016), and Sam Is My Sister by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, illustrated by MacKenzie Haley (Whitman 2021).

Resources for Library Collection Development
As you conduct an audit and select new titles, please consider the critical importance of #ownvoices titles as you build your Pride collection and look for opportunities to integrate these books into the classroom curriculum as well as in book club and independent reading selections.

American Library Association: Rainbow Book List

School Library Journal offers several lists and recent articles for your review.

26 LGBTQIA Titles for Teens

LGBTQIA Graphic Novels for Young Readers

People of Pride

Pride for Tweens

I also appreciate this list from Chicago Parent: 29 LGBTQ Children’s Books for Families to Read.

Check your local public library to compare the books they are promoting during Pride Month with the titles in your own library collection. Pima County Public Library, where I live in Tucson, has an excellent list for preK through grades 8 and up list titled “Hope Will Never Be Silent” (in homage to Harvey Milk) and another list for teens and adults (with an unfortunate title) called “Gay Best Friends.”

Pride Month All Year Long
Here in Arizona the regular school year ended in May. If students are still in school in June in other schools across the country, the opportunity to spotlight Pride Month may be compromised by the end-of-the-year rush.

School librarians and classroom teachers absolutely MUST celebrate the literature that shines a spotlight on LGBTQIA+ perspectives and experiences. Just as Black Lives Matter is a social justice issue so are the rights and lives of our LGBTQIA+ students, colleagues, and neighbors.

Perhaps this presents the opportunity for a new “month” at your school.

Social Justice Month is an idea whose time has come.

Image Credit
Mjimages. “Pride LGBTQ.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/vectors/pride-lgbtq-symbol-sign-action-6056043/

 

Bibliotherapy Note: Anita Cellucci, school librarian, librarian educator, and contributor to Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021), writes about and offers resources for bibliotherapy on her website.

Point of Privilege about Eric Carle’s Passing: I attended my first Arizona Library Association conference when I was a newly minted school librarian, circa 1991. Eric Carle was a guest author at the conference. When I arrived dressed in my everyday school clothing (a simple dress and VERY sensible shoes), I noticed that every other person around me was wearing a suit and all the women were sporting heels! (It was a different time.) Who knew?

I went up to the table to ask Mr. Carle to sign The Very Quiet Cricket (1990). He recognized that I was shy and noticed I was feeling uncomfortable. A twinkle in his eyes, he said, “I really like your dress.” We shared a conspiratorial smile and exchanged further kindnesses. I still have my cricket book (that no longer chirps) with his distinctive signature.

In 2016 after the Midwinter Meeting in Boston, I visited the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, with long-time ALA/AASL friend Connie Champlin. You can read a lovely tribute to Mr. Carle on the museum site.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit the museum, do so to experience the profound impact Eric Carle has had on the world of children’s literature—both in writing and illustration. (Another children’s literature great David Wiesner gave a presentation focused on his book Mr. Wuffles the day Connie and I visited the museum.)

SCBWI-Arizona Showcase and Please Don’t Give Me a Hug! Preview

Promotion for Showcase with Photos of Authors/Illustrators

I have been a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) since my first children’s book was published in 1997. File folders full of rejection letters aside, I have been lucky to have found publishing homes for three additional books during the intervening years. You can read about those on the Children’s Books and Sites Page on my Storytrail website.

This coming Saturday, March 27, I will be joining author Dawn Young, author-illustrator Nate Evans, and illustrator Jim Paillot to participate in a virtual SCBWI-AZ Author Showcase and Q&A.

Thank you to Laura Ellen and Dianne White, SCBWI-Arizona PAL coordinators. The Spotlight Zoom will involve us in introducing ourselves and our books and provide members of the children’s books writing community the opportunity to get answers to their general publishing questions.

Please Don’t Give Me a Hug! and a Spanish edition ¡Por favor, ¡no me abraces! were first published as a donation on the Make Way for Books (MWFB) app. MWFB Arizona is an early literacy nonprofit that provides proven programs, services, and resources to 30,000 young children, parents, and educators throughout southern Arizona each year. Their mission is to give all children the chance to read and succeed.

Check it out: If you are writing for infants, toddlers, preschool children and their families, you should know that MWFB currently has a call for submissions, open until March 31st.

Book Cover: Please Don't Give Me a Hug!Thanks to Star Bright Books, my Please Don’t Give Me a Hug! story will be published as a board book, available for distribution at the end of April. MWFB gave me back the rights to the story. In exchange, I am donating a portion of the proceeds from the e-book to MWFB. Win-win-win.

Meeting Star Bright Books publisher Deborah Shine was an amazing coincidence and gift of encouragement for my passion for writing for children. Way back in 2002, I ran into my neighbor and children’s book author and illustrator Ron Himler in the produce section of our grocery store. Ron told me the story behind his newly released picture book Six Is So Much Less than Seven.

I asked him to send me a copy and promised I would review it. Ron loved my review and shared it with his publisher, Deborah Shine, who invited me to review books for Star Bright. After I shared a copy of my first published book with Deborah, she asked if I had others. I recited Read to Me, a poem I has written for then Tucson Public Library’s Project L.I.F.T., Literacy Involves Families Together. The poem, written for the teen parents who participated in that project, fit perfectly with Star Bright’s mission.

The poem became the board book Read to Me, which has since been published in English, Spanish, bilingual Spanish/English, Vietnamese/English, and Haitian Creole/English. The book has sold some 150,000 copies mostly to early childhood and family literacy programs. The first organization to purchase and distribute the book widely was…  you guessed it… Make Way for Books.

Note: Star Bright Books publishes books for young children in 25 different languages. All of Star Bright’s bilingual books display the heritage language first on the page followed by English. For the last twenty years, Deborah Shine and Star Bright’s commitment to diversity in language and culture in both text and illustrations is admirable and all too rare among publishers of books for young people.

Working with Deborah Shine and the team at Star Bright Books has been a wonder. I am thrilled to be working with them again to promote Please Don’t Give Me a Hug!

Estelle Corke painted the child-friendly illustrations for the book. As an author who cannot draw, I am especially grateful when the illustrations for the stories I write include diverse characters in terms of race, ethnicity, sex, age, and ability. Thank you, Estelle, and Star Bright!

Although I receive a tremendous sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from publishing professional books for school librarians and classroom teachers, there is a slightly different quality to my feelings about the books for children and families that are published with my name on the cover.

Knowing that a child, parent, older sibling, grandparent, childcare provider, teacher, librarian, and others may at any given moment be reading one of my books to a young person… well, for me, it just doesn’t get much better than that!

I hope you will join us on Saturday, March 27, 2021, and share our love of publishing books for children. The Showcase is free and open to all. If you are able and interested in joining us, go to the online registration form.

Spotlight on the ALA Book Award Celebration

Four Book Jackets of Titles that earned 2020 Coretta Scott King AwardsDear School Librarian Leadership Readers,

It seems most appropriate that we celebrate children’s and young adult literature by watching the YouTube videos the American Library Association and the Association for Library Service to Children have posted online.

Check out the Book Award Celebration!

I started my listening feast with the 2020 Coretta Scott King Award videos. I highly recommend listening to all of the speeches of these amazing award-winning authors and illustrators. That said, you should definitely not miss the award speeches by Jerry Craft for his graphic novel The New Kid and Kadir Nelson for the illustrations in The Undefeated. Mildred D. Taylor, who earned the Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award, was unable to participate. (Her slim and powerful stories The Friendship and The Gold Cadillac engendered deep meaningful conversations among the fifth-grade students in my classroom over thirty years ago. I deeply appreciate her work.)

Although I sorely missed dining with friends at the 2020 Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Award Banquet, I believe giving association members and everyone (!) across the globe access to these inspiring speeches is a gift we should not pass up. I will treat myself to all of the speeches throughout this week.

If you haven’t already, I hope you will make time to tune in and experience the joy and hope expressed by the creators of children’s and young adult literature and re-experience the call to share the love with the youth and educators in your care.

Image: Selected 2020 Coretta Scott King Award Winners

 

Ethically Sharing Children’s and Young Adult Literature Online

The focus of this curated list of resources is to ethically share children’s and young adult literature online. I have been an online educator for twelve years. I am a staunch defender of creators’ rights to their work and hold the graduate students in the courses I teach to a high standard. It is a violation of copyright for individuals to record and distribute read-alouds of copyrighted works. As noted in last week’s post, librarians and educators will likely not be sued by the creator(s) or the publishers if they do so, but that’s not the point. The point is to model respect for the rights of the copyright holder.)Books Read Monitor Online ImageIn “normal” times, fair use does not cover public distribution on the open Internet. Fair use can only be applied when book reading recordings are available behind password protection. In that case, the password-protected space is considered a “classroom” or “library.” School Library Journal and Kate Messner recently posted various publishers’ guidelines applicable during the pandemic. (You will note that the majority stress password protection.)

Kate Messner posted “Publisher Guidelines for Fair Use for Online Read Alouds.”

School Library Journal posted “Publishers Adapt Policies to Help Educators.”

All of the links curated below provide ethical ways to share children’s and young adult literature online. Many of these resources were collected by Worlds of Words Board members who teach undergraduate-level and graduate-level children’s and young adult literature courses. (Thank you especially to Kathleen Crawford-McKinney for her annotated list.)

I have added some additional resources that have come across my screen in the past week. All of these resources are useful to students, classroom teachers, librarians, and families.

Access© – Read Aloud Canadian Books Program provides links to resources Canadian book publishers are making available during the pandemic. (Added 4/10/20)

American Family Stories offers short retellings of oral stories by storyteller Joe McHugh. You can subscribe to his 3- to 6-minute stories or simply drop in and listen. (Added from comments section 4/6/20)

Paige Bentley-Flannery, Community Librarian, Deschutes Public Library, created a webpage “Children Authors Read Aloud and Other Facetime Events.”

Children’s Book Council curated a list of publishers who have provided links to online learning resources. “From fiction to non-fiction, STEM books to graphic novels, book publishers have created a wealth of content to support educators, librarians, booksellers, parents, and caregivers,” these resources are freely accessible on the Internet. (Added from comments section 4/6/20)

Betsy Diamant-Cohen, creator and director of Mother Goose on the Loose (MGOL) early childhood resources, has given permission to freely share MGOL resources on the open Internet. (Added 4/6/20)

Digital Children’s Book Festival: After the Tucson Festival of Books was cancelled, Ellen Oh and Christina Soontornvat organized a virtual festival, which will be held on May 1-2, 2020.

EPIC Reading offers educator registration with student sign-ups. You can find books that are read aloud, or the text that you turn the pages when ready. Educators can set up collections of books and assign them; this gives students free access to digital books, including novels.

The International Children’s Digital Library offers children’s literature from around the world written in multiple languages.

Kid Lit TV offers a read-aloud corner with authors reading their own books. They also have a section called “Storymakers” with author interviews. For Children’s Book Week, they published a section called Creator Corner, where they have authors explaining their creative process.

Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems: Mo is doing a “doodle” hour every day from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Eastern time weekdays. He will take questions on his work or look at your own doodle (available live for two more weeks). You can also access the archive of previously recorded shows. Great way to get to know this Author/Illustrator.

Make Way for Books offers an app with stories for preschool children in English and Spanish that adults or older children can read to younger ones.

Parents Magazine: U.S. children’s divisions of Penguin Random House, Penguin Young Readers and Random House Children’s Books, in partnership with Meredith/PARENTS, are launching READ TOGETHER, BE TOGETHER. It is a series of daily virtual story times with bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators, and celebrity readers. (Added from comments section 4/6/20)

Rex Ogle: Aiden Tyler, Quaran-teen – A Webcast “Serial” with Author Rex Ogle sponsored by Junior Library Guild begins tomorrow, March 24. You must register.

School Library Journal:Kid Lit Authors Step Up to Help Educators, Students, and Parents.”

Kwame Alexander is sharing on his website.

Laurie Halse Anderson has set up a Twitter hashtag #QuarantRead book club where readers can ask her questions.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka is sharing on YouTube every weekday at 2:00 p.m.

Grace Lin is sharing on her YouTube channel.

Dav Pilkey is sharing drawing demonstrations and fun activities. (Added from comments section 4/6/20)

Simola Live
Beginning March 23, authors and illustrators are sharing their work online.

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has published a page with links to authors reading their own work.  (SCBWI is offering other types of online resources as well.)

Storyline Online publishes professionally produced children’s books read by actors.

While it is critical that school librarians provide children’s and young adult resources online for students, educator colleagues, and families, it is important we not lose sight of the ethical use of ideas and information. As noted in last week’s post, it is also critical that we keep our commitment to equitable access  foremost in our minds.

TeachingBooks.net has developed a “Book & Reading Engagement Kit: Home Edition portal with Student/Educator-Adult/Institution access. It includes a large collection of activities and resources and some read-alouds. (Added from comments section 4/6/20)

Image Credit

Geralt. “Books Read Monitor Online.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/photos/books-read-monitor-online-3659791/