Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

It's Little L.'s second year at her preschool, and she's lucky to have a handful of the same friends from last year in her class again this year. I am so excited and proud to see her really come out of her shell at school, playing and laughing and telling me all about her friends when she comes home.

But... there is just one thing.

L. doesn't really want to play with the new kids. In fact, sometimes, she can even be a little bit mean to them. Especially during "outdoor time" (that's what they call it at her school) on the playground.


So we've been having many, many, many discussions at home about being kind, making new friends, and thinking about how others might feel. And of course, we've been reading lots of books to help Little L. understand how her words and actions can hurt -- or help -- others.

Here are a two of the many wonderful stories that are really helping L. make sense of what's going on during outdoor time. Thankfully, her teachers have been telling us that she's already thinking more about others, and now will even remind other kids to be a good friend.

The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith

This book, The Recess Queen,  really hit home. At four years old, Little. L. can totally relate to both "Mean Jean" and Katie Sue and the other kids in the story. We've read and reread this book many times on L.'s request. She's really into it.  Here are some of the ways we've talked about this book:

We try to put ourselves in the character's shoes. I asked L. one night, "Why do you think Jean might act so mean?""Maybe she doesn't know how to make friends yet," L. said. "Maybe she doesn't know that the other kids are sad."

We think about all of the characters, not just the main character. We talk a lot about how the other kids in the story feel, but we also talk about what they might have done differently. "It says nobody ever dared played with Jean. What do you think about that?" I asked L. and she said, "The other kids could be like Katie Sue and ask her to play--then she might not be so mean."

We talk about different ways to figure out how characters in books, and people in real life, are feeling. I asked L., "It seems like Mean Jean doesn't know that the other kids are sad. How would she know that she's making them feel bad?" L. responded, "She should look at their faces," or "Maybe she should ask them 'How are you feeling?'" 

The big thing we talk about is that it's important to try to think about how other people feel. Look at their faces, ask them questions, talk to them, invite them to play.

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, illustrated by David Catrow

Little L. relates to this book this just as much as The Recess Queen. We've probably read it ten or twenty times in the past week!

We use what we learned about one character to help us figure out another similar character. In this book, Ronald Durgin reminds L. of Mean Jean from The Recess Queen and we talk a lot about how they are similar and different. Especially we talk about why Ronald might act the way he does, and how maybe he feels a lot like Jean who nobody ever plays with.

We talk about how the character's actions are similar to real life experiences.  Ronald calls Molly Lou Melon a name, making this book the perfect spring board for talking about a name calling episode L. experienced at school. "What could Ronald have done differently?" "How do you think Molly Lou Melon feels when he says that?" leads right into, "How do you think Little E. felt when you called her a name?" "What could you have done differently?"

We talk about how characters change across the story, and what they might have learned along the way. Along the way in this book, the author repeats the line "and he felt very foolish..." L. asked about this one night. "What's foolish?" she asked. "It means he knows he did something wrong," was my response. "So why does he keep being mean to Molly Lou Melon?" L. asked. I had to think about it for a second. "Why do you think?" I asked L. She stopped to think about it too. "Maybe..." I said finally, actually having to really, truly, think about it, "...maybe, it takes some people lots of times to really learn something." Then on each subsequent page we stopped and talked, "Did he learn a lesson yet?" "Nope, not yet..." Next page. "Did he learn anything yet..." Nope, not yet. Then on the last page, it's so clear... Ronald finally learns how to be a friend, and isn't so foolish anymore.

We talk about why characters react the way they do.  In this book Molly Lou Melon always reacts very positively even when Ronald is being extremely mean to her. We talk a lot about why she's able to do that. "Some kids would be really sad if someone was mean to them. Why do you think Molly Lou Melon is still so happy and cheerful?" Little L. has to think about this, every time, even though we've had the same talk lots of time. But she always comes up with something along the lines of, "Because her grandma told her to stand tall."

With this book we talk a lot about how even though Ronald starts out as a bully, he's able to change, and if he can change, then anybody can. And thank goodness for grandmas!

Has your child ever had trouble on the playground? What books do you recommend? Leave a comment and share the love!

1 comment:

  1. My son is 4-years-old and he seems to have a similar problem at preschool. He tells me that everyone in his class is his friend except for the new kids. I wonder if you know of any similar books with boys as the main character.