BLOGS  >  JULY 23, 2020

Can't We All Just Be Friends? #ClassroomBookADay

BY JILLIAN HEISE


Can’t we all just be friends? Well, actually, not likely. It doesn’t quite work like that in the real world, and it won’t work like that in a classroom. However, we can help create a community in which every student in the room sees every other student in the room as part of that community. How? By starting with the read alouds we choose to share.

Educators can use books that lead to discussions of how friendships work and ebb and flow within a close community.Sharing the messages through books make it more easily heard by students as they won’t feel they are being lectured to, but can still get the message. I’ll never forget one of my 5th graders who called out, “Oh, I get why you read that to us!” when I finished a book I had specifically chosen because of drama happening with friendships in that class. I didn’t have to say anything about it, I just had to share the book and let the students draw their own conclusions. And when they did, I could facilitate more discussion if needed. That’s also the beauty of picture books being used daily with #classroombookaday as tools for enjoyment and community in the classroom. They provide opportunities each day to share an important message with your students or bring up topics that need discussing in a less intimidating way. They provide a time for joyful engagement and coming together as a community, and also a method for building empathy.

What are some of those book friendships that stick out in your mind? Gerald & Piggie? Fish & Snail? Boy & Bot? Little Elliot & Mouse? The two boys in Yo! Yes? Beekle? The Claymates? They are all strong friendships in which each of those in the pair works on being a good friend to the other. Whether through sticking up for them, making them laugh, becoming a new friend, comforting them when they’re upset or just being there for them, these friends can show kids how friendships can work and inspire them to be the kind of friend others can count on themselves.

“Literature is said to provide characters and events with which children can identify and through which they can consider their own actions, beliefs and emotions. The characters and situations in books introduce children to what the world may look like through others' eyes and offer a chance to further construct their own views of self and the world” (Mendoza & Reese, 2001). The books on this list offer myriad representations of friendships that are old, new, strong, struggling, serious or entertaining. From friends who get frustrated because they feel left out to friends who ostracize one when others come along with more appeal. From friends who are understanding of a friend with autism to friends who have a divisive argument. From friends who find they can work together for mutual benefit to new friends who discover a love for the same adventures. From friends who find out they look significantly different than expected to friends who stand up for a new friend when getting picked on. From friends who are moving away to friends who try to one up each other. From friends who get silly together to friends who share tears together. All of these friendships in these picture books allow for kids to recognize many of their own friendship struggles and triumphs. And the discussions they can lead to can be valuable for keeping a classroom community functioning in a caring way.

Whether through an imaginative rehearsal or simply seeing an example of ways to handle growing friendships, these twenty picture books offer ways for students within a classroom community to process friendship issues and find ways to move forward as supportive members of the same class with varied friend relationships throughout. 


Jillian Heise 

Jillian Heise is a Grade K-5 Library Media Teacher in southeastern Wisconsin. She previously taught Grades 7-8 ELA in the Milwaukee area for 11 years and is board certified. Jillian is a passionate advocate for student choice in reading and the power of shared stories through #ClassroomBookADay picture book read-alouds. She brings her literacy expertise and knowledge of books to her role as Chair of the WSRA Children’s Literature Committee. You can find Jillian talking books and education at Heise Reads & Recommends and on Twitter at @heisereads

Watch webinar recording presented by Jillian Heise, Building Community: #ClassroomBookADay Read Alouds.

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