Saturday, June 29, 2013

Three Ways to Help Children Belong

The issue of fitting in and belonging is a central theme in elementary school.  Probably all of us as adults can remember an incident from our childhood where we felt left out of a group.  Personally, I can remember moving to a new state and starting fourth grade in a new school.  It seemed like everyone else already had friends and being on the shy side it took me quite a while to find my place!  While we as adults would like to protect children from situations where they are left out or even made to feel different or unworthy in some way, the fact is that it happens to everyone.  A better plan is to help children develop the skills to handle situations where they are left out of a group.

The media specialist at my school is always looking out for new books for me.  She introduced me to a super one recently:  One of Us by Peggy Moss.  I was already familiar with another book by the same author,  Say Something.   I've used it a number of times in classroom guidance lessons.  Peggy Moss writes with great simplicity but her books quickly cut to the heart of the matter.  In Say Something, she writes about a girl who learns to speak up and befriend others who are left out or teased. The book includes suggestions at the back for ways that students can make a difference by saying something when others are left out. 

Her new book, One of Us is about Roberta, a new student at a school who is trying to find where she fits in.  Each group she tries initially accepts her until they learn of something about her that is different from the rest of the group. Eventually she finds her place, in a group where everyone is different and celebrates it. The text and illustrations in the book are both upbeat and cheery.  I read it to a second grade class and they gave it an enthusisastic thumbs up!!

What skills does this book encourage that children can learn?
  • Develop a sense of self-worth.  Despite the fact that several groups reject her, Roberta never feels the need to change herself.  She exudes confidence in her self, her personality, her preferences.
  • Recognize that making friends is a process.  Roberta engages in conversation with lots of children and learns a lot about them and their group even when there is not a good fit. When things don't work out, she moves on.
  • Keep a positive outlook.  A big smile is part of Roberta's personality and certainly endears her to the reader as well as each of the groups she approaches.  It is obvious that it is their loss when they are unwilling to accept her as an individual.  Roberta never seems to doubt that she will eventually find the group where she belongs.
What other books would you recommend that encourage children in developing friendships and accepting differences? 


  1. Great post! I think Peggy Moss co-wrote Our Friendship Rules, which is a good friendship pick, too.


  2. Thanks Barbara, I'll have to check that one out as well.