Sunday 11 October 2015

Good Choices

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'Teaching young people aged 8 to 11 to make positive decisions about their own lives'

Written by Tina Rae (a Senior Educational Psychologist based in Hillington)
Illustrations by Mark Ruffle
A Lucky Duck Book, Paul Chapman Publishing 2006

Excerpt from Back of Book
The programme provides a menu of short stories related to the real life experiences of the young people. Topics are selected from a comprehensive list to be age appropriate and the series includes:
Stealing                Lying            Social behaviours
Risks                    Justice          Loss, Grief and Bereavement
Prejudice              First love       Disability
Leaving home      Family relationships

The teacher notes indicate 'stopping points' where reflection and discussion is encouraged. Either a choice of endings is offered or the young people can develop their own ideas about what might happen next. 
More from Missus B
'Good Choices' is from a series of  three books.The other titles are 'First Choices' (aimed at 5 to 7 years) and 'Life Choices' (aimed at adolescents.) The book includes a detailed introduction which explains about the CBT approach, the importance of emotional literacy and mental health as well as practical advice about using the book and running sessions with children.

I love this tool and have used it in both individual or group work. While it's not necessarily a picture book, each story includes an opening picture capturing a scene within the story. The accompanying CD-ROM contains PDF files with either colour illustrations or black & whites which the child can colour as they choose. 
Session 9: 'The Split' in 'Good Choices'
PDF print out from the Good Choices CD-ROM
Session 7: 'Graffiti Gang'
There are 12 reading 'sessions' within the book. Each one includes a story, with flagged sections where the adult can pause the story and ask questions to develop discussion. At the story's end, the 'Activities' section encourages further reflection and suggests tasks children can undertake to enhance their understanding. The 'Flags' and 'Activities' are written as a guidance for adults. For example after 'Losing Gran' the author suggests the following:

Ask the students to investigate how different cultures and religions mark and celebrate death. What do they believe? What are their views on the so called after life? What are the customs and rituals surrounding the funeral? What is expected of the bereaved family?
CD-ROM print out from Session 8:'Losing Gran'
Having read these stories with children of various ages, I pick and choose which stories and discussion points I'd like to raise, depending on the understanding or interests of the children. Also, while the 'Flags' are at  specific points within each story, its sometimes preferable to read each story through and then go back to the flagged areas for reflection. 

The stories describe typical situations or real life experiences which children can easily relate to. At the beginning of each story the 'Focus' section gives a brief synopsis of the story e.g. in  Session 1:'Caught in the Act':  

This story is about a group of children who develop a system of successfully stealing from their local corner shop. There is a considerable amount of peer pressure from some members of the group to conform to this pattern of behaviour. It is only when one member of the group is 'caught in the act' that they are made fully aware of the consequences of their behaviour...

In 'Caught in the Act'  we read about Jason, Alec and Cara, three friends who decide to steal from Mr. Hedges' local shop....'they were all good at keeping watch and took it in turns to go up to the counter in order to distract Mr. Hedges. Sometimes that meant buying a small item from him and talking about his dog for five minutes but they all managed it.'

The short stories are well written, with social dilemmas described from a child's perspective with some comments or thoughts of adult characters also. We hear about the feelings, thoughts and behaviours of the children when they face tricky situations. Each story has two endings which the readers can consider and discuss until they choose the one that has the best outcome. There is no 'right' or 'wrong' ending and both can have advantages or disadvantages for the characters. Also, as the author suggests on the cover, children often like to come up with their own endings. In my my groups, the children enjoy discussing their own ideas before we read the two endings outlined in the book.

It's important to allow time for thinking and reflection when reading through each session. Through such group discussion and reflection, children can develop their social awareness and problem solving skills. An excellent tool within the PSHE/SPHE curriculum, 'Good Choices' helps develop emotional literacy, self awareness, and helps prepare the child for making decisions in the real world.
Good Choices Book
Session 4: 'Labelled' Jason (fed up character far right) is finding secondary school a challenge. He wishes people would
stop comparing him to his older sisters who were straight A students. He feels that his Mum & the school teachers think he's 'dumb.
'Good Choices' is well worth investing in if you're a professional working with children in groups, or if you're a parent looking for a tool to support social & emotional learning.

Prepare for lively debates when you share this book!

Happy Reading, 
Missus B

Book available at these affiliate links:


Friday 2 October 2015

The Things I Love About Friends

Illustrations & Text : Trace Moroney
The Five Mile Press 2013 
Reviewed copy- from my local library

Back of book:
There are so many things to love about friends Sharing ideas, interests, feelings and fun time- and learning how to be a good friend. 'The Things I Love' series celebrates the everyday situations that form the basis of our children's experiences. Spending time with your children, giving them love and care, helps them to celebrate who they are, building resilience and self-esteem. In Notes for Parents and Caregivers at the back of the book, some helpful insights are shared.

Missus B says:
Narrated by a cute bunny rabbit character, this book gives a lovely account of the activities, interactions and emotions involved in healthy, positive friendships. 

The narrator explains how  play, talking about feelings, sharing activities, having sleep overs and  sharing interests are just some of the things she loves about friendships. She highlights how friendship  does not mean you
 'have to be exactly the same or like exactly the same things....Sometimes it's the things that make us different from each other that I like most about my friends.'
The illustrations are cute with lots of lovely detail- patterned clothing, smiling insects and
back-ground action.Spot the fox smiling at the bird here and the bunny character petting a lady-bug.Cute!

Judging by their clothing, the characters seem to be a mix of boys and girls and on each page they are engaged in a range of activities including skate-boarding, reading books, climbing trees, roller skating and dressing-up.  
'My friends comfort me when I feel disappointed or sad......
And I do the same for them.....
that's what makes us friends!'

Ideal within the PSHE/SPHE curriculum,the story generates discussion about social behaviour while developing emotional literacy.

The 'Notes for Parents and Caregivers' page explains more about the importance of childhood friendships, building social skills and the positive impact of secure attachments.

Click on this link for more Friendship Stories

To extend discussion about 'Friendship' I've used some of the following ideas:

  • 'Friendship Quilt' using coloured card by each child from the group
  • Making 'Friendship Bracelets'
  • 'Friendship Wreaths' made with cut-out hand prints
  • 'Circle of Friends' photograph collage using pictures of everyone in the group
  • 'All About Me' discussion with each child sharing personal facts e.g. likes/dislikes
  • Memory Game-children try to guess who a child is when 'All About Me' info is shared
  • 'Friendship letters/cards' with children writing friendly words to a new person each day

Happy Reading,
Missus B
Book available at these affiliate links: