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Hand in Hand

I live and work in a train com­mu­ni­ty and often use trains as an anal­o­gy when I talk about sto­ry­time. Like a train, sto­ry­time offers an audi­ence a chance to hop on board to expe­ri­ence a new world with char­ac­ters. The char­ac­ters of a sto­ry can help us under­stand some of the expe­ri­ences the chil­dren lis­ten­ing to the sto­ry might be going through. By being empa­thet­ic toward chil­dren, we sup­port their social-emo­tion­al well­be­ing (SEL). For my arti­cle this month, you will learn how to devel­op social-emo­tion­al sto­ry­times, find a rec­om­mend­ed list of books and activ­i­ties, and book­mark the avail­abil­i­ty of online SEL resources. 

Devel­op­ing a Social-Emo­tion­al Storytime

Happy Right NowA social-emo­tion­al sto­ry­time offers a land­scape to help fam­i­lies build pos­i­tive rela­tion­ships by devel­op­ing social skills, to show empa­thy for oth­ers, to devel­op com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, and the oppor­tu­ni­ty for chil­dren to express how they are feel­ing. You do not need to devel­op a new library pro­gram that tar­gets social-emo­tion­al well­be­ing. Instead, eval­u­ate your cur­rent sto­ry­time program(s) and look for ways to include SEL sto­ries and activities. 

For myself, focus­ing on char­ac­ter expe­ri­ences are impor­tant. Char­ac­ter expe­ri­ences can include sit­u­a­tions they face sim­i­lar to what fam­i­lies might be fac­ing – or talk­ing about the emo­tions they are express­ing. When eval­u­at­ing activ­i­ties, reflect on rou­tine activ­i­ties you do at each pro­gram such as singing a spe­cif­ic song or ask­ing cer­tain ques­tions before start­ing the sto­ry. Ask your­self the following:

  • How do I update these activ­i­ties to help chil­dren express their emotions?
  • How can I update them to devel­op social skills?
  • How can I update them to encour­age rela­tion­ship building?

What about a vir­tu­al SEL pro­gram? Although COVID-19 con­tin­ues to bring chal­lenges in both our per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al lives, includ­ing SEL activ­i­ties vir­tu­al­ly can help fam­i­lies through these chal­lenges. The key is to sprin­kle SEL mes­sages and/or demon­strate activ­i­ties through­out the pro­gram. The fol­low­ing are my rec­om­mend­ed SEL books and activities. 

Books to Pro­mote SEL

  1. Glad Monster, Sad MonsterCroc­o­diles Need Kiss­es Too by Rebec­ca Colby
  2. The Pout, Pout Fish by Deb­o­rah Diesen
  3. Glad Mon­ster, Sad Mon­ster by Ed Emberley
  4. Mouse was Mad by Lin­da Urban
  5. Let’s Sing a Lul­la­by with the Brave Lit­tle Cow­boy by Jan Thomas
  6. The Hug Machine by Scott Campbell
  7. Angry Cook­ie by Lau­ra Dockrill
  8. The Kind­ness Book by Todd Parr
  9. Nobody Hugs a Cac­tus by Carter Goodrich
  10. I Will be Fierce by Bea Birdsong
  11. Hap­py Right Now by Julie Berry
  12. Angry CookieMy Love is For You by Susan Musgrave
  13. Super­buns! by Diane Kredensor
  14. I am Love by Susan Verde
  15. One More Hug by Megan Alexander
  16. Don’t Call Me Bear! by Aaron Blabey
  17. Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
  18. Ruby Finds a Wor­ry by Tom Percival
  19. We Are (Not) Friends by Anna Kang
  20. The Hap­py Book by Andy Rush

SEL Activ­i­ties to Consider

Hair LoveThe fol­low­ing are three great SEL activ­i­ties I use and rec­om­mend using in sto­ry­time. These activ­i­ties can be used in vir­tu­al programming. 

Activ­i­ty 1: Emo­ji Card:  You can cre­ate an emo­ji card by either draw­ing emo­ji faces or glu­ing the faces to a wood­en craft stick. The emo­ji faces should express com­mon emo­tion­al expres­sions (i.e. hap­py, sad, mad, etc.). At the start of your pro­gram, pull out the card and tell fam­i­lies you will close your eyes and then point to an emo­ji. Open your eyes and show them the emo­ji emo­tion you chose. Ask them if they know what that face means and to try to make that face. This is a great activ­i­ty to intro­duce the dif­fer­ent emo­tions and to pro­vide a safe space for them to express how they feel. For an online pro­gram, you can offer this as a live activ­i­ty where fam­i­lies inter­act through video or you can use the chat box for them to respond. If you record your sto­ry­time, encour­age fam­i­lies to write a com­ment to the post­ed recording. 

I Will Be Fierce!Activ­i­ty 2: Plant­i­ng the Pos­i­tiv­i­ty Seed: It is impor­tant to have pos­i­tive self-talk. It is equal­ly impor­tant to share some­thing pos­i­tive about oth­ers. For this activ­i­ty, adapt this pos­i­tive self-talk flower tem­plate to a pos­i­tive friend­ship flower. Post the flower up so fam­i­lies can see. Dur­ing sto­ry­time, write a pos­i­tive com­ment about each child and share what you wrote down with them. Tell fam­i­lies that you are grow­ing flow­ers of pos­i­tiv­i­ty. Alter­nate­ly, you can have fam­i­lies tell some­thing pos­i­tive about the char­ac­ters in the sto­ries you read. For an online pro­gram, you can offer this as a live activ­i­ty where fam­i­lies inter­act through video or you can use the chat box for them to respond. If you record your sto­ry­time, encour­age fam­i­lies to write a com­ment to the post­ed record­ing. Take a pho­to of the flower, upload it to Zoom, and use it as a background.

Don't Call Me Bear!Activ­i­ty 3: The Empa­thy Lens: For this activ­i­ty, choose one of the books you will read and com­plete a char­ac­ter reflec­tion. In my expe­ri­ence, a char­ac­ter reflec­tion is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to reflect on the expe­ri­ences a char­ac­ter or char­ac­ters face in the sto­ry and con­nect those expe­ri­ences to what fam­i­lies in sto­ry­time might be fac­ing. The goal in sto­ry­time is to project an image of the char­ac­ter, to ask chil­dren if they have expe­ri­enced some­thing like the char­ac­ter, and to think about one or two words to describe the expe­ri­ence.  Write down the word and post it beside the image of the char­ac­ter. After a few sto­ry­times, you will have a col­lage of char­ac­ters and words asso­ci­at­ed to their expe­ri­ences. For an online pro­gram, you can offer this as a live activ­i­ty where fam­i­lies inter­act through video or you can use the chat box for them to respond. If you record your sto­ry­time, encour­age fam­i­lies to write a com­ment to the post­ed recording. 

SEL Resources

  1. Path­way 2 Suc­cess 
  2. Inside SEL
  3. Cen­ter for Emo­tion­al Foun­da­tions for Ear­ly Learning
  4. Get­ting Smart
  5. We are Teachers
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