As the students transitioned from the minilesson to independent reading, I saw one student kick another student’s book. It was a soft kick—basically a tap—but it happened. One student was reading at the rug, and the other student walked past and kicked the book in the student’s hand. No one was hurt, and with a bit of prompting the student apologized. As the incident unfolded, I wondered about the lingering impressions left in different classmates’ minds.
It is easy in a heated moment to see the situation from the “victim’s” perspective. But what about the other student? What was his perspective, and how do we help children separate someone’s action from the person who committed the act?
In these moments, we turn to books. Characters in stories become our teaching partners and help us launch difficult conversations about sensitive topics. With books, students don’t point fingers or cast judgments on each other. Instead, books let kids talk about characters’ decisions and perceptions. Then we have these conversations with them later, when they try to understand the humanity inside all of us.
Here are four books we keep at our side to help students consider interactions and ideas from multiple points of view:
The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot! by Scott Magoon
Students may need to do a bit of reading work to figure out who is telling this story, and boy, will they be surprised when they figure it out. The dialogue in The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot! isn’t tagged, which gives transitional readers opportunities to practice visualizing who is speaking.
Scott Magoon’s use of sophisticated vocabulary reminds us of our well-loved William Steig books. One of our favorite lines from The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot! is “What a tenacious fellow he is.” The rich vocabulary in this text gives readers a chance to use context clues and word knowledge to determine the meanings of some tricky words.
We also added this book to our collection of mentor texts for fiction writing. Students in the younger grades can study it to learn how to develop a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end, and students in grades 3-5 might want to explore this text to think about how to play with point of view in their writing.
The Good Egg, by Jory John and Peter Oswald
If your students love The Bad Seed, don’t let them miss Jory John and Peter Oswald’s newest book, The Good Egg. In this story, Egg tries to “be perfect” and make others behave perfectly too. With a bit of time and space, Egg learns to appreciate himself. This change helps Egg return to his egg carton with a new perspective on life—a topic that will resonate with readers of all ages!
Albie Newton by Josh Funk and Ester Garay
Josh Funk is a master at creating rhyming texts that bring out deep meaning. We love that this book pushes kids to think about some important questions:
- Did Albie intend to upset his classmates?
- Did Albie really build a time machine?
- If Albie could go back in time, should he change his actions?
Don’t miss the ending. This book doesn’t wrap up neatly, which leaves lots for kids to ponder and discuss.
Don’t Touch My Hair! by Sharee Miller
Don’t Touch My Hair! is all about boundaries and helping kids learn how to advocate for themselves and respect other people’s personal space and bodies. The speech bubbles and bright-colored illustrations bring humor to a difficult topic. It’s a great book to help build classroom community and think about other people’s points of view. Miller also wrote Princess Hair, and these books work well together. They both have big messages about self-respect and appreciation. Remember, “Not every princess has the same hair. But every princess LOVES her princess hair!”
These characters and many others are there for our students whenever they need them. If we introduce our students to memorable characters, they can reach back and find these friends in times of loneliness, heartache, and joy. Characters give students a chance to think from another person’s perspective. When students can look at situations from multiple points of view, we help them understand the complexities in our world.