Written By: Hans Appel
“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”
With social distancing at an all time high; perhaps, the pathway to innovative human connection might be best discovered in the creative confines of a great book. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) feels like such an imminent goal in our current world. Don’t get me wrong...it’s always been critical to student success; but, in a world filled with trauma, inequity, and fear, social emotional learning might offer the armor of resilience for children to truly thrive in our eventual post-covid world. Dr. Michele Borba refers to these protective factors as “The Empathy Gap,” in her highly acclaimed book, Unselfie. But how do talented parents and teachers actually navigate these difficult conversations with children on topics like: emotional regulation, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision making, and relationship skills?
For nearly 362 years adults have relied on some version of the picture book as a powerful conversation starter to impart life’s wisdom through the lens of imaginary characters. This form of empathy has shaped the minds and hearts of generations of young readers.
“No matter the social cause, when we immerse ourselves, walking in another’s shoes while living these many lives in the books we read, we can empathize with the plight of everyday life for others and think beyond ourselves to create change in our world, making life better for everyone.”
Growing up with books like The Giving Tree, The Lorax, and The Patchwork Quilt provided me a much needed escape from the tornado of emotions that regularly blew through my home. In fact, my prized high school graduation present was a simple Suess book: Oh the Places You’ll Go. But benefiting from these literary treasures doesn’t require adverse childhood experiences. Indeed children of all ages, backgrounds, and circumstances can invest and learn from character rich picture books designed to capture our imagination. The subtlety and art that lifts these wonderful graphic worlds into a safe space for kids to wrestle with complex issues is what truly sets them apart from their fellow literature. Picture books are a special gift for the world. We see the best and worst of ourselves in these inspiring stories. Here’s a few books released recently by my insanely creative wife, Jennifer that I absolutely LOVE!!
To the outside world, Ginger is an award winning dog who seems to have the perfect life. Despite her show stopping beauty, she conquers daily internal thoughts of overwhelming stress and anxiety that challenge her emotional well-being. With the help of a wise old friend, vivid imagery, and calm surroundings, Ginger creates a powerful learning moment to take back control over her own JOY.
Little Maya is a sweet puppy born into an incredibly successful family. But after bouncing between several homes and multiple failed attempts to prove she belongs, Maya seeks the advice of three special friends to put her on a path to self discovery. Take a walk with Maya, as she finds the secrets to becoming award winning. Also available on Amazon or Etsy
Here’s a list of some recent MUST READ picture books:
It’s Me by Jeff Kubiak
Cozy by Jan Brett
Finding Lost Smiles by Vickie & Don Epps
Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen
Play Yay: Baby Talk by BreAnn Fennell
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes
Cannonball In by Tara Martin
Natalie Portman’s Fables by Natalie Portman
One Drop of Kindness by Jeff Kubiak
Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander & Kadir Nelson
Ride with Emilio by: Richard Nares
This holiday season, I challenge you to purchase a couple great picture books to give away to someone in your life. It could be an old classic or a brand new discovery.
“The MORE that you read the MORE things you will know. The MORE that you LEARN the MORE places you’ll go.”
About The Author
Hans Appel is an educator, speaker, and writer deeply committed to inspiring the whole child. He’s the author of, Award Winning Culture: Building School-Wide Intentionality and Action Through Character, Excellence, and Community. Additionally, he’s the Director of Culture for the Teach Better Team, Co-host of the Award Winning Culture podcast, and the Co-Creator of Award Winning Culture.
Award Winning Culture was created by Hans and Jennifer Appel with the sole purpose of creating an educational mindset of Positive INTENTIONALITY and ACTION; with a daily mantra to make our sphere of influence stronger through Character, Excellence, and Community. Part of AWC's mission is to highlight outstanding educators, companies, and resources that support an Award Winning Culture. Both Jennifer and Hans work at Enterprise Middle School aka Wildcat Nation. Wildcat Nation received the 2018 ASCD Whole Child Award in Washington, for its award winning culture and the 2018 Global "Class Act Award" for Kindness.