Updated: Jun 27, 2021
Be You by Peter H Reynolds came highly recommended by someone whose choices I value.
So without much hesitation, I ordered it...after all it's Peter H. Reynolds. What is ‘not to like’ about it?
But when I received it, my heart sank. This book was so NOT me.
I do not believe in diktats, in telling children what they should be. How does this work?
How do I take this book to young children and tell them to be, order them how to make the most of their life?
I felt it was a book that would be a wonderful graduation gift for an older child...a teen maybe and made a mental note to do just that.
Yet the disappointment lingered as is often does, when a book you anticipate with great excitement, falls short.
After a couple of months my eye happened to fall on it, languishing on my bookshelf. I had been browsing for a perfect 'first online library session' read. I picked it up and sat with it and soon all that this book could possibly offer began to dawn on me.
Could I use it as a prompt to help my students think about themselves?
Suddenly this book that repulsed me, seemed to work its way into my heart.
Like many things, books too need a second chance don’t they?
Read alouds must be interactive. They must help children make connections, think and reflect.
As the adult doing the read-aloud, we need to reflect on how our session helps or models doing this.
So we talked, thought and wrote our way through every page of Be You.
Now this is not easy in a group of 25-30 children, with each child popping up to share their thoughts.
So the pre read-aloud brief had to be clear.
I will read, we will talk about what I read to ensure that the children understand, but everyone's sharing is personal...their own little BE ME sheet. Their sheets could be uploaded for the class to read and share...if the child is comfortable doing so.
The children drew themselves in the centre of the sheet and added to the paper with every prompt. A few could not figure out what they felt about some of the prompts and they were urged to think about them and revisit the prompt later.
These were my prompts:
Draw a picture of yourself in the middle of an A4 paper.
Read the book and write the following things around your picture:
'You were born to be so many things.' page - Two words that describe you from all the words on the “You were born to be so many things” page.
'Be curious' page - Write one thing you are curious about and want to learn more about for the ‘Be Curious’ page
‘Be adventurous’ page…write some thing you would like to do, that you have never done before.
‘Be connected’...write the name of at least one person you feel connected to.
‘Be persistent’ ...Write about a time when you never gave up and kept trying.
‘Be Different’...any way you feel you are unique.
a. When and to whom have you been kind to? b. Who has shown you kindness, what did they do?
‘Be Brave’...Can you remember a time when you were brave? What new experience did you try, even though you were scared?
‘Be your own thinker.’ Was there a time when you thought differently from your group of friends? When you chose to do something different because you thought what they were doing was wrong.
‘Be okay being alone’...what do you enjoy doing just by yourself. How do you feel when you are alone?
‘Be okay reaching out for help’...to whom can you reach out for help?
The children enjoyed the exercise and expressed that they enjoyed thinking about themselves.
It turned out to be a wonderful reflection on ourselves.
This book made me reflect on two things.
It is not necessary that every wonderfully written, highly recommended book will appeal to you. That's ok. Use books that do appeal to you, because your excitement and love for a book will reflect in your session.
However, also bear in mind that depending on the mindspace you are at a certain point in time, may reflect on your interaction with a book. So at the risk of issuing diktats a la Peter H. Reynolds, give books a second chance.
SEL Competencies: Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness