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Feb 14

Getting Lost in a Good Book

Posted by Pamela Jones in Fair Is Not Equal on Feb 14, 2013

Book Stories that Boost Kids' Self-Esteem

For kids who struggle academically, behaviorally, or socially, their sense of self takes a devastating hit. As a result, many of them begin to act out or give up on classroom success.

One viable go-to strategy is to borrow from methods of bibliotherapy, which is the use of selected texts for therapeutic purposes. A well-written and engaging story has the potential to help its young readers identify with its characters and grapple with thorny emotional issues in a safe, less daunting way.

One such book, one that is near and dear to our hearts is Ish, by Peter Reynolds.

Ish is the story of a young boy named Ramon who is struggling to come to terms with what he believes to be his repeated and failed attempts to draw well. Let's face it--we've all been there regarding some skill or concept that we believe we've failed to master. In Ramon's case, however, missing the mark with his drawings levels a devastating blow to his self-esteem until his sister (Marisol) helps him take on a different and, dare we say, "chin up, old chap" perspective. While Ramon is in the throes of a pretty intense session of self-denigration, Marisol shares with him that his drawings are "-ish" (that is, close enough to his best). Adopting this ish-ful thinking gives Ramon a new lease on life.

Why have we taken the time to shine a light on this amazing work by Peter Reynolds? Because reading Ish to our students--from Kindergarten to Graduate school--has given them valuable food for thought.

Though no book can solve all problems, Ish is a book that we believe has the capacity to challenge even the most self-depricating thinker to consider a paradigm shift from negative to positive. When my former co-teacher and I read Ish to our first graders, we realized that it had applications beyond the read-aloud hour. We told our kids to do their "ish" with their writing and this pithy (yet powerful) message helped many of them work through some tough moments in writing workshop. After a while, the word "ish" became a living and breathing entity in the classroom and you could hear kids saying to us or to their peers to do their "ish!"

With that said, we recommend getting lost in a good book with your kids, a book that has the potential to help them think deeply and, in some cases, begin to heal some emotional wounds. Get lost in Ish.

tagged bibliotherapy, self-efficacy, self-esteem
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