Reviewing Some Children’s Books ~~ Part 2

clipartreading 1I’m one of these old school former teachers who believes that children’s books should have a purpose to them. I’m not really talking about formal lessons per se, but there should be something to appreciate in what children read. That might be a great story line, great illustrations to help us capture a dream or an idea, characters you just have to love, good character development, great setting, and so on. I’ve even changed my mind about some types of children’s books I’ve questioned in the past because of the good they brought about. I’m not trying to stand in judgement of children’s literature, but time with them is so precious that I hate to waste it on fluff.

In the following series I found an author who wrote with very important purpose. She was trying to prepare our children for social events in their lives. And yes, this particular series teaches a lesson. These are also secular books, but I think you’ll see how valuable these lessons are.

1.  A Help Me Be Good Book About Teasing by Joy Berry

Help me to be good about teasing

Joy Berry has written several series of picture books that deal with social behavior for children. The Help Me Be Good books seem to be written for preschool and kindergarten age children. They are written in cartoon form, almost like a comic book, with visual examples of the “rule” being taught. If you are familiar with the Highlights magazine for children, sometimes the cartoons take after the Goofus and Gallant series. One person demonstrates how it shouldn’t be done, and the other models the desirable behavior. The pictures are colorful and simple enough to get the point across. They are reminiscent of the Magic School Bus books where other side characters make funny remarks about what’s going on.

Ms. Berry explains her rationale behind these series. “Children have the ability to be good, and they are often eager to please. However, they often don’t understand their own egocentric or self-centered behavior. This self-centeredness often leads to misbehavior, and the misbehavior often leads to negative responses from others. The purpose of the Help Me Be Good books is to help your child break the cycle of negative action and reaction. Your child will learn how to replace misbehavior with acceptible behavior.”

In this book about teasing, T.J. teases his younger sister, Tami. The lessons teach her how to deal with her brother’s poor behavior. Other books in this series are about: Disobeying, Being Bossy, Accepting No, Throwing Tantrums, and Being Forgetful…to name a few.

I have found the philosophy of replacing bad behavior with good behavior is a good workable solution. Not every method is perfect, nor is it guaranteed to work all the time, but in my experience good discipline (not punishment) includes positive training. The key is to be persistent. I believe these books are a great tool for parents to use with younger children. I am especially impressed with the scope of topics covered in this series.

2.  How to Have Good Table Manners (A Survival Skills Book) by Joy Berry

Good Table Manners

Joy Berry has written several series of picture books that deal with social behavior for children. The Survival Skills series is written for 5 to 8 year-old children and covers a wide variety of common topics such as table manners, talking on the phone, being a good guest, how to behave in public, how to handle emergencies and so on. They are written in cartoon form, almost like a comic book, with visual examples of the “rule” being taught. If you are familiar with the Highlights magazine for children, sometimes the cartoons take after the Goofus and Gallant series. One person demonstrates how it shouldn’t be done, and the other models the desirable behavior. The pictures are colorful and simple enough to get the point across. They are reminiscent of the Magic School Bus books where other side characters make funny remarks about what’s going on.

In this book, Pamela asks Maggie to come over to dinner at her home. Pamela is setting a good example while Maggie is a mess. Her antics are comical but a little disturbing to the other people sitting at the table with her. The approach the book uses is to help someone who is baffled when they are told to be gracious at the dinner table. The first half of the book explains that gracious means thinking of others and that good manners are a way to be thoughtful; she then demonstrates how the rules apply. In the second half of the book, it covers in detail the pieces in a proper place setting of dishes, bowls, glasses, cups, napkins and flatware. Other topics include cutting your food, passing dishes to others, use of utensils, removing something discreetly from your mouth, placement of silverware when finished, how to excuse yourself from the table, and how to treat your hosts.

“The more you practice good table manners, the more natural they will become to you and the more you and others will enjoy mealtimes together.” I think that it is best to use a book like this to explore this topic first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. It can be approached as a “coming of age” skill to be mastered before their first visit to a friend’s home. A child that is dealing with hurt feelings, shame, or embarrassment has a more difficult time learning these skills after the fact because they often get defensive. I highly recommend this valuable book and series.

3.  How to Say the Right Thing (A Survival Skills book) by Joy Berry

Say the Right Thing

Joy Berry has written several series of picture books that deal with social behavior for children. The Survival Skills series is written for 6 to 8 year-old children and covers a wide variety of common topics such as table manners, talking on the phone, being a good guest, how to behave in public, how to handle emergencies, how to go to bed, how to clean your room, how to be kind to your guest, how to make your breakfast and lunch, how to take care of your clothes, and so on. They are written in cartoon form, almost like a comic book, with visual examples of the “rule” being taught. If you are familiar with the Highlights magazine for children, sometimes the cartoons take after the Goofus and Gallant series. One person demonstrates how it shouldn’t be done, and the other models the desirable behavior. The pictures are colorful and simple enough to get the point across. They are reminiscent of the Magic School Bus books where other side characters make funny remarks about what’s going on.

Ms. Berry explains what this book sets out to accomplish: “When you talk with other people, you need to know about
*handling introductions
*handling conversations
*acknowledging compliments and gifts
*making and accepting apologies
*saying no
*excusing yourself.”

The book is about Pamela when she meets and greets friends and acquaintances. Then Arnold comes along and again you have the Goofus and Gallant scenario where friends interact among themselves. Pamela models proper conversational skills and Arnold displays disruptive or rude behaviors. Other lessons include being gracious when people ask you questions and friendship skills.

I find that it is best to introduce these topics first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. A child that is dealing with hurt feelings, shame, or embarrassment has a more difficult time learning these skills because they often get defensive.

“The most important thing to remember when you are with other people is this: Treat other people the way you want to be treated. If you follow this guideline, you will usually end up saying the right thing.”

4.  Every Kid’s Guide to Making Friends (A Living Skills Book) by Joy Berry

friends

Joy Berry has written several series of graphic/picture books that deal with social behavior for children and young people. The Living Skills series seems to be written for children 8 to 10 years old. Other books in the series includes: Every Kid’s Guide to Nutrition and Health, Every Kid’s Guide to Handling Disagreements, Every Kid’s Guide to Handling Family Arguments, Every Kid’s Guide to Laws that Relate to Kids in the Community, Every Kid’s Guide to Intelligent Spending, Every Kid’s Guide to Good Manners, Every Kid’s Guide to Making and Managing Money, Every Kid’s Guide to Being Special, Every Kid’s Guide to Handling Fights with Brothers or Sisters, Every Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Prejudice and Discrimination, Every Kid’s Guide to Laws that Relate to School and Work, Every Kid’s Guide to Handling Illness, Every Kid’s Guide to Understanding Nightmares, Every Kid’s Guide to Laws that Relate to Parents and Children, Every Kid’s Guide to Decision Making and Problem Solving, and more.

The graphics in the book are very much like The Magic School Bus series. Little animal characters at the bottom of the page make humorous comments to each other while the kids above them interact with each other. The lessons are fast paced and short. The graphics are bright, simple and succinct, and the guidelines are something even adults should practice every day.

Ms. Berry explains what this book sets out to accomplish: “In Every Kid’s Guide to Making Friends, you will learn about
*friends
*guidelines for making friends
*guidelines for keeping friends
*the importance of having friends.”

I especially agree with one of her concluding statements about friendship. “Friends don’t just happen. It takes work to create a friendship. However, the good things you do to make friends are worthwhile because friends make life more interesting. Friends can also help make you happy.” I agree. It’s important that our young people know that good things are worth working for.

I find that it is best to introduce these topics first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. A child that is dealing with hurt feelings, shame, or embarrassment has a more difficult time learning these skills because they often feel defensive and put up walls.

5.  You Can Be a Star! (A Winning Skills Book) by Joy Berry

be a star

Joy Berry has written several series of graphic/picture books that deal with social behavior for children and young people. The Winning Skills Books series seems to be written with middle school age children in mind–the fifth through eighth grades. I’m sure depending on the maturity of the child, third and fourth grade young people could also benefit from this series. Some of the books I’ve found in this series include: You Can Overcome Fear, You Can Be Assertive, You Can Handle Criticism and Rejection, You Can Handle Rude People, You Can Be a Winner, You Can Handle Stress, You Can Have a Great Future, You Can Get Rid of Bad Habits, You Can Be Liked, You Can Be Beautiful, You Can Handle Tough Situations, You Can Attain Your Goals, You Can Get Organized, You Can Be Creative, You Can Be Smart, You Can Be in Control, You Can Be Happy, and others.

The graphics in the book are black and white pencil drawings in comic book fashion (not superheros). The young people in the cartoons are a little older than middle school age in appearance. The lessons are relevant to young people and short in length. The graphics are simple and succinct, and the guidelines are something even adults should practice every day.

The first half of the book explains famous, infamous, and the characteristics of being a star. Stars are usually respected, appreciated, receive special attention, and recognized by others. Some are little known and some are well-known. A star has the ability to affect others in a positive or negative way. There are advantages and disadvantages to being a star. Most people want the advantages of being a star because they want to be respected, appreciated, recognized and receive special attention. The author talks about balance, give and take, and fulfilling our purpose in this world. “People are healthiest and happiest when they are fulfilling their purpose.”

The second half of the book gives attention to how a person can fulfill their purpose by honing their skills and finding and using their talents. The author talks about using those talents as a young person and eventually segues into a discussion of goals and careers using these same talents and skills. “The focus needs to be on what you can give rather than on what you can receive out of life. If you concentrate on what you can give, you will make a contribution to the world of which you are a part, and this will make you a star.”

I find that it is best to introduce these topics first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. A young person that is dealing with hurt feelings, insecurities, shame, or embarrassment has a much more difficult time learning these skills after the fact because they often get defensive and put up walls.

I believe this series would be very helpful to parents of middle school age children and young people. I encourage the parents/guardians to include family discussion with the use of these books, especially when incorporating the value system the family espouses.

6.  Change and Moving by Joy Berry

change and moving

Joy Berry has written several series of graphic/picture books that deal with social behavior for children and young people. The Good Answers to Tough Questions Books is a series that appears to be geared toward Middle School age and Junior High age young people. Depending on the maturity of the young person, I believe upper elementary young people would benefit from the series as well, as long as there is good interaction with care-taking adults and/or loved ones. Some of the books I’ve found in this series include: Good Answers to Tough Questions about Death, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Divorce, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Traumatic Experiences (or Trauma), Dependence and Separation, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Disasters, Weight Problems and Eating Disorders, Step-families, Physical Disabilities, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Substance Abuse, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Moving, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Adoption, Good Answers to Tough Questions about First Time Experiences, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Learning Disabilities, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Mental Illness, Serious Illness, and others.

The graphics in this book are colorful and focus on students who appear to be middle school age. The lessons are relevant to young people and short in length. The graphics are simple and succinct, and the guidelines are something even adults should practice every day. Most of the material is conveyed in a dialogue format between students at school and a teacher in a classroom.

The first half of the book discusses different types of changes. They talk about how we react to change and what our choices are to the different types of change. “Although you can have control over many of the changes in your life, it is impossible for you to have complete control over all of them. This is especially true of unwanted changes. Unwanted changes are a natural part of every human being’s life.” The author concludes, “When you handle a change appropriately it has a positive effect on your life.” Then she explains how to handle circumstances appropriately.

The second half of the book discusses moving which is often perceived by some young people as an unwanted change. The author writes down how many react to a move, their fears and uncertainties. Then she offers several steps to take to handle these emotions. I think this advice is practical and workable if followed.

I find that it is best to introduce these kind of topics first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. A young person that is dealing with hurt feelings, insecurities, shame, or embarrassment has a much more difficult time learning these skills after the fact because they often get defensive and put up walls.

I believe this series would be very helpful to parents of middle school age children and young people. I encourage a person to include family discussion with the use of these books, especially when incorporating the value system the family espouses.

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