I'm sure many of you have had this experience before: you walk into a bookstore with something in mind and you are drawn to another book (or 5) for whatever reason. This happens to me a lot lately. In addition to my work as an occupational therapist, I run a social skills group for The Meeting House. The group is made up of children 5-8 years of age with a variety of social delays. During the beginning of the weekly group, we have free choice and one of the very popular choices is reading books. It's been so fun to find books that help children learn about feelings, emotions and other aspects of social emotional learning.
Last week, I saw drawn to the beautiful cover of the book Be A Friend by Salina Yoon. I was brought close to tears reading the story in Barnes and Noble and have shared it with just about every person I have run into since. The story and illustrations are so incredibly beautiful and teach such an important lesson: it's okay to be different.
The basic premise of the book is simple: Everyone Needs Someone. In this case, that someone is a little boy named Dennis who doesn't speak but has a wild imagination and shares his thoughts and ideas through his actions. Not many of the kids who are near him can be bothered by his behaviors but one day a little girl named Joy decides to take the brave step to get to know Dennis a bit more. With time, they develop a beautiful friendship that relies on accepting and embracing someone who might be different. In the end, the other children in Joy and Dennis' class saw what fun they had together and ended up joining in on their imaginative play.
If you work with children, have a children or know anybody with children, I highly recommend this book being part of their library. Sometimes children learn lessons better through stories and this story will be such an opportunity to have conversations with your children about accepting and understanding how every child is different. Just because they may look, act or talk differently, it doesn't mean that you can't be their friend.
I have several books about friendship for kids, but I have a special love for Be A Friend. If you have a child who feels different from others, be sure to get this for them and read it to them again and again.