A Mistake Is Only a Mistake If You Don’t Learn From It, Ten Books to Use with Children in a Restorative Approach by Stacey Sawyer
My students strive to follow our school Code of Conduct but even on the best of days mistakes happen and someone is hurt by the actions of another. My goal is always to resolve relationship-damaging incidents and also to prevent them from happening again. I use a restorative approach while working with disciplinary issues. Restorative practices help our students eliminate negative behaviors while maintaining a growth mindset. Students are counseled to accept responsibility for their actions, understand the impact on others, and make appropriate amends. Children’s books can be a powerful way to move young children through the restorative process. In this list are ten picture books that provide a clear message and relatable characters that prove we can all learn from our mistakes.
What Were You Thinking? by Bryan Smith (Boys Town Press, 2016)
What Were You Thinking, is written to encourage children to stop and think about their actions. There are many situations that will resonate with young readers. Braden makes plenty of mistakes and in then end he proves he is learning to control his impulses.
Listening with My Heart by Gabi Garcia (Take Heart Press, 2017)
Accepting responsibility for our mistakes, without letting them define us, can be tricky. In Listening with My Heart, Esperanza, the likable narrator, reminds readers to be kind and compassionate. It shares examples of being kind toward others, but also remembering to be kind to our selves as well.
The Lemonade Hurricane by Licia Moreli (Tilbury House, 2015)
In The Lemonade Hurricane, the main character Emma shares her frustrations about living with her brother, an impulsive, energetic boy. The story teaches readers basic concepts of mindfulness through simple text and imaginative illustrations.
Just Kidding by Trudy Ludwig (Tricycle Press, 2006)
Just Kidding helps students to understand the difference between good-natured teasing and targeted verbal bullying. The messages are clear: bullying is not the victim’s fault, and it does hurt. Through this relatable story, children will feel empowered to respond to bullying and to seek adult help when they need it. Students who engage in bullying behavior see themselves in the actions and words of the main character, allowing for difficult conversations that end with positive learning experiences.
Stand in My Shoes by Bob Sornson (Nelson Publishing, 2013)
Teaching young children the skill of empathy can be challenging. Many students struggle when asked, “How do you think your actions made him (her) feel?” In the book Stand in My Shoes, Emily takes us through her school day as she learns to truly notice the feelings of each person she encounters. Children connect to the familiar scenarios and begin to develop their own understanding of what it means to be empathetic.
Thanks for the Feedback by Julia Cook, (Boys Town Press, 2013)
RJ, the likable narrator of Thanks for the Feedback shares that when responding to people, his words often swam in his head, and he blurts out something inappropriate. After a parent –teacher conference, his parent help by giving him way to respond to feedback. A fun rhyming scheme is used throughout the story, making this a perfect, shared read aloud.
Mindful Mantras: I Can Handle It! by Laurie Wright (Laurie Wright, 2017)
Many challenges are posed in the book I Can Handle It, giving the main character, Sebastien practice using this mindful mantra. Children can identify with him as he works through numerous emotions, making this a good choice when working with young children who become easily frustrated.
Kindness Is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler by Margery Cuyler (Simon & Schuster, 2007)
After a few days of mean acts, the teacher challenges her kindergarten students to perform five acts of kindness. Once they shared their acts of kindness, they decide Kindness Is Cooler, and the whole class jumps on board as begin a week of kindness. Fun illustrations and a positive message make this an excellent resource.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulson Books, 2012)
We are responsible for being kind to others, always, a message delivered beatifully in Each Kindness. Maya is new to school and tries to befriend Chloe who ignores her attempts. When Maya moves away and the teacher shares a lesson about everyday kindness, Chloe realizes she missed an important opportunity. This book leaves the reader thinking about the effects of every little kindness.
The Three Questions by Jon Muth (Scholastic Press, 2002)
Knowing and using the skills of being mindful helps to reduce impulsive actions, and The Three Questions is the perfect introductory book. Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, this beautifully illustrated book reminds children that the most important time is now, the most important one is the one you are with, and the most important thing is to do good to the one you are with.
Stacey Sawyer is currently an elementary school Assistant Principal. She lives in Maine where she raised three children with her husband. She is a lifelong lover of reading and enjoys sharing her passion with both children and adults! When she’s not reading, you can find her walking ocean beaches, boating and paddle boarding. This is her first published blog post.