A FRIEND LIKE YOU  by Tanja Askani

Screen Shot 2016-09-20 at 6.22.32 PM.pngThis is such a simple, yet beautiful book. The Amazon description summarizes my love this book best “Adorable photos of unlikely-but-true animal friends, paired with easy-to-read text, create a heartwarming portrait of the many faces of friendship.”

I call this my “awe” lesson, because we always start with this great commerical and even my toughest students let out one “awe.”

After reading create a list of questions you could ask people to get to know them better. For example: “what do you like to eat?” “Tell me about your family.”  I put the list on the board for reference. Partner students and gave them a few minutes to talk and ask the questions. Next ask them to create their own Venn Diagram about each other, using this great resource from Counselor Up!


download (3)Inspired by a 300-year-old Ukrainian story, this book cover so many topics: friendship, honesty, trust, gossip, rumors, equality, etc. It’s truly a must have in every counselors office. The story takes place in Hapyville- I tell you this first because for 10 years I read it as “Happyville” until a student corrected me. In this small town is Mr. Peabody, a teacher and the coach of the local team. One day one of the player sees Mr. Peobody taking an apple and assumes the worst. Soon gossip about Mr. Peabody has spread around town and the townspeople aren’t as friendly to him. I love the visual of the feathers in this book to represent gossip and rumors.

Activity:  This book lends it’s self to a great discussion. I created these discussion cards  and activity packet you can use to get students talking using Kagan’s Quiz Quiz Trade.  Follow it up with a community building activity. My favorite are from Miss 5th! 

I also like to pair it with these videos:

THE SANDWICH SWAP by by Kelly DiPucchio and Queen Rania of Jordan

imagesThis book promotes diversity and acceptance while talking about conflict resolution. Lily and Salma are best friends, until a peanut butter and jelly and a hummus sandwich come between them. The girls learn to accept each other and think before they speak!

Activity:  Stop reading mid way and have students brainstorm ideas on how they would solve the problem. I stop and review the “THINK before you speak” poster. For more, check out Common Core Kingdom’s activity packet. 

THE NAME JAR by Yangsook Choi

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 2.40.52 PM.pngBeing new is never easy, especially when no one can pronounce your name. This book is perfect if you have ELL students in your school. This book reminds me of SAVE ME A SEAT by Sarah Weeks which is perfect for older students to do a book club with.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 2.41.19 PM

Activity:  This name research activity is perfect for small groups or to do as a partner lesson with your librarian/technology teacher. Also check out this FREEBIE on TPT.  

 WE’RE ALL WONDERS by Raquel J. Palacio

We are Wonders Bulletin Board

Did you love the movie Wonder? Check out this beautiful picture book based on the chapter book.

Activity: Become a certified kind classroom by participating in Random House’s kindness classroom challenge. Author and publisher websites are often a great source for ideas and activities.


ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

This is one of the most powerful books I have read in the past year. I’m not the only one moved. This New York Times Best Seller has received many accolades. Told from two different points of view, the main characters struggle with hard questions about tolerance, acceptance, and racial tension.

Activity: Have students participate in the cross the line activity or work with your PTA to bring Challenge Day to your school.



This is a book I use every year. It’s one of my favorite go to lessons because it’s engaging and thoughtful. Brian, our invisible boy, feels left out and ignored. Instead of telling the students he’s bullied, I ask them if they think it fits the definition of bullying. We have long discussions about whether the students ignore him do it on purpose, the power that one person can have, our feelings, and more.

Activity: Read about my lesson below orheck out authors website for my lesson here. This books lends its self to great discussions, use my cards to get them talking.
I also love pairing it with this video:

Before Reading: Do a “science experiment.”
Here’s how it works:

1. In a plate/flat container that’s full of water I pour in pepper. I ask the students to think of the pepper as people. We call them our “pepper people.” I ask them to notice that the pepper is floating together, almost like a family or a community This is a good place to discuss people coming together in the community, at school, etc. You can ask them to think of all the different ways people work together.
      2. Then I introduce the “soap.” Put the soap in the middle of the pepper. In previous lessons I have introduced the soap as a “bully,” however this time I asked them to just think of the soap as a person.

      3. As you will notice when you put the soap in the water the pepper immediately darts away from the soap. I asked the kids to tell me why the pepper would be running away from the soap. Some said that the soap was a bully, others said it might be someone who is scared, etc. This time I asked them to imagine the soap was not a bully, perhaps a new student or even a student they have known a long time. I then asked them again, why would the pepper run away?

4. This was a good place to introduce our vocab. words of the day: exclusion and inclusion. I explained that the pepper were all off by themselves and the soap was left alone. We discussed the word exclusion here, when one student noticed that some of the pepper had stuck to the soap. She commented that if the soap were a bully perhaps they were joining the bully or maybe trying to stop him. I asked them to discuss why else the pepper might stick to the soap.

5. Next we talk about inclusion and that it’s important to include everyone and it just takes one “sugary sweet” random act of kindness to make a big change. As I talk about this I pour the sugar where the soap was and slowly you will see the pepper coming back together.

Lesson: Next I read the story, stoping frequently to ask the students to make connections between our experiment and the book; looking for pepper people, the soap, and the sugar. I also asked them to make text-to-life connections. Many of my students really opened up!

Game: Next we played Quiz Quiz Trade using the discussion questions in the back of the book. I had a student demonstrate with me how to play and model how to restate an answer. I asked everyone to show their listening skills by restating what they heard and repeating it each partner. They did a great job, I loved the “I heard you say that you think…” or “So you are saying that….” It was amazing.  I also added a few like: “What do you think exclusion is?” “Do you think exclusion is bullying?” and “What food have you tried from other countries?”

Need more?

Find more books here:

See my personal list of books I own with categories and links to activities here. To Edit Click File  and “Make a copy”!

Find videos to partner with books here:

Pawsitive School Counselor You Tube Page

Bright Futures Counseling

Check out more amazing resources from these amazing counselors, educators, parents, etc.:

Counselor Keri

The Ned Show

The Confident Counselors

Happily Ever Elephants

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