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With each year, a new purpose

Entering my eighth year of teaching, there are a stack of books that I know I’ll read. Of course, there is plenty of room for new books to join and other familiar books to jump back in the pile too. Something that has been fascinating to me this year has been watching how books come to life in different ways depending on the group of children we spend our days with.

In kindergarten, we always do a lot of work around emotions and emotional regulation. Tom Percival’s Big Bright Feelings collection is a go-to favorite of mine for this topic…but there are many incredible books that I’ve collected into this text set over the years.

This year, Layla’s Happiness by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, has been a grounding story for many of my children. After experiencing some unexpected major changes within our school, we were needing to find a way to name our happiness and focus on it, this book lent itself perfectly to our situation. A newly merged class of 17, we wrote our own list of things that made us happy. This allowed us to learn about each other and find commonalities while celebrating the ways we are different. The children went on to illustrate a page and create a book entitled “Our Happiness” which they refer back to frequently.

This year, Layla’s Happiness grounded us as a class that was reformed mid year, helped us to connect, and moved us forward.

Last year, it was a book children used when they noticed someone might need more happiness in their life. Sometimes they would see an adult having a hard day, write a sticky note and ask to deliver the book to the adult. When they saw a friend struggling, they would go find the book and reread it with that friend.

The year before, we were still hybrid and learning to navigate that reality. Layla’s Happiness was a way for us to find joy in the small things and remember there is good to be discovered everywhere.

As a teacher, watching how the books you have come to love unfold with each group of children is a fascinating and often eye opening experience. If we enter each encounter with an open mind and a willingness to stop and listen, the children will share a new way to see, to think, to feel, to be…all within the pages of books we already love.

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