My heart has been tremendously heavy since the horrific tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week, a school so close to my own. There are so many things that need to be fixed in this country, so many problems we need to tackle from guns to the mental health crisis to funding for our public schools. As you know, I frequently turn to books for answers and support, but books, unfortunately, cannot solve our national gun crisis. You know what books CAN do, though? You know what their very purpose is? To serve as windows and mirrors for students and adults. To foster empathy in our children, provide safe spaces for children to explore daunting emotions, build a generation of globally aware and conscious kids, and help our young ones find themselves in stories so they don't feel so alone.
I want to highlight The Invisible Boy today, a phenomenal story written by Trudi Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton. The Invisible Boy is about a child named Brian who is never seen or noticed by his classmates. He has no friends. He is never picked to be on a team at recess, never acknowledged by his teachers, never invited to birthday parties. And thus, he appears in the story devoid of color, making him invisible among his classmates. Eventually a new child comes to school and winds up in Brian's class. Brian is the first to reach out to him. When a bond forms between the two boys and they are teamed up to work on a class project, Brian finds a way to step out of the shadows and flourish. Not only does he make a new friend, but Barton's illustrations show how small acts of kindness fill Brian up with color until he is, quite literally, a vibrant force in his classroom.
The Invisible Boy is a phenomenal story, perfectly illustrating how one tiny act of kindness - one small act of acknowledgement or appreciation - can infuse our lives with color and have a significant impact on our self esteem. We need to be so darn certain that none of our children and none of our students are EVER made to feel nonexistent in our homes and schools. Feeling invisible can be just as damaging to a child's social and emotional well being as being teased and laughed at, and it is up to us, the adults, to model the virtues we want the next generation to inherit. This book beautifully conveys the importance of being kind and compassionate and of encouraging our children to befriend those in their classrooms who are too often overlooked. It also reminds us how important it is to get our kids and students involved in activities and clubs that will really allow their unique talents and abilities to flourish with like-minded children with whom they may be able to share a special bond. Feeling invisible can be destructive, and it is up to us to find these struggling children, help them, and show them how important they are in our homes, schools and communities.
In our elementary school, I read The Invisible Boy with each of my classes and gave the students a challenge: make sure no student in your class feels invisible. I remind them to be mindful of their fellow classmates, to look around, be kind, be compassionate. It takes work, and it is not always easy among students who can be -- lets face it -- be cliquey and catty. But it is important to give children constant reminders of how critical it is to be inclusive, to have kind hands, kind words and kind hearts.
We are the adults. We need to do something for these invisible kids, and we need to start by making sure that every child in our homes and classrooms feels heard, supported, and - most importantly - loved. The Invisible Boy is a must for your collections, and I can't rave about this book enough. Get it here, now: The Invisible Boy, by Trudi Ludwig.