Author: Peggy Moss
Illustrated by Penny Weber
Interest Level: Ages 5-10
About This Book: Roberta James is new to Baker School. "I think you are going to love it here," the principal says. Roberta agrees as she notices the brightly painted walls, a library full of books, and a fabulous looking playground. But the school starts to feel anything but welcoming as she encounters the many different cliques of Baker School, each with it's own set of rules. There are the pony tail girls, the Monkey Bar Gang, the flowered-lunchbox kids, and the cowboy boot wearing "we only eat pita roll-ups" group. Roberta is shuffled from group to group realizing fitting in isn't as easy as the principal promised. Sitting alone in the cafeteria she meets a group that is a mixture of many things. The kids like different sports, foods, and hobbies. They let Roberta know "You're one of Us" just by being yourself. The illustrations are bold and colorful.
Why It's On My Bookshelf: I blogged about One of Us in July before the school year started so I didn't have an opportunity to read it to students. I've chosen it as one of my first reads this year to our 2nd-4th graders. I've been looking for a book that brings kids together, especially at the start of the year. I have chosen wisely because this one is a force. The silence in the room was my first clue that it was very impactful. All eyes were on the pages as Roberta's first day of school unfolded. And I'm not talking about kids sitting and being quiet because it's the respectful thing to do. The story directly relates to their own lives and what they witness on the bus, cafeteria, playground, and in their neighborhoods. Nobody said boo while I read. Not until I opened the floor with guided questions and related it back to our school. Inclusion and exclusion - those are big words for kids. Without giving the definition of exclusion, after the story I asked a second grade class what they thought it meant. They said, "Getting kicked out." Hands went up when I asked if anyone has ever been treated this way or maybe they've done the kicking out. As we continued our discussion, I could feel the empathy and care for one another increase in our conversations in each classroom. I would call this some serious community building!
I love this story. It is simple, concrete, and powerful. It's going to be great to reference back to when kids use exclusion behavior in friendships. As the school counselor of 400 some wonderful kiddos, I am encouraged as to the possibilities for more inclusion across our school. One of Us helped guide students' hearts in the right direction as they headed out to the cafeteria, recess, bus, and back to their neighborhoods. It will be a year long effort to help kids feel and remain connected. But so worth it.
The publisher has a wonderful lesson plan to accompany the book. I found it very helpful.
A Link to This Book: