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A month or so ago people were tweeting words of wisdom spoken by Ruth Ayres. She was speaking at a conference, and the tweets were flying! Seems everyone was talking about a book that she had "blessed" - The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton. Within minutes it became unavailable on Amazon, but I ordered it anyway, and I am so glad that I now own this book.
Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party . . . until, that is, a new kid comes to class.
When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine.
As we read the book, we stopped and talked at key points. We discussed how we would feel if we were Brian, being unnoticed by classmates and teachers. Many said they thought they knew someone who was like Brian.
The discussion moved on to not being picked to play games at recess or not being invited to birthday parties. Again, many made personal connections. We talked about new kids coming to our school, which doesn't happen often, and what they do to help make the new student feel comfortable. They realized how sometimes it only takes one person or one act of kindness to make a person feel noticed or special - as in the case with Brian and Justin.
In the story kids laugh at Justin, the new boy, about what he is eating for lunch. Brian notices this and wonders, "which is worse - being laughed at or feeling invisible." I asked my students this same question.
Surprisingly, most of my students, said they would rather be laughed at than feel invisible. This age group has grown up with anti-bullying campaigns and programs as part of their curriculum. They know the affects of teasing and bullying, yet they felt they would welcome being the target of that behavior over being being unnoticed.
One student replied that even though she may be laughed at, she would still be getting attention.
This discussion left me with many questions. Is this where we want our students to be - negative attention is better than no attention at all? Are they that starved for attention or so focused on themselves that all the attention, negative or positive, has to be on them? Can they not be content with being in the background and not on center stage?
I guess because I am more of an introvert, and I want people to like me, I would have chosen feeling invisible to be the better option. Maybe I am reading too much into this. I know that neither situation is good for children, but I was just surprised at the direction our conversation took.
If you have not read this book or do not own it, I highly recommend you fix that. It is a book that needs to be shared with any age group. The "Brians" of our classrooms need us to help them feel important and not feel invisible.