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Resources for Grandfamilies: A different call to action

Dr. Charisse Smith
Dr. Charisse Smith

https://www.njaaw.org/2021/11/01/grand-families-call-to-action/These ideas and resources for my guest blog titled “Grandfamilies: A different call to action” are just a small slice of the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) pie. Grand-family members: Our students still need you! Use those SEL skills that have carried you through life and life’s challenges. Thank you!


SEL partnership questions for the student’s school

  • Does this school have multiple ways to maintain two-way communication with families; to invite families to understand, experience, inform and partner with the school to support our students’ social and emotional development?
  • Do families participate in the school’s/district’s SEL team?
  • Does this school or district provide meaningful opportunities for all families to learn and contribute to SEL?

Ways older family members can support SEL

  • Participate in any back-to-school events and parent-teacher conferences (in-person or online)
  • Add yourself as a communication contact between the school and home
  • Share information with the school/teacher about how your child learns best
  • Mentor a student or two
  • Become a from-home volunteer for your child’s school (stapling packets, cutting out laminated decorations, volunteering your translation skills for flyers and information that are shared in the community)
  • Share your culture with your child’s school
  • Help unpack and repack your child’s book bag or backpack to check for important information about school and schoolwork
  • Practice SEL activities with your student

SEL activities you can do at home

  • Dedicate time to talking with your child about their day to help students navigate the art of conversation
  • Pay attention to your child’s behavior before and after school
  • Help establish and maintain routines such as preparing for school in the morning, homework time, playtime, bath time and most importantly, bedtime
  • Establish an open line of communication (texting, FaceTime-ing, etc. with older students)
  • Be aware of “red flags” or changes in “normal behavior” (losing interest in school, friends, or favorite activities), eating (loss or insatiable appetites), and/or sleeping behaviors (unable to sleep, sleeping during school hours)
  • Read books or watch online storytellers that promote SEL
  • Participate in mindfulness exercises together, such as walking, yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, coloring with crayons or colored pencils or watching clouds
  • Attend school SEL activities

Resources for grandparents and others caring for school-age children

  • Why Social-Emotional Learning Is Suddenly in the Spotlight
  • The Whole-Brain Child by neuroscientist and parenting expert Daniel Siegal and Tina Payne Bryson: This New York Times Bestseller explains the child’s developing brain and how we can best support it.
  • Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School by Carla Shalaby: Follow the stories of four different young children, known in their respective classrooms as the “troublemakers.” This radical take encourages us to shift our adult perspective to better understand the and sometimes confusing behavior of children.
  • SEL Framework: CASEL

SEL literature for young readers

About being yourself

  • Yo Soy, I Am by Trenton, NJ-native Jacquelyn León: This is the tale of how a child’s name came to be. It is interwoven with family, history, culture and love, to fortify the connection between the child’s name and the child’s identity to the world. The book celebrates and honors the home as the child’s local roots grow and blossom across the world.
  • Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love: Julián is a boy who lives with his abuela (grandmother) in New York City. Although his preferences and attire may seem unconventional, he is supported by those around him to be himself.
  • The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf: Bulls are supposed to fight, correct? Not Ferdinand. A peaceful and calm bull in the bull-fighting rings of Spain, Ferdinand remains true to himself despite the pressures to change.
  • Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown: Marisol McDonald is a biracial girl with red hair and brown skin. In many ways, Marisol defies the norms and sometimes confuses those around her. She is, however, confidently herself!
  • Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson: Chloe and her friends have no interest in playing with Maya, the new girl at school who wears ratty hand-me-down clothes. But when Maya leaves school and Chloe realizes her mistake, she learns that you don’t always get a chance to apologize. 
  • The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig: Brian is unnoticed by the other students in his class. He is never included or invited until the new student, Justin, arrives and shows us that it just takes one friendship to change a person’s life.

About sharing and gratitude

  • A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams: Classic and award-winning story about a family’s home being destroyed by fire. A young Rosa, her mother, and grandmother save their coins to buy a really comfortable chair for all to enjoy.
  • Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister: Rainbow Fish has beautiful glittering scales like no other in the ocean. While at first, he refuses to share his most prized scales, he learns that when he does, he creates invaluable friendships.

About overcoming fear and anxiety

  • The Good Egg by Jory John and Pete Oswald: The Good Egg is always doing what it should, even taking care of the other eggs who are not doing their best. But when the Good Egg’s own shell starts to crack, it realizes that balance and self-care are more important than perfection.
  • Jake the Growling Dog Shares His Train by Samantha Shannon: Follow Jake, a sweet, kind, and misunderstood dog, as he learns more about sharing, facing his fears, and the many remarkable differences in the world

SEL literature for older readers

  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson: Jesse’s colorless rural world expands when he becomes fast friends with Leslie, the new girl in school. But when Leslie drowns trying to reach their special hideaway Terabithia, Jesse struggles to accept the loss of his friend.
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft: Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of a few kids of color in his entire grade.
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz: Esperanza thought she’d always live a privileged life on her family’s ranch in Mexico. She’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home filled with servants, and her mama, papa and abuelita to care for her. But suddenly, tragedy forces Esperanza and mama to flee to California and settle in a Mexican farm labor camp. 

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