Storytime with Jessica – Individuality

Individuality

We can be glib about individuality…I am a unique snowflake, just like everybody else.

But the truth of it is that we are all unique, we are all individuals and we are not like the person next to us even if that person were our identical twin. As adults, we know that being an individual is important, we celebrate that which makes us special…hopefully.

For kids it can be very different, they are learning about the world and they have a very concrete way of thinking. They are learning what makes them an individual: what makes them different and what makes them the same. Children are also learning about the world so they are mimicking the behaviour they see around them and that means they are trying different things and comparing themselves to the people they are mimicking.

Being an individual is important but it takes us time to learn to be comfortable in our own skins so if we start learning this early and it is reinforced then we are going to hold onto it more strongly. We can do that through books that celebrate our individuality. I have some below but there are a vast range of them at the library. You will also notice the theme of friendship running through these books because with individuality we also look at differences because the two are intrinsically tied together. I talked about differences in a previous blog but the theme of friends is important here because differences can make us feel separate but in each of the books below that thing that makes us individuals also helps us find someone else to celebrate with. In a way, individuality is more about owning our differences than anything else and that is what you will see in the books below.

The Books

Cover Image for Blue Penguin

Blue Penguin by Petr Horáček

I feel just like a penguin, says Blue Penguin. But you’re not like us, said the other penguins and they left him all alone. Poor Blue Penguin. Will he be able to convince the other penguins he is one of them after all?

That which makes us an individual and makes us stand out is also the thing that catches people’s attention and brings them into our orbit so that we can make connections and friends. Blue Penguin is blue and that makes him feel isolated and different. This isn’t the only thing that makes him feel separate from the rest of the penguins, and then there is a physical separation that highlights how we can feel sometimes. Blue Penguin is lonely and dreams of something better, singing to a whale to take him away but through this song he meets another penguin who wants to learn his song. Then the other penguins come back as well. In the end, the whale does arrive to take Blue Penguin away from his loneliness but by then he no longer feels lonely and he has been accepted and celebrated for his beautiful song. This book is interesting because the obvious physical factor that makes Blue Penguin unique, being blue, isn’t also the thing that allows him to make friends instead it is a skill he has, something special about him that isn’t immediately visible that makes the other penguins look to him as a friend. This differs from the next book where that highly visible individuality is the thing that gives the main character opportunities. As we know, the way we look is only one of the things that makes us who we are, I would not be me without the sense of identity I attach to looking like me, but that is just the physical part of my being and it is the way it is. We are made up of so much more than that and what’s inside is incredibly important to who we are and it’s that that makes us truly individuals.

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev and Taeeun Yoo

Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend.

There are things that make us unique and as we go through life we will find other unique individuals who might not be unique in exactly the same way as we are but who we can bond with through our own individuality. In this book, the main character has an elephant for a pet…but no one else does and when they go along to Pet Club Day they learn that elephants are not allowed. Obviously, this seems unreasonable and arbitrary but the main character doesn’t let this stop them. They go to the park and meet another child – this one has a skunk for a pet. Through this meeting, the two become friends and create their very own place to play together with all of the other children with unique (or quite ordinary as no one is excluded) pets. Sometimes the thing that makes us truly unique is visible and obvious to everyone, like the metaphorical elephant in the park, but this book reminds us that exclusion based on the things that make us different just results in not getting to play with the kid who has a pet narwhal.

Cover Image for Strictly No Elephants
Cover Image for Go Go and the Silver Shoes

Go Go and the Silver Shoes by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker

When Go Go is allowed to buy the most beautiful shoes ever, she decides she will wear them everywhere!Even to the creek, where she and her brothers go adventuring.But – Oh no, Go Go! – that’s when a terrible thing happens . . .

Sometimes we chose our own individuality. In this story Go Go is the youngest member of the family and as a result she doesn’t get many things that are  just HERS, she wears hand-me-downs and follows in her brothers’ footsteps in lots of ways. But, she does get to pick her own shoes. And this is how Go-Go displays her individuality – she loves shoes because they are just hers and she wears them proudly. As we go through the story Go-Go displays her individuality in her choices as well. She is confronted by other children who try and encourage her into conformity but she tells them the truth – “I don’t care”. Go-Go uses this firm grasp of her own style to bond with a new kid in school as well and her individuality is celebrated throughout the book which is one of the many reasons I really like this book which was one of 2019’s Children’ Book Council’s Picture Book of the Year notable books.

Rhymes

If You’re Wearing…
To the tune of ‘Mary had a little lamb’

If you’re wearing red today,
red today, red today.
If you’re wearing red today,
Please stand up!

If you’re wearing blue today…
If you’re wearing orange today…
If you’re wearing green today…
If you’re wearing yellow today…
If you’re wearing black today…
If you’re wearing purple today…
If you’re wearing pink today…

 

This Little Piggy

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none,
And this little piggy went
wee wee wee wee
all the way home!

Activity – All About Me

Individuality is what makes me, ME.

The activity I’m going to recommend today is taking time to identify our individuality and celebrate it within the family, or friend groups, anywhere it fits really so that children become used to the idea that everyone is different and that is good.

On the right is a link to a worksheet on Pinterest and you can work from a sheet like the one linked, or the many that will be recommended at the bottom of the page, or you can just make it part of the activities you do as a family. You look at the different types of topics and it could be talking about everyone’s favourite food or you could even take it further and each week on Saturday we make the favourite food of a member of the family. It is important to make it about a group as well because there will be similarities and differences and seeing that and then knowing that each one can be celebrated by the whole family is a great reinforcement of the wonders of individuality.

Some suggestions for things you can do to celebrate the individual are:

  • Everyone draws their favourite thing to do.
  • Everyone dresses in their favourite colour to go to the zoo.
  • Create a playlist of everyone’s favourite songs for a long car ride.
  • Take turns picking your the favourite things to do in the afternoon.
  • Have a day where everyone gets to just do their own thing.

There are so many options and each one is going to be as unique as the individual.