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In connection with Pink T-Shirt Day in February, many of my recent read-alouds in the library have focused on anti-bullying, empathy and inclusion.  My go-to author for picture books with these themes is Trudy Ludwig.  An award-winning author who specializes in writing children’s books that explore the colorful and sometimes confusing world of children’s social interactions, Ludwig’s work offers an engaging opportunity to address relational aggression (the use of relationships to manipulate and hurt others) to an elementary aged audience.

Without question, my favourite Trudy Ludwig book is The Invisible Boy which asks students to consider which is worse: being laughed at or feeling invisible.  Many students respond with the belief that one is nor better or worse than the other – a great provoking question to start critical conversations.  In the story, we 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.  This message of the story is further highlighted by Patrice Barton’s beautiful illustrations.  Slight changes in colour and shading offer visual cues to the perceptive and/or struggling reader to help infer the state of Brian’s emotional well-being as the plot progresses.  Students love sharing what they see on the page and the meaning they can make from these illustrations.

The Invisible Boy is one of my all-time favourite books in the library.  It beautifully illustrates how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish.  I highly recommend this book for students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 as well as any parent looking for material that sensitively addresses the needs of quieter children.

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