Learning to Get Along: Join In and Play

A slightly different book in this post, as it is one of a series specifically designed to aid with the development of children’s social skills.

The vast majority of children learn social skills naturally, almost by osmosis.  They have an innate sense of how to relate to others and through a natural desire to imitate those around them gradually pick up appropriate sociable behaviour.  They seek out company, enjoy play with others and form relationships with their peers very easily.  But there are a significant majority of children for whom this process is not so simple, whether through social impairments such as autistic spectrum disorders, delays due to developmental problems or emotional immaturity, or because they have been brought up in households where appropriate social behaviour is neither demonstrated nor encouraged.  This book is aimed primarily at the latter groups, but the quality of the approach is such that all children may benefit from their positive approach to social and emotional development.

Join In and Play is a good starting point for the series for shy, sensitive or introverted children who find it hard to know how to approach others.  The book presents us with a young child, speaking in the first person, who talks us through her ideas about how to be a good friend.  She explains that she likes playing, and that she likes playing alone, but that sometimes she likes to play with others.   She states how she would approach a new friend and how she might speak to them:

“When I see someone I’d like to play with, I can walk up and smile as I say hello.

The person might be looking for a friend too.

I can tell something about me, or ask a question.

“What are you drawing?” 

“A boat.”

I can listen.  I can answer in a nice way.

It looks cool.

Sometimes my friend invites me to play along.

Do you want to draw too?” ”

As you can see the style is simple and explanatory.  There is a slightly American twang to the dialogue which may sit uneasily with British readers but the overall quality of the writing is ideally pitched for children of preschool age and above.  The pictures are clear and nicely drawn and the book covers a variety of possible scenarios a child might encounter such as how to ask to join a game, supporting a child playing alone, dealing with not being chosen for a game and being challenged for a toy or turn. There is an effective balance struck between encouraging a child to stick up for themselves, to maintain optimism in the face of rejection, and in showing respect for others.  The ultimate message is that “I can make friends by being a good friend.”

The back of the book consolidates the learning with a series of questions and activities for the adult to do with the child.  It is a thorough and well-thought-out approach that would benefit all children, not just those with social difficulties.

The series is published by Free Spirit publishing and there are a number of other titles focusing on emotional literacy and the skills of interaction, such as “Listen and Learn”, “Cool Down and Work Through Your Anger”, “Try and Stick With It” and “Talk and Work it Out.”  Based on this one they would be well worth a look for children needing this kind of support.

An excellent example of didactic publishing at its best.


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