I just finished reading an article by Bruce Perry on healing communities. I thought this week I would summarize this article and bring an update on a campaign to help our schools be healing communities.

Dr. Perry believes that if we are to successfully raise healthy children, children who will be resilient in the face of any traumatic experience, we need to build a healthier society. The modern world in many cases has disrupted the fundamental biological unit of human social life: the extended family. There has been much emphasis on the breakdown of the nuclear family, but Dr. Perry believes in many cases the extended family, whose dissolution has been much less discussed, is at least as important. The extended family can make the difference between a couple who are able to raise a healthy child and one where one or both parents becomes overwhelmed and neglectful.

One of the ways he is helping communities raise healthy children is teaming up with Scholastic Magazine in a program called “Keep your cool in school”. I have written about this before but I thought I would write an update on one book for middle school that has come out of this program. If you would like to read the previous blog I wrote on this program please click on this link.

In a previous blog I wrote about how a child who can form and maintain healthy emotional relationships, self-regulate, join and contribute to a group, and be aware, tolerant, and respectful of himself and others will be more resourceful and successful in social situations. To help children develop these crucial strengths, Scholastic with Dr. Perry consulting launched “Keep the cool in school” campaign a few years ago. This is a campaign against violence and verbal abuse. The campaign, offers teachers, parents, and children the tools to identify, and develop the resources to be successful. Promoting a child's emotional health is the best approach available to fighting violence, and the reward is tremendous.

The book for middle school girls to come out of this movement is “Agnes Parker…keeping your cool in middle school” by Kathleen Odell. The flycover of this book says:

 “Middle school is going to take some getting used to. The halls are hectic, the unspoken rules are baffling, and the eighth-grade boys are one big gang of bullies. Agnes's
best friend Prejean has jumped in and decided to run for class president, but Agnes would rather try to be invisible. That will be especially difficult now that Prejean has asked Agnes to be her campaign manager. And then there's the problem of Aram, a boy in Agnes's art class who seems to have a crush on her. He's smart and funny, and Agnes feels comfortable with him. But is he such an odd duck that she'll seem odd by association?”

I have not read this book myself but my husband says it is recommended reading at some universities for students who want to be middle school teachers.  One reviewer said “O’Dell’s writing perfectly captures the painful and sometimes funny middle-school years. Agnes will once again charm readers with her sweet and generous nature, even as she navigates the new and scary world of seventh grade. Thoughtful and captivating.”

The Center applauds projects that aim at helping raise healthy children in our ever changing world.  Thank you Dr. Perry, Scholastic Magazine and Kathleen Odell.

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