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Innovative Educator: Meeting students' emotional needs through books

Kuna second-grade teacher Kelly Ayers is using new books to make sure her students are doing OK just dealing with life.

KUNA, Idaho —
During a time when kids may feel like the world is piling up on them, teacher Kelly Ayers believes a big pile of new books can take some of the weight off their shoulders.

"Especially this year, it became so apparent that kiddos need to see those connections in literature of all the things they're going through," she said.

Ayers teaches second grade at Hubbard Elementary in Kuna. She chose the 17 different titles for a very specific reason.

"These are diverse characters who are sometimes different from the kids, but they can still make that connection, which is nice," Ayers said. "They're all kind of going through fears or friendship issues or just being shy, and they all handle it with positivity and grace."

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The titles include "My Very Own Space," "Too Shy for Show and Tell," "The Book of Mistakes" and "The Color Monster."

"I was reading a book called "The Color Monster," and when he's mad, he's red. And I had a student shout out, 'hey I was red this morning,'" Ayers recalled. "And so, just seeing not only that their emotions are valid, because this can be kind of confusing and scary times for adults, imagine what it's like for kids, but also that they're normal and they're not alone."

She shares the tales of overcoming fears and facing feelings with grace and positivity during storytime, which is a safe time.

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"It's that moment when we can come together. They know it's a place where they can express their feelings safely," Ayers said. "They're not going to be judged. We can discuss things."

The class talks about things that really matter to second-graders. Ayers gave a couple of examples of questions the kids ask.

"What do I do if a kiddo outside doesn't want to play with me and I really want to play with them? What do I do when I'm afraid? And there is a lot of fear right now," Ayers said.

So Ayers will continue to read books from the pile.

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"Oh without a doubt. I would have done this regardless of 2020," Ayers said. "This was something that's been on my mind, but especially this year I feel like it's needed."

Lightening the social and emotional load on her little learners is important, Ayers said.

"If a child doesn't feel safe and comfortable, they're not going to learn," she said.

Ayers received a grant from the CapEd Credit Union Foundation to buy the books. She bought two of each of the 17 titles.

If you would like to nominate a teacher who is going above and beyond, send us an email to innovativeeducator@ktvb.com. Educators, for more information on submitting an application for a classroom grant through the Idaho CapEd Foundation, visit www.capedfoundation.org.

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