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How do books get their titles?
The Parenting Press staff was stumped when it came to Eileen Kennedy-Moore's delightful story about a little boy who learns kind, thoughtful ways to get the attention he needs. Everyone loved the working title—everyone, that is, except Seattle-area book designer Judy Petry, who said, "Toooooo long!"
So when publisher Carolyn Threadgill traveled to Anaheim in late 2004 for the annual conference of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and again when she went to the Washington AEYC conference, she asked visitors to the Parenting Press booth to review a mockup of the book. "What do you think we should name this?" she asked everyone she met.
From across the country, Parenting Press received dozens of suggestions. The winner, however, came from Mark Lowenthal, a psychologist in Maplewood, New Jersey, who saw author Dr. Kennedy-Moore's mockup. Formerly the director of Child and Family Outpatient Mental Health Services at Trinitas Hospital, Elizabeth, New Jersey, he maintains a private practice that serves children, adolescents and adults.
Why What About Me? Not only is it short (it fits in the space Petry had to work with), but it poses the question that so many children want to ask when they feel left out or ignored.
" 'What About Me?' is a legitimate question and that's the first part of what I'm trying to communicate with this book," says Dr. Kennedy-Moore. "The second message, of course, is that children have many positive ways to get noticed."
How parents, teachers, and child care providers
can use "What About Me?"
"What About Me? 12 Ways to Get Your Parents' Attention (Without Hitting Your Sister)" is a picture book children can enjoy simply for the subtly humorous text, the detailed illustrations and the gentle depiction of family activities.
Eileen Kennedy-Moore's story functions on a second level for children who are tempted to act out because of sibling rivalry or the feeling that they are being ignored. It also shows adults the importance of recognizing children's need for attention, of teaching children positive ways to attract attention and of responding warmly to these positive efforts.
There are many ways to use this book at home, in child care settings and in the classroom. It's valuable with only children as well as those who have or are expecting siblings.
Start by reading "What About Me?" aloud. Leave the book somewhere convenient, so children can easily look through it on their own. As the concluding "Note to Parents" suggests, be alert to children's efforts to try the strategies in the book and acknowledge these with praise or one-on-one time.
For subsequent readings of the book, Dr. Kennedy-Moore suggests discussion questions you can use either as you read or after you've reached the last page. It's unlikely that you'll use all the questions in one sitting, unless you're working with a group. Be guided by the interest of the children; some may not feel like discussing the story, but they will still benefit by hearing its gentle and affirming message.
Suggested discussion questions:
- Do you know what it means to have people pay attention to you and what it means to be ignored?
- How do you know when a grownup is paying attention to you?
- Why do you think that grownups sometimes don't pay attention to kids?
- What do you do when you feel left out or ignored?
- How is the boy feeling at the beginning of the book?
- Do you think his parents are paying attention to him? How can you tell?
- When do you feel like the boy in the book?
- How is the boy feeling when he looks at his sister?
- What would happen if the boy hit or poked his sister?
- How well does hitting or poking work as a way to get attention?
- How is the boy feeling at the end of the book?
- Why is being kind or helpful a better way to get attention than hitting?
- Which of these different ways to get attention have you tried?
- How well do they work at home? In the classroom?
- Which strategy for getting attention is your favorite? Why is it your favorite?
- What other helpful and kind ways of getting attention can you think of?
- (For children with siblings) What's the worst part of having a brother or sister? What's the best part?
- What is your favorite thing to do with a special grown-up? (Your mother, father, babysitter, grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc.)
Additional activities for teachers and librarians:
- Ask the children to vote on their favorite strategy from the book.
- Have children role play several of the strategies, with some children being the adults and others the kids. (Use puppets if kids are self-conscious or shy.)
- Ask children to each select a strategy to try at home–with a sibling, friend, neighbor, cousin or other relative--and then report back to the class what happened. As part of the report, a child can discuss whether he felt successful in getting the attention he wanted. This child can describe–or, if necessary, the group can brainstorm–how to be more successful in getting positive attention from adults: trying a different example from the book, at a different time or under different circumstances.
- Have children ask their parents, caregivers or other adults which ways to get attention the adults prefer.
- Have children draw pictures of themselves trying the strategies. These may be compiled in a book or posted on a bulletin board with a title such as, "What About Us? How We Get Attention in Kind, Helpful Ways."
- Use an instant or digital camera to take pictures of children demonstrating the different helpful and kind ways of getting attention.