Restorative Justice in Picture Books: Exploring Concepts


Blog Editor: Mark Barry

Using The Little Book of Restorative Justice in Education (2016) by Kathy Evans and Dorothy Vaandering, I have begun to process how picture books can contribute to the conversation around nurturing healthy relationships, creating just and equitable learning environments, and repairing harm and transforming conflict. Each of the picture book selections have opportunities to inform young children about how to put restorative justice into practice and can be used as talking points in sharing circles to further define and refine “who we are when we are together” (Evans & Vaandering, 2016.)

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon.

Discover more about this book at Goodreads.

Using picture books as a reference point for others to speak about their own beliefs and values may act as a starting point that empowers students to direct their own learning and involvement in classrooms and schools through restorative justice in education.

Nurturing Healthy Relationships

The first facet of relationships first culture is nurturing healthy relationships which are defined as “when people communicate respectfully and share power in a way that allows for individual and collective needs to be met” (p. 62.) Though there are not many books that are written explicitly as restorative justice books, we can use picture books to illustrate how to nurture healthy relationships.

The Sharing Circle by Theresa Larsen-Jonasson illustrates how sharing circles can be used to peacefully address and resolve conflict. This book gives an example of the circle process used in RJE and illustrates how circles can be used as a safe space to talk about conflict. The author writes this book to illustrate restorative practice through the aboriginal talking circle process. The Sharing Circle by Theresa Meuse is a collection of stories about different facets of First Nations cultural practices, including a chapter on Talking Circles. The story about talking circles demonstrates how they can be effective in community building. These two books are useful when introducing circles or to remind students about why circles are used in the classroom.

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon.

Discover more about this book at Goodreads.

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox is a book that not only teaches acceptance for differences in people, but also celebrates and recognizes differences. “Joys are the same, and love is the same. Pain is the same, and blood is the same” (Fox, 1997.) In simple terms, this book explains that though we may be very different, we are very much the same; and even though we can change, we are still fundamentally connected through our humanity.

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon.

Discover more about this book at Goodreads.

What color is the wind? by Anne Herbauts is inspired by a child with a visual impairment. Though not immediately apparent, this book invites us to consider different perspectives and shows the wholeness of experience. “The color of the wind? It is everything at once. This whole book.” (Herbauts, 2016.) The pages of this book are made of various raised patterns and textures that invites readers to be mindful of the question and to consider the answers through their senses. It is a great way to begin to talk about different perspectives, walking in someone else’s shoes, and about respecting others’ opinions.

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon.

Discover more about this book at Goodreads.

The Mindful Turtle by Florence Strang teaches us to consider different perspectives about our own experiences and models respectful asking and listening. “Seeing all the beauty and abundance of food that surrounded him made Sammy feel very grateful.” (Strang, 2018.) The mindful turtle teaches us about mindfulness, and about coping strategies for anxiety or worry. It also models for students how to stay calm when someone is stressed or worried and how support can be used to help those who need to change their lens to gain a new perspective on a worrisome situation.

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon.

I Am Human by Susan Verde is a book that explores human connection and self-worth through empathy and the practice of mindfulness. “A poor choice can become a BETTER choice with thoughtfulness.” This book is a great starting point for exploring human worth and connectedness as a part of lived experience. This book focuses on knowing and accepting yourself and that expecting greatness does not necessarily mean that you expect perfection.

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon.

Discover more about this book at Goodreads.

Creating Just and Equitable Environments

The second component of restorative justice in education is creating just and equitable environments. Equity and justice both have commonalities in that they are both involved in finding what needs are present and how to collectively meet those needs. “Justice is about the reciprocal pursuit of what everyone needs for their individual and collective well-being” (Evans & Vaandering, p. 43.) This is not meant to be an individual exercise or a classroom endeavour, but a system-wide change to approaching how to best serve the learning needs of the students: a whole-person approach that takes into account where you are from, what oppresses you, what inequities and harms you face, and how to meet you where you are. By “examining asymmetrical relationships” (p. 43) present in students’ lives, we can begin to understand where to start to meet these needs.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller is a book about making a difference through simple acts of kindness. What better way to fulfill a need and show we can ALL contribute to one another’s well-being?

“Maybe I can’t solve Tanisha’s grape problem.

Maybe all I can do is sit by her in art class.

And paint this picture for her.

Because I know she likes purple too” (Miller, 2018.)

This simple book speaks to the importance of being kind, but also how small acts of kindness have ripple effects which benefit all people involved. This book is a wonderful demonstration of how we are all connected and how our actions with each other matter, because they affect our well-being.

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon.

Discover more about this book at Goodreads.

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson is set in a time of racial segregation; however, the children teach us to put “people before policy” (RJ Education NL, 2018) and truly acknowledge each other’s humanity.

“I see you made a new friend,” she said one morning.

And I nodded and Mama smiled.

The Other Side examines the relationship between two young neighbours who, despite their separation in society, create a safe space for their relationship on the fence between their houses. This book would be good to promote discussion on both relationships and inequity and what changes are needed when society is not relational or restorative.

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon.

Discover more about this book at Goodreads.

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed is a book about friendship but also provides insight about equity and equality in different contexts, especially regarding “culturally inclusive pedagogy” (Evans & Vaandering, p. 55). Feroza says that “It is good to remember” (Williams, 2007) when she gives Lina one of the sandals that belong to the pair that they shared. This situation could generate discussions about whether this gesture reflects equity and justice, but it demonstrates a reciprocal relationship where both girls are invested in the well-being of the other.

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon.

Discover more about this book at Goodreads.

If You Could Wear My Sneakers by Sheree Fitch and Darcia Labrosse is a collection of poetry based on the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child. Each poem models acceptance and caring for people as they are.

“If you could wear my sneakers

(You might have to plug your nose)

And if I could wear your shoes

(Even if they crunched my toes)

Maybe we could see the us

We never got to meet”

(Fitch & Labrosse, 1997.)

The importance of making the effort to learn about one another and to share our experiences is evident in this poem. The book itself is written in an entertaining, kid-centric, anthropomorphic sing-song rhyme pattern but it examines the different ways that we are together using respect and dignity and mutual concern.

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon.

Discover more about this book at Goodreads.

King Pig by Nick Bland shows how absolute power separates us and destroys relationships. It also teaches empathy and suggests how the importance of putting things right. “Because he was the king, he could make the sheep do whatever he wanted…whenever he pleased. But he just couldn’t make them like him.” (Bland, 2013.) King Pig demonstrates, not only the toxicity of systemic inequities, but also the importance of kindness in interpersonal relationships.

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon.

Discover more about this book at Goodreads.

Repairing Harm and Transforming Conflict

The last component of restorative justice in education is repairing harm and transforming conflict. It is important to note that harm done may not be intentional (Evans & Vaandering, p. 81) and that offenders may, in fact, be victims of injustice themselves (p. 85.) Restorative justice in education does not attempt to excuse behaviors because of past experiences, but rather “RJE transforms conflict by creating opportunities to build social-emotional capacities, such as empathetic listening, self-regulation, problem solving, and perspective taking” (p. 95.)

It’s Okay To Make Mistakes by Todd Parr is a book about finding new opportunities by making mistakes and taking away the stigma in being “wrong”. “Everyone has “uh-oh” moments. That’s how you learn!” (Parr, 2014.) This book is a great resource as a proactive type of response to conflict, by assuring us that it is okay if we make mistakes, as long as we make it right in the end. It is a starting point to talk about conflict and harm, especially when it is unintentional and the importance of acknowledging the action and the consequence of the action.

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon

Discover more about this book at Goodreads.

What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada talks about how problems can grow without resolution and redefines how we perceive our problems. “My problem held an opportunity! It was an opportunity for me to learn and to grow. To be brave. To do something.” (Yamada, 2016.) Values present in this book, including to be brave, to learn and grow, to fix your problems are all instrumental for self-actualization in transforming conflict.

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon

Discover more about this book at Goodreads.

The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania and Kelly DiPucchio is not only a book about making up after a fight, it attempts to address the greater needs of the school community. “The girls giggled and hugged. And traded sandwiches” (Rania & DiPucchio, 2010.) Another culturally inclusive book, The Sandwich Swap demonstrates how conflict can divide, not only individuals, but communities as well. The importance of coming together to address conflict is in the final scene of the story where the girls not only decide to reconcile, but also to include the school in a multicultural food festival as a metaphor for community inclusion in repairing the harm of the earlier “food fight.”

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon

Discover more about this book at Goodreads.

One by Kathryn Otoshi is a book that address conflict through “supportive accountability” (Evans & Vaandering, p. 91) for when Red causes harm, Red is still included and maintains their dignity. The transformative power of this approach is also displayed when the colors shout: “Everyone counts!” In this final picture book, it is apparent how important it is for all to be involved in the process of repairing harm and transforming conflict, as well as recognition that after this process, all are accountable, and all are included as inherently worthy and interconnected.

Get it at Indigo Chapters or on Amazon

Discover more about this book at Goodreads.

Looking at picture books through the restorative justice in education framework by Evans and Vaandering (2016) was an exercise in careful consideration and personal interest. Through the criteria of respect, dignity, and mutual concern that is defined as the components of RJE in the framework, these texts have attempted to navigate through nurturing healthy relationships, creating just and equitable learning environments, and repairing harm and transforming conflict. When using any of these picture books in classrooms in conjunction with restorative practices, strict observance must be made of your “personal core beliefs and values, or of those of the approach being used” as there is always potential for further harm in relationships (Evans & Vaandering, p. 72.) I hope that this RJE picture book resource is helpful for teachers and educators working with young children to illustrate important concepts in being together in restorative way.

References

Bland, N. (2013). King Pig. Scholastic Press.

Evans, K., & Vaandering, D. (2016). The little book of restorative justice in education. New York: Skyhorse Publishing.

Fitch, S. & Labrosse, D. (1997). If you could wear my sneakers! Doubleday Canada Limited.

Fox, M. (1997). Whoever you are. HMH Books for Young Readers

Herbauts, A. (2016). What color is the wind? Enchanted Lion Books.

Javernick, E. (2010). What if everybody did that? Two Lions.

Larsen-Jonasson, T. (2016). The sharing circle. Medicine Wheel Education Incorporated

Meuse, T. (2003). The sharing circle: stories about First Nations Culture. Nimbus Publishing.

Miller, P. Z. (2018). Be kind. Roaring Brook Press.

Otoshi, K. (2008). One. KO Kids Books.

Parr, T. (2014). It’s okay to make mistakes. Scholastic.

Rania, Q. & DiPucchio, K. (2010) The sandwich swap. Disney-Hyperion.

RJ Education NL. (2018). The philosophy. Retrieved on 2019 April 2 from https://www.relationshipsfirstnl.com/about

Strang, F. (2018). The mindful turtle: teaching coping skills to kids. DRC Publishing.

Verde, S. (2018). I am human: a book of empathy. Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Williams, K. L., & Mohammed, K. (2007). Four feet, two sandals. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Woodson, J. (2001). The other side. G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Yamada, K. (2016). What do you do with a problem? Compendium.

====================

Follow #RFBookClub on our Facebook and Twitter for more relevant selections.


53 views