I’ve long held the opinion that homo sapiens became human, not with the development of language, but when that language was first used to tell a story. We use stories to define who we are and what is acceptable in our societies. In my own life I have frequently used stories written by others to illuminate my experiences and explain them to me. I love when I read a story and find my emotional experiences within it, even if the circumstances are different in my life than in the lives of the characters. But I have not found stories to match all of my experiences, and so I sometimes write my own stories to make theses things clear to myself and to others. This is why I wrote Hold on to Your Horses. My daughter needed a story that explained impulsive behaviors and then provided a framework for managing those behaviors. She is not diagnosed with ADHD at this time, but it would not surprise me if the diagnosis will become necessary later. She does have a brother who is diagnosed with ADD. Having one helpful book was good, but I wanted more books to explain and show what the experience of ADD is like. Fortunately I did not have to go any further than my shelf of picture books. None of the following books were intended as “help for parents of ADD children,” but all can be extremely useful. Each of the titles is linked to Amazon.com.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff Illustrated by Felcia Bond
The first time I read this book I thought that the mouse was classic for ADD. The little mouse in this story runs from one huge idea to the next without any pause. Some of the projects are completed, others get abandoned before they are done. Throughout the book the little boy follows after the mouse, cleaning up messes, providing materials, and generally trying to keep up. I have great sympathy for the little boy. I’ve been in his position often. This book is a great way to talk to ADD kids about how running from one project to the next can be exhausting for those who have to keep up. The child can see how the little boy struggles to keep up with the mouse. It is also good for explaining ADD behavior to siblings because they can see how each of the mouse’s projects sparks and idea that leads to another project. The chain of causality is visible in the book while in real life the projects of an ADD child may seem random or capricious. If You Give a Pig a Pancake by the same author and illustrator is also very good.
Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
In this book a little frog is so excited to get outside and play in the snow that he acts before thinking through all the steps that he needs to take to get dressed. He is repeatedly called back into the house to get things that he forgot. Finally he is ready to play, but discovers that he is too tired. My kids have all loved this book. It was particularly resonant for my son that is diagnosed with ADD. He knows how easy it is to forget important things when he is excited about something else. This book helped him feel like he was not alone. It also gave me a framework to explain to siblings why things were forgotten again.
Hold on to Your Horses by Sandra Tayler Illustrated by Angela Call
This is the book I wrote for my daughter to help her visualize and control her impulsive ideas. There are other children’s books out there with characters that act impulsively, but my daughter was young enough that she needed the message to be the focus of the story rather than a small thread within it. This book can be downloaded and read for free via the Hold on to Your Horses website www.holdontoyourhorses.com
The Bouncy Baby Bunny by Joan Bowden Illustrated by Patience Brewster
This book was given to us when my daughter was three years old. At that time, my daughter was in constant motion and I spent a lot of energy redirecting her. Reading this book was cathartic for both me and my little girl. She got a chance to see how constant bouncing causes problems for everyone in the book, but then in the end the bunny’s bounciness saves the day. This book manages to affirm the value of being energetic, while still teaching lessons about finding the right times and places. When I read the book to my daughter’s siblings, they could totally see how she was like the baby bunny and they were more sympathetic to her bouncing after that.
Dawdle Duckling by Toni Buzzeo Illustrated by Margaret Spengler
This book was given to my son when he was in first grade. I think it was a message from his teacher. She wanted him to hurry up. The little duck is supposed to be following his mama duck, but instead he finds lots of other delightful things to do. In classic morality tale style, the dawdling almost lands him in trouble. The message seems to be “don’t dawdle.” We took the book and adopted it. The book gave us a chance to discuss my son’s tendency to get distracted from the task at hand. With the book in hand, my son could see how the little duck’s side tracks were all delightful and worthwhile, but that there came a time to hurry. It gave us a chance to discuss when focusing is necessary and when we can dawdle.
Three Cheers for Tacky By Helen Lester Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Tacky is a penguin who just doesn’t quite fit with the other penguins. They are all the same and Tacky is…different. Tacky is different in the way that lots of ADD or Asperger kids are different. He’s loud, and clumsy, and can’t seem to do things that everyone else does easily. But in the end Tacky’s differentness is exactly what is needed to win the prize. There are other books about Tacky, but this one is the favorite for me and my kids. It teaches a powerful message that being different can be good and that you don’t have to conform to find acceptance.
Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
This is not a picture book, but it was exactly the book that my daughter needed during her difficult kindergarten year. She was greatly relieved to find out that Ramona also got sent to time out during her first few days of Kindergarten. She sympathized greatly with Ramona’s desire to be good that is continually foiled by impulsive behaviors. Reading about Ramona opened the door to discussing my daughter’s experiences with school and made the whole experience much easier.
I know that there are other wonderful, helpful books out there. If you can think of one please comment below and tell everyone why you like it. I’d love to be able to add to this list.