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Building Circles & Community Around Picture Books! A Restorative Practices Book Review

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Building Circles and Community around Picture Books: Image of Book Cover

Last spring, I attended a virtual workshop led by Carmen Zeisler on Building Circles and Community Around Picture Books. I was so inspired, I began creating circles scripts for kindergarten through third graders on social justice books and developed a new workshop on the topic for the school district I work with in Modesto, CA.

Carmen’s new book, Building Circles and Community Around Picture Books! Let’s Learn From Others: A Focus on Biographies, features 25 scripts. She begins her book with a powerful quote by Brene Brown.

I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

Zeisler understands the power of transforming conflict by using community building circles proactively along with restorative practices approaches. She begins the book with a community circle overview, five universal circle guidelines, and the flow for a community circle. The flow for every circle is welcome/opening activity, round 1, round 2 and round 3, and closing the circle.

The 25 scripts focus on biographies. Several that I’m unfamiliar with and sound interesting are:

  • Balloons Over Broadway – The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade,
  • Daza! Amalia Hernandez, founder of Ballet Folkorico de Mexico, and
  • Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire.

A feature I like are the links to the publisher’s page that provide additional resources, like a picture of an event, listen to ocean waves, a song, or dancers from Mexico. These will enhance comprehension for the children. I also like the opening activities that help introduce the topic.

I was disappointed that the author used the same round 1 check-in question for every community circle. The check-in question is, “Are you mad, sad, glad or afraid today and what is that mostly about?” I prefer that the check-on question is directly connected to the topic. The publisher does provide a link to an eight-minute video that focuses on the check-in question. []

I can’t wait to do my first workshop, Building Circles and Community Around Picture Books for kindergarten to third grade teachers using the social justice books scripts I created and featuring Carmen’s excellent book that is powerful and easy to use.

About the Author

Carmen Zeisler is the Learning Center Director at ESSDACK, an educational service agency. Building relationships with teachers and students is her passion. Carmen specializes in restorative practices in education, creating community circles, a restorative circles facilitator as well as a children’s book expert.

About the Book

Building Circles & Community Around Picture Books! Let’s Learn From Others. A Focus on Biographies by Carmen Zeisler, ESSDACK Resilience, no date. The book is available as a download or paperback for $8.00 at Also available, Building Circles and Community Around Picture Books- Back to School Edition (Digital Download Only), $6.99.

  • Are you relieved when certain students are absent?
  • Do you have students who “push your buttons”?
  • Do you find yourself butting heads with the same students day-after-day?

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