The Buddy Bench by Patty Brozo

A few months ago, when I first planned to post about The Buddy Bench this week, I hoped more kids would be in school in person… and that those who were going to school in person would have close-to-normal recesses, playing with lots of kids and able to come within 6 feet of each other. Alas, that’s not the case. But, The Buddy Bench is still an important and thought-provoking read, and I believe that even if your children aren’t at school or don’t have normal free time at school, it can have a lasting impact, ensuring that more students feel they belong and are included in the future.

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The Buddy Bench opens with Miss Mellon dismissing her class to recess. Though they initially charge out the door with smiles on their faces, many have trouble finding games to play or people to play with. Some wonder why no one sees them, one is in a cast and therefore can’t run, one has holes in her shoes and doesn’t feel she fits in… it goes on and on.

Fortunately, the other students do notice and invite them to play, but by the time everyone is included, recess is over. When Will asks, “How could we say, / without using words, that we all want to play? / Sometimes we’re too shy, too sad, or too proud. / How can we ask without asking out loud?” the class comes up with the idea for a Buddy Bench, a place to sit and signal that you’d like to play with someone. It can indeed be really hard to ask to play with someone, and it can also be hard to know when someone wants to be included. The Buddy Bench solves both problems!

“Now everyone knows when they’re feeling left out, / where to find friends, without any doubt. / And the words on the bench that they made on their own / say Buddy Bench = Nobody Alone.”

Be sure to spend some time with the back matter, About Buddy Benches. Brozo covers interesting research into children’s loneliness at school, as well as the history of the first Buddy Bench in the United States (fortunately, they appear to be a worldwide phenomenon!).

Now I’m curious — does your school have a Buddy Bench? I’m really hoping if we read this enough that my girls will start a Buddy Bench movement at their school when they go back in person!

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