In 1997, Nane Annan, the wife of then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, named the classic children’s storybook character Winnie-the-Pooh as the UN’s honorary ambassador of friendship. Winnie-the-Pooh, or simply Pooh, was created by the English author A. A. Milne in the 1920’s. Milne’s books tell the story of a boy named Christopher Robin and his toy animal friends who help one another through many adventures and misadventures. Milne’s tales sweetly illustrate the world of difference a good friend can make in our daily lives, for example when Pooh helps his “dear friend Eeyore” find his lost tail and reattach it. Or when Christopher Robin helps Pooh impersonate a rain cloud to try to steal honey from bees high in a tree, even though it might not be such a good idea.
In 2011, the General Assembly of the United Nations designated July 30 as the International Day of Friendship. In doing so, it recognized the potential of friendship for advancing peace, understanding, and respect among different countries, communities, and cultures. It also emphasized the importance of involving young people in efforts to encourage a more peaceful, inclusive, and respectful world culture.
According to World Book, friendship is “a social relationship in which people help each other in times of need. . . . because they simply care about a friend’s well-being.” The article goes on to say “Scientists are studying whether other animals also have friendships.” Apparently, these scientists are not acquainted with Winnie-the-Pooh!
In addition to hunting for lost body parts and aiding in comically hazardous schemes, friendship involves standing up for those we care about when others treat them poorly. Such actions as defending or supporting a friend who is being bullied can be difficult, but ultimately rewarding. Such actions also contribute toward a world in which people spread compassion and try to understand and respect one another’s differences.
To inspire your children or students (or yourself) with the spirit of this year’s International Day of Friendship, you may want to check out some classics of children’s literature about BFF’s, or World Book’s nonfiction series for intermediate readers titled “Anti-Bullying Basics.” Just a few examples of books about friends and friendship are listed below:
My Friend Rabbit (2002; Eric Rohmann; picture book)
Frog and Toad are Friends (1970; Arnold Lobel; early readers)
How to Be a Friend: A Guide to Making Friends and Keeping Them (Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown; 1998; young readers)
Houndsley and Catina (2006; James Howe; early readers)
The Wind in the Willows (1908; Kenneth Grahame; intermediate readers)
Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner (1926 and 1928; A. A Milne; intermediate readers)
Charlotte’s Webb (1952; E. B. White; intermediate readers)
Number the Stars (Lois Lowry; 1989; intermediate readers)
The Misfits (James Howe; 2001; intermediate readers)
Wonder (2012; R. J. Palacio; intermediate and older readers)
Of Mice and Men (1937; John Steinbeck; older readers)
The Sign of the Beaver (1983; Elizabeth George Speare; older readers)
Chanda’s Secrets (2004; Allan Stratton; older readers)
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