Simon B Rhymin’

I need to be confident, I need to be bold,

I need to show the world that my style is cold.

It’s the D.O.G., They gon’ hear me bark.

Not the size of the dog, it’s about the heart.

It’s been a challenging school year for our kids. They started with in school learning, then it switched to online classes, then went back to in school and now they are back to learning online. Parents may be looking for new ways to keep their children engaged in learning during this most recent lockdown. Reading together is a great way to keep up your child’s literacy skills, as well as to process the challenges they have faced over the last year. One of my favourite new books is Simon B’ Rhymin’ by Dwayne Reed. It’s a story about a resilient boy who faces his challenges straight on.

One day the Notorious D.O.G. will rule the rap charts but for now eleven-year-old Simon Barnes is only ‘spitting rhymes in his head.’ He’s got a rhyme for every situation, especially when he’s feeling nervous. Here’s the thing about Simon: he’s always feeling nervous around people. When he tries to talk, his words get tangled, his palms sweat and he feels like he might be sick. But when he raps the rhymes come naturally to him. He can think clearly. His words come out the way he wants them to sound. He’s confident. He’s strong. He’s exactly who the Notorious D.O.G. is supposed to be.

On the first day of school he’s given a difficult project- he has to make an oral presentation on an important issue in their community. Simon panics. He can’t speak in front of his whole class! The last time he tried he felt so dizzy he was sick.

Simon finds motivation in an older gentleman named Sunny who is always singing on the street but doesn’t seem to have a home. No matter the day, Sunny is always smiling. The more Simon talks with Sunny, the more his confidence grows. He becomes inspired to base his presentation on Sunny’s experience of living without a home.

Simon B Rhymin’ is a great story about resilience. It is the positive book we need to brighten our long days in lockdown. Many young readers will relate to Simon’s anxiousness and gain strength through his journey. It is also a great introduction to the issue of homelessness and how we can help those in our own communities.

Author Dwayne Reed is a famous rapper in his own right. As a fourth grade teacher, he uses music in the classroom to connect with his students. His video ‘Welcome to the Fourth Grade’ went viral and he is now known as the ‘rapping teacher.’ He’s an advocate for teachers everywhere and I highly recommend checking out his Instagram page @teachmrreed and YouTube channel. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for other great chapter books to read with your child!

— Lesley L.