The need to belong.

All individuals have needs that usually resonate similarly within all of us. The needs range from the basic physical need “to survive”, to the need  “to belong” -whether to be accepted by family, peers or friends, community or by society in general.  Individuals  also need “to achieve” or become successful in doing or being something important.  This provides a sense of worth and elicits respect.  Additionally, individuals need to “feel secure or safe”, -physically, materially, emotionally or spiritually. This can be achieved by providing a way for the character to feel free from fear, worries, sadness , or pain.   Moreover, many individuals need “to know”, to fulfill curiosities or learn something new.  And of course, individuals need to “feel loved”.

Threading any one of these needs into the storyline will draw the reader in and hold her there because that basic need driving the character through the story’s plot is also the reader’s need.  Emerson once said “ The universal  does not attract us until housed by an individual.” 

By connecting the reader’s needs to the needs of the characters, the writer allows for the universal to become personal. This idea is relevant to stories for both adults and children.  In children’s stories, adults have the ability to uncover the delicious lessons of life that resonate within all of us.

In Helen Lester’s “ A Porcupine Named Fluffy” we see a porcupine struggle for identity as he tries to mold himself to fit the name his parents gave him.  Not until he crosses the path of a new friend who shares his own frustration or  “need to belong” , and further, who does not reject the porcupine despite the strangeness of his name, does our little pointy protagonist Fluffy finally accept who he is.

Likewise, in “Two Good Friends” written by Judy Delton, two unlikely friends struggle with one another’s disparities;  “Bear” being messy but a good baker, and “Duck” who is a wonderful housekeeper but a horrible baker. Finally, as they learn to embrace one another for who they are, despite their differences, they learn the value of acceptance and friendship and how important it is to respect differences in order to fulfill what is far more important, the need to be loved and the need to belong.

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