Benny Doesn't Like to Be Hugged

Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged by Zetta Elliott, Illustrated by Purple Wong



Benny likes many things. He likes trains, looking at  stars, cupcakes without sprinkles and playing with his quiet friends. Benny doesn’t like hugs however, or when the room gets too loud, and sometimes he doesn’t get his friends jokes. Benny’s best friend tells his story, in the  way that best friends do.  This book will validate and affirm students on the autism spectrum, while building and bridging students and others in the school community who know of someone with heightened sensitivity, and/or need to better understand these experiences. 

Genre - picture book
Text Structure - picture book
Lexile Level  - Not available
Themes -  Understanding autism, autism spectrum disorder, being different, acceptance, friendship, celebrating differences.

Rings of Culture represented -

Ethnicity: black/various
Age: 5-7/early elementary
Gender: boy
Socio -Economic: middle/working class
National: United States

Why it’s VABBulous -  

  • Zetta Elliott (who is always a reliable source for authentic/responsive reads) centers an autistic black boy in this story about celebrating differences.

  • The story celebrates differences and is inclusive of many rings of culture, as well as elements of surface, shallow and deep culture on Iceberg Concept of Culture.

    • Native American boy represented with a Super Indian t-shirt (see in addition to games, celebrations, food and music.

    • shallow/deep culture -touching,  personal space, facial expressions, eye contact, social interaction rate, nature of friendships, to name a few.

  • Elliott acknowledges not being an expert on ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) but evidences working hard to mirror the reality of black autistic boys AND she acknowledges that one book can’t represent the range of experiences but will provide a mirror/window.

  • She gave Benny a best friend that loves/accepts him just as he is.

  • Author’s note/resources provide insight and information that is useful for instruction.

Ideas for CLR -

It is important that students have an opportunity to study discuss vocabulary essential to the understanding the concepts in the story, prior to reading. Providing context is validating/affirming. 

Responsive Academic Vocabulary - Vocabulary is a gatekeeper area for specific instructional purpose in cultural responsiveness.(Hollie, 2016)  Building academic vocabulary is key for students ability to be academically successful.  Consider what words students need to know or grow, prior to reading to help their understanding of concepts in the text.  

Tier Overview -

  • Tier One - The most basic words. Students come to school already knowing these words. (happy, fun, walk,  sleepy)
  • Tier Two - High utility words that are found across domains and are characteristic of written language. They include words that are critical for reading comprehension. They are the most important words for direct instruction.  These words are conceptually coded for students, meaning that students have another word/way of expressing the concept.
  • Tier Three - Content-specific words used with low frequency. They appear in specific content-areas and are best taught when the need arises. (electron, diminuendo, genome, cosign)

Set it Off (Into the Text)

1. Vocabulary Context Clues +Choral Read Aloud + Shout Out + Personal Thesaurus

Suggested tier 2 words - different, accept, true
Suggested tier 3 word - autism (use Personal Dictionary/Frayer Model)

  • Display an image and  sentence like the one below to provide context clues for students.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.19.32 PM.png

Being different is what makes us unique.


  • After displaying image, ask students to read aloud in unison or echo read in unison after you read it aloud depending on their reading level/ability.
  • Students take a Moment of Silence to think of a synonym for the underlined word.
  • Lead students in Shout Out to share the words they came up with. (if students repeat words just put a check by them)
  • Record students answers on a chart paper or white board.
  • With the class, review   each word students generate from Shout Out.
  • Plug each of the students word into the sentence in place of the underlined word and read it aloud in unison as a class - For example “Being SPECIAL is what makes us unique.
  • Have students do ‘Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down or Thumbs sideways” to indicate if they think the word is a “twin” synonym, not a twin synonym or are unsure.
  • Circle words that are synonyms.

Personal Thesaurus

  • Use words that you circled from students Shout Out of synonyms to complete Personal Thesaurus.

  • Have students complete a Personal Thesaurus page for the word different.  If students are not writing yet, complete a class personal thesaurus page on a chart paper that can be displayed in classroom.   

    • Remember that the top box is filled in with the word the student regularly uses to express the concept. Other boxes contain academic synonyms that you feel that students need to learn i.e. rare, exceptional, distinctive.

  • Repeat for all words

3. Musical Shares + Pick a Stick

  • Musical Shares -

  • Ask students to take a Moment of  Silence and think of at least one way they are are unique/different.

    1. Tell them to prepare to share with classmates using Musical Shares.

4. Pick A Stick - Use equity sticks(or another non-volunteer protocol) to select students to share out some responses about how they are unique/different after Musical Shares.

What are your ideas for VABBing the rest of this lesson, Through and Beyond the text?  Read Alouds? Literacy Strategies?  

I gave this book 7-10 on Responsive Dots. What did you give it?

Note: For more on the importance of this text,  visit Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature(AICL)