Because planning a program doesn't just take 5 minutes

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary ThingsAlvinHo

Program Plan:

Start off by making trail mix (goldfish pretzels, cheese crackers, animal crackers, chocolate chips, raisins, and gummy worms) and discuss the book while snacking; if they get stuck on what to talk about, see suggested questions below.

For last 15 minutes, make PDKs (Personal Disaster Kits). Use clear plastic boxes.  Start by decorating with Sharpies. Make a list of emergency contacts on an index card and tape to the inside of the lid with book tape. Let the boys choose what to put inside from the available goodies:

  • Band-aids & alcohol wipes
  • Golf pencils & small pads of paper
  • Rubber bands
  • Paper clips
  • Ziploc bag
  • Tissue packet
  • Chap Stick
  • Mini bottle of hand sanitizer
  • Poncho
  • Granola bar
  • Fruit snacks
  • Mini card game

What Happened:
Five boys attended, three with moms and two with dads. Four of the boys and one of the moms had read the book. The boys all liked it, although the mom told me during the activity that she felt like Alvin’s not talking in school was treated too lightly by the adults in the book, and that prevented her from enjoying the rest of it.

I’d never led a book group before, and getting the participants (both boys and parents) to talk was hard. They didn’t have a lot to say about rules for making a friend. They liked sorting Alvin’s fears into rational and irrational, but most didn’t want to share their own fears. (Not surprising; this may have gone better if they’d written them down anonymously on slips of paper.) We had the most discussion about the rules for being a gentleman. We talked about whether appearance was important – many of the boys associated “gentleman” with things like “a tux” and “a top hat”, and we talked about whether you could be a gentleman if you were dressed sloppily. We also talked about whether the rules were only for boys, or whether they applied equally well to being a lady. Interestingly, the boys didn’t know the word for “lady” as the female equivalent of “gentleman”- I wonder if that would be true of third grade girls as well.

The PDKs were a big hit. They were not terribly into decorating, but they liked filling the boxes, and then spent some time afterwards treating each other’s imaginary ailments. I think the adults appreciated the emergency info cards – many of the boys did not know their parents’ cell phone numbers.

Possible questions for discussion:

These were all on Alvin’s list of fears:

  •  Elevators
  • Tunnels
  • Bridges
  • Airplanes
  • Thunder
  • Substitute teachers
  • Kimchi
  • Wasabi
  • The dark
  • Heights
  • Scary movies
  • Scary dreams
  • Shots
  • School
  • Girls

Which ones are rational fears (really worth being afraid of)?   What are you afraid of? Do you have any irrational fears?


Alvin’s brother Calvin helps him make a list of Rules for Making Friends:

  1.  Say hello.
  2. Just say hello.
  3. Trade baseball cards.
  4. Trade more baseball cards.
  5. Just trade baseball cards.

What advice would you give to someone who was having trouble making friends?


Alvin’s dad helps him create a list of rules for being a gentleman:

  1.  No hitting, especially girls.
  2.  No cursing or insulting.
  3.  Never make a girl cry.
  4.  Apologize if you break Rule #3.
  5.  Don’t duke it back (see Rule #1).
  6.  Lend a scratching hand to someone with pox. [Lend a hand when needed.]
  7.  Take care of your things.
  8.  Always mean what you say.
  9.  Smile back when someone smiles at you.
  10.  Respect other people’s things.
  11.  Be on time.

What do you think of this list? Is there anything missing? Is there anything you would take off of the list?


Calvin loved superheroes. When he played superheroes, he was Firecracker Man. What superhero would you be? What would your secret powers be?


Calvin kept a PDK, Personal Disaster Kit, in case of emergencies. What would you put in a PDK?

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