Raising kids who won’t stand for hate
I’m obsessed with children’s books. It’s true. I can often be found, up late, researching and putting dozens of online holds on books at our library. I want to write a children’s book. I often enjoy some of the books we read more than my child does. And I just overall feel like my dream job would be Curator of Children’s Booklists. If you ever hear of such a mythical job opening, send it my way! Our local librarians always seem amused at how often they see us and how many books we stumble out of there with.
In addition to loving just the pure beauty of children’s books in general, I find that one way I tackle almost every challenging topic that comes up with my child is by picking up a pile of books as conversation starters. Here are a few that I have been clinging to in this dizzying year of U.S. political news.
Click, Clack, Moo—Cows That Type
By Doreen Cronin
Simon Spotlight, 2000
This is an excellent introduction to collective organization and the power of a labor strike. A group of cows want better conditions in their barn, and they stick together until the farmer agrees to their terms.
The Peace Book
By Todd Parr
Hachette Book Group, 2010
I love this book because it makes us think about how we define peace in our own daily lives. Plus, I welcome the word peace appearing as much as possible in my child’s life. We are keeping our eyes on that prize always.
By Mary Hoffman
Dial Books for Young Readers, 1991
I admire this one for calling out gender and race in a way almost any child in a school setting has experienced already. Kids are constantly trying to piece it all together and confront gender and skin color candidly and unabashedly in their everyday conversations. I love the reinforcement that gender and race should never stop a person from achieving his or her dreams.
By Peter Spier
Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 1980
This a great worldview-expanding book. It displays very different cultures and lifestyles right next to one another. My child can explore the pages of this one for more than an hour and comes up with many questions for me about what he sees. It’s one of the best conversation-starting books we have.
I Am Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Brad Meltzer
Dial Books, 2016
We talk about Martin Luther King, Jr., almost every day at our house. It helps that we have a photo of him hanging over our dinner table. We also have several books about his life, this one by Brad Meltzer being a favorite. It’s great for introducing the ideas of nonviolence and civil disobedience.
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
By Patty Lovell
Penguin Random House, 2001
This book deftly sets the stage for a discussion about bullying. Through Molly Lou Melon, author Patty Lovell gives young readers an unconventional and fearless character, one whose grandmother teaches her to believe in herself. That confidence serves Molly Lou well in how she responds to a school bully, showing readers the many creative ways she handles conflict. The book also humanizes everyone involved, which can be a helpful reminder in thinking about such situations.
By Jacqueline Woodson
Penguin Random House, 2012
Each Kindness is a story of what it means to be a bystander and to deeply regret being one. It’s a very important topic in our family and our community, and I try to show my child at every opportunity that we are not bystanders. We don’t hesitate to help and to stand up for anyone who is ever being mistreated.
Shades of People
By Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly
Holiday House, 2009
Shades of People is one of the best books out there about race. Kids naturally notice physical differences in others and, if allowed, will talk about it freely and openly. Research has found that in families in which parents believe they can be “color-blind” and don’t talk about or acknowledge race, children grow up thinking their parents don’t like people of other races. This book starts the conversation and teaches your child to see and accept all people.
By Virginia Lee Burton
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009
As a scientist, I am constantly sharing with my child what I know about the natural world, chemical processes, and unbiased scientific thinking. And if there were ever a time to be more deliberate about discussing science with a child, it is now, during the Trump administration. This book, about the history of the Earth, is a great place to start. You can even move the conversation into global climate change and what each of us can do to take care of our huge, round planet.
By Dr. Seuss
Penguin Random House, 1971
This is an excellent introduction to environmentalism and how quickly a beautiful forest can be destroyed. It helps kids think about where things come from and the impact they can have on the environment. It’s a story about respecting the Earth and what it means to continually speak up for it, if needed.
Share your favorites with us in the comments below! Let’s help one another teach our children well.
Beck List is an environmental scientist and writer living with her five-year-old future comedian in California. She has lived through plenty of her own trials and tribulations—and you can read more tips on her blog, BeckList.
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