Teaching Cultural Compassion
Caring about Climate Change
Tomorrow, October 12, I will be talking to a Climate Café community hosted by Faiths4Future about the intersection between my work on diverse picture books and their work with faith communities and climate change advocacy. Unfortunately, that intersection is easier than one would think--the same kids who rarely see themselves in picture books are the same kids (and adults) most likely to be adversely affected by climate catastrophe!
So I'll be sharing with them my personal favorite books about Creation Appreciation and Climate Advocacy that can be used in secular or faith based situations when talking to kids about why we should be advocates for our environment. Click the links in this paragraph for printable .pdf flyers of my top 5 little kid books and top 5 big kid books in each of those categories!
If you would like to join us for the free webinar and discussion, there's still time to register! We will meet at 2pmET/11amPT, click here to register.* I'd love to see you!
You can also find those lists on my bookshop.org affiliate page by clicking here. Reminder that I will receive a small commission for books purchased through my list links.
Earth Day Everyday
Depending on your social circles, you either recognized Earth Day or maybe even Earth Month last month. But many of you also know that climate change is real and that we as humans can do something about it.... if we pay attention. In order to help you have those conversations with kiddos, I would love to suggest some of my current favorite books.
We Are Water Protectors made history as a multi-award winning book, but mostly as the first Caldecott award won by an American Indian woman! Its story of an Ojibwe girl fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the lesson about what it does to the land is truly inspiring. Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade are the dream team to tell this story.
The Bear's Garden is based on the true story of how small actions can lead to big change -- in this case, a community garden in Brooklyn. Based on a true story, author Marcie Colleen takes us on the adventure of a community who is brave enough to come together. Illustrator Alison Oliver lends her endless whimsy to this tale to make it larger than life!
One Earth by Eileen Spinelli is a creative way to bring simple lessons to even the youngest audience. By simply counting from one to ten and back again, Spinelli and illustrator Rogério Coelho remind us why our planet is so special on the way up and what we can do to keep it that way on the way back down!
Seeds of Change is the only biography on this list, but any conversation about starting small but making a huge impact for the world simply MUST include Wangari Maathai. Sonia Lynn Sadler uses her scratchboard style to bring Jen Cullerton Johnson's words to life in the story of this Nobel Peace Prize Winning Kenyan female scientist!!
Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora Del Arcoiris is another story of how to help in your own community and start major change. Through the story of a little girl in Guatemala who wants to weave like her mother, Linda Elovitz Marshall tells of a community who began to see beauty in the refuse around them. Elisa Chavarri's innovative illustrations mix drawings with bits of real cloth to give a true sense of the beauty this community creates!
My Wounded Island is a story about the harsh reality of how climate change is already affecting some communities. From the perspective of an Inuit girl, we learn about how the way of life for an entire community is disrupted by the rising water around them. Jacques Pasquet and Marion Arbona are the perfect team to get to the true heart of this reality.
I hope that these books inspire you and give you language to discuss our beautiful planet with your little ones.
We only have this one! We'd better take care of it!
Ending Racism Suggestions
If you were able to join us for the National Council of Churches ACT to End Racism webinar last evening, you heard me recommend two specific books. (And if you were unable to attend but would like to catch up, click here to view on youtube.) The two books I suggested are books we've highlighted here before, one, just below, March by John Lewis et al and The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson. Usually I do not tell you where to buy books, but today, I've linked you directly to a black-woman-owned bookstore in Virginia. Books and Crannies in Martinsville, VA happens to have both in stock at the moment that I'm writing this (though volumes 2-3 of March are backordered almost everywhere, including there). I don't care if you don't buy from Books and Crannies, I'm getting no advertising credit from them, but please consider small businesses and especially black-owned bookstores when you are buying books.
In the coming weeks, I'm hoping to have more curated suggestion lists as well as curriculum and guides to connect secular books to a family's faith. If you'd like to hear more about all of that you can join my mailing list at the bottom of this page.
Please stay healthy and take care of yourselves in this troubling time,
Kids and King
Every Year around Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, the same books are on hold at the local library. The same ones are on display at the bookstores. This year, rather than defaulting to the same title, I urge you to look at the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of children. Kids certainly grasp the stories of history better when they are from another kid’s experience.
My first recommendation this year is Love Will See You Through. The most traditional MLK book on this list, it is written by Dr. King’s own niece, Angela Farris Watkins, Phd, including some of her memories of him from her childhood. Its easy reading and powerful illustrations (by Sally Wern Comport) walk your kids through the six guiding beliefs of Dr. King and his legacy.
The next two are true or based on true stories of kids marching with Dr. King. One of the most moving moments of the Civil Rights Movement was when the children marched. The biographical book The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist is told masterfully by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated beautifully by Vanessa Brantley Newton. Audrey Faye Hendricks was only nine years old when she was arrested for marching—far younger than the rest of those with whom she was held. But she stuck to her beliefs. Our kids can learn a lot from her story.
Inspired by people like Audrey Faye Hendricks, Angela Johnson captures the possible experience of two sisters at the Million Man March in a sweet smell of roses. Eric Velasquez’s dynamic illustrations give us an up front seat in the audience with the girls and give your kids a feeling of what it might have been like to be with Dr. King that day.
This year, I also encourage you to take a step into the six guiding beliefs of Dr. King and explore nonviolence with your children. Nonviolence is not simply a lack of physical violence. Be the Change is an accessible story of what nonviolence actually looks like in practice. Told by Arun Gandhi, it is the story of learning that lesson the hard way from his loving grandfather. Dr. King was greatly influenced by Gandhi, and this book will help you and your kids take the next step to be the change.
For a new book on how to help your kids live King’s legacy of protest, Martha Freeman wrote a lovely book called If You’re Going to a March. A mostly non-partisan book about what a protest is like, this book gives tips like wearing comfortable shoes and taking snacks or bottled water. (The only slight political bent is shown with what topics are or are not represented by the marchers in the inside cover illustrations.) Living just outside our nation’s capital, this book seems like a must have for activist families on any side of a platform!
Enjoy the holiday and sharing the memory of a great man,
The more you talk to me about kids books, the more you will hear me reiterate again and again that educational books aren’t nearly as moving as the stories of experience. Books that normalize “non-traditional” experiences of children are the best way to help all kids understand that there is no one way to be in the world. So, in that spirit, I want to offer these books, sharing stories of kids with LGBTQ+ experiences, either themselves or their households. This in no way is a full list, just some of my current favorites:
Kaylani Juanita gave her beautiful illustrations to When Aidan Became a Brother, a story by Kyle Lukoff about gender and the stress and pressure that societal norms put on our kids. By focusing on the birth of a new child, Lukoff is able to point out just how much our society emphasizes binary gender and its stereotypes.
You may know Karamo Brown's name from his TV fame, but he has recently blessed us with I am Perfectly Designed. He joined his gender non-conforming child to write this reminder that we are all wonderful just the way they are!
An instant classic, Harriet gets Carried Away is the story of a girl who loses herself in a fantasy world of costumes--worrying her dads. Luckily, you can find out what happens by watching the author read the story herself!
Though it's now over 10 years old, this book continues to withstand the test of time. Focusing on the love this same sex couple has for their children, make sure you have tissues ready when reading Patricia Polacco's In Our Mothers' House for the first time.
If you do want a Pride Month history lesson, I do suggest Stonewall and Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders, Rainbow: A First Book of Pride by Michael Genhart, PhD, and On this Day in June (and several other wonderful LGBTQ+ history books by Gayle E Pitman)!