Sunday, November 13, 2016

Building Compassionate Communities Through Children's Picture Books

This has been a tough week. For many of us, the climate in the United States has been filled with acrimony.  Regardless of our own political leanings, we feel disenchanted and fearful for the future.

As I have always done in times of turmoil, I’ve turned to children’s picture books. They are a safe place me to process and reflect on what’s happening in the “real world.” They are also one of the strongest teaching tools I can use.

I think we can all agree that our children have to be our priority. If this is the way we are feeling, think about how they are reacting. As much as we try to shield them from hateful words and actions, they see and hear what is happening.

We have to model compassion, kindness, respect and acceptance, so that our future generations grow up with a vision of how to live with each other. We have to show our children that we can love one another despite our differences.

Change start with us.

In my library, I’m working on setting up a section of books that convey the messages I want to pass on to my students. I’m sure you have more to add to this list, so please help me build a list of books that we can use in our libraries and classrooms to build compassionate communities. 

Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger - a bullying bull learns that he can change his ways once he understands how his insults and name calling hurts others.

The Skin You Live In by Michael Taylor - the simplicity of the text and illustrations deliver a powerful message about the diversity of skin colors and acceptance of differences.

It’s OK to be Different by Todd Parr - simple illustrations and text give a powerful message that “it’s OK to be different.”  Todd Parr has written many similar books that are great for reading with our very young children.

Same Difference by Calida Rawles - two cousins struggle with learning that the differences between them don’t matter. “You can be different and still be the same.” Watch the video for this one.

The Colors of Us by Karen Katz - a little girl takes a walk with her mom and learns about the different colors of us. I love the way the author describes the beautiful colors of people’s skin.

Same Same But Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki Shaw— pen pals from across the world learn how they are the same and how they are different.

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox - one of my all-time favorites, I love how this book illustrates the theme that, “whoever you are, where ever you are, there are little ones just like you all over the world.”

Otis and the Scarecrow by Loren Long - Otis, the tractor, reaches out to an inanimate scarecrow to let him know he’s a part of the farm family.

The Farmer by Mark Ludy - a hardworking, gentle farmer is faced with a series of disasters which devastate his crops. He is forced to sell some of his beloved animals, with the hope that he will be able to buy them back after the next harvest.

How to Heal A Broken Wing by Bob Graham - a young boy nurses a bird back to health, with the support of his mother. This story is about hoping for what is possible and healing from painful experiences.

Unspoken by Henry Cole - This wordless picture books illustrates the story of a farm girl who discovers a runaway slave hiding her a barn. She has to make a difficult choice and to find the courage to do what is right.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena - CJ and his grandmother take a bus ride after church one day. Along the way, CJ learns how to find beauty in the people and places around us.

Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester (recommended for grades 3-6) - this book teaches that race is just a part of everyone’s story. Skin color is a small part of who we are.

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh - the story of Sylvia Mendez, an American citizen of Mexico and Puerto Rican hearten who was denied enrollment in a “whites only” school.

Additional Resources:

Discover Kindness in the Classroom (Discovery Education