Even as adults, many of us remember books of our childhood that had some sort of influence on us. For centuries, stories have been a way for parents to instill important lessons in their children. Tales used to be passed down by word-of-mouth, but these days we have some wonderful picture books! Children’s books can be a great learning tool; both classics and modern publications have essential lessons to teach our kids—though some adults could stand to learn these lessons as well! Let’s explore some of these titles, all of which can be found in the Children’s Department at the Scott County Public Library.
The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein): A classic by Silverstein, The Giving Tree is a short tale that surrounds the lives of just two characters. A boy and an apple tree. When the story begins, the apple tree gives the boy an apple each day, happy to help someone it cares about. As the boy grows older the tree selflessly gives up more and more of itself to make its friend happy, until all that is left of the tree is a stump. Despite being simply a children’s book, the story’s meaning has been debated. However, it’s important to allow your children to interpret this story how they want. It could be a lesson in generosity, but it can also be a lesson about greed; be happy to help and be wary of how much you take.
Red (Michael Hall): Red is a simple story with a great message. The story focuses on a group of crayons who are all excellent at drawing and coloring pictures. The yellow crayon is great at drawing lemons, bananas, and birds. While the green crayon creates perfect drawings of grass, trees and frogs. All the crayons seem so naturally talented, except for the red crayon. Who try as he might, cannot seem to draw anything right. All of his fire hydrants, strawberries and cherries end up blue! All of the other crayons think something is clearly wrong with him… maybe he’s just confused? Maybe his wrapper is on too tight? By the end, with the help of a friend, the “red” crayon comes to realize that he has been blue all along—he was just mislabeled! Feeling like you don’t fit in is something most of us will experience in our lives, Red conveys this message of self-discovery in an understandable way for young children.
The Lorax (Dr. Seuss): Another classic children’s tale, but this time by Dr. Seuss. Most of us already know the story of the Lorax, especially after its movie adaptation. But its environmental lesson is timeless. Especially when it is taken into consideration that todays children will inherit the problems caused by generations before them. But beside the important moral to be learned about caring for mother nature, the book’s final quote is perhaps even more critical. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” A quote whose lesson can be applied to so many of the issues facing society today.
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress (Christine Baldacchino): Morris Micklewhite is a boy who loves spaceships, drawing and playing with his cat. But he also loves playing dress up, and his favorite outfit is a bright orange dress and shoes that go “click, click, click”. The other kids do not want to play with Morris because they think a boy wearing a dress is weird; the boys think Morris will turn them into girls. By the end they have learned that what you wear is not nearly as important as what’s on the inside. This picture book is a great way to introduce children to the idea that anyone can wear what they want and do not need to conform to society’s standards of what is acceptable. It’s also a lesson for children to be kind to others who may not dress, look or act the same as they do.
Dear Girl (Amy and Paris Rosenthal): A New York Times Bestseller, Dear Girl is a lighthearted and simple story of empowerment for young girls. The book covers everything from stereotypes, to insecurities, to emotions and consent. It encourages all girls to be proud of who they are and to pick up this book whenever they start to doubt themselves. Even though this story is short and simple, it is heartwarming, even for grown women.
Born Ready (Jodie Patterson): A multiple prize-winner, Born Ready is another story of self-discovery. It focuses on a young girl named Penelope, but she always feels like something is wrong. Penelope conveys only a few pages into the book that she feels like a boy on the inside. But no one listens or notices what they are going through. The book does a great job of conveying how a child dealing with these feelings may act out to get attention. When Penelope gets into trouble one day and is put into time-out, Penelope’s mother asks why Penelope is so upset. Penelope says that he is upset because everyone thinks he is a girl, but he knows that he is a boy. With the acceptance of his family, friends and teachers, Penelope finally feels like his true self. Born Ready is an essential story for all children, not only is it a lesson in discovering your identity but also in understanding others.
Remembering Ethan (Lesléa Newman): Even as an adult, death can be a difficult subject to talk about. But it can be particularly tricky to approach a child about it. Books like Remembering Ethan encourage parents to talk to their children about death and to not silence conversations and questions that children may have. Sarah, the main character of the book had a brother that passed away. She knows that he died. But whenever she tries to bring his name up or draws pictures of him, her parents ignore the drawings or tell her to stop talking about it because they are still deep in grief. But to Sarah, it just seems like everyone has forgotten her big brother and that no one cared about him. Her parents come to realize that their child is grieving just as much as they are, and they soon are able to heal together. The end of the book also comes with information about how to deal with childhood grief for parents.
Something Happened in Our Town (Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard): This is a children’s story about racial injustice. The story follows two young characters in the same town where a Black man was killed in a police shooting. A situation that is far from fiction in our world. The reader is able to see the situation from the perspective of both a Black family and a White family in the community. This story models conversations with children about race, acceptance, justice, empowerment and the support of a community. The end of the book also offers a considerably sized insert about how to have a conversation with your children about events like this, including sample questions and how to answer certain questions or comments your child may make or ask.
Rissy No Kissies (Katey Howes): Rissy No Kissies follows a lovebird who no matter what her parents seem to try, will not accept kisses like they give to their other children. Anytime her parents or grandparents want to give her kisses goodnight or to heal a boo-boo she says “No kissies!” At first everyone thinks something is wrong with Rissy or she is just being rude, after all, lovebirds are supposed to give kisses! But after Rissy speaks to her mother about how kisses make her feel icky and upset, her parents understand and inform all friends and family that Rissy is not comfortable receiving kisses. This is an excellent story to teach children about consent and how to express their feelings when it comes to hugs and kisses. The book also comes with notes to children and caregivers about talking to children about consent.
The Journey (Francesca Sanna): This beautifully illustrated book surrounds the difficult subject of immigration, particularly refugees fleeing from war-torn areas. The book focuses on a widowed mother and her two children who are fleeing their home country to escape the dangers of war. The book depicts illegal border crossings and smuggling of refugees. This is a great story to read to children who may be hearing the words “Illegal Immigrants” or “Refugees” in school. It is a story to inspire compassion in both children and adults who will likely never experience the pain of having to flee their home to seek asylum.
The Only Way Is Badger (Stella J. Jones): This picture book surrounds forest animals that one day wake up to find a ginormous concrete wall running through their forest. Badger announces that he has put up the wall because Badgers are the best animal and only animals who can be more badger-like can stay. The other animals are not sure about the plan, but Badger seems so confident in his convictions that he must be right. After a series of trials and tests, Badger allows only two animals to stay—Skunk and Raccoon who are the best colors: black and white. Soon Badger has painted the entire forest black and white. But he realizes that everyone has left to go to the other side of the wall where all their friends are, and badger is left all alone. His friends help Badger to understand that diversity is special and should be embraced. An excellent lesson for all children—and even adults—to learn.
All of these children’s books can be found at the Scott County Public Library! Plus, don’t forget, if your child needs help with their reading skills check out our eResource, Tumble Book Library.