Children's Books for EACH of us (pardon the pun)

Children’s books are an incredibly powerful medium for spreading ideas and teaching lessons to children of all ages (let’s face it, even adults occasionally enjoy a good children’s book!).

An article from The Guardian recently addressed this fact-- specifically discussing how books aid in cultivating Empathy among young people: 

  • fiction tricks our brains into thinking we are part of the story. The empathy we feel for characters wires our brains to have the same sensitivity towards real people” (Emory University)
  •  “when you get lost in a book your brain lives through the characters at a neurological level.” (Carnegie Mellon University)

Beyond their psychological expertise (and trickery), one of the other great attributes of books is that they are essentially borderless, able to penetrate into most spaces of a child’s life- be it the classroom, the home, on outings, or anywhere in between.

Considering their unbridled mobility and ability to influence growing minds, books can serve as a perfect tool to begin a child’s journey to becoming a Changemaker

I must admit that my first aim for writing this blog was to start a bank of awesome books which can teach a child the fundamental skills of Changemaking: Empathy, Leadership, Creative Problem Solving, and Team Work. However, as my search progressed, I found so many virtual resources touting a similar message and which all flaunted inspiring collections of children’s and young people’s literature, that I didn’t want to create, yet again, one more ‘list’ and risk detracting from their work. -- I would like to say, however that from an Ashoka standpoint, this discovery is so exciting. The movement is growing!

So, rather than creating a redundant list of books for you- a parent, student, teacher, caretaker, or curious adult (there’s no shame in admitting this) to search through, I decided to highlight these resources instead; thus supporting our fellow revolutionaries.

the empathy library logo

The Empathy Library: “The Empathy Library is the world’s first online empathy collection and a treasure house for catapulting your imagination into other people’s lives. What might it be like to be a child growing up in Tehran, or to be born without sight, or to be a soldier fighting someone else’s war? The library takes you on these journeys into unknown worlds…The library is full of recommended books to read (fiction, non-fiction and children’s books) and great films to watch (from feature films to documentaries and video shorts). Their common thread? The power to deepen our empathy – to help us step into the shoes of other people and look at the world through their eyes.”

no time for flashcards logoNo Time for flashcards: This link doesn’t just focus on empathy, but also indirectly includes other Changemaker skills such as teamwork and leadership. The creator’s belief is that books transcend all barriers and can be used anywhere; “Books with tough lessons can be shared with a parent at home where answers can be given, feelings reassured, and the story related to the experiences of the reader. Whether these books get shared at home at bedtime, at school at circle time, or a child reads them alone at quiet reading time they are all filled with valuable lessons.” 

Lets grow leaders logoLet’s Grow Leaders: This list of books, while a bit short, explicitly covers each of the Changemaker criteria. Ranging from books about: perseverance, creativity/problem solvingauthenticityEmpowerment, to Teamwork, and Leadership. They truly understand what it takes to grow good leaders and future Changemakers. 

The childrens peac library logo

Child Peace Books: A lot of the books in this site teach kids about Empathy and how to get along with, accept, and understand those around you. But the section I found particularly exciting, where each book showed a story of a Changemaker, was the ‘Social Activism’ list. This listed stories of children (or animals) who not only saw, accepted, and understood their environment- but acted when there was a problem, they didn’t let their age or size get in the way of their mission. For example, The Play Lady, shares her yard with all the neighbor children and when her trailer home is vandalized with hateful graffiti, the children organize the neighbors to clean and paint and welcome her back home. Or One Duck Stuck about a Duck who gets stuck and no one can get it out "but everyone working together can!". 

In addition to some of these more ‘themed’ sites, I found that even general interest group sites such as Pinterest or Goodreads have specific groups for topics such as children's books which teach leadership, or ‘books which make a difference’ (Pinterest), etc… thus showing yet another avenue people are using to spread the EACH message.

Dr. Seuss logoFinally, I cannot bring myself to overlook one of my all-time favorite authors, Dr. Seuss. If you are unfamiliar with him (drop what you are doing and head to a bookstore now!)- he uses creative poetic verbiage to tell ridiculous, but meaningful stories of communities and individuals who work together, have tough conversations, address social injustices, and have many adventures. Some of my personal favs include: “Oh the things you can think” (boundless creativity), “the Sneeches” (acceptance and inclusion), and “the Lorax” (acting against environmental degradation).

While I feel that this but only scratches the surface of what is out there, it is also an exciting start. If you come across any other precious literary resources, especially those from other countries (many of these originate from the US/UK), please send me a message!

 

 

This post was written by Priya Rollins who is working with the Changemaker Schools Team. If you would like to contribute to this blog or have any feedback, please contact her at jrollins@ashoka.org.