Children's Books That Give Me Hope for the Future
As most of you know, I am currently pregnant with mine and my husband’s first child, a little girl. We are incredibly excited for her to be here. Folding her little clothes and putting away her teeny little diapers just adds to the excitement. Soon there will be a little human filling up these clothes, and a little butt pooping in these diapers!
We are very fortunate to have a supportive (and huge) family to help us stock up on everything that we need for our new arrival. This has included lots of books for all stages of development which, for me, was exciting in a number ways. Not only am I an ardent reader, but before becoming pregnant and moving to California, I had a successful career as an arts administrator; the majority of my career taking place at a tier one symphony orchestra. My job was as program manager for our concerts for children (and their families) of all ages. This required me to program the concerts, book the musicians, write the scripts, understand child development, manage the rehearsals and concerts, and everything in between. This meant that I spent a lot of time straddling the line between kid world and adult world. So, immersing myself in all the books we have received for our unborn daughter happened automatically. (Also, I have to say that kid world is WAY more fun than adult world and we would all benefit from spending more time there.)
We have received an amazing assortment of books for our girl. A couple of bilingual books, some cute stories about animals, educational books. But there are a few that we have received that have especially stuck out to me that I would like to share with you today. These books are the ones that give me hope for the future in this very dark and uncertain time. Reading these books has been building my confidence in my ability to teach my daughter about the complex world that we live in and reassuring me of the importance of teaching these things from a young age.
Just a note, over half of the books discussed in this article came from my dear friend Christy. Thanks for setting our baby girl up to be a discerning, kind, compassionate, and informed human. We love you and can't wait for our daughter to know you.
Thunder Boy Jr. Written by Sherman Alexie
Illustrated by Yuyi Morales
From the cover: “Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his dad, but he wants a name that’s all his own. Just because people call his dad Big Thunder doesn’t mean he wants to be Little Thunder. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he’s done, like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder. But just when Thunder Boy Jr. thinks all hope is lost, he and his dad pick the perfect name…a name that is sure to light up the sky.”
Thunder Boy Jr. is packed full of sweetness that uplifts my spirit and makes me excited to read this with my daughter. We’ve got a healthy father-son relationship. We’ve got a focus on Indigenous families (my husband is part Lummi, so this is extra special for our family). We’ve got an exploration of individuality in the context of a family, which is what struck me most about this story. Even though Thunder Boy Jr. loves his father so much, he wants his own special individuality to be expressed through a name that is different from that of his father. Through exploring his own unique traits, Thunder Boy Jr. creates his own amazing legacy that is honored in the end by his father choosing a name for him that truly fits the person he is. This book shows that children deserved to be honored and respected for the people they are, the culture they come from, and everything that they one day hope to be.
Maddi’s Fridge Written by Lois Brandt Illustrated by Vin Vogel
From the cover: “Sofia and Maddi live in the same neighborhood, play in the same park, and go to the same school. But while Sofia’s fridge at home is full, Maddi’s fridge is empty – white empty – with just a small container of milk. ‘Why doesn’t your mom go to the store?’ Sofia asks. ‘We don’t have enough money.’ ‘But what if you get hungry?’ ‘We have some bread,’ Maddi says. ‘Please don’t tell anyone.’ Sofia promises Maddi she won’t tell, but is determined to help her best friend. She sneaks food for Maddi in her bag and discovers that, while fish and eggs are good for kids, they aren’t very good for backpacks. Despite Sofia’s very best efforts, Maddi’s fridge is still empty. Sofia promised not to tell. Now what can she do?”
According to Feeding America, “In the U.S. today, 10 million children face hunger—that’s 1 in 7 kids. Chances are, someone your child goes to school with may not have enough to eat. The problem is vast but often hidden.” This is no small problem. This is a very big problem that deserves attention, and it’s why this book stood out to me as one I look forward to incorporating into my child’s life. This book normalizes the conversation around poverty and solidifies the importance of helping the people around us who may be struggling. Maddi could be any little girl. She could be my little girl; which is why it's paramount that we have these conversations with our kiddos early. This book will help me teach my daughter that helping others isn’t something that should be out of the ordinary, but is just simply what friends do for each other, especially in their time of need. After all, if the roles were reversed, wouldn’t we all benefit from a friendly helping hand?
Just Ask! Written by Sonia Sotomayor Illustrated by Rafael López
From the cover: “Sonia and her friends are planting a garden, and each one contributes in his or her own way. Rafael has asthma and sometimes has to stay calm so he can breathe better, which gives him time to paint beautiful rocks for the garden. Anthony uses a wheelchair to get around and can move super fast, directing the group. Anh has a stutter and prefers to listen, so she knows just how to plant each flower. All of the friends are different, but they all have one thing in common: They like to ask questions and learn about each other! In this warm and inclusive story by US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, inspired by her own childhood diagnosis of diabetes, readers join along as differently abled kids use their strengths to work together and learn about each other. With vibrant, engaging art by award-winning illustrator Rafael López, this book shows us that differences are wonderful—and that all you have to do when you don’t understand something is JUST ASK!”
This book is all about normalizing disabilities and exploring how to talk about disabilities: by just asking the questions that you may have! Many children don’t have regular interaction with people who are differently abled from themselves, and when they meet someone with a disability there is sometimes a sense of caution or even fear due to a limited understanding and world view. I’ve witnessed this happen many times over the course of my work with children and Just Ask! is the perfect way to mitigate these responses. According to the CDC, 26% of people living in the United States have some type of disability. Being such a large percentage of the population, it only makes sense to teach children to be confident in asking the questions they have – you never know what friends you’re missing out on by not just asking!
C is for Consent Written by Eleanor Morrison Illustrated by Faye Orlove
From the cover: “Story: Finn navigates a gathering of relatives and friends. His parents encourage him to make his own choices about whether to receive and offer physical affection. At the end, he uses the lesson he’s learned and waits for consent before holding the hand of his female best friend. Purpose: Child experts recommend allowing children to decide when and how to offer affection to others. By not forcing hugs and kisses, caregivers help kids feel control over their bodies, comfortable with expressing boundaries, and respectful of the boundaries of others.”
This one is pretty self-explanatory as to why this book gives me hope for the future of my child and all other children learning about consent. It’s simply too important not to teach our kiddos! I am going to be raising my daughter in a society that has a long way to go as far as the standardization of consent. This book explains consent in simple terms, and for adults, it reminds us that consent is much bigger than just sexual consent. With this book, I feel empowered to teach my child how to thrive in her own bodily empowerment; since no one has a right to it but her, and her alone.
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World Written by Chelsea Clinton Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
From the cover: “Throughout American history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what’s right, even when they had to fight to be heard. In early 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced in the Senate inspired a spontaneous celebration of women who persevered in the face of adversity. In this book, Chelsea Clinton celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity—sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted. She Persisted is for everyone who has ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who has ever tried to reach for the stars but was told to sit down, and for everyone who has ever been made to feel unworthy or unimportant or small. With vivid, compelling art by Alexandra Boiger, this book shows readers that no matter what obstacles may be in their paths, they shouldn’t give up on their dreams. Persistence is power.”
This book is so close to my heart after reading it. It is beautiful and hard and big and scary to be a girl/woman in society. This book gives some of the best examples of incredible women who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to create the world they wanted to live in. Everyone, not just girl children, deserve examples of true female leadership and all-around female badass-ery. The women featured in this book include: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly (my personal hero), Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, and Sonia Sotomayor (who also wrote Just Ask!).
I Love The Earth By Todd Parr
From the cover: “We can all help protect the earth and make it feel good. If we take care of it, it will take care of us!”
Ugh, this book! I bought this book because my husband and I are dedicated environmentalists; he even has a degree in environmental science with a specialization in forestry! We both grew up in the Pacific Northwest, so loving nature was instilled in both of us from an early age. Then when we met, being outside and loving nature became a huge part of our relationship. So of course, it’s something we will be teaching our daughter. This book shows children than no one is too small to affect change and help the planet that we all share. Since they are the ones inheriting the climate emergency, building a relationship with the earth is more important now than ever. The simplicity of this book makes it easy to teach children and be reminded as adults, of the precious planet we live on.
Everything we teach our children will shape all of our future lives and the world that holds us all. With books like these and so many more, there is empowerment and confidence in teaching and learning these big, complex world things. Get out there and start reading! And be sure to let me know what books give YOU hope for the future!