Young children may not understand the current events happening in the world today. They may not understand many of the conversations or discussions taking place at home, in school, or in public spaces.
One thing is for sure — we need to be mindful of communicating to our children and helping them feel safe, understood, and accepted. They need to be reminded that the world can be a safe place for them to express themselves, share their fears, and especially feel comfort and friendship.
Reading books that share struggles, fears and joys, as well as acceptance, can help children relate and develop empathy and imagination. Listed below are some good reads to help them understand that feelings of sadness, anger, fear, kindness, joy and happiness are a normal part of our everyday lives.
Miles of Smiles
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By Karen Kaufman Orloff
Sterling Children’s Books, 2016
Age 3 and up
“How far can a smile travel?” In “Miles of Smiles,” one smile travels through an entire community and it all begins with a baby smiling at Mom. Follow this one smile’s journey as it travels from Mom to a teacher and takes off on a journey throughout their community. That one smile brings joy and hope to a classroom of students, a soccer coach and his team, and a garbage man, culminating in a smile right back to Mom and the baby.
By Helen Lester
Houghton Mifflin Co., 2004
Age 4 and up
“Fragility was a solid piece of work.” She was fragile and sensitive and so worried about what everyone thought of her. She did not have many friends and the few she did have were afraid of hurting her fragile feelings. Fragility needed to have courage and feel confident in who she was and grow a thicker skin. One day, she meets Rudy the Rude Elephant and his insults and bullying challenge Fragility to be courageous and speak up for herself. Once she takes that brave step, she learns how to stop a bully.
My Friend Is Sad
By Mo Willems
Hyperion Books for Children/New York, 2007
Age 4 and up
Mo Willems has a knack for conveying children’s feelings with just the right amount of humor, and “My Friend Is Sad” is no different. Gerald the Elephant is very sad. Along comes Piggie, his best friend, and tries to cheer Gerald up! A friend always remembers the things that make us happy and Piggie tries everything — from dressing up like a cowboy to wearing a fancy robot costume. It is all to no avail because Gerald doesn’t cheer up until Piggie confronts him without a costume.
Gerald is ecstatic to see his best friend and quickly begins to share all the fun characters he met but just couldn’t bring himself to enjoy because his best friend Piggie wasn’t there. Sometimes all we need to be happy is a true friend! Laugh out loud as Piggie realizes Gerald was sad because he wasn’t with him, even though Piggie was the one dressed up to make him happy. Piggie’s recommendation — Gerald needs a new set of glasses!
By Leo Lionni
Alfred A. Knopf, 1963
Age 3 and up
This Caldecott Award winner and classic is a must-read for children. Meet Swimmy. He’s different from the other fish and has tenacity and smarts. He comes to the rescue of a school of little red fish hiding from a predator and teaches them that working together is the key to survival and outwitting the larger, more dangerous creatures of the ocean. Together, they chase away the larger predators and learn the true meaning of teamwork, cooperation, and ultimately, survival.
Sing, Don’t Cry
By Angela Dominguez
Henry Holt and Co., 2017
Age 3 and up
Share this heartwarming tribute to optimism with your children. Inspired by her grandfather Apolinar Navarrete Diaz and the popular Mexican song “Cielito Lindo,” Dominguez writes a beautiful story about overcoming difficult times by singing. Dominguez’s abuelo would come and visit ever year and bring his guitar. They would sing together every night. Her fondest memories were of him reminding them that singing “gladdens the heart.” Sometimes we lose things that are important to us or we find ourselves far away from where we want to be, but a song can bring joy.
By Patrick McDonnell
Little, Brown and Co., 2017
Age 4 and up
Hoshi the starfish is so unhappy to be stuck in the sea. Every night he gazes at all of the twinkling stars above the ocean and wishes he could be up there shining with all of the planets. He travels back down to the bottom of the ocean and tells his sea creature friends how unhappy he is and how he wants to be “up there.”
One evening, he sees a bright light coming toward him and he befriends an anglerfish. Hoshi is mesmerized and wants to know how the anglerfish is glowing so brightly in the sea. He wants to learn how to be happy and glowing, too! The anglerfish reminds him that happiness is inside of him. He can choose to be happy exactly where he is. This heartwarming story teaches us that sometimes the shine we seek is within us all along and sometimes we just need a friend to remind us — be happy with who and where you are at this time in life!
If You Plant a Seed
By Kadir Nelson
Harper Collins Publishers, 2015
Age 5 and up
Nelson reminds us in this poignant picture book that we reap what we sow — if you plant seeds of “selfishness,” in time it will multiply “into a heap of trouble.” If we choose to grow seeds of kindness, our fruit will be many. If we work together, we will have more to share. This story helps teach the value of working together and sharing what we grow.
Dawn Guest is a library assistant for the Fort Worth Library.