As a child, and still as an adult, I prefer to discover rather than be told what to do. The same is true for my kids, and as much as I want them to just do what I say, it’s much more effective to plant seeds that allow them to discover their path on their own. One of my favorite ways to plant said seeds is books!
A few of our most important family values are kindness, community and environmental consciousness. While I’ll still remind them to choose their words wisely, ask themselves how they would feel, bring in the garbage cans for our neighbor, turn the lights off or consider a gift-free birthday, these are five of my favorite books for helping my kids think about these important values on their own.
The Giving Tree
Shel Silverstein’s classic still brings tears to my eyes. For me it’s a reminder to not get caught up in doing what everyone else is doing and what you are supposed to be doing. For my kids it’s about the boy’s relationship with the tree and nature as a whole. At the end, my heart is broken for the tree stump, but my son will always say, “that’s so nice that the tree gave all of himself and they still have each other. But maybe that boy could have just taken a little less.”
Too Many Mangoes
Maybe it’s because I love Hawaii so much (and so do my kids), but we bought this book as a gift and fell in love with the story. Two young Hawaiian kids, Kama and Nani, pick too many mangoes from their tree and decide to share them with neighbors. In return, they are given yummy treats to take home and enjoy, which they do with their family. The sharing and community connectedness is so beautiful in this story. My kids will do this whenever we bake too many cookies.
My son read Wonder this year. It’s the story of a 5th grade boy with a facial deformity that goes to school for the first time. I teared up throughout the book as it discussed Auggie’s experience. I loved the discussion about how it’s often the fear of not knowing how to handle someone totally different that drives people to be mean, and most importantly showed the spirit of kids who could see past Auggie’s facial deformity to enjoy him. Auggie’s perseverance and deeply kind spirit were often points of discussion when we read the book. It may have been too complex to grasp all of the teaching opportunities at 8, but we’ll read it again and definitely see the movie in November!
This circus ape uses his artistic talent to free himself and his friends from circus life to live at the zoo where they can live in a more realistic natural environment. While the circus is no more, I love this book for learning about the treatment of animals, how creativity and perseverance can make change and the love this ape had for the newest addition to the circus, a baby elephant.
When the last of the truffala trees is chopped to make a sneed, something everyone needs, the reality of an environment without nature sets in. Because of this book and great second grade curriculum, my son has signs in his room that say “save the trees”. It’s also another great book with the message that it often only takes one person to create change – and that an act as simple as planting the last seed can revive an environment lost.