When I was in graduate school, I wrote my final thesis on teaching literature to teens. I designed an experiment to determine if, by reading certain novels, one could teach or strengthen certain values in the students, such as tolerance. I didn’t have to carry out the experiment, just create the idea, so I don’t know if it would have worked. I often wonder if it would.
I do know that a story can open one’s mind, or the doors of communication. A story can make you feel less alone in the world, or give you a plan of action when everything seems dark and impossible. This works especially well with very young children dealing with sad or scary situations.
The McClintic Library received a large order of new picture books, many of which are not only great stories, but send a message of some kind.
“The Goodbye Cancer Garden‚“ by Janna Matthies tells the story of two children who learn that their mother has breast cancer. Her doctor tells them that she should be feeling better by pumpkin time. This inspires the little girl to decide to plant a garden, keeping everyone involved and busy‚ and by the time the pumpkins are ready, her mother will be feeling better, too.
Pet deaths are never easy to deal with.
“The Day Tiger Rose said Goodbye‚“ by Jane Yolen tells the story of Tiger Rose, an elderly cat who is getting more and more tired. When she realizes that today is her last day, she spends it saying goodbye to her people and surroundings, and then peacefully lies down under the rose bush to quietly pass away.
What about a new baby in the house? This isn’t always exciting for everyone.
“Bear with Me,” by Max Kornell tells how a young boy feels when, out of the blue, his parents bring home a bear to live with the family. More importantly, this new bear shares the boy’s room! The boy is supposed to let him play with his toys!
“They didn’t even ask me,” complains the boy. “I thought our family was fine just like it was.” Gentle humor works well in showing how a new bear‚ can be a good thing.
Can a picture book help you convey certain values to young children? I believe so.
“The Scrawny Cat‚“ by Phyllis Root shows how rewarding it can be to treat animals with compassion and kindness. “Can We Save the Tiger?” is a gorgeously illustrated book highlighting both extinct and endangered animals, and what we can do to help save them.”
“When Jackie and Hank Met,” by Cathy Fishman tells the true story of two baseball greats: Jackie Robinson, the first African American major league player, and Hank Greenberg, the first Jewish player. Both men experienced the injustice of prejudice and discrimination, and this story highlights how we should be tolerant of others.
¬†When it‚Äôs difficult to know where to start, think of a good story. Sharing such books with children will open their minds to other, better possibilities, and also create a way for you to talk to them about the big topics, like cancer or discrimination.
Let a book help you begin that hard conversation, or introduce the values we all want our children to understand and exhibit.