As parents, our vision for our kids' future usually includes raising children who are compassionate adults who care for the world around them and the people in it. We want them to be able to do their part to make the world a better place. Personally, there are times when I find that authors of children's books can do a better job of inspiring and explaining the importance of being good to others than I can, and I am grateful for that.
An example of this is the picture book Pairs of People, written by Jeanne and Mark K. Shriver, and illustrated by Laura Watson. One of the great things about this book is that not only does it talk about service to others, but you also get to do some math along the way. Each spread adds another pair of people to the story, and there's a growing section along the bottom of the pages that keeps track of the pairs. For example, when we've counted to the number six, you will see the math problem 6 X 2 = 12 and 6 Pairs = 12 People near the bottom of the page.
Another thing I really like about Pairs of People is the illustrations. They are very kid-friendly, with bright colors that draw you right in. Laura Watson also does an amazing job of including lots of activity in the illustrations without being overwhelming. Pairs of People is one of those books where you spend some extra time on each page after reading the text just to look at the pictures. This rhyming book is engaging, sharing many of the different ways we can all be good to others, and the last page of the book gives the reader (and a friend) an opportunity to decide how they want to make a difference. I would recommend this book by Jeanne and Mark Shriver, which was recently published in September 2022, to be read to kids from ages 4 to 8.
Another picture book I read recently that is designed to spark kindness is the book The Kindest Red: A Story of Hijab and Friendship by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S. K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly. This book by Muhammad – yes, the Olympic fencing medalist – is the sequel to her first book, The Proudest Blue. In this story, since it is picture day, the teacher of our main character, Faizah, asks the class to picture the kind of world they would like to live in. Even though some kids make fun suggestions like a unicorn day, Faizah decides she wants a kind world, and convinces her friends to help her make that world possible.
All day, members of Faizah's class come up with ways that they can make a kind world a reality by doing little things, like sharing on the playground and helping their friends during recess. Later that day, when it is time to take the sibling pictures, Faizah looks around and notices that she and her sister did not coordinate their clothes like the other siblings. This makes Faizah upset, but because she has exhibited kindness all day, that comes back around to her in a very special way when it is time to take her picture with her big sister.
Both Pairs of People and The Kindest Red are beautifully written and illustrated examples of how children's book authors can tell stories that inspire children to be the types of adults that can help make the world a better place.
Deana Metzke is a literacy coach at a Springfield elementary school and a mom of two For more children's book recommendations, follow her on Twitter @DMetzke or visit her blog at http://raisingreaders.site.