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As a continuation of last week’s blog, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite books that have an underlying theme of kindness, empathy, dealing with difficult feelings, respect for others’ differences, and other topics regarding friendship. By experiencing rich, often complex, well-developed plots and characters in books, children are better positioned to deal with conflict in their own lives. Children’s literature in general is an excellent way to facilitate conversations with children. Use open-ended questions to get them thinking deeply about issues that arise. For example, “Why do you think he chose to do that? What would you have done?” Once you get the conversation going, sit back, listen, and follow your child’s lead. When reading to younger children, try to use statements that help them make connections between the characters and their own lives and experiences. For example, “Do you remember when x happened? That seemed to make you angry.”
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkey is a retelling of Aesop’s classic fable using minimal text. I absolutely love wordless books for their open-endedness. You can read the pictures, create your own story, or co-create a story with your child; the possibilities are endless and this story in particular lends itself to deep conversation regarding doing good deeds.
The classic story Swimmy by Leo Leoni shows how being different can be a strength and how friends can band together to protect one another.
Hey Little Ant by Phillip Hoose challenges the reader to empathize with an ant who is about to get stepped on.
In A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead and Srin Stead, Amos is an elderly zoo keeper who cares deeply about his animals. When Amos gets sick, as a result of his kindness, his animal friends rush to his side. One take-away here is that people create caring friendships through the way they treat others.
Sometimes I’m Bombaloo by Rachel Vail is a story of how it feels to be overcome with strong emotions.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe is a beautifully illustrated African tale reminiscent of Cinderella. For suggestions on how to engage an older child in a deeper, more philosophical discussion of this tale and the themes that arise, visit this link.
Another excellent resource for parent with toddlers is this post: 10 tips for raising compassionate toddlers.