After the huge response to our recent feature on Stories Bookshop + Storytelling Lab's favorite feminist books for kids, the store's Maggie Pouncey is back with her recommendations of the best books that show it's never too early to start teaching compassion and inclusiveness.
After the 2016 election, one of my worries as a mom was how to teach the importance of civility, decency, and plain old good manners to our children. Kids' powerful sense of fairness and intrinsic understanding of right and wrong is a strong barometer in judging our laws and leaders. Still, conversations around inclusiveness are ones we need to be having with our young people daily.
The best tools for starting these conversations are right in front of me on the shelves of my children’s bookshop in Brooklyn called Stories: gorgeous picture books by sensitive makers celebrating the glorious diversity, generosity, and kindness we can find in our communities, our nation, and our world, when we look and listen. Here are some of my favorites — worth bringing home and reading over and over.
"We’re part of a community. Our strength is our diversity. A shelter from adversity. All are welcome here." - All Are Welcome
All Are Welcome, by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman ($17.99)
I fell in love with this new, sweetly rhyming story, the title a refrain throughout: “We’re part of a community./ Our strength is our diversity./ A shelter from adversity./ All are welcome here.” Set in a city elementary school, in a place that looks a lot like Brooklyn, with beautiful illustrations showing families of every kind — from walking to school together to celebrating a multicultural feast. Read this one aloud to even your smallest activists. Plus, the jacket becomes a poster!
Pie Is for Sharing, by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard and illustrated by Jason Chin ($17.99)
The perfect summertime picture book, full of quintessential summer pleasures that are better when shared (tree climbing, towels warmed by the sun, pie), showcasing a diverse group of children playing, and celebrating the America of our dreams — inclusive, warm, generous. A great read-aloud, bring-on-vacation, and of course, share-with-a-friend story.
Be Kind, by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Jen Hill, ($17.99)
This book asks, “What does it mean to be kind anyway?” and offers many different answers from “paying attention” to not laughing at another person’s expense. It acknowledges it’s not always easy to be kind, “And sticking up for someone when other kids aren’t kind is really hard.” How simple and how crucial these lessons are in our political moment, and this book can provide such a good starting point.
This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids Around the World, by Matt Lamothe ($17.99)
Kei from Japan is 9, Kian from Iran is 7, and Ribaldo from Peru is 11. We see who they live with, what they eat for breakfast, what they wear to school, how they play, and how they help at home. This beautifully designed nonfiction picture book is based on seven real families (you find their photographs in the back matter) and reading it is a discovery of overwhelming commonality within the specific cultural differences.
People of Peace: 40 Inspiring Icons, by Sandrine Mirza and illustrated by Le Duo ($14.99)
From Joan Baez to Nelson Mandela, this thoughtful compendium of international activists throughout history who “all forcefully denounced the atrocity and absurdity of war, and fought against slavery, racial oppression and social injustice.” With bright graphics and illustrations, and tons of interesting factoids, these mini-biographies can be shared with older kids who are hungry for positive models of resistance.
Maggie Pouncey is the co-founder and co-owner of Stories Bookshop + Storytelling Lab, and the author of the novel, Perfect Reader, and the forthcoming picture book, The Fort on the Moon. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two young sons.