Childrens Book Lessons 1 of 20
Want to get through to your kid about a tough issue? Better yet, want to get through to yourself? Forget all those parenting advice books youve read for the moment, and instead, pull out the picture books. Im not talking about the message-heavy illustrated books with obvious agendas, but the fun ones, the quick reads with cool illustrations. These are the ones that know how to teach without preaching, that get to the heart of the problem in inspired, interesting, often quirky and unconventional ways. Read on for my list of common problems kids face, and the picture book that might just help you (both) get through it.
Childrens Book Lessons 2 of 20
The Issue: Cant Say Sorry
The Book: Lillys Purple Plastic Purse, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Why This Works: Knowing when youre wrong is one thing. Doing something about it is another, especially when youre a kid. This book describes Lillys emotional journey from frustration and anger through revenge and remorse, finally landing at apology and repair. The heroines written mea culpa is adorably to die for.
Childrens Book Lessons 3 of 20
The Issue: Boundary Testing
The Book: No, David!, written and illustrated by David Shannon
Why This Works: Attention parents: Kids are hard-wired to go the limit, to see how far, how fast, how loud they can go. Are they doing this to drive you crazy? The answer is no. Parents are not that important, at least not when theres a wall to be climbed or a pot to be clanked. This book is a great reminder for parents (and kids) that when too much is too much, its often not anyones fault; its just normal child development.
Childrens Book Lessons 4 of 20
The Issue: Bullying
The Book: Martha Walks the Dog by Susan Meddaugh
Why This Works: Most kids who are mean to other kids feel some sense of persecution or powerlessness in their lives. Bad Dog Bob from Martha Walks the Dog is such a bully! His owner treats him poorly and Bob acts out in predictable ways. Then along comes Martha, the fabulous talking dog. With the help of an equally chatty parrot, Martha uses compliments to soothe the savage Bob — a wonderful message that while bullying begets bullying, kindness also begets kindness. Its in everyones power, parents and kids alike, to choose which way to behave.
Childrens Book Lessons 5 of 20
The Issue: Frustration Learning New Things
The Book: How Rocket Learned to Read, written and illustrated by Tad Hills
Why This Works: Some life skills are a bitch and require more work than others. Rockets journey inspires reluctant readers, but as importantly, it provides encouragement to any kid who has hit a bump in any road and needs a gentle reminder of the value of practice, practice, practice.
Childrens Book Lessons 6 of 20
The Issue: Picked On for Being Different
The Book: My Princess Boy, written by Cheryl Kilodavis, illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone
Why This Works: Originally self-published and now a global sensation, this book was written by a very brave mom about her equally brave son. Though a tad sentimental, it deals with the issue of prejudice, especially in the arena of gender roles, with great sensitivity. The call to accept all manner of personal quirks, challenges and talents rings loud and clear. Diversity and tolerance rule!
Childrens Book Lessons 7 of 20
The Issue: Separation Anxiety
The Book: Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
Why This Works: There are kids who cling like barnacles and kids who dash ahead before being called (or dragged back) to safety. Both kinds of kids are testing the limits of separation, wondering where they begin and their parents or caregivers end. Regardless of temperament, every kids biggest fear is of losing parental constancy and support. This classic call and response between a bunny with a mind-blowing imagination and its steadfast and even-tempered mom should provide reassurance to all kids, clingers and runners alike.
Childrens Book Lessons 8 of 20
The Issue: Sharing
The Book: The All Ill Ever Want Christmas Doll by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Why This Works: Sometimes asking a kid to willingly hand over a toy is like asking him to cut off his arm and give it away. Yes. Ouch. Some kids move to a more fluid acceptance of sharing sooner than others. But for those who dont, Nella, the heroine of this charming Depression-era story sets a good example. Nellas family is dirt poor, so when she and her sisters get a real Baby Betty Doll for Christmas, she does what many kids, deprived or otherwise would do — she grabs it for herself. But quickly Nella learns that hoarding is terribly lonesome and way less fun than sharing. Eventually Nella allows her sisters access to the beloved Baby Betty and so becomes the kind of kid-sharer I can support.
Childrens Book Lessons 9 of 20
The Issue: Fear of the Unknown
The Book: Sammy the Seal, written and illustrated by Syd Hoff
Why This Works: One day, without a whole lot of worry, Sammy decides to check out the big, bad world outside his comfy zoo home. Sammy is a guileless, calm dude who takes everything in stride. Even the trouble he gets in is no big deal. Sammys a more experienced seal for all his risk-taking. Nothing terrible happens to him, and therein lies the "message."
Childrens Book Lessons 10 of 20
The Issue: In a Bad Mood
The Book: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, written by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz
Why This Works: Theres no sugar coating in this classic. A bad day is just a bad day, and we better all get used to it. Theres no attempt by the author or any of the characters to make things better. This is empathy at its best. Read and nod your head. Get your best scowl on and relate to Alexander, because everyone has bad days — even in Australia.
Childrens Book Lessons 11 of 20
The Issue: Not Getting What You Want
The Book: Olivia Acts Out, written and illustrated by Ian Falconer
Why This Works: God bless Olivia. Talk about a sturdy ego. Even after she gets passed over for the meaty main role in the school play, she continues to see herself as the star, although her role is pretty lame — a great example of turning a bad situation around, giving it your all and coming out on top.
Childrens Book Lessons 12 of 20
The Issue: Lying
The Book: The Boy Who Cried Ninja by Alex Latimer
Why this Works: I like this book because it pokes at the issue of lying from all angles. Not only does it ask children to consider the cost of lies, but it also asks parents to consider that fibbing might actually be strangely veiled truth. Tims parents dont believe him when he tells the truth, because the truth sounds like lies. When he tries a new tactic and lies about the truth, they still dont believe him. In the end, honesty combined with concrete evidence does win out, and Tim is vindicated. With a host of wildly imagined wrong-doers who are called to task, this book is a real charmer.
Childrens Book Lessons 13 of 20
The Issue: Getting Over a Broken or Lost Toy
The Book: A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka
Why This Works: In this beautifully illustrated book, a rambunctious dog contends with the destruction of her favorite ball. Because there are no words, this is a great book for creating your own text, for families to project their own stuff, in the most helpful of ways. After reading this book, youll be prepared for that moment when your kid loses or breaks a toy and the wailing waterworks are about to begin. Remind him of how things worked out for Daisy. Though he might still be bummed out, maybe hell only shed a few tears.
Childrens Book Lessons 14 of 20
The Issue: Problem Solving
The Book: Meet My Staff, written by Patricia Marx, illustrated by Roz Chast
Why This Works: Wish fulfillment meets imagination. Fantastically make believe, this kind of creative musing is something to be encouraged as it leads to greater problem solving skills later in life. Or who knows? Maybe such a magical staff really exists? Plus the book is written and illustrated by two of the funniest women around.
Childrens Book Lessons 15 of 20
The Issue: Hates a Body Part or Physical Trait
The Book: Freckleface Strawberry, written by Julianne Moore, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Why This Works: Doesnt every kid have at least one physical feature she would love to change? Poor Freckleface Strawberry struggles to accept her spots. But before shes ready to grin and bear them, she tries all sorts of hilarious tactics to make them disappear. This gem is autobiographical and written by one of the most beautiful, talented, and still freckled film actresses working today. Talk about role models!
Childrens Book Lessons 16 of 20
The Issue: Doesnt Want to Sleep in Own Bed
The Book: Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
Why This Works: Many parents hold firm, believing kids should sleep in their own beds. Others are less bothered when cold little feet poke them in the ribs at night. Some kids are happy under their own covers, while others need the comfort of big, warm bodies to drift off securely. Sorry folks, there is no "better" in the bedtime conundrum. Each family has to figure out what works for them. The sly little gorilla in this book sneaks into his keepers bed and manages to stay there all night, but his zoo-mates are happy to return to their cages. So, choose your example accordingly. And keep close watch on your keys.
Childrens Book Lessons 17 of 20
The Issue: Doesnt Want to Do Chores
The Book: How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps, written by Jennifer LaRue Huget, illustrated by Edward Koren
Why This Works: Because this is so NOT the way you want your kids to clean their rooms. And for that reason it is hysterically funny. Its always better to acknowledge resistance instead of dismissing it, so this is a good conversation starter on better approaches to tedious parent-demanded chores. Dont waste your time trying to convince your kid some onerous job is fun. Read this book instead.
Childrens Book Lessons 18 of 20
The Issue: Understanding Adoption
The Book: Horton Hatches the Egg, written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Why This Works: It is important to tell all kids, adopted or otherwise, that not every birth mother is a selfish abandoner like Mayzie, from Horton Hatches the Egg. After that crucial message gets relayed, focus in on this tale of a heroic adoptive parent. Horton, the most principled pachyderm on the planet, endures hardship and humiliation but he never deserts his egg. His unwavering commitment pays off in spades. When the egg is hatched, Hortons influence cannot be ignored. Love and constancy are ties that bind, bringing Horton and his child closer than bloodlines alone ever could. Every parent and kid can benefit from the lessons in this classic book.
Childrens Book Lessons 19 of 20
The Issue: Lack of Family Structure
The Book: Eloise, written by Kay Thompson, illustrated by Hilary Knight
Why This Works: Eloise has no father and a mother who breezes in and out while barely acknowledging her marvelous child. But what a life Eloise has there at the Plaza! Kids living in households without anchors, or with family systems outside the norm, are reassured by the benignly neglectful life of one of the most famous (and coolest) childrens book heroines of all time.
Childrens Book Lessons 20 of 20