Interested in fostering more family conversations that speak specifically to emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of your children?

What would happen if more families talked openly and directly about cultural differences, race relations, gender and other social/emotional issues with their young children?  Would acknowledging differences such as poverty, segregation, inequality of sexes, etc. scare our young children? Do families wrestle with what to say, or how to say what children are able to hear?

As I shared a bench outside my first grade classroom one afternoon with a young mother and her first grader, our conversation centered on the mother’s feeling of inadequacy regarding “teaching” her child important life lessons and attitudes. She explained how she had grown up in a vacuum of information-sharing and now that she has the opportunity to teach her child, she is overwhelmed with concerns that she is inept, inadequate, and doesn’t understand enough to share impartially and without prejudice.

“Why not draw on the resources available to us through children’s literature?” I asked her.

I know that in my teaching lessons, I often center activities around themes from books –fiction and non fiction to help with concept development. There is a plethora of resources available for helping guide young children and their grown-ups!

Is it okay to form bubbles of protectionism around the children and shelter their exposure to community concerns? Is it acceptable to ignore the issues altogether because of a fear that you are miscommunicating?

Utilizing quality children’s literature as families intentionally direct conversations regarding the social issues that affect everyone is a great way to begin eliminating apathy and developing empathy for oneself and for others.  And it doesn’t have to be all too too serious, either.

For instance, the issue of feeling inferior or of being tiny compared to classmates is beautifully addressed by Rachel Bright and Jim Field in THE LION INSIDE. Combining poetry with vivid illustrations tell the story that you don’t have to be BIG and BRAVE to find your ROAR and that “even the smallest creature can have the heart of a lion.”  Taking that theme alone is a week’s worth of meaningful conversations among family members.

To continue with this effort, I will collate book titles, themes, and authors with suggested  family/book club activities.