When I write a story, I always think of the end experience for a child who is reading it, whether independently or having it read to him or her by a parent or a teacher. What kinds of conversations will my story lead to? What kinds of questions will be asked? What kind of message will be conveyed? And, how can kids draw out the message themselves? In today's world, children's books with inspiring messaging seem to be more important than ever. But it's not just the message itself that is significant, it is also the way that it is delivered. Below are some of my favorite children's books with inspiring messaging, delivered in such a way that kids can connect with and hold onto.
In Those Shoes, Maribeth Boelts tells an inspirational story of a boy who is envious of the other kids who have "those shoes." You know the ones--the shoes that everyone wants, the shoes that all the cool kids wear, the shoes that are not inexpensive. But Jeremy has a change of heart and change of perspective when he realizes that there are more important things than having "those shoes." Such a great story.
Maybe it's because I often felt like an "Odd Velvet" as a kid, or maybe it's because I wish that I had the self-confidence of Velvet, but Mary Whitcomb's book has great messaging for all of us who are "odd" or not. This book speaks of inclusion, trying new things, and questioning what "odd" really means after all.
Miss Tizzy is everyone's beloved neighbor and the children's pied piper, leading parades, baking with them, playing dress up, and being an example of love and kindness for others in need. But when Miss Tizzy needs help herself, the children know just what to do. Libba Moore Gray's story is about taking care of others and the ripple effects of kindness. It reminds me of those who have been kind to me, and, if I cannot return their kindness, I can at least pass it forward.
Swimmy by Leo Lionni is a classic. I think I read it to every class I ever taught (as I know many other teachers do too!). Swimmy tells the tale of one very small fish who inspires others to work together to fend off danger. One tiny fish may not make a difference, but together, anything is possible. A story about collaboration, bravery, and the power of teamwork, Lionni's messaging is spot-on as much today as it was in 1964 when it was first published.
Last Stop on Market Street has received numerous awards, including the coveted Newbery, and for good reason. This book's messaging is powerful without being overly spelled-out for young readers. In other words, it makes kids think. This book is rich with messaging: gratitude, finding beauty in unexpected places, optimism, helping others, appreciation for others. In addition, Christian Robinson's illustrations bring urban-living and its residents to life in a fresh, energetic, vibrant way.