Little readers can find big issues — from racism to mental health— in picture books
Young readers are taking on some big topics covered in children’s books: racial injustices, incarceration and houselessness, to name a few.
And this isn’t a new concept. Juanita Giles, head of the Virginia Children’s Book Festival, recounts a memory of watching Reading Rainbow and seeing the 1983 book “Tight Times” by Barbara Shook Hazen, in which a parent loses their job and the family faces food insecurity.
Today’s children’s books reflect what’s happening in the country and current national conversations. Books touch on everything from racial violence to debates over the Confederate flag in ways that children can digest and apply to their own lives.
“Children’s books give parents and caregivers the opportunity to start a conversation that they may not have otherwise,” Giles says. “It encourages children to ask questions of their parents.”
Book recommendations from Juanita Giles
On food insecurity or houselessness
- “Tight Times” by Barbara Shook Hazen
- “Maddi’s Fridge” by Lois Brandt
- “The Bright Side” by Chad Otis
On racial injustice
- “Something Happened in Our Town” by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard
- “That Flag” by Tameka Fryer Brown (Author) and Nikkolas Smith (Illustrator)
- “Can We Please Give the Police Department to the Grandmothers?” by Junauda Petrus
On incarcerated family members
- “Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me” by Daniel Beaty (Author) and Bryan Collier (Artist)
- “Milo Imagines the World” by Matt de la Peña (Author) and Christian Robinson (Illustrator)
- “My Brother is Away” by Sara Greenwood
On grief, loss or mental health
- “The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst (Author) and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (Illustrator)
- “Mouseboat” by Larissa Theule (Author) and Abigail Halpin (Illustrator)
- “The Seasons Within Me” by Bianca Pozzi
- “Florence and Leon” by Simon Boulerice (Author), Delphie Côté-Lacroix (Illustrator) and Sophie B. Watson (Translator)
- “Wild for Winnie” by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (Author), Jenny Lovlie (Illustrator)
- “What Happened to You?” by James Catchpole (Author) and Karen George (Illustrator)
- “It’s Okay to Be Different” by Todd Parr
- “My Powerful Hair” by Carole Lindstrom (Author) and Steph Littlebird (Illustrator)
- “My Shadow is Pink” by Scott Stuart
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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