It’s almost Presidents’ Day and we have some great books to help your kids celebrate the leaders from our past and present. Many of the books listed below have YouTube read aloud links for you to enjoy the books right now. Happy Reading!
From the publisher: Today at school we celebrated Presidents’ Day by putting on a play. Mrs. Madoff said I could be George Washington because his birthday is the same as mine. Charlie was Abraham Lincoln because he’s the tallest kid in our class. Everyone else had very important parts to play, too. At the end of the day we voted for class president, and you’ll never guess who won!
From the publisher:When Grace’s teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides she wants to be the nation’s first and immediately jumpstarts her political career by running in her school’s mock election! The race is tougher than she expected: her popular opponent declares that he’s the “best man for the job” and seems to have captured the votes of all of the class’s boys. But Grace is more determined than ever. Even if she can’t be the best man for the job, she can certainly try to be the best person!
This timely story not only gives readers a fun introduction to the American electoral system but also teaches the value of hard work, courage, independent thought — and offers an inspiring example of how to choose our leaders.
From the publisher:Imagine living in the White House, a mansion where you wouldn’t have to leave home to go bowling or see a movie! Imagine a chef to cook anything you like. “Two desserts tonight, Madam President? No problem!” A multicultural cast of children imagines what it would be like to be president. Readers will be so caught up in the fun they won’t realize that the book is also an ingenious teaching device and discussion starter. A note about the presidency accompanies the story.
From the publisher: In this reverentially funny tale from Deborah Chandra written in verse and based on Washington’s letters, diaries, and other historical records, readers will find out what really happened as they follow the trail of lost teeth to complete tooflessness.
From battling toothaches while fighting the British, to having rotten teeth removed by his dentists, the Father of His Country suffered all his life with tooth problems. Yet, contrary to popular belief, he never had a set of wooden teeth. Starting at the age of twenty-four, George Washington lost on average a tooth a year, and by the time he was elected president, he had only two left!
From the publisher: “Kids always search for heroes, so we might as well have a say in it,” Brad Meltzer realized, and so he envisioned this friendly, fun approach to biography – for his own kids, and for yours. Each book tells the story of one of America’s icons in an entertaining, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers, those who aren’t quite ready for the Who Was series. Each book focuses on a particular character trait that made that role model heroic. For example, Abraham Lincoln always spoke up about fairness, and thus he led the country to abolish slavery. This book follows him from childhood to the presidency, including the Civil War and his legendary Gettysburg Address. This engaging series is the perfect way to bring American history to life for young children, and to inspire them to strive and dream.
From the publisher: George Washington crossed the Delaware in the dead of night. Abraham Lincoln saved the Union. And President William Howard Taft, a man of great stature . . . well, he got stuck in a bathtub. Now how did he get unstuck?
From the Publisher:For every president, there has been a first lady, sometimes two. Who were these women? How has the job of First Lady (unpaid and unelected) changed over time? The Smart About format proves just right for covering history in an easy, appealing way.
From the publisher: Kids will love discovering the floor plan of the White House, a list of presidential perks, and lots of interesting info about all the presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama. (Did you know he is the only president born in Hawaii?) Each page is jam-packed with trivia, fun facts, and information on the historical events of each presidency.
From the Publisher:Did you know that John Quincy Adams kept an alligator in the bathtub, while Thomas Jefferson’s pride and joy was his pair of bear cubs? Andrew Jackson had a potty-mouthed parrot, and Martin Van Buren got into a fight with Congress over his two baby tigers. Find out all about the weird, wacky, little, big, scary, strange animals that have lived in the White House. Perfect for election year collections and displays. This rollicking, rhyming look at the animal residents of the White House introduces each set of pets with a funny verse along with cool facts and presidential stats. This trek through history will delight any animal-loving kid.
From the publisher:Welcome to the White House! Go behind the scenes to get a 360-degree view of America’s most famous president’s residence, from how it was built in 1792 and the fire of 1812, to today’s state dinners, celebrations, celebrity pets, and more. Discover through 1,000 fun-to-read facts what it’s like to live and work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the quirky rules of the house and how the Secret Service keeps it safe. Find out how the kids who have lived there play, watch movies, and entertain friends. With a treasure trove of material from the White House Historical Association, this book presents a fascinating story of the building and the many people who have shaped its 225-year history.
For the past few years we have been doing the Reverse Advent Calendar from Passionate Penny Pincher. This project is a WONDERFUL way to help your kids focus on others during the busy holiday season. My kids like to decorate cardboard boxes for their items and it is fun to watch the boxes fill up during the month of December. My best advice is to buy the food ahead of time and store it some place where it wont be accidentally consumed! Then each day have your children “go shopping” to retrieve the item for that day.
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This year I was inspired to create two new giving calendar’s to encourage EVERYONE to participate in Season’s Giving. I created a Solstice Givingcalendar and an 8 Days of Givingcalendar that you can download and print out.
Last year in November, I gave my children the Reverse Advent Calendar list and a grocery budget. They logged on to our local grocery store’s website and worked together to purchase the groceries online. Many grocery store chains and Walmart offer curbside pick up or delivery, so that your kids can do this activity from the safety of home. Not only did they learn about giving, they also learned about budgeting and the cost of food.
So many are in need during this holiday season. If your family is able to give back, I hope you will consider participating in Season’s Giving. This is a wonderful lesson for your children and it will benefit so many people.
This booklist has been compiled over the years as my children have lost loved ones and have started relationships with the seniors at our local nursing home. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, I am so very sorry. I hope that you and your children will find books in here that will bring some comfort and peace as you learn to live this new life without that special person.
Books that deal with Aging and Friendships with the Elderly
The Tide by Clare Helen Welsh (ages 4 and up) is a book that deals with dementia. The grandad in the book is starting to forget things and it causes some emotions in his granddaughter. This is a beautiful story is about how the people we love will always love us, even if they start to lose their memory. Below you can listen to the author read her story in her beautiful accent.
Mr. George Baker by Amy Hest (ages 5 and up) is a book about a special friendship between a 100 year old man and a young neighbor boy. The boy describes how wonderful his friend George is and shares that he is 100 but never learned to read. The two go to school together on the bus and George goes to a special adult classroom to learn how to read. This book is just beautiful and a favorite of mine!
Sunshine Home by Eve Bunting (ages 4 and up) is the story of a boy going to see his grandmother in the nursing home for the first time. She has fallen and can no longer live at home and he is scared about visiting her in the nursing home and worried that she has changed. The boy finds out that his grandmother is still the same wonderful person she always has been. This book does a great job of describing what nursing homes are like to ease nervous feelings that little ones may be experiencing.
Miss Tizzy by Libba Moore Gray (ages 3 and up) is the story about a wonderful elderly neighbor named Miss Tizzy. Miss Tizzy is so loved by the children in her neighborhood and she leads them in daily activities, games and projects. When Miss Tizzy gets sick, the children are very sad. They come together to show her the same love she has shown them with daily acts of kindness. This is such a beautiful book about friendship.
The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy (ages 4 and up) is the story about the relationship between a child and her grandmother who lives with her. Her grandmother starts a patchwork quilt and her granddaughter, Tanya, offers to help. They collect scraps from all over the place, each scrap a reminder of something special in their life. When grandma gets sick, Tanya is determined to keep the quilt going. When grandma is feeling better, she is able to finish the quilt and they are left with a beautiful keepsake.
The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant (ages 4 and up) is a beautiful book about a lonely older woman who loves to name things. She has outlived all of her friends and so she is very much alone and names only things that can outlive her (her car, chair etc.). A puppy comes into her life one day and things begin to change. This book will inspire your and your children to reach out to the elderly people in their life who may be lonely.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox (ages 4 and up) is the story about a boy who lives next door to a nursing home. He knows all of the people who live there and runs errands for them. He has a very special relationship with one resident, Miss Nancy, who has lost her memory. Wilfrid does not know what a memory is, so he goes on a quest through the nursing home to find out so that he can help Miss Nancy. I LOVE this sweet story so much.
Books for Children Dealing with Death and Grief
The Dragonfly Story by Kelly Owen (ages 3 and up) is a beautiful book for ALL ages. This book is based on a well shared short story by an unknown author (Click Here for one version). I found this short story when I lost my sister in-law to breast cancer 10 years ago. My son was 3 at the time and this story brought all of us so much comfort and peace at the time.
The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr (ages 2 and up) is a great book to explain loss to young children. It is simple, easy to understand and yet so powerful. The book goes through the different emotions that your child might be feeling as they go through the grieving process. It is such a great book!
God Gave us Heaven by Laura J. Bryant and Lisa Tawn Bergren (ages 3-7) is a sweet story and does a great job of explaining the concept of heaven for little ones. It is a Christian book, so that may not be appropriate for your family.
Something Sad Happened: A Toddler’s Guide to Understanding Death by Bonnie Zucker (ages 2-4) is a very simple and sweet book about losing a loved one. In this book the child looses his grandmother and the mother explains death in terms that a child can understand and also explains the feelings of grief that may be felt with the loss.
This book is on YouTube but the video creator would not let me post it here. A quick search will help you to find the video.
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (ages 4 and up) is a wonderful story about the invisible string that connects you to the people you love, even if they are not physically with you. This book can be used to not only deal with death but for children who have anxiety about thunderstorms or being separated from their parents. This is a book we have on our bookshelf.
Life is Like the Wind by Shona Innes (ages 4 and up) is a simple story about what it means to be alive. The book was written by a child psychologist and compares life to the wind. It deals with feelings of grief in ways that children can understand. This book is for all faiths in that it discusses in simple terms the different beliefs of what happens when someone dies.
Memory Box: A Book About Grief by Joanna Rowland (ages 4 and up) is a beautiful book that follows a little girl through her grief. She creates a memory box of mementos that remind her of the loved one she has lost. This book is a great conversation starter to discuss grief and the beauty of the memories we keep. The end contains pages to help parents guild their children through the grief process. This is a book we have on our bookshelf.
Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie (ages 5 and up) explains the concept of death as a cycle of beginnings, endings and the life in between. The book begins by using examples from nature to help explain this difficult concept to children. The book ends with gently discussing the life cycle of people. This is a book we have on our bookshelf.
Anna’s Big Wish by Tracy Harding–I have not read this book but it was recommended to me a few weeks ago as a good resource to help children with loss. 100% of the proceeds of the book go to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Visit the website to learn more about the book and check out the bereavement resources for children on their site. https://annasbigwish.com/
Nelson Mandela International Day is celebrated on July 18th around the world. Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in South Africa and spent his life fighting against apartheid, racism and for equal rights for everyone in his country. He spent over 30 years of his life in prison because of his work to end apartheid. After his release from prison in 1990 he worked with South African President, FR de Klerk, to end apartheid. This work won them both the Nobel Peace prize in 1993.
In 1994 all people were allowed to vote for the first time in the South Africa election and Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. In 1999, he stepped down the from world of politics and started the Nelson Mandela Foundation, an organization that works to promote the principals of equality, freedom and peace. A great way to celebrate Nelson Mandela, his perseverance and his work for civil rights is to share a book with your children about his life. Here are a few of our favorites and an interview done on his 90th birthday.
Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson is a beautiful book about his life. This is a great overview of his entire life and the work he did to end apartheid in South Africa. The illustrations are incredible and this book is a recipient of the Coretta Scott King honor award. I would recommend this book to ages 4 and up. You will find a YouTube link of the story below where it is beautifully read by a child.
Granddad Mandela is a beautiful book written by Nelson Mandela’s daughter and his great grandchildren, Zazi and Ziwelene Mandela. In this story Zazi and Ziwelene asking questions about their great grandad’s life to their grandmother. It is a very child friendly way to learn about Nelson’s life as leader and activist for civil rights in South Africa. I would recommend this book to ages 4 and up.
Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom is the official picture-book edition of Nelson Mandela’s bestselling autobiography. This book was abridged by Chris Van Wyk and beautifully illustrated by Paddy Bouma. It is a kid friendly version of his autobiography and covers his entire life. This book would be great for children ages 6 and up.
This book from the Who Was..? series is all about Nelson Mandela and his life. This book is perfect for children ages 8 and up to read on their own.
From the publisher: “As a child he dreamt of changing South Africa; as a man he changed the world. Nelson Mandela spent his life battling apartheid and championing a peaceful revolution. He spent twenty-seven years in prison and emerged as the inspiring leader of the new South Africa. He became the country’s first black president and went on to live his dream of change.”
An Interview with Nelson Mandela on his 90th Birthday
From the Publisher: “Fifth-grader Javon has the big responsibility of being a Book Buddy to a kindergartner named Richard. But when he meets Richard for the first time, he isn’t so sure he’s up for the challenge. Richard won’t talk to Javon or even look at him. He seems sad, but Javon quickly realizes that Richard reminds him a whole lot of himself at that age, and Javon is determined to help his new friend.Both boys learn a lot that year, but what Javon learns from Richard is the most important lesson of all: that helping someone find their happiness can make your own heart happy, too.”
This book is one of my ABSOLUTE favorites and is a great illustration of what paying it forward means. Mary starts a revolution by secretly leaving blueberries on her neighbors front porch. This kind deed spreads like wildfire and before you know it kindness is EVERYWHERE. I recommend this book for ages 3 and up.
From the Publisher: “Can one child’s good deed change the world? It can when she’s Ordinary Mary―an ordinary girl from an ordinary school, on her way to her ordinary house―who stumbles upon ordinary blueberries. When she decides to pick them for her neighbor, Mrs. Bishop, she starts a chain reaction that multiplies around the world.”
Ordinary Mary is back and she is ready to change the world again! Mary’s bravery and kind words on the school bus lead to ripple effect of kind words and kind deeds throughout the school day. This book would be great for children ages 3 and up.
From the publisher: “Follow Mary in this feel-good story as she once again inspires others with positivity and kindness through a variety of ordinary deeds! Including examples that happened at schools as a result of using the first book, this book focuses on the ability kindness has to change an entire school. Can one child’s good deed change the world? It can when she’s Ordinary Mary―an ordinary girl on her way to her an ordinary bus stop and an ordinary school―when with one act of kindness she makes a friend. Through her school day, Mary’s courage and kindness spreads, reaching farther than could ever be imagined.”
One Good Deed by Terri Fields is the story of a boy who changed his neighborhood with one kind deed. Jake’s kind deed of sharing berries with his neighbor led to a chain of kindness that spread throughout the day and the neighborhood. This is a great illustration of how one kind deed can cause a ripple effect of kindness and joy. This book would be great for ages 3 and up.
As you know we are HUGE Peter Reynolds fans in this house and this new book is another winner. Be You is a beautiful book that encourages all of us to BE OURSELVES. It reminds us of the unique qualities that make us who we are. It is a celebration of being different, kind, persistent, a good listener and not afraid to ask for help when we need it. This book is perfect for children ages 3 and up.
Miles of Smiles by Karen Kaufman Orloff is a sweet story of how a simple smile can spread from person. It is fun to watch the smile of a baby spread around the land and thus spread joy and kindness. This book is perfect for children ages 3 and up.
Pass it On by Sophy Henn is a simple and sweet story of sharing joy and passing it on to others. This book shows that you can pass on love, smiles, joy and laughter to everyone you meet. I would recommend this book for ages 3 and up.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney is a favorite in our house. This is the story of how one woman changed her neighborhood by planting seeds. I would recommend this story to ages 5 and up.
From the publisher: “Alice made a promise to make the world a more beautiful place, then a seed of an idea is planted and blossoms into a beautiful plan. This beloved classic and celebration of nature—written by a beloved Caldecott winner—is lovelier than ever! Barbara Cooney’s story of Alice Rumphius, who longed to travel the world, live in a house by the sea, and do something to make the world more beautiful, has a timeless quality that resonates with each new generation. The countless lupines that bloom along the coast of Maine are the legacy of the real Miss Rumphius, the Lupine Lady, who scattered lupine seeds everywhere she went. Miss Rumphius received the American Book Award in the year of publication.”
Because Brian Hugged His Mother is out of print but I was lucky to find it read on YouTube. This book is a sweet and simple story about the ripple effect that can happen when one person does a kind thing. I’d recommend this book for ages 3 and up.
I read this book a few years ago and found it so inspiring. This is the middle grade version of the original story and so it is appropriate for grades 3-7. In this story a boy named Trevor takes on an extra credit project to change the world. He does 3 kind deeds and asks that the people who received his kindness to pay it forward by doing 3 more kind deeds for others. He believes that this ripple effect will change the world.
From the Publisher: “Pay It Forward is a moving, uplifting novel about Trevor McKinney, a twelve-year-old boy in a small California town who accepts his teacher’s challenge to earn extra credit by coming up with a plan to change the world. Trevor’s idea is simple: do a good deed for three people, and instead of asking them to return the favor, ask them to “pay it forward” to three others who need help. He envisions a vast movement of kindness and goodwill spreading across the world, and in this “quiet, steady masterpiece with an incandescent ending” (Kirkus Reviews), Trevor’s actions change his community forever. This middle grade edition of Pay It Forward is extensively revised, making it an appropriate and invaluable complement to lesson plans and an ideal pick for book clubs, classroom use, and summer reading. Includes an author’s note and curriculum guide.”
Books for the Adults
From the publisher: “As the obituary writer in a spectacularly beautiful but often dangerous spit of land in Alaska, Heather Lende knows something about last words and lives well lived. Now she’s distilled what she’s learned about how to live a more exhilarating and meaningful life into three words: find the good. It’s that simple–and that hard.”
From the publisher: “What if everyone started performing good deeds every day? This inspiring collection presents many true stories of people who’ve committed, received, and observed voluntary acts of kindness—and seen for themselves how small acts of goodness can make a big difference in people’s lives.”
From the Publisher: “Kindness Boomerang contains 365 daily acts, one for each day of the year, accompanied by inspirational quotes, personal stories on the power of paying it forward, and tangible steps to change your outlook on life. This book empowers you to bring positivity into your everyday life and the lives of those around you. Wahba invites you to practice kindness in relationships, kindness with yourself, kindness with nature and kindness in many more forms. This book is a call to action for anyone who wants to live a more connected and fulfilling life.”
From the publisher: “The best way to make yourself feel great? Do a random act of kindness for someone! These 101 stories will make you smile and get you excited about what you can do, too. Make miracles happen for yourself and others. It’s easy. Just think outside the box and look around. There are so many ways that you can help—and it turns out the biggest beneficiary may be you! Scientific studies have shown that “doing good” is not only good for the recipient of the good deed, but also for the person doing it, making that person happier and healthier.”
The other night, we sat the kids down at dinner and had a discussion about racism. As homeschoolers, we often discuss racism from a historical perspective or from the perspective of inclusion of all people despite their skin color, beliefs or who they love.
On this occasion we spoke about three innocent people, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, who’s lives were cut short because of hate, violence and the color of their skin. Tears were shed as we talked about each innocent person and their horrific story of racism.
“Mom, color shouldn’t matter, we are all human beings.” my daughter said through her tears. I explained that we are all human beings but color does matter. At that moment a blue jay flew by the window. “Think of the blue jay,” I said, “he is a bird but his blue feathers and unique call make him different from the other birds. Birds come in different sizes, eat different foods, live in different habitats and come in many different colors. Humans are just like birds in this way. We come in many different sizes, colors, believe different things, live in different places, love in different ways and that makes us special and unique. These differences need to be celebrated and not feared.”
This conversation is just the beginning of our deep dive into the topic of racism and implicit bias. I cannot begin to make sense of the hate and fear in this country but I hope to raise my children to be people who are inclusive and stand up for justice. Racism is not a political issue but a human issue. As Drick Boyd said in his blog post, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd – Why White People Need to Talk About Them, “this isn’t a black problem but a human problem.”
Racism is a sensitive and very big topic and I am by no means an expert. I am a parent, like many of you, trying to raise kids to be accepting and kind individuals who stand up for what is right. As I was doing my own research for resources to help teach my children about racism and injustice, I felt the need to share my findings with the Kids in Service community.
I always turn to books and movies as a springboard for greater conversation with my children and there are some great suggestions below. I couldn’t include all of my findings and will most likely do another post with more resources in the next few weeks. My hope is that you will find something in this list that will help you, as you navigate this important topic with your children of all ages.
I HIGHLY recommend ALL parents watch this 13 minute Ted Talk about discussing race with your children.
Resources I Have Found
For Young Children:
1. I LOVE this video! It is great to share with young children and then discuss how beautiful it is to live in a world with so many different kinds of hair. The book, Hair Like Mine by LaTashia M. Perry would go along nicely with this video.
2. The Colors of Us by Karen Katz is a great book about the different skin colors in our world. This would be a great book for ages 4 and up. From the publisher: “Seven-year-old Lena is going to paint a picture of herself. She wants to use brown paint for her skin. But when she and her mother take a walk through the neighborhood, Lena learns that brown comes in many different shades. Through the eyes of a little girl who begins to see her familiar world in a new way, this book celebrates the differences and similarities that connect all people. Karen Katz created this book for her daughter, Lena, whom she and her husband adopted from Guatemala six years ago.”
3. Same Difference by Calida Rawles is a sweet and fun book about two first cousins who consider themselves to be twins. As the story goes on they start to notice their physical differences and become upset. Their grandmother helps them to celebrate their beauty and their differences. This book would be great for children ages 4 and up.
4. Under My Hijab by Hena Khan is a sweet and colorful story about a family of Muslim women and the the beautiful lives they lead. This book will spark a rich discussion about what a hijab is and why some Muslim women wear them. Children will see that underneath those stylish hijab’s, are beautiful woman just like the women they know in their own lives. This book is recommended for ages 4 and up but younger children will enjoy the comfortable rhyme and colorful pictures.
5. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell is the true story of two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo who created a non-traditional family when zoo keepers gave them a chance to hatch and raise a motherless egg. This beautiful book about love is recommended for kids ages 3 and up. It is a great way to introduce young children to the idea that there are many different kinds of families in this world.
6. I, Too, Am America is Langston Hughe’s powerful poem come to life in a BEAUTIFUL children’s book. The illustrations by Bryan Collier are incredible and they are the perfect compliment to the powerful text. The book ends with information about Langston Hughe’s life as a brave voice for equality. This book reminds us that despite our differences, we are all AMERICAN. I would recommend I, Too, Am America for ages 4 and up.
7. I am sharing this Oscar Winning short film for no other reason than I LOVE it!!! I cry every time I watch it and it is perfect for children ages 3 and up to enjoy.
For Children ages 6 and up:
1. This read aloud of Something Happened in Our Town by Marianne Celano and Marietta Collins PhD is a great springboard for a discussion of racism with children ages 6 and up. I’d preview the book before you share it with younger kids, so you are ready for the conversation that will come after listening to it. My 13 year old thinks that older kids should watch this too.
2. Not My Idea, A Book about Whiteness is a book by Anastasia Higginbotham. The publisher recommends this book for ages 8 and up. I’d preview the book before you share it with your children, so you are ready for the conversation that will come after listening to it. I shared it with my 10 and 13 year olds and it was a great conversation starter. “For white folks who aren’t sure how to talk to their kids about race, this book is the perfect beginning.“ —O MAGAZINE
3. My 10 year old recommends Love Has to Win as a great movie to learn about the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. This movie may be made by American Girl but it is not a movie just for girls. It is a great family movie that will spark important conversations about racism, love and standing up for what’s right. It is FREE for those that have Amazon Prime and recommended for kids ages 7 and up.
4. Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh is the true story of Sylvia Mendez and her families fight to desegregate schools in California in the 1940’s. This book takes place 10 years before Brown vs. the Board of Education and it is recommended for children ages 6 and up.
5. Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper is on our family’s summer reading list. Though it takes place in the early 1900’s, so many of the themes in the book are still present today. This will be an excellent book to read aloud as a family and will spark rich discussions about racism. This book is recommended for ages 9 and up. From the publisher: When the Ku Klux Klan’s unwelcome reappearance rattles Stella’s segregated southern town, bravery battles prejudice in this New York Times bestselling Depression-era “novel that soars” (The New York Times Book Review) that School Library Journal called “storytelling at its finest” in a starred review. Stella lives in the segregated South—in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can’t. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn’t bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they’re never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella’s community—her world—is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don’t necessarily signify an end.
6. Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj is a story told in two voices, Karina (an Indian-American middle school student) and Chris (her caucasian neighbor and classmate). This book is recommended for ages 10 and up. From the publisher: “Karina Chopra would have never imagined becoming friends with the boy next door–after all, they’ve avoided each other for years and she assumes Chris is just like the boys he hangs out with, who she labels a pack of hyenas. Then Karina’s grandfather starts tutoring Chris, and she discovers he’s actually a nice, funny kid. But one afternoon something unimaginable happens–the three of them are assaulted by a stranger who targets Indian-American Karina and her grandfather because of how they look. Her grandfather is gravely injured and Karina and Chris vow not to let hate win. When Karina posts a few photos related to the attack on social media, they quickly attract attention, and before long her #CountMeIn post–“What does an American look like? #immigrants #WeBelong #IamAmerican #HateHasNoHomeHere”–goes viral and a diverse population begin to add their own photos. Then, when Papa is finally on the road to recovery, Karina uses her newfound social media reach to help celebrate both his homecoming and a community coming together.”
7. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr is the story based on the author’s own story of fleeing Germany in 1933 as a small girl. Her family is Jewish and they face many challenges as refugees as they go from Switzerland to France and then to England. This book is recommended for children ages 8 and up but given that this story takes place during the Holocaust there are sensitive themes and events that may be too much for younger children. Click HERE to listen to Judith Kerr talk about the book and her life. From the publisher: “Based on the gripping real-life story of the author, this poignant, suspenseful middle-grade novel has been a favorite for over forty years. Perfect for Holocaust Remembrance Month. Anna is not sure who Hitler is, but she sees his face on posters all over Berlin. Then one morning, Anna and her brother awake to find her father gone! Her mother explains that their father has had to leave and soon they will secretly join him. Anna just doesn’t understand. Why do their parents keep insisting that Germany is no longer safe for Jews like them? Because of Hitler, Anna must leave everything behind.”
8. Ruby Bridges is the true story of 6 year-old Ruby who was the first African American child picked to integrate into a white New Orlean’s public school. Common Sense Media recommends this movie for children ages 10 and up. Click HERE for the read aloud of The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles. I would recommended this book for children ages 5 and up.
9. I LOVE sports films and Remember the Titans is one of my favorites. This movie is based on a true story of two high schools integrating after segregation ended in the south. The movie follows the integration of the football team and is a powerful story of racism, acceptance, respect and teamwork. This movie is rated PG and recommended for ages 10 and up.
Resources for Talking with Teens:
1. This video brought my daughter and I to tears. Tyler Merritt is a comedian and in this powerful video, he wants you to get to know him “before you call the cops.” This video is so simple and yet so POWERFUL. It is a short clip and I’d recommend it as a discussion starter for ages 9 and up.
2. Looking for a way to start your discussion of racism with your teens? Start with these videos and conversation starters put together by the Parents Coalition of the Bay Area High Schools. It is a step by step process to help you and your teens have a rich discussion about Implicit Bias and Racism. Click HERE to access this amazing resource.
3. Dear Martin by Nic Stone is recommended for high school students. From the publisher: Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out. Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.
4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is recommended for 8th grade and up. This book has also been made into a movie. From the publisher: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
5. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely is another powerful book for kids in 8th grade and up. This trailer was made by a student for their English project. From the publisher: A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galluzzo, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement? There were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.
6. This lesson plan from the New York Times was designed for a classroom but can easily be done at home with your teens. They start off with the same Peanut Butter, Jelly and Racism video that the lesson plan put out by the Parents Coalition of the Bay Area High Schools use (see #2 above). They then share 4 teens first encounters with racism and provide discussion questions for each short story. Follow up discussion questions and activities are then provided. I plan on taking my teen through these exercises this summer.
7. This Teen Vogue Article talks to teens about how they can take anti-racist action through education and community involvement.
8. In this video from 1993, Toni Morrison talks honestly with Charlie Rose about racism and her own experiences with it. This is one of Toni’s many inspirational interviews that you can find on YouTube.
9. They Called Us Enemy is a graphic novel about the heartbreaking true story of George Takei and his time in a Japanese Relocation center during WWII. This book is recommended for children ages 13 and up. From the publisher: “They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.”
Additional Resources for Parents:
1. This powerful and heartbreaking Ted Talk from Jim White is about his 53 years of discrimination in this country. This would be a great video to share with your older children. “Bringing reflections and the reality of race relations in USA, Jim White Sr. provides a lens that goes back 53 years from his first experience with discrimination, coupling it with how he’s struggling to provide counsel to his grandsons facing the same bias. This talk was the first time he’s shared this provocative and heartbreaking story in public after his decision to be silent no more.”
6. Click HERE for a list of movies from Common Sense Media that tackle racism. Each movie listed has a description and a recommended age level.
7.75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice–This article has a wealth of suggestions and resources of ways you and your family can educate yourself and jump into action to help with racial justice in our country. There are action steps, movie recommendations, book recommendations and so much more.
8. Raising White Kids, Bringing Up Children In A Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey is “a book for families, churches, educators, and communities who want to equip their children to be active and able participants in a society that is becoming one of the most racially diverse in the world while remaining full of racial tensions. For white people who are committed to equity and justice, living in a nation that remains racially unjust and deeply segregated creates unique conundrums.” I just purchased this non-political book from Audible to help me navigate the discussions I am currently having with my children about race in age appropriate ways.
When I was a kid most of our summer was spent at home. Most days I’d wake up, eat breakfast in front of the TV and then my mom would kick us outside for the rest of the day. We didn’t have neighbor kids nearby so we’d create our own fun in our own backyard. We’d run under the sprinkler, ride our bikes, sip on lemonade, play in the imaginary world that we’d created or play board games in the screen house tent we had. Summer was simpler back then and it didn’t consist of fancy vacations, multiple day trips per week, fancy summer camps or a summer pool membership.
When summer rolls around now, I feel stressed to make sure that my kids have a great summer. We create a bucket list and fill our calendar with camps, day trips, vacations, homeschool (we school 3 days a week in the summer) and play dates. Everything that we schedule is lots of fun but the fun often leaves me exhausted and longing for simpler days.
This summer, many of us are being forced to slow down and change things up. We are staying close to home and our kids have the opportunity to have time and space to play and be creative. Below we have some ideas to help your summer be slower, yet memorable. It’s time to shift our perspectives to one of gratitude, break out the lemonade and give our kids the simple summer of our childhood.
Create a Summer Oasis
Maybe you have a backyard, a deck, a rooftop, a community garden plot or a special place inside your home where you can create a summer oasis. Hang fairy lights, bring in flowers, create cozy seating (a tent maybe) and bring in some fans or a water element to keep things cool. Serve a special summer treat like homemade popsicles or roast marshmallows over an open fire. My friend has Pina Colada Fridays on their back deck all summer long and they love ending the week with this yummy tradition.
If you have a backyard, maybe you invest in a fire pit or an inflatable kiddie pool for the oasis. Grow a beanpole tent, buy a slip and slide, get some tiki torches, put up a screen house…whatever it takes to make this space special and your own little summer oasis.
If you want to spice things up this summer, plan on monthly theme nights. One of my Facebook friends has been having theme nights all throughout quarantine. They have had a Disney Night, a Hawaiian Luau, a Fancy Dinner Party, Family Escape Room Night, a Living Room Campout and many more. Pick a theme for the month and have everyone contribute something. Have somebody pick the music, others help to decorate and work as a family to plan the menu. We recently studied China in homeschool and are working as a family to put together a Chinese Festival. We are planning a night of stories, music, food, games and a movie.
When my kids were younger, I’d handle those long days of summer by organizing “camps” for us. I would plan a theme for a week and we would read books, make crafts and do activities all around the theme. Do you have a house full of wizards? Turn your house into Hogwarts for a week and make potions, practice spells and drink homemade butter beer. Are your kids into sports? Create a wacky sports camp where there are no rules and sports are combined to make new and different sports. The possibilities for themed home camps are endless!
There are also lots of FREE and inexpensive camps that you can find on the internet. Kids in Service has created Camp Kindness, a FREE “camp” experience that you can download and try out with your family this summer. It is organized as a 4 day week but you can easily spread the days out and do one a week for a month long program or schedule in the activities when they fit into your summer.
Grab the buckets, cups, water guns, hoses, sponges, sprinklers and anything else that can carry or shoot water. Set up a water obstacle course and/or some racing games and end the fun with popsicles for all of the participants.
Our family has a backyard Quidditch pitch where we play a water version of the wizard game (water balloon bludgers and a sprinkler in the middle of the course). Click HERE and HERE for some fun family water games that will keep the whole family cool even if you don’t have a pool. Click HERE for some ideas for DIY PVC sprinkler fun!
The Games of Yesterday
Kick the Can, Hopscotch, Jumprope, SPUD, Four Square, Flashlight Tag, Capture the Flag…it’s time to bring these classic games back. Many of these games can be played with social distance modifications so the neighborhood kids can gather to play together. Click HERE and HERE for an explanation of some great 80’s backyard games.
OTHER FAMILY FUN IDEAS
LEGO MASTER FAMILY CHALLENGE--We LOVED watching LEGO MASTERS on Fox this past Winter/Spring. We were inspired by my friend Claire’s LEGO family challenges. We pick a topic for the challenge (Movie Sets, Holidays, Amusement Parks, Vacation Locations etc.) and then set a timer for 15-20 minutes depending on the challenge. We put a big LEGO bin in the middle and we are off. When the timer is up we each take turns explaining our challenge. Then each person has to vote for the build they think is best (you can not vote for yourself). If you are worried about hurt feelings you can skip this part or do a paper ballot vote.
FAMILY OLYMPICS–Another fun thing we like to do is set up a Family Olympics. Each family member picks an outdoor and indoor activity for the competition. We then go through the events and cheer each other on. We have done events like bocce, races, boardgames and Mario Kart. My kids love picking the events and we even have a silly medal ceremony at the end (we don’t have medals but do make a podium with furniture at different levels and play the National Anthem). You could even go a step further and have each family member pick a country to represent in the Olympics and make a flag for your country. Then do a Parade of Nations and play the national anthem from each country before the games begin.
FAMILY GAMES--This is our go to when we are needing a little family time. Each person comes to the table with their favorite board game. If we can’t make it through all of them in one sitting, we will pick back up with the games we didn’t play the next time. You could also have a family video game night. My son is obsessed with gaming and loves when we agree to play along. We will have a family Mario Kart competition, play Just Dance or break out the old school Mario Bros games.
VIRTUAL FAMILY GAME NIGHT–Our extended family has been getting together a couple of times a week for Family Game Night online. You can use FaceTime, Google Hangout, Zoom or another service to come together and play. We have done Name that Tune, Charades, 5 Second Rule, Yahtzee and we are working on a virtual corn hole tournament. It is fun to come together to laugh and be silly with the ones we love. We may not be allowed to be together physically but it is fun to connect in virtual ways whenever possible.
FAMILY TALENT SHOW--This is another gem from my friend Claire. This year her family has started putting on regular talent shows. They each practice an act during the day and then come to the show ready to present. Some of the acts that they have done are magic, baking, playing their musical instruments and she and her husband did a Sonny and Cher act to I Got You Babe! We are definitely putting this on our list of things to try.
MINI-GOLF–My kids LOVE to create mini golf courses and they have spent HOURS building them both indoors and out. Grab a few putters and golf balls and encourage them to create a 9 hole course that you can play together as a family.
VIRTUAL VACATIONS--There may be a travel ban but that doesn’t mean we can’t still “travel” to new locations. Have everyone in the family research a place they’d like to visit and organize a virtual vacation. Dress up the way you’d dress if visiting that country (is it a beach location, put on your beachwear), play the music of the location, watch travel videos on YouTube, create a dish you might eat there, learn a few words if they speak a different language, play games or create artwork inspired from that culture. Take pictures as you experience each new place and then put together a scrapbook or a family slideshow of your travels. Who says you can’t travel while quarantined at home!
FAMILY SERVICE PROJECT— It would not be Kids in Service if I did not encourage you to do a family service project while in isolation. Click Here for some things that you could do while home with the kids over the next few weeks.
I was sitting on the front porch trying to plan out my busy week, when I heard my daughter crying from the kitchen. My first reaction was irritation, “What could she be crying about now? Tears are not on my to-do list!” When I came into the room she was standing in stocking feet with the fridge doors open and a shattered jar of pickles all over the tile floor. I looked at her scared little face, took a deep breath and decided to react with patience rather than the frustration that was brewing inside of me.
As I looked at her face, I reminded myself that this was an accident. It is not her fault that once again I have taken on too much and there are not enough hours in the day to finish it all, yet alone clean up this pickle mess. “Hello, Enneagram ONE here!”
I calmly helped her to safety from the glass, reassured her that it was okay and got to work cleaning up the mess. As she and I mopped up the stinky pickle juice, I reflected on how that situation could have gone much differently if I had let my temper get the best of me. I thought about my word of the year, Ohana, which means family. If I truly want to honor that word, some things have to come off of my very full plate.
I had big plans to create another FREE Kids in Service Camp for this summer but unfortunately I need to put that on the back burner for now. I have to focus on my family, homeschool and the other responsibilities that come my way every May/June. Deciding to put the project aside for the moment has allowed me to breathe a little deeper.
I am sorry that Camp Empathy will not be out this June but I am hopeful that it will come to fruition. The project is too important to me to drop all together. That broken pickle jar showed me that I need to give myself a little grace and prioritize time with my family during this busy season. Who knew that I’d be so grateful for a broken jar of pickles?!?!
This year our local Kids in Service NH meetings will be held virtually in order to keep everyone safe. Because of this we’d like to welcome ALL families near and far to join us and best of all it’s FREE. When you sign up you will get a downloadable Welcome Packet, access to our Private KIS Virtual Club Page, a short Welcome Video and access to Private KIS Club Facebook Group (this is optional and not necessary). We have some great lessons and activities planned for this year and we hope that you will join us!
KiS Junior is for kids ages 10 and under (although my almost 11 year old will be participating). Our theme for the year will be Bravery and Persistence and there will be monthly videos from October-May. Each video meeting will be under 15 minutes and are meant to be low stress for parents. There will be a story, a quick lesson and two service project ideas. You can have your children just listen to the story/lesson and/or participate in one or both of the projects if you have the time. The projects can be done from the safety of your home and most can be done with materials around the house.
Each month we will have a raffle for those who participate during that month (you are always welcome to go back and watch the older videos at any time). Share a photo of your child participating before the end of the month and they will be entered for the raffle. There is a lot more information in our Welcome Packet, click the image above to SIGN up!
KIS Teen/Pre-Teen videos will be posted every other month (October, December, February, April). The meeting videos will be under 15 minutes and are meant to be watched when it is convenient for your child. Each video will contain a video clip or interview and two project ideas. These projects can be done as a family, with friends or on their own.
Kids who participate will be entered to win a raffle for that meeting. Share a photo of your child participating before the deadline (these will be announced) and they will be entered for the raffle. There is a lot more information in our Welcome Packet, click the image above to SIGN up.
Check out the two KIS Junior meetings we created last spring!
May Meeting–I start off with the book One by Kathryn Otoshi, we make Birthday Boxes and make cards for the local nursing home (rainy day art project).
Earth Day Meeting–I start off reading the book Love the Earth by Julian Lennon, we make recycled art projects and clean up trash on our street.
Every once in a while a book will fall into my hands right when I need it. Rachel Macy Stafford has a way of writing the books that I need to read just when I need them most. Hands Free Mama was her first and that book helped me to be a little less attached to my phone and more present in my life. Only Love Todayis like a warm hug every time I pick it up and read the day’s short entry. This treasure of a book has been gifted to every mama I love in the hopes that Rachel’s words can wrap them up in love, support and grace. Live Love Now is her latest book which comes out on April 28th. It is geared toward parents and caregivers of teens/pre-teens but I honestly think anyone who interacts with children ages 8 and up can benefit from this book.
Oh did my heart and soul need this book! Quarantine has brought up a host of issues in our house but the biggest have been the battles with my 13 year old. The battles over screens, chores and not wanting to participate in family events. My exasperated response to it all has been, “You are being such a teenager!” and these battles have left us both feeling pretty terrible. The strong bond we share feels more fragile and I often feel like I am drowning in these new and uncharted waters of hormones, independence seeking and boundary testing.
The pages of this book have been like a life line for my family. They have not only helped me to better parent my son but have made me look long and hard about some of the parenting choices I have made with my ten year old daughter. This book has prompted dinner time discussions around internet safety, the importance of human connection, fear and the things we are not willing to trade away when it comes to technology use. My son and I have had long talks about what is not working in our current situation and we are working to fix those things. I have taken pages and pages of notes for my husband and have spent many late nights sharing the words from this book. We have discussed how we can better support our children and show them that we love them for who they are and not what they accomplish.
For two years Rachel visited schools and asked teens to answer this question:
If you could give your parents or the world one message, what would it be?
Their answers were anonymous and as she read through the collected index cards in her car, she could not believe some of their responses.
“I put on a smile. People think I’m the happiest person in the world. I act as normal as possible. I break down only when I’m at home alone.”
“I fear I am unlovable, and this fear dictates my life.”
“Mom and Dad, I want you to see the amount of pain and stress I deal with all the time.”
“I wish my parents understood that I am not an athlete.”
-Live, Love, Now, Rachel Macy Stafford page 25
Her desire to help these teens, their parents and her own teenage girls resulted in Live Love Now. I can not recommend this book enough. Every parent should hear Rachel’s wisdom and the words of the teens who answered her question. Let’s help this generation of teens to feel loved, appreciated and heard. Thank you so much Rachel for once again writing a book that this world so desperately needs.
I have reviewed this book because it has spoken to be deeply. I have not received anything for my review and all of the thoughts and opinions here are my own.