In order to counter the current efforts by certain leaders to make us believe that there is such a thing as “us vs. them”, we need to talk to our kids about the fact that we are actually all part of one big human family. We all feel love, pain, fear, heartache and joy in the same way and at the same intensity. If we allow our leaders to talk about “others” in our communities, we will be complicit in allowing an environment where these “others” are then treated unfairly and unkindly. We need to call out this behaviour and explain to our kids that it is nonsense and not at all true. One of the best ways to talk to our kids about these big topics of inclusion, discrimination, shared humanity, equality and freedom for everyone, is through the books we read to them. So, we have created this list of 5 picture books that helped us teach our children that we are all more the same than we are different. All of these stories are super powerful in their ability to encourage our children to really empathize with the characters.
1. Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey, Written by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes and Illustrated by Sue Cornelison
This is a beautiful story about a family who had to flee their country because it had become too dangerous. It explains that the family could only take what they could carry, but they knew that they could not leave their cat behind. They had to find a way to bring him with them and keep him quiet on their journey. The cat gets lost amidst the chaos of the family arriving in Greece. The family spends their few days there searching for their cat, but have to continue on their journey, leaving their cat behind. A few days later, aid workers find the cat and try with all their hearts to reunite the cat with his family.
You can read more about this amazing book on its official website: https://www.lostandfoundcat.com/
2. Maddi’s Fridge, Written by Lois Brandt and Illustrated by Vin Vogel
This story introduces our children to the idea of food insecurity. It is also a great story for discussing the secrets that are OK to keep, and the ones that you really should share with a trusted adult – and that it is OK to share them with a trusted adult. And it empowers kids to find ways that they can help make things better. My daughter loved this book so much, she brought it into her class for her teacher to read to everyone. Her teacher loved it so much, she kept it another day to read with her second class of grade 2s.
You can read more about this amazing book here: Maddi’s Fridge
3. The Journey, Written and Illustrated by Francesca Sanna
This is a beautiful book that talks about the journey refugees must take when they have to leave their country because of war. It is based on the author’s interactions with people who were forced to go on journeys like these and told from the perspective of a child. I loved the story, the illustrations, I even loved the feel of the paper.
You can read more about this amazing book on its official website: https://francescasanna.com/portfolio/the-journey/
4. Stolen Words, Written by Melanie Florence and Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
This beautiful book introduces children to the inter-generational trauma that was created by the Indian Residential Schools, which separated Indigenous children from their families. This book does this through the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. It demonstrates the healing power of love, as the little girl works towards helping her grandfather find his language again.
You can read more about this amazing book here: Stolen Words
5. The Enemy: A Book About Peace, Written by Davide Cali and Illustrated by Serge Bloch
This book has the most beautiful message of peace and it shares it in so few words. The words are used so perfectly to express this message of peace, no word is wasted, no extra words are added. It is perfect. The soldier talks about being taught that the “enemy” is a monster, but then he learns that the “enemy” is actually quite similar to him.
You can read more about this amazing book here: The Enemy
This collection of 5 picture books is a great starter kit for raising inclusive, compassionate, kind, empowered children.