Kids' Books That Inspire Community Service
The latest 'Raising Readers' column
We all want to raise our kids to be well-rounded, compassionate and successful in their careers, but we also want them to be purpose-driven members of society who know the importance of giving back to the community. The holiday season is the perfect time to introduce kids to various community service opportunities and volunteer efforts. Here are some children’s books to inspire and encourage just that.
In “Percy’s Neighborhood” (Charlesbridge, 32 pages, Amazon hardcover, $6.09), author Stuart J. Murphy, a visual learning specialist who also wrote the award-winning “MathStart” series, brings us a story about knowing one’s community and being willing to pitch in when needed. While Percy is helping his dad hang signs for the neighborhood fun run, he meets the community aides who make his See and Learn City a better place to live, work and play. Along they way, they’ll meet the doctor who keeps everyone healthy, the firefighters who help stop and prevent fires, the police officer who keeps everyone safe and the librarian who helps people learn. This book teaches kids and parents that the more they learn about their neighborhoods, the more they will understand how society functions. It was written for ages 2-5, with a focus on building cognitive skills.
“Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf” (Sterling Children’s Books, 32 pages, Amazon hardcover $11.64), is 11-year old author and environmental activist Olivia Bouler’s unique story about backyard birds and the rare and endangered species often found in the wild. Inspired by the Gulf Coast oil spill, Olivia wrote a letter to the Audubon Society offering her own bird paintings to raise money for recovery efforts. The idea took off and she sent out more than 500 paintings, which are captured in this picture book. She writes, “even though people are working hard to protect birds and other animals, we are still doing things that can hurt them. … The good news is that hard work and dedication can save birds.” She offers tips on protecting the environment such as: building a bird feeder, setting up a neighborhood recycling group, composting, and cutting down on paper consumption. This book was written for ages 3-9 and supports Audubon’s conservation mission, including Gulf Coast cleanup efforts.
In “The Kindness Quilt” (Cavendish Square Publishing, 48 pages, Amazon hardcover $23.98), author Nancy Elizabeth Wallace uses origami illustrations to tell the story of how one classroom teacher, Mrs. Bloom, teaches her students that random acts of kindness make the community a better place. The main character, little Minna, and her classmates have been instructed to work on a Kindness Project. Minna does so many acts of kindness throughout the week (reading to her younger brother, taking out the trash, sharing soup with her neighbors and more), she doesn’t know what to choose. In the end it does not really matter, because once she gets to school and sees all her classmates also sharing their acts of kindness, they decide to build a big kindness quilt and realize that the kindness “kept growing and growing.” This book, written for ages 6-8, teaches children that kindness can be contagious.
“Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community” (Simon & Schuster,
40 pages, Amazon hardcover $16.69), is author Susan Verde’s newly released picture book about a boy who takes on a community art project in order to make his neighborhood more attractive. The boy recounts all of the fun events that happen right in front of the bleak, empty wall each day (kids share stories, chase down the ice cream truck and watch flowers grow through cracks in the sidewalk) — all the while noting that the wall just sits there, vacant and void of life. “Hey, Wall! Guess what? I’m ready to change all that,” the boy says. Eventually, he and his neighbors use the wall as their canvas to tell the story of their community and its residents. This book celebrates urban renewal and shows that ordinary people can work together to undertake transformative projects to benefit their communities. This book was written for ages 4-8.
Elizabeth Lincicome is a mother, communications expert and freelance writer based in Raleigh.