Archive for April 2012

We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow and illustrated by Bob Staake

Same, Same, but Different, by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

I think there is a strong connection between valuing the environment and valuing other people. Just a month ago it was big news as the world’s population reached 7 billion humans, with a prediction this number will reach 10 billion by 2050. I’m a fan of the hundreds of little acts each of us can take to help protect mother earth, but this Earth Day, I’m focusing on how caring for the environment intertwines with caring for others. Some of these others may be friends (so that is easy), but there are many more who need the same basic human rights we often take for granted (freedom of expression, housing, clean water and nutritious food, education and opportunity, safety and a secure community of support).

While it feels difficult to explain the complexities and connection of environmental protection and human rights to young children, the two books highlighted in this blog set a basis to start from. Both books contrast a North American child and family with an international counterpart. In We Planted a Tree the main voice is from Kenya with glimpses of other locations around the globe, while in Same, Same, but Different the pen pal is located in India. In both stories, even though the contrasted lives are different, they also share many similarities. The planted tree has a clear ecological impact no matter where it is planted. These stories also move through time with their illustrations, so it is shown how what we do now, has an impact on future generations.

My daughters’ ages feel like a pivotal time for helping them develop attitudes and beliefs that may stay with them for a lifetime. So we talk a lot about, for example, not wasting water and about people in many other countries not having access to clean water. Recently, we watched the Water Brothers documentary series on TVO. This was a big deal not only because it meant watching television outside of our usual weekend viewing; it gave them a bit more awareness that this issue is real and more important than just remembering to turn off the tap. With these books we also talk about how other children live. While my information about how the chocolate treats we enjoy depends on the work some children are made to do on coca plantations may have been a bit over their heads, they are starting to make a connection about how our actions including our consumption are part of a system that needs correction. The environmental and social issues that challenge us now will certainly become urgent during their lifetime. While we are lucky to live in a country with plenty, we must also understand how our awareness and action is part of our responsibility to the world both environmentally and socially.

In the coming year(s) I’m committed to helping my daughters  learn more about conscientious consumerism, sustainable diet and valuing others, no matter what their colour, religion, race or socieconomic status. These will be some important contributions toward a better and more sustainable planet for everyone.

Happy Earth Day everyone! Send us a comment on how you and your emerging reader(s) are also helping to be the change!


Made with Love: How Babies Are Made by Kate Petty and illustrated by Charlotte Middleton

With spring in the air, I wanted to be a bit ahead of the curve on the subject of reproduction. It is a subject that Elizabeth has been curious about lately. After searching the library system, we ended up with Made with Love: How Babies Are Made. I felt it was important for her to have the correct information. It covers all the essential body parts as well as sex and how babies are born, with sensitivity and without talking down to her. It has been a great way to enable Elizabeth to feel free to ask questions about twins and a variety of other ideas she has obviously been thinking or perhaps hearing about in the school yard.

The book offers relaxed, friendly and matter-of-fact coverage of the topic. It is a great conversation starter and a better introduction than “the birds and the bees”. This is information that all children are curious about; as parents we need to be involved and make sure they learn about it from a reliable source first and keep the conversation open!

In Front of My House by Marianne Dubuc

It was brewing in the news and in the union support campaign all fall/winter, so the recently-ended strike by Toronto library staff should not have come as a surprise. The strike, which lasted two weeks, centred on the workers refusing a contract that would have diminished their job security. What could the city’s plan have resulted in? Reduced hours, fewer resources, closed branches and ultimately less access to books. Each morning Sophie and I walked past the librarian picket line in front of City Hall on our way to daycare. While some were the lovely early spring days in March, anyone who has ever been involved in any kind of public demonstration knows how grueling these efforts are.

I think all library users owe these workers a huge thank you for taking this very important stand.

During these two weeks I was constantly reminded of how important our library is in supporting my daughters’ learning. The challenge of new and interesting books is especially important for beginning readers. Last night Elizabeth began reading In Front of My House to Sophie and me. We found this book just waiting for us to pick up when our local Branch re-opened. Its unusual size, lovely illustrations, quirky use of font sizes and word placement, and use of repetition makes it a great book for those just becoming comfortable reading aloud.

This book provided a huge boost to Elizabeth’s confidence as a reader. It was also fun for Sophie to practice some counting. After Elizabeth had finished, Sophie flipped through the pages to re-tell her own version of the story. It was a lovely and positive way to end our day. I can’t thank the library enough for all the ways it enriches our lives.

We invite any other beginning readers ! to let us know some of the books that they have discovered on the shelves of their local branch. Welcome back!