The Power of Reading for Children

All of us and many of you love children’s books.  This sentiment is validated monthly when we look at our online metrics  – one of the most popular pages on our site is the page that features children’s book recommendations. 

Obviously, there are many beautifully written and illustrated books for children, too many to document here in one blog post. That being said, we choose specific books to share with you that we believe can help create the next generation of global citizens by exploring the following themes:

  • Generosity
  • Caring for others
  • Multi-culturalism
  • Empowerment and perseverance

Brooke Herter James is a Global Grandmother from South Reading, Vermont and a children’s book author herself. She has agreed to highlight several books by interviewing the authors. Our blog will feature these interviews quarterly.

Brooke Herter James, fellow Global Grandmother

Brooke’s first interview is with Suzy Becker, author of Kids Make It Better. We’ve featured a transcript of that interview below:

Brooke Herter James: I see all four of Global Grandmothers themes  – generosity, caring for others, multi-culturalism, empowerment, and perseverance in ‘Kids Make It Better’, presented with a generous dose of humor. What role does humor play in your writing for kids?

Suzy Becker: Thank you! Humor plays a role in all of my writing, even for babies. When you make someone laugh, you have undeniably succeeded in making a connection. Once you’ve done that, you can talk or write about all kinds of things. In Kids Make It Better, humor lightens some serious subjects, but I really can’t take credit for it.  Most of it’s in the kids’ words.

 

BHJ: Is there a specific event that triggered the writing of this book?

SB: Yes, a teachable moment, which could just as easily been a teaching debacle. I was working with a group of 3rd graders who I saw weekly. We were checking in with each other and one of them mentioned she’d seen a sad picture of a bird in the newspaper. Others had seen the same photo of a pelican with its feathers doused in oil. I jettisoned my lesson plan and passed out blank paper. “You’re in charge,” I told them. “Pretend you’re a world leader, or a scientist, a movie star, athlete, maybe an inventor, what would they do to clean up that oil spill?” There were a few moments when it all could have gone south, then they started to write and draw. “I’d get a big helicopter with a really big sponge and lower it down, soak up all the oil on top of the water…” You could feel the tension dispelling.  I thought, “Wow, if they can solve this problem that was really bothering them five minutes ago, they can solve anything! Eighty classrooms/problems later, I had the makings for this book.

 

Suzy Becker and class

 

BHJ: Who did you write this book for?

SB: It’s dedicated to my daughter, niece and nephew, but the book is for all of us. Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Kids’ solutions give me such hope. And, as the “This Really Works!” sidebars point out, a lot of their so-called imaginary answers have real-life counterparts. When I asked kids how to earthquake-proof a house, one favorite answer was, “Cover it in Jell-O.” Another was put it on springs. Structural engineers have designed foundations with systems of springs. I also included bios of kids under the age of ten who’ve made serious inroads on problems like homelessness or water access with an Action Plan at the back of the book. Setting world problem-solving aside for a second, we all want to raise happy kids. One of the only known markers for happiness in adulthood is the feeling you made a difference, helped others in childhood.

 

BHJ: How did this book change as it went from idea to published manuscript? Did you ask your daughter for feedback?

SB: The book changed very little. After I chose the answers, I had the kid-authors art-direct the illustrations. My daughter was only five at the time. I ran some of the questions by her to make sure they were clear.

 

BHJ: What is your favorite children’s book that touches on the themes mentioned above? (besides your own, of course!)

SB: I loved reading Whoever You Are by Mem Fox at bedtime with my daughter.

 

Suzy Becker, author of ‘Kids Make it Better’

Suzy Becker Bio: An award-winning author, artist, educator, and activist, Suzy Becker’s first book was the internationally bestselling ‘All I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat’. She has since written and illustrated five other books for all ages. Now in 49th grade, Suzy never really left school. She’s been a sub, a teacher, or a visiting artist ever since she graduated from Brown University.

Vulnerable Children, Climate Change, and the Need to Act

During rainy days, it’s easy to think about the weather but often harder to think about the changing climate. Yet our rapidly changing climate that poses the immediate threat to the health and well-being of many children around the world.

What are the impacts of climate change and, importantly, how does climate change affect vulnerable children? What is our role as adults and as Global Grandmothers? There’s a lot we can do – if we act now on behalf of today’s children and future generations.

“My parents talk about the beautiful country that we live in. Now I only see small pieces of it, which is enough to make me happy, but because the climate is changing I won’t have anything to show my children.” – Mohammed, age 15, Maldives. 1

Climate change is happening quickly. According to NASA and other climate sources, the hottest years on record are 2017, 2016, and 2012, with all 10 of the world’s hottest years occurring during the past 20 years. Why is this happening? More than 97% of climate change scientists agree that humans are responsible for climate change, due largely to our increased use of fossil fuels.

What are the main impacts of climate change? Climate changes act as an amplifier,
increasing both the frequency and severity of extreme weather events (EWEs) that make headlines, like hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and heat waves. Sometimes less “newsworthy” but equally disastrous are the gradual, insidious changes currently affecting huge geographical areas, nations, and continents. These include prolonged droughts, rising sea levels, changing growing seasons, and the loss of habitable land.

We’re witnessing disastrous effects on ecosystems, including historic increases in species’ extinction. We’re seeing how climate change disrupts basic requirements for human health – water, air, and food, leading to higher mortality and disease prevalence, economic hardships and forced migration. The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of those seriously affected are children.

Combating climate change is an issue that’s in line with the mission of Global Grandmothers. Sudden disasters and gradual changes impact millions of families and their abilities to protect their children. Children, especially poor children, are at disproportionally greater risk from climate change’s deleterious impact.

About 85% of all children live in countries with average or lower than average incomes and fewer resources to deal with catastrophes. It’s also become clear that even wealthy countries, like the U.S., have struggled to protect children and families from impacts of recent “mega” hurricanes and wildfires. Children are also suffering from other impacts of climate change, like the rising prevalence of asthma from increased pollution due to climate change.

Flooding following Hurricane Harvey’s wrath in Houston

Surveys from around the world show that the overwhelming majority of adults and young people agree that climate change poses a real and immediate threat. Despite efforts of climate change deniers, research shows that adults, adolescents, and children are worried:

“I believe that if we as humans do not change our behavior and actions that are affecting the marine life, consequences of these decisions can result in havoc for the entire world.” – Andrea, high school student, Cook Islands 2

This powerful quote comes from an official statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“The social foundations of children’s mental and physical health are threatened by the specter of far-reaching effects of unchecked climate change, including community and global instability, mass migrations, and increased conflict. Given this knowledge, failure to take prompt, substantive action would be an act of injustice to all children. A paradigm shift in production and consumption of energy is both a necessity and an opportunity for major innovation, job creation, and significant, immediate associated health benefits.” 3

Anthony Lake, Executive Director UNICEF (2015), stated the challenge simply and eloquently:

“No human responsibility runs deeper than the charge of every generation to care for the generation that follows it. For current and future generations of children, and for us all, the stakes could not be higher.”

Worldwide, major health organizations and humanitarian NGO’s underscore that children are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. As caring adults and Global Grandmothers, it’s our responsibility to act, to support children and future generations worldwide.

The nonprofits we support provide needed structure to the most vulnerable children in the world, many of whom are at risk of being negatively affected by climate change. To help on this pressing issue, please support Global Grandmothers, as well as our recommended nonprofits.

In addition, here are some helpful resources for adults and children for how to help further:

For adults:

https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
https://climate.nasa.gov/solutions/adaptation-mitigation/

For children:

https://climatekids.nasa.gov
https://climatekids.nasa.gov/how-to-help/