Growing Readers Review: Stories from around the World

Teacher reading to three toddlers

Young children make daily progress through the developmental stages. We can watch them learn to sit, to walk, to speak, to add, to read, and to ride a bicycle. But what else is happening as these young minds and bodies are developing? When does a child learn to appreciate differences among friends, to feel compassion for those less fortunate, to conserve the earth's resources?

These are big lessons even for adults, but the education of a caring human being begins in the very early years. And a body of wonderful children’s literature supports and motivates this learning.

Greg Mortenson set out to climb one of the world's tallest mountains. He didn't reach that goal, but instead changed the lives of young students in the remote mountains of Pakistan. His book Three Cups of Tea tells his amazing story, but this is not a tale just for adults. There is a young readers' adaptation and even a preschool version, Listen to the Wind, that shows young children that one very ordinary man can make an extraordinary difference in the world.

On yet another continent, Wangari Maathai saw a problem that could have seemed too staggering for a nation, much less for any one person, to solve. But with unflinching vision, this inspired woman started a movement to save the economy of her country and the health of its citizens, repairing the world one tree at a time. Claire Nivola tells her story in Planting the Trees of Kenya.

To Be a Kid explores the commonalities of childhood around the world in a format accessible to infants and toddlers alike. The words and photographs of children's everyday lives show the similarities of kids everywhere while celebrating the differences.

Who will make the world a better place? Perhaps it will be the young reader in your lap.

By Susan C. Brenner, EdD

Teacher reading to three toddlers
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