Growing Readers Review: Toward a Better World

Diverse group of young kids sitting together outside

At this point in history, it is more important than ever for adults to give children the opportunity to contribute positively toward a better world – making kindness, compassion, and generosity the qualities we model for them.

Excellent children’s literature can play a key role in this process. Books allow us to introduce children to concepts such as welcoming and inclusion, and help us address concepts we might find challenging to discuss. “Mommy, Mama, and Me” and “Daddy, Papa, and Me” provide drawings of families in everyday life – great for children in LGBT families or to help positively introduce LGBT families to children for whom this is a new concept. “Water Princess” is the beautiful story of an African girl and her mother who walk miles each day to get water to bring back for their family. “Lotus & Feather” tells about a little girl in China (Lotus) who rescues an injured crane she names Feather and nurses him back to health.

Each of these books will help expand children’s visions of the world and will introduce them to the roles they can take in creating a better world.

By Linda C. Whitehead, Ph.D., Senior Advisor, Education and Development


Mommy, Mama, and Me, written by Lesléa Newman; illustrated by Carol Thompson, Infant/Toddler: From daily routines to playing on the playground, this book reveals all the fun that can be had when a day is spent with your two mommies. The reader is drawn in by the colorful illustrations and rhythmic words.

Daddy, Papa, and Me, written by Lesléa Newman; illustrated by Carol Thompson, Infant/Toddler: In the counterpart to “Mommy, Mama, and Me,” this book highlights how two dads spend the day interacting with their baby. From playing dress-up to racing cars, the reader will be drawn in by the exciting illustrations and rhyming text.

The Water Princess, written by Susan Verde; illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, Preschool: “The Water Princess” lives in Africa, a world where water is precious and limited. Gie Gie and her mother make the trek daily to fetch water for their family. Despite the strenuous journey, they sing and dance and find joy as they meet with friends who are also there to get water for their families. The story brings attention to a struggle all over the world today, where children don’t easily have access to clean drinking water. The simple message points towards ways children can help.

A Small Thing. . . but Big, written by Tony Johnston; illustrated by Hadley Hooper, Preschool: Lizzie is afraid of dogs. During a visit to the park, she meets an elderly man who gently introduces her to his dog. In small steps, Lizzie first gives the dog a pat, then walks next to the dog, then holds the leash. Each step is “a small thing. . . but big.” Lizzie eventually walks the dog and is very pleased with overcoming her fear of dogs.

Lotus & Feather, written by Ji-li Jiang; illustrated by Julie Downing, School-Age: “Lotus & Feather” is an endearing tale of a lonely young girl who has lost her voice. When she rescues a rare, injured crane at a lake near her home, she and her grandfather work to nurse him back to health. Feather, the grateful crane, becomes her first real friend and Lotus learns how to use a reed to play music that “speaks” to Feather. Feather follows Lotus everywhere and entertains children by dancing to the music of the reed. Eventually, Feather heals and both Lotus and Feather have to learn to let each other go. They learn that the friendship between them ends up being the bond that has healed them both.


Little Bitty Friends, written by Elizabeth McPike; illustrated by Patrice Barton, Infant & Toddler: In wonderful rhyming text, this book tells about a child’s interest in small things, from a mouse, to a ladybug, to a turtle. With beautifully drawn illustrations and brief text, this story is sure to be a favorite of our youngest book lovers.

Thank You!, written and illustrated by Ethan Long, Infant & Toddler: Parent and child will enjoy identifying not only animals, but shapes, colors, and objects as they explore this book over and over again. This early introduction to giving and saying “thank you” is an entertaining example for the youngest readers of learning about caring for others.

Friends, written and illustrated by Aiko Ikegami, Preschool: A simple storyline and engaging drawings make this a perfect choice for preschoolers. A new girl, looking for friends, shares a meal and playtime with the animals outdoors. Eventually, the other children join in – even a surprise friend from outer space.

Stella Brings the Family, written by Miriam B. Schiffer; illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, Preschool: Stella is stumped when it comes time to invite a special guest to her school Mother’s Day celebration. With two dads, whom should she include? Readers will enjoy learning Stella’s solution.

Brick by Brick, written and illustrated by Giuliano Ferri, Preschool: When a curious mouse removes a flower growing in the crack of a wall, he calls his friends for help removing the bricks to see the animals on the other side. This book for young children explores how people can work together to take down walls and build bridges as a means to evoke change.

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, written by John David Anderson, School-Age: Three boys, upon learning of their beloved teacher’s cancer diagnosis, set about trying to make her last day at school the best ever. Not surprisingly, the day doesn’t turn out quite as planned.

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Diverse group of young kids sitting together outside