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12 Essential Children’s Books

Mar. 2, 2020Sick of reading Paw Patrol Golden Books? Us too. Check out these parent-approved reads that are educational, inspirational, and include powerful lessons for tiny disruptors in the making.



I struggle with reading at bedtime.

Not because I don’t like reading to my kids, but too often, it’s because they reach for the books that didn’t make the grade for me — but were usually purchased by a well-intentioned family member or friend.

What precious time we have with our kids that isn’t spent preparing meals or scheduling our busy days, we get to spend doing the stuff we fantasized about before we made our families.

We get to educate. We get to inspire. We get to raise tiny humans that will go on to be good, decent adults and spread the changes in the world we hope to create in our own lifetimes.

We expound our own conscious desires for a better world onto someone with a fresh start, in the somewhat idealistic hope that in raising them right, we’ll be leaving a better world behind.

And I’m nothing if not idealistic.

But what I don’t find inspiring and engaging and living up to the pictures I painted in my imagination as I incubated my two little boys for a collective 20 months is reading about how Mayor Goodway can’t find her pet chicken for the 90th time.

Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

Like seriously Mayor Goodway, get your act together. And kids — can we please read something more relevant to everyday life?

I know, I sound like a snob, but I don’t care. I want them to be stimulated by complex ideas. I want them to understand the big stuff, the important stuff, and too often, I find that even for a writer, I struggle to articulate what I want them to learn.

These books provide parents with a resource they can use to sensitively explain abstract concepts to a young, easily impressionable mind, without scaring or overwhelming them. 

In the absence of knowing what to say and how to say it, these books do the job beautifully and help parents like me to raise conscientious, empathic individuals who are poised to lead meaningful lives.

We change, they change, they change others, and the world grows. 

Here are 11 profound books for developing minds.

#1 — Teach Them About the Big Bang

Older Than the Stars

By Karen C. Fox

A science writer for NASA’s Office of Communications, Karen C. Fox has written about scientific topics for over 30 years. Her book, Older Than the Stars, features a rhythmic tale that breaks down the very first moments of the universe’s creation, leading all the way up to the unlikely creation of intelligent life.

One beautiful premise is woven throughout the book: We are as old as the universe itself.

The book has two sets of text throughout — the larger version is ideal for younger kids up to six years old, and the smaller, more esoteric language is perfect for explaining the science to older kids.

BUY OLDER THAN THE STARS

 

#2 — Teach Them About Business As a Force For Good

The ABCs of Conscious Capitalism For Kids

By Laura Hall

Here at Avocado Green Mattress, we believe that business can be a powerful force for positive change in the world. The Conscious Capitalism organization was created by John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods, and coauthor of the grownup version of the book, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business.

Author Laura Hall captures a seemingly complex economic and business principle in a book designed for kids, to inspire them to innovate, be change-makers, and earn some cash doing it.

​”I believe business (capitalism) can be a positive force to help elevate humanity without hurting the planet,” she told me, “and it is our responsibility and privilege to educate and inspire young people so that they can make a difference in and through business.   

“Kids are changing the world and I want to help them. Frederick Douglass said over a century ago…‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’”

By the end of the book, kids will have a process for finding their own business idea that makes the world a better place.

BUY THE ABCS OF CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM

 

#3 — Teach Them to Stand Up for What They Believe In

A Is For Activist

By Innosanto Nagara

This board book is perfect for babies and toddlers, with bright illustrations, catchy rhymes, and subjects that’ll have parents reading every page with passion.

“I wrote A is for Activist to have the book that I wanted to read to my two year old over and over… and over and over again,” says Nagara. “I live in a cohousing community with many kids and families who are engaged in social justice activism, teaching, and organizing. So I wanted the book to share what we do, who we are, and what we value. 

“At the same time, it needed to be engaging for a toddler and fun for their adults to read. Enthusiasm is contagious, while nothing kills the joy of books more than a reader who is dying of boredom. A is for Activist, like all my books, is about ‘agency.’ Familiarizing kids with the vocabulary, the aesthetics, and (most importantly) the spirit of engaging actively in the world we live in. And looking for the cat hiding in each page.”

The book focuses on core issues like equality, LGBTQ rights, and environmental justice, giving parents the words they need to convey several complex subjects in a way that’s engaging for young minds and written to educate as their grasp of these ideas develops over time.

BUY A IS FOR ACTIVIST

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

#4 — Teach Them To Ignore the Negative Voice Inside

I Can Be Anything, Don’t Tell Me I Can’t

By Diane Dillon

In this 32-page book, award-winning author Diane Dillon teaches children to aim sky high and to ignore the naysayers — even the ones in their own mind.

The whimsical tale of a little girl named Zoe takes readers on a journey to finding self love, courage, and having faith in her ability to conquer the seemingly impossible. This book is a great way to teach preschool-aged kids about effort, believing in themselves — and that haters gon’ hate.

BUY I CAN BE ANYTHING

 

#5 — Teach Them Nobody Can Hold Them Back

Woke Baby

By Mahogany L. Browne

There’s adversity in this world. There are advantages, and there are disadvantages, depending on who you are. But they do not have to keep you down, and Woke Baby knows that.

Funny, inflammatory for internet trolls, and completely adorable in its language and illustration, Woke Baby tells the tale of a fierce little social justice warrior in the making. 

Be loud, be proud, and let nothing hold you back — or Woke Baby’s gonna call you out.

BUY WOKE BABY

 

#6 — Teach Them About Consent

C Is For Consent

By Eleanor Morrison

The topic of physical touch and personal consent is a big one, and can be a difficult thing to explain to children who are continually bombarded by persistent requests from well-meaning family members for hugs and kisses.

C Is for Consent teaches an age-appropriate way to address physical boundaries and empowers children to say no, even to authority figures, when it comes to touching their bodies. It also shares the powerful message that even for those we want to hug and show affection to, consent is required.

Written for preschoolers, toddlers, and school-aged kids, the book is equally educational for grandparents and caregivers who might need a refresher on respecting a child’s decision not to be hugged or show physical affection.

BUY C IS FOR CONSENT

 

#7 — Teach Them to Stand Up for Each Other

Feminism Is For Boys

By Elizabeth Rhodes

In Feminism Is For Boys, author Elizabeth Rhodes conveys the idea that feminism should be the norm among all genders, not the exception. In pursuit of eliminating gender stereotypes for both men and women, Rhodes illustrates that girls can play sports just as boys can wear dresses and that there’s nothing inherently wrong with either.

To be a feminist is not a male or female quality, but an egalitarian quality — an idea that is so beautifully portrayed in this colorful children’s book.

BUY FEMINISM IS FOR BOYS

 

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

#8 — Teach Them to Waste Nothing

Compost Stew

By Mary McKenna Siddals

I’ve talked about Compost Stew a couple of times here at Avocado Living because it’s one of the few toddler-aged books to simply explain why composting is so important.

Adorably illustrated and articulated with simple aesthetic, the author explains what’s okay to put in compost, why it’s so valuable to the earth, and the do’s and don’ts for compost-makers in the making.

BUY COMPOST STEW

 

#9 — Teach Them to Love Themselves As They Are

It’s Okay to Be Different

By Todd Parr

I love Todd Parr’s books. They’re full of emotionally intelligent ideas and lessons, illustrated on colorful, book-eating-baby proof boardbook pages that withstand lots of drool and abuse at home.

But best of all, they cultivate love for self and love for others in ways that can be difficult to articulate, particularly for those parents who still struggle with these concepts themselves.

*Raises hand*

“My goal in writing this book was for kids to have fun reading it, and inspire them to feel good about who they are, while learning about difference in the world,” says Parr. “So much of what I write about represents so much of what I experienced when I was younger.”

It’s Okay to Be Different is adorably simple, bright, colorful, and full of reminders that the world is full of people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and places. The book is a sweet reminder that we’re all different, and that that’s amazing, not something to be ashamed of.

BUY IT’S OKAY TO BE DIFFERENT

 

#10 — Teach to About Gratitude

The Giving Tree

By Shel Silverstein

The Giving Tree is one of the most lauded children’s books of all time, and with good reason. Though hauntingly sad at times, the classic book touches on the repercussions of a take-take relationship, and what a lack of gratitude can bring.

As the tree gives and gives selflessly to a boy who only comes to take from it, the writer illustrates painfully that eventually, taking without thought of reciprocation leads to depletion — a powerful metaphor for our planet, and our social lives.

BUY THE GIVING TREE

 

#11 — Teach Them About Life’s Highs and Lows

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

By Dr. Seuss

Easily one of my favorite books of all time (that includes grownup titles), Oh, The Places You’ll Go! is a whimsical and motivating depiction of real life, an uplifting story of a rise to triumph. But what I really like about this book is that it talks about the not-so-nice parts of trying really hard in life: failing.

Being stuck in a slump. Feeling lost. Feeling alone. Being stuck in your own head.

While seemingly deep and complex, Dr. Seuss conveys ideas that even an adult can stand to remember from time to time.

BUY OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

 

#12 — Teach Them About Climate Change

Little Blue Planet

Anaïs La Rocca & Eve Grissinger

A story we all share, our children’s book was lovingly designed to educate and inspire young readers about climate change and caring for our little blue planet. We’re also proud to donate all profits to 1% for the Planet.

With colorful illustrations and strong words, Little Blue Planet can be enjoyed by children and adults of all ages!

BUY LITTLE BLUE PLANET

 

What’s your favorite book to read to your kids? Tell us on Facebook or Instagram and tag us in the post! @AvocadoMattress and #AvocadoGreenMagazine!

Destiny Hagest

By Destiny Hagest

 —  Destiny is a freelance writer with a background in sustainability and natural health. She lives in the mountains of central Montana with her husband and young son. When she's not writing or chasing her toddler, you can find her wandering the quiet wilderness in search of wild herbs and antler sheds.

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