Wednesday, 6 May 2015

How do we tell them? Top 10 Picture Books of New Experiences and Life Lessons

Growing up is scary. Once you finally have a child settled into a routine, changing that routine in any small way can be an ordeal. From going to the doctor or even just sleeping in their own bed, there are a huge amount of experiences that are new and scary for the little ones. Sometimes you need a little help explaining what’s going on in a way that kids will understand. Here are the top 10 books for introducing kids to new experiences and making everything just a little less scary.

1579085210. The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen.
Having kids that are afraid of the dark is nothing new. The fear of the unknown can make even the most settled of children run into mum and dad’s bed at night. This book is the perfect combination of beautiful story-telling and illustration as it tells the tale of Laszlo, a little boy who gets visited by the Dark and realises that, with the help of a night-light, the Dark isn’t that scary after all.

114495519. The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic, illustrated by Olivier Tallec.
Now this one is a tough read. A little boy wakes up to find his mother has died and the book explores how he deals with his grief by shutting the windows to keep her smell in the house and picking at a cut on his knee because it reminds him of the comforting embrace of his mum. Although this book has the ability to make you well up even if you’re not grieving, the fact that this book explains the loss of a parent automatically makes children feel like they are not alone and that their feelings are valid; something that is extremely important when it comes to such difficult situations. And sometimes it’s important to cry and small children need to know that it’s alright to do it. This book encompasses that perfectly.

1179978. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole.
This is an absolutely lovely book and one which is sure to become all the more important in Ireland as same-sex adoption becomes more the norm. This is a book based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo who were different from the others but had the same urges to have a family as the others. The zoo-keepers gave them an egg which had been rejected by its mother and they raised it just as they would have in a male/female scenario. This book is great for introducing kids to a different kind of family or even preparing them for how some people might perceive their own family structure. There are other books out there with human characters but goodness knows kids react better to cute animals so you really can’t go wrong!

8036481  7. There’s Going to be a Baby by John Burningham, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.
Trying to explain the arrival of a new baby to a small child is not easy. You can imagine that all they hear is that mummy and daddy won’t have as much time to play because there will be a new person in the house. That’s why books like this one are great. It answers all the questions your little one might have about the new arrival but in a way that makes it sound less daunting and maybe even exciting. It is particularly helpful for only children as the idea of sharing everything with someone can be a difficult one to master.

4532346. Going to the Doctor by Anne Civardi, illustrated by Stephen Cartwright.
The Usborne First Experiences series is a must have for explaining important concepts to children. Going to the doctor is one which is particularly important to get right. It is vital that kids know they can trust doctors and that they are there to help. The doctor’s surgery can be a very daunting place with strange noises and smells and new people; even just having a basic idea of what to expect can make the visits run a lot smoother.


5. Topsy and Time Make a New Friend by Jean and Gareth Adamson.

Topsy and Tim are another staple series that have excelled at introducing readers to a wide range of subjects. In this book, there is a new kid in class and she’s in a wheelchair. The kids learn how to be respectful but also realise that she is just like them and wants to play. Seeing kids with different abilities can be a jarring scenario and so preparing them for it can be a great help.

180637894. My Body Belongs to Me! By Pro Familia, illustrated by Dagmar Geisler.
This book is a child-friendly approach to a very serious issue. Trying to explain to children the diference between adult contact from a family member or friend and that of a stranger can be a confusing concept for a young person to understand. It is only recently that schools in Ireland have started teaching the difference in class so that the information is out there. My Body Belongs to Me! helps  make this conversation easier as it explains in simple terms what is alright and what is not and how to tell someone if the worst happens.

34765603. The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin, translated by Elisa Amado and illustrated by Rosana Faría.
This is one of my favourite children’s books of all time. A book completely done in black, the illustrations are raised and the words are accompanied by a braille translation to give sighted children an idea of how blind people percieve the world. The text describes how blind people imagine colour to be and what they associate them with instead of what they see. A must for children who want to learn but also adults who can appriciate the beauty of the work.

69899162. My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete.
As awareness of autism spreads, so too does the need for information regarding the condition to reach children. My Brother Charlie explains how it can be difficult taking care of Charlie sometimes but that he is amazing in so many other ways, all from the point of view of his sister. It gives us an insight into families who include people with autism but also shows us that it is not a disablity to be autistic. 

  1. Two Homes by Claire Masurel, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Divorce is not an easy thing at the best of times, but it’s even more so when there are children involved. Two Homes manages to look at a bright side and the story is told from the point-of-view of Alex, who has two homes now but each is good for different reaons. He knows his parents both still love him but that they don’t live together anymore. The does not need to be any more detail in this book, it deliveres exactly what is needed for the situation and helps kids to settle with the idea of a new family situation.

Did I miss any? Have any interesting stories of trying to explain the word to you little ones? Comment below!