Things are not always as they seem. That applies to just about everything. Perhaps the most important issue in this regard is people - our perception of another person and the relationship we develop or fail to develop with that person.
From time to time we all fall victim to thinking that who we are, where and how we live, what we do, and so on, is the "right" way, the best way, the only way. This is ethnocentrism, and that attitude is dangerous. It's the reason wars are waged, why neighbors can't get along, why friendships are not forged.
We need to teach children to guard against narrow-mindedness. The best way to accomplish this is by our example, for children are influenced by the adults in their life and will copy adult behavior. Another avenue to help children in this regard is to read books together that address these issues, such as the ones reviewed below. Not only will these books be helpful to children, but hopefully will cause adults to examine their own thoughts and behaviors. Take a look and see what you think.
Books to Borrow
The following book is available at many public libraries.
"Whoever You Are" by Mem Fox, illustrated by Leslie Staub, Harcourt Brace and Company, 32 pages
Read aloud: age 4 and older. Read yourself: age 7Ð8 and older.
In this strong and wonderful book, author Mem Fox and illustrator Leslie Staub have created a masterpiece that should be read by people of all ages and taken to heart.
There are people all over the world, just like you. Their skin may be a different color than yours, their words may be different as well as their lives, "but inside their hearts are just like yours, whoever they are, wherever they are, all over the world." We smile the same, cry and feel the same hurts, our joys are the same and love is the same, all over the world.
This is a powerful book that embraces the hope of a truly unified world; one that transcends cultural, ethnic and religious differences and celebrates the goodness of our diversity and the endless ways that we are all really the same.
Library: Dayton Valley Branch Library, 321 Old Dayton Valley Road
Branch Manager: Theresa Kenneston
Choices this week: "Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook" by Michael Garland; "Miss Spider's Tea Party" by David Kirk; "One Monkey Too Many" by Jackie French Koller
Books to Buy
The following books are available at favorite bookstores.
"What I Like About Me!" by Allia Zobel-Nolan, illustrated by Miki Sakamoto, Reader's Digest Children's Books, 2005, 14 pages, $14.99 hardcover
Read aloud: age 3Ð7. Read yourself: age 6Ð7.
No two people are alike, and the kids in this book think that's terrific! Featuring children talking about what they like about themselves, readers gain a positive perspective on differences and why we should all celebrate in that.
One boy loves his spiky hair while a girl loves the way her hair becomes curly in damp weather. A girl loves her braces and how they make her teeth shine, and a boy loves his big ears, especially when the girls laugh when he wiggles them.
Whether it's freckles or glasses or different choices for lunch, these and other differences are portrayed in a positive, upbeat way.
With tabs to pull, touch-and-feel elements, and flaps to open, this fun book delivers important messages on acceptance, understanding, and learning to like yourself and others for the unique qualities we all possess.
"Am I a Color Too?" by Heidi Cole & Nancy Vogl, illustrated by Gerald Purnell, Illumination Arts, 2005, 32 pages, $15.95 hardcover
Read aloud: age 4 and older. Read yourself: age 7 and older.
The young narrator of this book wonders why people focus so much on labeling people's skin color rather than seeing a person for who and what they are inside, where it counts. People call his father "black" and his mother "white," and he wonders, "Am I a color too?"
Beautifully written and illustrated, this simple yet profound book serves as an important inspiration to look beyond the outward appearance of every person and see the beauty and worth that exists within.
n Nationally syndicated, Kendal Rautzhan writes and lectures on children's literature. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.