Beyond Dr. Seuss and Big Nate
September 11, 2019 2:00 PM   Subscribe

It seems to me that children's books for kids under, say 10, are about relationships. For younger kids, they seem to be about individual behavior. As the kids get older (probably following their progression through elementary school), the relationship stories seem to get more complicated by dealing with relationship dynamics and interrelational politics.

But when I see the news, so much more of the world has to do with things we don't talk to kids about but they see (even if they don't understand). Like, I just heard a story about how the UN says something bad is going on in a country while the country itself says nothing bad is going on. This is a story about authority and truth and perspective. I'm sure, In the source of their day, some kid, somewhere comes into contact with some version of this.

Could a story like that, geared way to down to a kid in that impressionable age group, be written? What is the history of people who've tried to create children's books like this? How have parents or society in general, reacted? In cases where these stories have been created, what has been the reaction of kids? Were they interested?
posted by CollectiveMind to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you mean child-friendly explanations of actual news items, or learning to see through a “who do you believe, me or your lying eyes?” kind of situation?

For the latter, I highly recommend I Want My Hat Back. I’ve read it to a bunch of kids, and it’s interesting to see how some kids take the lies in the story at face value until you point them out.

The Gruffalo does this too but you’re cheering for the liar. I Want My Hat Back is a bit more open to interpretation.
posted by tchemgrrl at 2:21 PM on September 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Are you talking about fictionalizing this type of conflict/dynamic, or sharing a nonfiction account of difficult topics in a kid-friendly way? Because I'll say that in elementary school my daughter brought home a book about Nuclear Meltdowns, for example (!!!), which launched interesting conversations about power structures and cover-ups. She went through books about historical figures like Jackie Robinson, Ruby Bridges, Sacajawea and Nelson Mandela, as well as books that focused on global warming, witch hunts, the Holocaust, deadly tornadoes, and Pompeii - some couched in fiction and some straight nonfiction - as early as 6 or 7 years old, written for children. To be honest I found it all slightly terrifying but such child-appropriate narratives are indeed out there.
posted by nkknkk at 2:43 PM on September 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

(I should add that the language/vocabulary/illustrations were geared towards very young people. YMMV for your own child whether anything is "child-appropriate").
posted by nkknkk at 2:44 PM on September 11, 2019

The instagram account The Conscious Kid delves into this pretty frequently, and has lots and lots of examples of books written about social justice issues. Reading through their posts might help with your questions quite a bit.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 2:52 PM on September 11, 2019

Your example is about not trusting authority. For kids, if you're going to teach them to trust some people and not trust others, what exactly would you teach them, in a book? Always trust your parents? Some parents aren't trustworthy. Always trust people who say the right things, who look the right way? That's just providing a method for psychopaths.

The truth is that trustworthiness is proven over a long period of time based on personal experiences, and trusting other people based on the endorsements of people you know you can trust. I guess it would be possible to show that in a book, but maybe not a simple book.
posted by amtho at 4:05 PM on September 11, 2019

Not 100% sure what you are looking for - nonfiction? fiction that deals with complicated true events? - but The Pushcart War is a great, funny book about protesting corruption and totally age appropriate for small kids (Probably a 4th-5th grade reading level but if you're talking about younger kids, you can read it to them. I probably introduced my son to it around age 6?)
posted by Mchelly at 6:36 PM on September 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Click, Clack, Moo is a baby book about farm animals who find a typewriter, ask the Farmer for creature comforts, and go on strike when he refuses. It's funny and cute, and role-models unionization in a somewhat realistic way.

A is for Activist, and Counting on Community
, are two baby books that introduce revolutionary vocab in really simple ways for babies, including role modelling saying "no".
posted by nouvelle-personne at 10:09 PM on September 11, 2019

Challenging authority is a major theme in children's literature. You might be interested in the scholarly anthology, Tales for Little Rebels.
posted by the_blizz at 6:36 AM on September 12, 2019

These are all great suggestions. Thank you.
posted by CollectiveMind at 2:35 PM on September 13, 2019

I think Harry Potter is a great example of this -- learning what the right thing is to do, even when unpopular, even against the government and press. That's a theme in a lot of fantasy and sci-fi that you can find at least in age seven and up.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:58 PM on September 13, 2019

« Older Concatenating Bad Decisions   |   Managed Retreat from Floodzones & Coast... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.