No matter what party lines you fall on, this past election year has been an exhausting one. The country feels anxious, angry and divided, and it can be overwhelming to think about where we go from here.
But it’s important not to lose sight of the simple things we can encourage in our children: compassion, empathy, inclusion, involvement, and kindness.
Here, in Youth Services, we try and find ways to embody these traits every day. One of the things staff love most about our library is that everyone is always welcome. On any given day, you can find children and families of all different beliefs and backgrounds, together, making our community strong.
This, we think, is so important right now.
So how can we make sure the children in our lives are good neighbors and community members?
Here are some recommendations from all of us in Youth Services about things you can do at home and in your community:
Expand your family reading.
Make sure to choose a variety of books that represent different cultures, religions, lifestyles, and opinions. It's important for children to see themselves in literature, but also to see how other people live in the United States and around the world.
Don't be afraid to answer your child's questions about current events.
Perhaps they've overheard you or kids at school and they need answers from an adult they trust. If you don't have all the answers, that's okay. Maybe they just need someone to talk to. The library has free issues of Time for Kids for you to keep. Pick up a copy next time you are in the library. If your child is interested in current events, this is a nice way for them to keep up with what's going on in the world.
Volunteer at community organizations. Many places allow children to volunteer, as long as they're accompanied by an adult. Talk to your child about why it is important to give back to the community and to help others. Visit the library's volunteer opportunities page to find some possible places.
Talk to your kids about how each election is important--whether it's for your town, state, or national election. Raising the next generation of voters means voting yourself so that your children will understand the importance of participating. After all: these kids are the future!
Read one of the Suburban Mosaic's recommended titles.
Every year, the Suburban Mosaic book committee chooses titles that reflect the mission of the group: to "confront issues of racial and social justice and promote cross-cultural understanding through literature." Des Plaines Public Library participates in Suburban Mosaic and helps select titles. You can find a bookmark with each year's chosen titles on the Youth Services floor.
Visit ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) to view their excellent booklist Unity. Kindness. Peace.
Here's some additional books we recommend to share as a family.
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara
This ABC board book is written and illustrated for families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about everything that activists believe in and fight for.
Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems
Gerald the elephant and Piggie learn to play catch with their new friend Snake.
The Chickens Build a Wall by Jean-Francois Dumont
When a friendly hedgehog visits the farm, the chickens build an enormous wall to keep out "prickly invaders."
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
When Ms. Albert teaches a lesson on kindness, Chloe realizes that she and her friends have been wrong in making fun of new student Maya's shabby clothes and refusing to play with her.
If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
While planting seeds in their garden, two animals learn the value of kindness.
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
Brian has always felt invisible at school, but when a new student, Justin, arrives, everything changes.
Let's Talk About Race by Julius Lester
The author introduces the concept of race as only one component in an individual's or nation's "story."
Let's Vote on It! by Janice Behrens
An information book that introduces voting to kids.
Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama
In this letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation.
Don't Throw It to Mo! by David A. Adler
The kids on the rival team tease Mo for being a 'butterfingers' who's too tiny to catch the ball. But Mo's coach has a plan up his sleeve to turn Mo's little size into a big win for their team.