Teaching Hard Ideas with Children’s Literature


It’s no secret that I have a slight, OK serious obsession with children’s literature. I LOVE children’s books!! I took every children’s and young adult literature course I could in college. I had a huge children’s book library before I even had children. I now buy books for my kids, but secretly I am just as excited for these books as they are.

I have always been an avid reader. When I became a teacher I wanted to pass on this passion to the children I taught. I devoured books like The Book Whisperer  that gave strategies for encouraging children to read. Now as a parent I have the same desire to pass on this addiction. As a teacher every lesson plan I planned always had a book to go with it. When we pulled out all the playground riding toys and cars for a car wash we first read The Scrubbly Bubbly Car Wash. Any lesson had to have a corresponding book to help bring the lesson home. Now as a parent we spend a huge portion of our day reading. My favorite time of day is after baths and dinner are done. My kids smell sweet and are all cozy in their jammies. We snuggled on the couch and plow through a giant pile of books that we all have added our favorites to.

So when I saw this article Green Eggs, Ham and Metaphysics: Teaching Hard Ideas With Children’s Books I was of course intrigued. The article begins with this statement “What is language? What is beauty? Who gets to decide? Philosophers have grappled with these questions for centuries, and they’ve generated a pile of long (and often tortured) books in their efforts to answer them. But for Tom Wartenberg, some of the best books about philosophy are much shorter and a lot more colorful: Frog and Toad Are Friends. Horton Hears a Who! The Paper Bag Princess”.

The author discusses using books to teach hard concepts. The author provides a list of questions to accompany various books to help get the conversation started. I love this idea!! Book can be used to teach academic concepts such as math or science. However, books can also be used to teach harder social/emotional concepts as well.

Recently my son has been stomping his feet when he gets angry. This is a new three year old move he has learned. We have used guidance and talked to him about how it’s ok to be mad and to have those feelings but that we have to show them in different ways and not stomp or throw toys. He hasn’t caught on to this idea very quickly and it is a constant battle in our house. So a few weeks ago I saw a book titled Mouse was Mad. I fell in love and instantly thought of my son. In the book Mouse is mad and stomps his feet and hops up and down and through the help of his friends he learns to handle his feelings better. He learns that by standing still and taking deep breaths he soon does not feel mad anymore. This is a method we had successfully taught our daughter. Until my son saw it in the book and could relate to what mouse was doing he couldn’t grasp this concept. Now when he gets mad we ask “are you going to be like bear or are you going to be like mouse”? He will stop and think and start taking deep breaths. This book helped teach him this hard concept.

Below is a list of books that I have found to be great for teaching such hard concepts. Happy reading!!!

Book List

Mouse was Mad
When readers meet Mouse, he is furious. First he is “hopping mad,” but expert Hare informs him that he is not hopping properly and shows him the correct moves. On the animated spreads that follow, Bear, Bobcat, and Hedgehog demonstrate how to be “stomping,” “screaming,” and “rolling-around-on-the ground” mad. However, each time Mouse tries to imitate them, he finds himself sprawled in a mud puddle. It is not until he is “standing-still mad” and none of the others can best his motionless stance that he begins to feel better. Through playful language and expressive watercolors with colored pencil and ink, this story about anger management proves to be both entertaining and therapeutic.
Quack and Count
Slip, slide, leap, and dive with a family of seven lively ducklings as they get ready to fly for the very first time. Keith Baker’s playful, rhyming text and bold collage illustrations capture the excitement of a day’s adventures–and gently introduce counting.


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