The world can seem like a confusing place for adults, let alone children. As kids grow up, there are new challenges to navigate and things to explain. But it can be hard to respond to some of life’s big questions when you aren’t always sure of the answer yourself.
One of the best ways to tackle topics in an age-appropriate way is through books. There are so many great stories out there addressing issues like race, diversity, inclusion, kindness, women’s rights, and even grief. Here are some of our favourites.
Oh, The Places You'll Go
What it’s about: A Dr Seuss classic about life's ups and downs. Perfect for kids going from nursery to school, or primary to secondary.
What it teaches: That everything will keep changing, the good and the bad, taking you on an amazing journey. Sometimes you’ll be happy, sometimes you be sad, sometimes you’ll be lonely, and sometimes you’ll be surrounded by people. As the book says, “Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way!”
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls
What it’s about: Forget fairytales full of princesses waiting to be saved, this two-book series introduces kids to real women who are the heroins of their own tales. Amelia Earhart and Michelle Obama are just a few of the 100 women who feature in the first book.
What it teaches: You don’t have to marry Prince Charming in order to have a happy ending. How about becoming a rocket scientist?
What it’s about: Sulwe wishes that she looked more like her friends and family who have lighter skin, but by looking at the midnight sky, she learns to love her unique beauty.
What it teaches: Hollywood actress Lupita Nyong’o is the author of this stunningly illustrated tale, which teaches kids to love the colour of their skin and celebrate their differences.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
What it’s about: A zookeeper spends time with each of his animals to do something they enjoy every day. When he takes sick, the animals decide to return the favour and come to visit him.
What it teaches: This is a lovely story of kindness and empathy, showing that you often get back what you put in.
Strictly No Elephants
What it’s about: The local pet club is full of dogs, cats, and fish, but when a little boy turns up with his tiny elephant, he finds that they aren’t allowed in. The boy decides he needs to show them that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends.
What it teaches: A story to begin the conversation about diversity and inclusion with little ones. It also shows that you don’t always have to follow the crowd.
What it’s about: A mother explains to her children that all their hearts are connected by an invisible string – the kids have lots of questions about the string, allowing the author to explore topics like separation and loss.
What it teaches: That love is always there no matter where people are. This is particularly poignant for expat children who may struggle saying goodbyes to visiting family, or who have friends moving away. It’s also widely used by grief counsellors to explain how love continues after loss.
What it’s about: Scaredy Squirrel never leaves his nut tree. The world outside is too scary, so he stays there with an emergency kit and antibacterial soap. One day, he finds himself out of the tree, where new adventures help him to change his outlook.
What it teaches: Yes, there are some scary things out there in the world. But most of the time, the world is a wonderful, exciting place. This book is particularly good for kids who have become overly anxious during the Covid-19 pandemic.
What it’s about: A 90s book about bullying that stands the test of time. Chrysanthemum loves her name… until she goes to school and finds that the other kids in her class pick on her for it. But when Chrysanthemum is introduced to the music teacher, she starts to blossom.
What it teaches: This is a great read for kids who are being bullied, as well as a story that should help stop kids bulling. It teaches about teasing, self-esteem, and acceptance.