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Books that encourage our children to genuinely give

Etta Kaner

December 2, 2012

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During this holiday season of giving and receiving, children often focus on the material aspects of this exchange. They might need a reminder that helping others is perhaps a more worthwhile and satisfactory way to give and receive. To get this message across, you might want to share these books with your children.

Making Change: Tips from an Underage Overachiever by Bilaal Rajaan (published by Orca Book Publishers) is written by an inspirational 12-year-old Torontonian who has raised millions of dollars to aid young victims of natural disasters in Southeast Asia, Haiti and Africa. Written in a clear, engaging voice, Bilaal shares his experiences in fundraising and gives many practical tips on how readers can become effective fundraisers. He also makes suggestions about how to help others that does not involve asking people for money. The second half of the book is devoted to showing readers how they can organize their lives and plan for their futures. Many charts are provided to help readers list their strengths, goals and possible challenges. While written for teens, adults would definitely find this book a useful and enlightening read. [We were proud to feature Bilaal in our November 2008 issue of Good News Toronto]

The Doggy Dung Disaster and Other True Stories: Regular Kids Doing Heroic Things Around the World by Garth Sundem (published by Free Spirit Publishing) profiles 30 incredible young people who try to improve life for the people in their communities and beyond. We meet 12-year-old Haruka Maruno who invents and markets an environmentally friendly pooper scooper; 10-year-old Jean-Dominic Leversque-Rene who wins a battle against the lawn pesticides that most likely caused his cancer; 8-year-old Chen Chiu-Mian who fights to improve unsafe working conditions; 11-year-old Vaishali Kiran Grover who discovered a non-toxic pesticide made out of papayas, and many, many more. Written in a straightforward, friendly colloquial style with relatively short vignettes, author Sundem makes it easy for the reader to empathize with each young hero. After reading this book, readers will definitely be inspired to make a difference in the world.

The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough by Katie Smith Milway (published by Kids Can Press) tells the story of 11-year-old Maria Luz and her family who live in Honduras. Like many poor farmers in Latin America, the Duarte family tries to eke out a living from a small plot of land. Maria attends school, where she meets a new teacher who teaches her and others in the community sustainable farming practices. He also encourages them to sell their produce directly at the market rather than to “coyotes,” middlemen who take advantage of farmers. This story is based on the lives of a real Maria and a real Honduran teacher, Don Elias Sanchez, who helped tens of thousands of families improve their land and their livelihood. An interactive website for readers to explore after they’ve read this wonderfully illustrated book includes games, a video and ideas for educators.

Forsythia and Me by Vincent X. Kirsch (published by Farrar Straus Giroux) is the perfect vehicle to discuss giving and receiving as well as the essence of friendship with four- to seven-year olds. Narrator Chester tells about his admiration for his best friend Forsythia and her impressive accomplishments, which include playing the piano frontwards, backwards and upside down, growing roses in winter, performing in the circus and the ballet and taming ferocious animals. When Forsythia becomes ill, Chester discovers that he can do many amazing and thoughtful things to entertain his best friend and help her recover from her illness. Detailed and colourful illustrations support this humorous and touching story.

About the Author(s)

Etta Kaner

Etta Kaner is a teacher and children’s author whose latest book is “And the Winner Is…: Amazing Animal Athletes” and has been nominated for the Silver Birch award and the Science in Society award.

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