Hi there, Book Learners!

April is supposedly the cruelest month (though I think T. S. Eliot would have felt differently if he’d experienced Michigan in February), so it seems like a good time to talk about social issues.

No matter what your political or religious beliefs are, we can all agree that with so many issues affecting both our communities and our world, an act of kindness, no matter how small, is never wasted. And children’s books can be great tools for promoting awareness and inspiring acts of kindness.

Just last month EBYR published I Like, I Don’t Like, which focuses on poverty and child labor. While this is a picture book aimed at early elementary readers, it doesn’t try to sugarcoat things.

What I really love about this book is that it not only promotes awareness of these important issues, but it also lets kids know that they can make a difference.

I Like, I Don’t Like has some general ideas built in that are great springboards for action, but in the likely event that your young readers find themselves inspired by the book to ask “What can I do?,” here are some specific suggestions for how children can get involved in their communities. These ideas can be used in a classroom setting or with your own civic-minded kids.

1. Donate to a local food pantry

My school did this every year in November, but there’s no wrong time to organize a food drive. Pro tip for teachers: Get the whole school involved by organizing a competition between the different grades or classrooms. You certainly don’t have to promise the winners a pizza party, but personally I don’t see how a pizza party can ever go amiss. (If you’re in the Grand Rapids area, consider donating to or volunteering with our corporate neighbor Kids’ Food Basket.)

2. Participate in a walk or read-athon

Many organizations use walks to increase awareness and raise funds. Those are super fun and totally worth doing, but you can also achieve your goals without having to depend on good weather and risking blisters by planning a read-athon. Have your class pick a charity to support and round up a small list of sponsors for each child. And then comes the fun part: reading time!

3. Put together activity boxes or care kits

Homeless shelters always have a list of needed supplies. You can either hold a fundraiser to purchase these things, or just have your students each donate a few items on the list.

4. Clean up

There are few things kids like better than field trips. Why not have one that’s both educational and productive? You can take kids to a local park and learn about the native flora and fauna, then have them pick up litter to help protect their environment.

5. Create cards for hospital patients and the elderly

Homemade cards are like Morgan Freeman: universally beloved. The next time your classroom is in need of some creative time, have them make some get-well-soon cards that you can then deliver to your local hospital—or better yet, contact the activity director of your local nursing home for a list of names. It’s an easy and fun way to make someone’s day.

6. Share story time

Here’s another field trip idea: take your kids to a local assisted living center, and have each of them bring a few of their favorite books. Then let them pair up with a resident and read the books they brought.

7. Donate old clothes, books, and toys.

Think of it like a food drive—with the added benefits that kids’ outgrown or unused items will get a new lease on life and that their rooms will be a bit tidier afterwards.