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Teaching kindness and compassion to children

By Pam Everhardt Bloom

Rowan Public Library

Children amaze me. My current read, “Far & Away, Reporting from the Brink of Change: Seven Continents, Twenty-Five Years,” by Andrew Solomon, reminded me once again that children are listening even when you think it’s of no interest to them or beyond their scope of understanding.

Solomon’s son George, a seasoned world traveler at 5, quickly answered, “Syria,” as the place he would choose to visit if he could go anywhere in the world. His parents were somewhat perplexed and immediately asked why. George’s wise response was, “Someone has to tell those people that what they’re doing is inappropriate behavior.”

These words of a young child are testimony to the power of words and our response. A good story can open hearts and create dialogue. With the school year nearly over, summer vacation approaching, and many children hearing news not necessarily chosen by their parents, now may be the perfect opportunity to share a meaningful story with a child. The following books from the juvenile collection at RPL may offer insight and discussion for exploring different people, places and some hard to explain behaviors from our shared American history.

Newbery Medalist Lynne Rae Perkins’ juvenile novel “Nuts to You” is a timely story for today. More than a simple story about squirrels, Perkins examines how we accept differences in others. Her imaginative story includes factual information and charming illustrations rolled into this rollicking adventure. The colorful back cover says it all. “In which four squirrels find out what they’re made of: Friendship. Courage. Big ideas. Also, nuts! (And I mean that in a good way).”

The squirrels and their story are very believable and Perkins explains new words and concepts to young readers with friendly author notes children will love. You and your child will find many parallels between the animal actions and our human race, leading to interesting conversations about life.

Another exciting adventure, “The Secret Mission of William Tuck,” by Eric Pierpoint, is a story of the American Revolution. William Tuck, 12 years old, is set on justice after his brother is killed by British soldiers. War time circumstances and a mysterious watch lead him into a network of spies and a journey to General Washington himself. This tale accurately describes the peril of the day with descriptive lessons in writing secret messages and traveling in disguise. More importantly, the everyday dilemmas faced by Loyalists and Patriots alike are a central theme of the book.

“Crow,” by Barbara Wright, tells the story of Moses, a young boy living in Wilmington in 1898. Growing up in a household where Dad is one of the first African American aldermen on city council and grandmother a former slave, Moses finds it hard to understand the racism he faces regularly. The book continues this coming-of-age tale with an accurate description of the Wilmington Race Riot, the only coup d’état in U.S. history – a story that may be new to many adults.

Another black spot in American history is chronicled through the eyes of 12-year-old Tomi Itano during WWII in “Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky.” Sandra Dallas describes the realities of life for Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Beginning with her father’s imprisonment and the family’s eventual government-dictated removal to a relocation camp in Colorado, Tomi’s story spans the years of 1942-1945 and chronicles why she is truly American and proud of it.

A more contemporary novel, “Return to Sender,” covers summer 2005 to summer 2006. Award winning author Julia Alverez’s two characters, Mari, a migrant girl, and Tyler, a Vermont farm boy, struggle with the dilemma of obeying the law and taking care of one’s family. Part of Mari’s family are in the U.S. illegally; meanwhile, Tyler finds his law-abiding family turning a blind eye to immigration issues in order to save their farm. You won’t forget their story.

These books, like travel, may raise as many questions as they answer. Five-year-old George’s statement of changing inappropriate behaviors may seem simplistic. Even so, we must not forget that it is George’s honest perspective from his life experiences. Even if our life doesn’t offer travel opportunities or a magic carpet to the past, we can keep reading. The right book can offer insight into another mind or time. Like travel, books can help us see the world through someone else’s eyes. Let RPL help bring kindness, compassion and a greater love and understanding of others through the books you select to share with the children in your life.

Summer reading registration: Registration is underway. On Your Mark, Get Set, READ! Registered participants may log reading hours June 12 through Aug. 6 to earn prizes, complete weekly book reviews to enter weekly program raffles, and attend special weekly reading programs for their age group (12 months to rising fifth-graders). Registration is free and can be done at any library location or online. Join us for “sportastic” celebrations to kick off a summer of great reads and programs. Weekly programs begin June 13 and run through July 28.

Thursday, June 9, 3:30-5 p.m. — South Rowan Regional Library, 920 Kimball Road, China Grove;

Friday, June 10, 1:30-3 p.m. — East Branch, 110 Broad St, Rockwell;

Saturday, June 11, 10 a.m.-noon — RPL Headquarters, 201 W. Fisher St.

Summer movie series — Headquarters, starting at 6:30 p.m. Free popcorn and lemonade served. June 7, “Remember the Titans,” PG. Based on a true story, a popular white high school football coach is demoted and replaced by a black coach and the two must work together to unite a team divided by the school’s recent integration.

Book Bites Book Club: South (China Grove), Tuesday, 6-7 p.m. Free, open to the public. We discuss a different book each month and serve refreshments loosely related to the theme. “The Book Thief,by Markus Zusak. Need a copy? Call 704-216-7841.

Tail Waggin’ Tutors: Children ages 7 to 9 can practice reading skills in a relaxed, dog-friendly atmosphere. Reading Therapy dogs registered through Therapy Dogs International are available for beginning and struggling readers to read aloud to them. Reservations are recommended but not required. Headquarters, Tuesdays, 4:30 p.m.

Displays: Headquarters, Washington Day and photos from Spring photowalk; South, student art, South Rowan High School; East, kick-off display for Children’s Summer Reading Program – On Your Mark, Get Set, READ!

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second  language.

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