Critical Thinking

Mindfulness and Breathing During a Pandemic

Building off of our committee’s November blog on helping children build their social/emotional intelligence skills as an important step toward developing critical thinking skills and information literacy, this month’s post from the Intellectual Freedom Committee again focuses on the emotional needs of children and adults alike. As we continue to stay at home, continue to provide remote programming, and continue to miss large family gatherings, this month’s post provides some picture books to help us take a step back and breathe a little.

Getting Started

Nothing says sharing like sitting down together to enjoy a good book (or two, or three!). In The Perfect Seat by Minh Lê and Gus Gordon (Disney Hyperion, 2019), little moose is looking for the best place for big moose to read a book to them. Some places are too big, some too small, some too thin, and some too wide. Guess where the best seat is? Soft blues and greens with pen and ink line drawings combine with short text to encourage the reader to find the best and coziest spot for shared reading.

Now that you’ve found the perfect seat, try these books!

A child growing up in a poor family learns to appreciate who she is through caring for and listening to her aging grandmother (who does NOT die in the story) in The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang and illustrated by Khoa Le (Carolrhoda Books, 2020). Yang creates a beautiful and poignant story based on her own experiences as a Hmong refugee growing up in the United States. The illustrative yet delicate text also includes some words in Hmong with definition and pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book. Le’s illustrations work magnificently with the text to show the present as well as Grandmother’s past. This intergenerational story will inspire young children to ask questions about the lives of the adults around them.

In When We are Kind (Orca Book Publishers, 2020), Indigenous creators Monique Gray Smith and Nicole Neidhardt create a loving story about what happens when we engage in acts of kindness no matter how big or small. This book, as is typical of so many Orca Books, is available in several languages: Diné/English, English, and French. This story presents the perfect opportunity to focus on acts of kindness during this unusual holiday season.

One good deed follows another in The Power of One: Every Act of Kindness Counts by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Mike Curato (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020). The story begins with a wordless illustration of one person noticing another being berated by a third person. The first person takes the time to respond to the situation and from that one single act of kindness blooms a beautiful garden and a single act of forgiveness. Curato uses color to emphasize the sadness with the black and white drawings which in turn become colorful as the acts of kindness expand. Lists of recommended additional books and websites are included at the end of the book. This story could be used in the winter time to encourage the start of seedlings that can be planted in a community garden in the spring.

Finally, a pre-pandemic community comes together in The All-Together Quilt by Lizzy Rockwell (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020). Base on the true story of the Peace by Piece: The Norwalk (Connecticut) Community Quilt Project, Rockwell tells the story of intergenerational and diverse community members meeting to create a community quilt that now hangs in the public library. Included at the end is a short description of the project and illustrations of typical quilting patterns. This story might inspire a great idea for a “grab and go” making project for your community.

From the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee, we offer best wishes for a happy and healthy 2021 to all!

Guest blogger is Allison G. Kaplan, Distinguished Faculty Associate in the Information School at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and co-chair of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee. Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.   

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