We all tell our kids that we love them, but when was the last time you really talked to your kids about love—what it feels like, how it’s shown, how it relates to the self, the family and the broader world?
Discussing love with your child builds empathy, spans bridges between cultural groups and fosters warmth and understanding at home and beyond. Our book collection this month will help launch conversations about how the smallest acts of love can heal, strengthen, and bind us together, making the world a kinder place. We can’t think of a better (or more mindful) way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
“Love Is holding something fragile, tiny wings and downy head…” so begins Love Is, which is filled with illustrations that are the visual equivalents of butterfly kisses. A perfect encapsulation of the wonder and beauty of childhood and the many forms that love can take, Love Is sets the stage for talks about what love means to you and your little. Parents will recognize themselves instantly, and the book’s sweet sentiments are a potent reminder of the loveliness of little things.
Also Great: Big Bob Little Bob, Elephant and Piggy: Listen To My Trumpet, Pass it On, Alfie
Love is everywhere in Matt De La Pena’s poetic ode to the everyday hallmarks of love—in smiles and songs, in burnt toast and the deep creases on the faces of people in your family. Reminiscent of De La Pena’s Caldecott Award winning classic, Last Stop on Market Street, Love celebrates the ways we care for each other in happy moments and in hard ones, ending in a radiant mediation on how love protects and travels with us everywhere. Be sure to unpack the idea of love overlooked—in the subtle, almost-invisible sacrifices we (especially parents) make for those we love.
Also Great: Pecan Pie Baby, Julia‘s House for Lost Creatures, Love Ruby Valentine, The Velveteen Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh
Second grade is a great time to start talking to kids about the importance of loving yourself and how your mindframe informs how other people treat you. The titular Molly Lou Melon is clumsy and so bucktoothed that she can stack pennies on her teeth while standing up, but the loving words of her grandmother stay with her—even when she moves to a new school and her self-esteem is put to the test. Stand Tall’s giddy mix of empowerment and goofiness will keep Molly Lou’s message alive in kid’s minds long after the book has been put away.
Also Great: A Bad Case of the Stripes, Horton Hears a Who, Bad Dog Marley
India Opal is one seriously lonely kid. Abandoned by her mom and adrift in a new town with her very preoccupied father, she adopts a stray dog, who has a knack for bringing out the best in people. In lesser hands, the story of the unconditional love of a dog and the community that follows could be trite, but Kate DiCamillo’s treatment earned it a Newberry in 2001, and it’s just as fresh today. Funny and real, with a memorable cast of misfit characters, Because Winn Dixie is a modern classic.
Also Great: Ida B, Wish, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Depression-era Turtle is the anti-Annie, salty and outspoken, more than a little cranky and very suspicious of love. With a mother whose addiction to romance has left her family of two in a very precarious place, Turtle is forced to make her way in a new state with relatives she’s never met before. Kids will love the grumpy, hilarious banter between Turtle and her boy cousins, but it’s the counterweight of love and forgiveness, along with a hefty dose of adventure that gives the book its profound magic
Also Great: Moo, Dear Mr. Henshaw, Bud Not Buddy, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Raina Telgemeier is at the top of most older-little’s reading lists for good reason—she can validate and translate the complex thoughts and feelings of kids as they stand on the cusp between a kid’s world and the larger world around them. Her fourth book tells the story of two sisters, one with cystic fibrosis, honing in on the anxious dance that we do with ailing loved ones. Told against the backdrop of Dia De Los Muertos, Telgemeier’s story helps kids understand that there is no love without risk, and no risk more worthwhile than love.
Also Great: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, Sunny Side Up, Counting By Sevens
Jonah lives in a world free of crime, drugs, unemployment and homelessness, filled with caring, intact families, where all meals are delivered to your doorstep and gender disparities have been reconciled. But when he learns that his new job will be as his community’s Giver, he starts to unravel the secrets and horrors that keep his society humming along. Writer Lois Lowry dives deep into what happens when logic, security and ease replace memory, love and empathy, with terrifying, brilliant results. The Giver inspired other middle school blockbuster novels with equally powerful philosophical punches, such as The Hunger Games, Ready Player One and Divergent, but there’s a sweetness present that makes it a great choice for readers of all ages.