Author of ‘Raising Kids Who Care’, Susy Lee, explores how books can help spark meaningful, deep and intentional conversations with our children and young people.
We can often think of story as a means of escape. Fantasy as indulgent. But the gift of books for children is that they often help open up new ideas and new worlds, allowing children the space to imagine, explore and engage with people and places where things might look different.
This is the gift of reading.
When I first began reading, none of the books I read reflected the world I inhabited. I was a young Australian child living in Niger, West Africa. The world I experienced daily was not what I read about in books. I was blessed to experience multiple worlds, and when I returned to Australia, the books I read allowed me to continue to explore our great big world. Reading gave me the ability to recognise the ‘other’ for its beauty, complexity and worth and then to begin to see myself as part of a broader, bigger story than the one right in front of me.
Reading is a way of learning to imagine.
Imagining situations of peoples, places, and the planet helps all of us to develop empathy and understanding. We can see our own world from a different perspective, and we see new worlds that we never could have experienced. These new stories give rise to new language and concepts, to articulate the different challenges facing our world. They also provide opportunities to engage with and talk about our own responses to these challenges, and deeper issues of injustice.
Getting lost in a story means our imagination is gripped by the possibilities of what is to come and what could be. This is such a powerful tool for helping children develop emotional and creative skills to imagine and explore new possibilities and new worlds!
Working in Children’s publishing, I consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity to read children’s books as my job! It means I get to continue doing what I’ve always loved, visiting other worlds!
This years Book Week the theme is ‘Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds’.
To celebrate Book Week 2021, and explore this year's theme, I have brought together a list of books, mostly fiction, that explore the four key areas of justice that Common Grace pursues - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice, Creation and Climate justice, justice for People Seeking Asylum and Refugees, and Domestic and Family Violence. There are a range of books for different age groups that can be read by a child alone or together with parents, grandparents, and guardians, (including on Zoom!) but either way, can help open up new and other worlds and be the beginning of constructive conversations about injustices facing our world today.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice
Heroes, Rebels and Innovators by Karen Wyld, Jaelyn Biumaiwai 3+
Bindi - Kirli Saunders 8+
Remembered By Heart - An Anthology of Indigenous Writing Edited by Sally Morgan 10+
Creation & Climate Justice
When God Made the World by Matthew Paul Turner 3+
Melt by Ele Fountain 8+
Greta’s Story by Valentina Camerini 8+
We Are All Greta by Valentina Giannella 10+
People Seeking Asylum
My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald, Freya Blackwood 3+ (This is also available in a number of bi-lingual editions including English and Farsi, English and Arabic and others)
Stepping Stones by Margriet Ruurs 5+
The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks 9+
Refugee 87 by Ele Fountain 9+ (originally published as Boy 87)
The Arrival by Shaun Tan 10+ (a wordless picture book)
The Island by Armin Greder 12+ (a picture book for older kids)
Domestic & Family Violence
Brave Danny by Robin Adolphs 3+
The Star Outside My Window by Onjali Q. Rauf Middle 8+
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi 10+ (Not DV specific, but asks difficult questions about what choices you can make when adults and the society around you is in denial)
The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis 14+
The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale 14+
And one to look out for, publishing in October 2021, Dragon Skin by Karen Foxlee 9+
Alison Williams works in Children’s publishing. Alison is a passionate advocate for justice and the Arts in her local community.