As a good parent, you want to do more than just teach your young children about shapes, colors, numbers and letters (though that is important, too!). It is also important to teach them about the concepts of right and wrong and to help instill in them a moral compass that they can carry with them the rest of their lives. However, it can be difficult to simply sit down with a young child and simply talk to them about why it is

Stella Luna

This charming story is about a baby bat named Stella Luna who through no fault of her own winds up in a nest of baby birds!  But try as she might to fit into her new family, things just don’t work out for her and the baby birds let her know that she doesn’t really fit in.  However, in the end, Stella eventually finds a family of bats to take her in and discovers who she really is. This is a great way to talk to children about how it is important not to make fun of others who are different, even if they don’t understand them.

Stella Luna is available on Amazon.

The Giving Tree

Shel Silverstein, best known for his wacky, zany kids’ poetry, turns a little more serious in this short, simple-but-complex tale of the lifelong relationship between and a boy and an apple tree. At first the boy and the tree are good friends but as the boy grows up, he becomes more selfish and asks more and more of the tree, eventually cutting it down in order to make a boat to sail away on. At the end of their lives, the boy is now an old man and comes every day to sit on the stump of the tree, their relationship coming full circle.

The Giving Tree is available on Amazon.

107908431_b055b03e2bThe Lorax

This class story by Dr. Seuss is one of the best moral tales about the price that people – and the environment – pays for unbridled greed. The Lorax, defender of the trees, keeps telling the Oncler that his factories are beginning to grind their way through the local trees in order to make Sneeds (which, according to the Oncler is a “thing that everyone needs”). The Oncler does not listen until the last tree has been chopped down, and then his factory and everything else crashes down around him. This story is a great way to talk to kids about the dangers of being overly materialistic – in a way that is age-appropriate and that they can understand.

The Lorax is available on Amazon.

The Sneetches and other Stories

Also by Dr. Seuss, the first story in this collection tells the tale of mythical animals called Sneets: some of these Sneets have stars on their bellies and some do not.  The star-bellied Sneets become snobbish about their bellies and begin to avoid and look down upon the plain-bellied Sneetches. In his own quirky, humorous way, Seuss is poking fun at how ridiculous – and random – discrimination can be and is a great way to open up a talk about problems like racism, sexism or any other form of discrimination.

The Sneets and other Stories is available on Amazon.

The Lion and the Mouse

Aesop, who lived in ancient Rome, wrote dozens of famous fables (one of the most famous of which is the Tortoise and Hare) and we have been enjoying his simple but profound morality tales ever since. This one, the Lion and the Mouse, is a story of a lion who spares the life of a mouse; later on, this same mouse helps a lion escape from a poacher’s trap and saves his life. This re-interpretation has a rich, glowing golden look of the African Serengeti and brings out the vivid, tawny beauty of the lion himself. It is an excellent way to talk about the important of acts of kindness – and how those acts of kindness can be repaid in unexpected ways.

The Lion and the Mouse is available on Amazon.

May I Please Have a Cookie?

Sometimes the lessons you want to teach your kids aren’t the complex moral ones, but simple everyday habits like good manners which can also hold them in good stead as they get older. In the story May I Please Have a Cookie, the adorable Alfie the Crocodile learns a lesson in manners from his mother. There is nothing in the world Alfie likes more than his mom’s cookies – put how to persuade her to give him one?  Alfie tries all sorts of tricks, from grabbing at the cookies to dressing up as a cookie inspector in order to fool her into getting some.  However, in the end, he finds out that the best way to get his mother’s cookies is to use the “magic word”.

May I Please Have a Cookie is available on Amazon.

The Velveteen Rabbit

This children’s story is almost a hundred years old, but it still has the same power as it did when Margery Williams first wrote it in 1922. It is the story of a stuffed rabbit who is well-loved by the little boy who owns him but who eventually becomes old and threadbare; after the boy develops scarlet fever and survives, the doctor orders that the boy’s bedding – and the rabbit – be burned in order to prevent the illness from spreading. However, before he meets this fate, the rabbit is rescued by a fairy and brought to Rabbitland, a utopic world where he becomes “real” at last.

The Velveteen Rabbit is available on Amazon.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of complicated ethical and moral issues in the world that are hard to explain to grown-ups, let alone to children. The beauty of these stories is that they help to take these complicated issues and try to explain them to children in ways that they can get their minds around more easily and are appropriate to their life experiences so far. In short, they are a great way to open up some significant conversations with your kids.