The Value of Children in a Time of Austerity. I am a champion of children and I wear comfortable clothes while doing so.
I have been retired from teaching for 114 school days now or so, my wife informed me this morning at breakfast. The time has gone quickly. I enjoy being retired. I like being more in charge of how I spend my day. I like wearing comfortable clothes most days….you know, the ones I used to change into whenever I got home from work…..those clothes. I like being away from the stress of working for a living. Being retired is good.
But, as much as you can take the teacher out of the school, it is still not possible to take the school completely out of this teacher. I still love reading about the latest children’s picture books, I still enjoy helping out at my public library and I still care about kids.
I find it hard to not care about kids. Kids are such amazing human beings. Their energy, their innocence and their kindness have filled me up for most of my adult life; an addiction, of a sort, that isn’t easily rendered mute by the passage of 114 days. I still smile in their company and draw satisfaction from the relationships I maintain. I remain important to them because they continue to view me as their teacher and, to them, that means I am someone who cares. To me, they are “my kids”, even though some are now young adults out in the world while others remain in the school system, merely older versions of the kids I knew when I still wore work clothes to start my days. I am “friends” on social media with many of my older, adult students. I cherish the connection we maintain. For my younger friends, I walk with springs in my step after seeing them at the Mall or in the grocery store or the Library or wherever. Their hugs are always a tonic to cure whatever ails me.
Children have value and are deserving of respect, simply because they exist. It matters not that they don’t vote yet nor have an income that translates into purchasing power. The measure of their worth is not any company’s bottom line. To some, this makes the worth of children questionable; to be regarded as an expense, as opposed, to an investment worth making. To me, it makes them priceless. I am rich beyond measure for having spent the bulk of my adult life in the company of little humans. It matters not one iota to me that some of them needed help zipping their zippers or tying their laces (when kids still had shoes with laces) or wiping their noses. They were all unique and wonderful and memorable and valued by me then, as they are, now.
The year before I retired, I went to a Retirement workshop that was put on by my Union. A few weekends later, my wife suggested we spend the afternoon going through all of the education-related documents we had on file so that I would have everything ready when it came time to fill out all of the forms that would need to be filled out to process my retirement application. Amid the various job performance appraisals and pay stubs and benefit notices, was a folder that held treasure. It was a folder that contained every single kind letter and note that I had received over the course of my career. I had kept them all. That afternoon, I read them all. It was the best afternoon I had spent in years! While I appreciated the wonderful letters from Principals, co-workers and organizations I was associated with, it was the letters from children and from parents that touched me the most. In particular, there was one letter, written on a scrap of torn green construction paper, written in black crayon, by a Grade 3 student. It simply said, “My mother wanted me to thank you for being so nice to me. She says I am lucky to go to this school. I think I am, too.” That student’s mother was illiterate, struggling in poverty and could not have written that note herself. Her 8 year old daughter had borne the responsibility of speaking on her family’s behalf. It was a small note that had required a big effort and it meant the world to me. I still have it safely tucked away. The presence of that letter and, all of the others, serves to remind me of a life spent in service to children and their families and how the residue of that experiences colours my life to this day.
I type these words at a time in Ontario’s education history when public schools are under attack from the same forces of corporatization that have cut massive swathes through the U.S. public school system, to devastating effect there. Cuts have been announced and the doors to privatization have been opened here by a government that does not value the worth of children. It has announced cuts to programmes aimed at helping support children with special needs. It has announced cuts to programmes aimed at helping students with gender identity challenges. It has announced cuts to programmes that help regular kids zip their zippers and wipe their noses, too. It is attacking Kindergarten children because, after all, isn’t that just glorified daycare anyway? Through it all…and this is just the beginning…..we have adults in charge who view our greatest treasure as mere collateral damage on the road to financial prosperity for themselves and their backers.
Today, educators and their public school allies have been asked to wear black in a show of solidarity against the government’s phony austerity-driven cuts to public schools and, more specifically, to the children who go to them each day. Children deserve champions who will act on their behalf, even when wearing comfortable clothes. Today, my comfortable clothes are black. I wear black because I still care about children. How can you not?
While my childhood was wonderful and innocent and fun, that is not the same for many children these days. Read about the state of childhood these days, learn about why Mr. Rogers is one of my great role models in life and how we, as adults, change our ways and re-prioritize how society views childhood.
When I was a child, my life was pretty good. I was born into a loving family. I was healthy. I lacked for nothing in the way of toys, friends or opportunities to travel and see new places and meet new and interesting people.
When I was a child my biggest fear was of gorillas. Not the kind you find in the jungle with Jane Goodall. My fear was of circus gorillas. Once, the Big Top Circus came to my area and my parents took me there. I loved the lion tamer and his lions. I loved the trapeze artists so high in the sky. I, especially, loved the funny clowns who kept pouring and pouring out of such a teeny-tiny car. But, the one thing I did not like was the gorilla. When the gorilla came out, it bolted from the ring and made a dash for the audience. I was a small boy at the time and did not realize that this “gorilla” was really a man dressed up in a costume. That may have been evident to the adults in attendance, who laughed and laughed at the gorilla’s antics. But for me, a small child, that gorilla was very real and it was coming far too close to where I was. I remember being terrified that it was going to get me. Even though my parents hugged me close and reassured me that it was all just an act, I took from that night, a fear of circus gorillas that lasted throughout my early childhood.
But, when I was a child, imaginary gorilla attacks, along with a real attack of appendicitis when I was seven years old, were my only issues of note growing up. We weren’t rich but, I was doted upon and protected and cared for in a way that erased worries from my mind. My childhood was fun. I was lucky.
I’m an adult, now. As I navigate through my days, I can’t help but notice story upon story in the news and on social media about children who are not having wonderful childhoods. In fact, these children are being physically and emotionally pummelled by the world in which they find themselves. Through no fault of their own, these children are suffering in ways that beggar belief.
For example, I could never be a U.S. Immigration officer these days. I don’t understand how any human can rip a child from its’ mother’s arms and lock that child away in detention camps. What type of person must they be to not be affected by the tears, the cries and the heartbreak of such a situation? But yet, it is real and it is probably happening in real time as you are reading my words right now.
I could never be a politician these days. Where are the real leaders that put the betterment of society and of real people first? They are nowhere to be found these days, it seems. As they march to the dictates of their autocratic and/or billionaire puppet masters, their policies often contain elements of cruelty aimed at the weakest members of society. In many cases, this includes children. Here in my home province of Ontario, Canada, our newly elected government is attacking our world-class education system. Their first two targets: children in Kindergarten (who are between three and five years old) and autistic students. What does it say about the values inherent in any given society when the youngest and most vulnerable members of that society are the first to be cast aside as being completely inconsequential?
Another troubling story from this past week concerned the death of a young girl named Riya at the hands of her father. Riya’s father and mother were estranged at the time of her death. It was her birthday, the day she was killed. Initially, this was a case of child abduction. Unfortunately, the vast majority of child abduction cases involve people with whom the child is intimately familiar with, such as a parent or grand-parent. That was the case here but, unbelievably enough, Riya’s death at the hands of her father was not what made this story notable. The story of the attempt to rescue her and the backlash that it caused on social media has ended up telling a far greater tale of how far we have strayed, as a society, from the moral path that should always guide us.
When any child is abducted in Canada (I am not sure about how this applies to other countries) police issue what is called an Amber Alert. An Amber Alert is an emergency message that is broadcast across all electronic highway signs, personal mobile drives and so on. This message alerts citizens that a child has been taken and provides a description of the child, the person who did the abducting (if known), the vehicle involved (if known) and the location of the abduction. Time is always of the essence in a kidnapping situation so, having eyes everywhere helps authorities to save the lives of those abducted, more often than not. In Riya’s case, she was abducted at night so, the Amber Alert was issued after many people had gone to bed. The Amber Alert, when issued, caused mobile devices to set off an alarm. In this case, the alarm sounded in homes across Ontario and many people were woken up which, like a smoke alarm in a fire, is the intention. Most of the people who were woken up, checked the Amber Alert message and either went to their window to look outside, some actually got in their cars and did a quick drive around their neighbourhoods and towns and some offered their thoughts and prayers and went back to sleep. But, a small minority of others flooded 911 operators with outraged complaints about being woken up by an emergency that had nothing to do with them. While they vented, Riya’s final breaths were being met with violence from the one person who should have loved and protected her the most. I truly don’t understand how anyone would turn away from a child in danger.
Around the world, some teenagers are tired of being the most distant thoughts of the powers that be in their lives and have decided to take action themselves to better their world. For instance, I applaud those Parkland students in the U.S. who reacted to being victims of a school shooter by waging war against the gun culture of America on social media. Their efforts have resonated across the world. Many consider these kids to be heroes for defending their right to attain a safe education. I agree that they have done mighty things but, I wish they didn’t have to be the heroes they have become. I wish they could be focussing on dating and what they want to do when they grow up and getting their driver’s licenses instead of fighting the mighty N.R.A. and all the 2nd Amendment trolls who wage war online. I wish our society could have let them just be kids.
The same is true of those kids organizing school walkouts because of concerns about our environment, as well as, those battling to create and maintain inclusive environments within their towns or schools for people of differing gender identities, cultures or intellectual abilities. And, of course, we have, arguably, the most famous and impactful young person on the planet, Malala, who remains a tireless advocate for the rights of girls around the world to attend school and gain an education and a measure of control over their own futures. Kids, all. But, just the same, kids forced to fight like adults because the adults in their worlds just don’t seem to be listening.
One person who always listened to children (and someone who I modelled my whole life after) was television personality, Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers created one of the first television shows aimed specifically for children. As a foundational tenet of his show, Mr. Rogers believed that children were human beings, as worthy of respect and dignity, as any adult. As a means of putting this thought into practice, Mr. Rogers actively sought out opportunities to talk with children and, most importantly, to listen to children. I can tell you from my experience as a classroom teacher for thirty years that children ask the very best questions. They ask the big questions! They are well-versed in the concepts of fair and not fair. They have boatloads of empathy and will hug those they trust easily. They want to know that things will be alright in their world and so, they will ask questions. I answered them honestly every time. Mr. Rogers did, too. As a family, we recently watched the tremendously wonderful documentary about the life of Mr. Rogers on Netflix called “Won’t You Be My Neighbour?” I encourage you to do so, too. Watching it will fill your soul and renew your spirit. It is a documentary that shows children being respected, being made to feel important and being cared for……not as an after-thought but, as the highest priority possible. Which is, as it should be.
I admit that I teared up at the end of this movie because the world in which we live in these days is so far removed from the world of Mr. Roger’s Neighbourhood. Of all the things in the world that consume our thoughts, working to maintain the innocence of childhood for children should be near or at the top of the list. How precious a time in the lives of these little humans! And how easily we, as their guardians, throw it all away in our rush for material gain or our self-absorption in the importance of our own lives. What have we, as a society, become when we place so little tangible value on the lives of children?
I will close by saying that I encourage you to all watch “Won’t You Be My Neighbour?” in order to renew your soul and realign your priorities in life. However, as much as I admire Mr. Rogers, we can’t afford to let his legacy do our work for us. We all have a job to do for the sake of our children. We need to take better care of our environment so they don’t have to be organizing school strikes and sit-ins to draw our attention. We need to reign in our penchant for violence so kids can go to school and only worry about doing well in their studies and not worry about active shooters roaming their hallways. We need to talk with our children and listen to them, too. Most importantly, we need to fill the lives of our children with love and hugs and laughter and healthy food and good experiences outside of the home, too.
My “gorillas” were only imaginary but, the “gorillas” today’s kids are facing are all too real. They needn’t be so. We have become a world that doesn’t do a very good job of valuing childhood. This needs to change. Our future depends upon it.
How Mr. MacInnes helped his students understand all about Christmas….and, a list of the terrific Christmas books that him do it. Merry Christmas to you, all.
If you ask most children to tell you what Christmas is all about, the vast majority will talk about Santa Claus and elves and the North Pole and, most importantly to them, getting lots of presents. Not too many children realize that Christmas is actually a religious holiday unless they go to Church. And, not too many children go to Church these days. I would say, the total number of children who knew the story of the birth of the Baby Jesus was never more than a quarter of the class, in any given year.
Christmas is just one example of how young children view the world around them. Most kids have an very ego-centric view of life and move through their days blissfully unaware of why things are the way they are. Why is the weather the way it is? Why do we eat certain foods and avoid other types of food? Why do we put a tree in the middle our living rooms in December and stick a star or angel on top? Who knows? Who cares? May I go and play now, Teacher?
Well, one of the philosophical pillars of my teaching career was to help children make sense of their world. So, we talked about why it is cold in the Winter, even on sunny days. We talked about the vitamins and minerals found in fruits and veggies, as opposed to the empty calories found in junk food and how that affects our bodies and minds. And, at Christmas time, we talked about why we have the traditions we do because, when you stop to think about it, we do a lot of weird things during the holidays.
So, this post is going to talk a little about how I did that in the classrooms I taught in and, more specifically, some of the books that helped me explain the traditions of Christmas to children; especially those who don’t go to Church.
In my day, I had several hundred holiday-themed books in my collection. Over time, some came to become more useful to me as a teaching tool than others and some came to become favourites with the kids. Sometimes, the two merged together and the books became essential parts of every Holiday Unit I taught. The Christmas Pageant by Jacqueline Rogers is one such book.
I usually set aside three weeks to go through my Holiday Unit. This book was always one of the first books I shared with the children. The book is very simple in its structure: it tells the story of the birth of the Baby Jesus by showing a school class rehearse for their Christmas pageant. What is really good about this book is that as the rehearsal moves through the various stages of the Christmas story, the words and music to the old classic Christmas carols are presented. So, for example, when Mary and Joseph first start out on their journey, the words and music to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” are given. When the angels first appear in the fields to the shepherds, the words and music to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!” This happens all throughout the book.
The beauty of this is several fold. If you have ever seen A Charlie Brown Christmas and can remember the scene, close to the end, when Charlie Brown throws his hands up in frustration and cries, “Does anyone know the true meaning of Christmas?” and then, Linus goes to centre stage and says, “I do, Charlie Brown” and he proceeds to tell the story and Christmas suddenly becomes about something more than the greed and the glitz of commercialism well, The Christmas Pageant did the same for me with my students.
This book introduces the classic carols to kids. All of the kids know Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. But, this book allowed me to take the carols, one per day, and write out beautiful lyrics such as,
“Angels we have heard on high,
Sweetly singing o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains
Glooooooooooooooria, In excelsis deo (X2)”
That is lovely language but, the story of the lyrics is told in context because of this book so, the language doesn’t end up being too lofty or intimidating, even for small children. In addition, it allowed me the chance to play these carols during craft times, as well as, Jingle Bells et al., and the songs would make sense to the kids and have a deeper meaning because they understood the story being told.
Furthermore, introducing the story of Jesus being born, along wth the carols that accompany the story helped my students in the same way that Linus helped the other Peanuts characters realize that there is more to this Christmas thing that they originally thought. Thus, because of this one book, I was able to open the door to exploring some of our Christmas traditions such as the importance of a star, of angels, of nativity scenes and so on.
I used to do this by using the Advent calendar format. Each day, we “opened” a new box or panel and revealed a new topic. For example, one day might be about candy canes and why they are shaped the way they are. The next day, might be why we bring trees inside our homes and the original German tradition of putting candles on the branches and how, for safety reasons, this has given way to electric lights. By the way, whenever I did the “lights on the trees” lesson, I always read The Nutcracker to the kids. It is the perfect story for illustrating how homes were decorated back then. It, also, introduces the concept of candy, including sugar plums. Once I have read this book to the kids, I can then read The Night Before Christmas and it will make more sense; especially the part when “the children all nestled snug in their beds, visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.” Getting back to the Nutcracker, for a second, reading that book, also, allowed me to go to YouTube and show the kids a clip of The Dance of The SugarPlum Fairy by The Bolshoi Ballet from Russia. *This comes up later in the list in another book, as well, called Olivia Saves Christmas.
I could talk all day about the Art and Science of teaching a Unit like the Holiday Unit to small children. But, for now, let me switch gears a little and tell you about some of our favourite books that always made an appearance during the course of the Unit. Some acted to help impart new knowledge of holiday traditions but, some others, were just fun read-alouds and some had other lessons incorporated into their storylines that appealed to the kids, as well. So, book talk time….here we go!!
James Herriot was a Veteranarian in Scotland. His stories of life as a Scottish vet became a TV series on PBS called All Creatures Great and Small. I really like this book, The Christmas Day Kitten because it allowed me to talk about two things that don’t normally get thought of at Christmas time. First of all, I got to say my piece about animals being given as gifts for Christmas and how pets aren’t gifts, like a doll or a toy truck. Pets are living creatures and for many kittens and puppies, the stimulation of Christmas can be frightening, as well as, the shock of being in new surroundings and, finally, knowing how much kids want to just go and play with all the new toys they just received, is it really the best time for them to learn to take care of a new pet? Secondly, there is a death in this story. The cat, in question, in this story dies giving birth to kittens. It is the only story that I had in my regular rotation of books that had a real death as part of the storyline. When the cat dies, the line in the book goes something like this…..the vet is talking……..”I placed my hand over her heart. Her heart beat no more.” The scene is an emotional gut punch and every single class always grew silent when I was done. With many classes, I would get asked if the cat was really dead. I would reply that it was and we would talk briefly about the Circle of Life. With other groups, the discussion would come up about pets who had died and, maybe, even family members who had passed away. When this came up, it allowed me to talk to the kids about how some people are sad at Christmas time and how we must truly think of others and show empathy. All in all, this book is important and was always handled in a sensitive manner. In the end, class after class, always thought it was special and, you know what? They were right. There are many James Herriot books and I recommend them all.
The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett is awesome because Jan Brett is a wonderful author and illustrator. This book was always popular and helpful because, while the story of Tekka training Santa’s reindeer played out, one day at a time, there was always a separate story playing out in the border of the book that showed what was going on in the workshop as December rolled along. So, for example, on December 1st, the elves were busy making wooden blocks, Russian Stacking dolls and stuffing stuffed animals. The fact that each page was a calendar date, dove-tailed nicely with the Advent Calendar-style format I was using to introduce each day’s Christmas tradition.
TheLittleDrummer Mouse is written by Mercer Meyer who, if you are familiar with children’s literature, wrote the Little Critter series and is much beloved, as a result. This story is based on the carol, The Little Drummer Boy. The illustrations are gorgeous in this book and I would like it enough for that alone. But, the lessons in this book are noteworthy, as well. For example, the forest animals learn that “the Royal Family” will be passing by. They plan an elaborate feast, all the while showing little patience for the little drummer mouse who, they feel, has nothing to contribute and is in the way. Unbeknownst to the animals, as they flit about, madly preparing for royalty, quietly, in the background, a young couple silently pass by (Mary and Joseph). No one pays any attention to these poor folk. Eventually, while everyone is asleep, the mouse goes to an empty field to play his drum. Once there, he notices the bright star and feels compelled to follow it. He is in awe of what he sees in the stable and is asked to play the drums for the baby because the drumming is the only thing that calms the newborn. Suddenly, the mouse is very important. I like this story because it helps to drive home the point of how we judge others based upon their appearance and, as well, it allowed me to reinforce the notion that the smallest ones….just like my young students…..still have worth and still have value and can make a significant difference in the lives of others. It is a message than young children can never hear often enough.
Some stories are just fun reads and are super clever in their concept. The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup is one such book. This book is about a boy who is making Christmas cookies with his Mom and decides he wants to turn his gingerbread men into a pirate crew, instead. Needless to say, the pirate cookies come to life during the night and end up fighting for their cookie lives as they attempt to avoid being eaten by the nasty giant all dressed in red. Lots of comedic turns throughout the story but, the best part of all is that, if you are so inclined….and why wouldn’t you be….you can read Captain Cookie’s character in a pirate voice all the way through. Every book is better when you can read it in a pirate voice! Arrrrrr, matey!
OMG!!! If there is any better character the world of Children’s literature than Olivia then, I don’t know who it is! Olivia Saves Christmas by Ian Falconer is the perfect melding of words and illustrations. There are fold out pages. There are cartoon illustrations plus, real photographs, too. Olivia, herself, is a diva. she loves fashion and art and, while having a heart of gold, always ends up exhausting her parents with her antics. Like every book in the Olivia series, there is a high degree of interactivity with this book. I highly recommend them all. If you are in a book store and see any of the Olivia books, pick it up and have a quick read. I guarantee that you will love what you see. Just as a teaser, when Christmas day is over, Olivia falls asleep. She dreams she is dancing the role of The Sugar Plum Fairy with Rudolph Nureyev in The Nutcracker; Nureyev and the stage in photograph form, Olivia is cartoon form, the perfect expression of happiness and contentment on her face.
Prolific adult author, James Patterson, wrote this book called Santa Kid. This book reads like a Hallmark Christmas movie. The illustrations are gorgeous but, the overall theme of a child saving Christmas is a message I always wanted to drive home to my kids. I never wanted them to feel helpless or as mere passengers in their own journey. I always sought ways to empower children and books like Santa Kid allowed me to give that message out. In short, this story is about a businessman who takes over Christmas and the North Pole because he claims that Santa isn’t as efficient as he should be when it comes to production and delivery and profit margins. Santa becomes too depressed to act, once things begin to go awry at the North Pole so, his daughter steps in a saves the day. I always like books that have female heroines, too and, this one does. Like I said, it reads like a movie so, kids always get caught up in the adventure of it all and they enjoy this book thoroughly. More of a book you would read to your child, as opposed to one they would read on their own but, just the same, a recommended Christmas choice.
Like Santa Kid, Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera, is a little more like a movie than most stories. It involves the spoiled Kringle children who live in a penthouse apartment in New York. They have a mysterious aunt who always goes away on “business trips” at this time of year. This is another story with a female lead. Sophie, the eldest sibling, decides to hide away in her aunt’s luggage as she prepares for her big trip. Not surprisingly, she ends up at The North Pole. Because she is small, she is mistaken for an elf and gets assigned various duties. Eventually, she goes down in the coal mines to get the list of naughty boys and girls and discovers that her brother’s name is on that list. Sophie has an epiphany and comes to realize the error of the way she and her brother have been acting and attempts to redeem her brother so that he will get gifts for Christmas, too. Eventually lessons are learned and identities revealed and secrets are shared. Over the years, the children I have shared this story with have enjoyed the detail and creativity given to the traditional Santa Claus tale that they are familiar with.
Berkley Breathed won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1987 for his comic strip, Bloom County. Much of the same high-calibre ability to combine illustrations with a strong storyline is evident in this book, A Wish For Wings That Work. This story is centred on one of his famous comic strip characters, Opus, who is a penguin who wishes to be able to fly. Obviously, as you know, penguins can’t do that in real life. Thus, Breathed tells a tale of a character who feels inadequate and defeated, “Imagine a bird whose wings sputter at those times when they should flutter”. Opus tries many different ways to fly such as ordering a Flap-o-matic from Ronco but, in the end, his dream never seems to be realized. But, as in all stories of this sort, redemption comes in the form of an emergency when his penguin swimming skills help to save Santa and, by extension, help to save Christmas. Earlier in the story, while sitting under a framed photo of Amelia Earhart, Opus had written to Santa, asking to be able to fly and, in a heart-warming way, Santa delivers the gift that Opus wanted in a way that makes Opus feel proud of himself in the process. Lots of depth and detail to the story and to the drawings in this book. One of my all-time favourite Christmas stories.
Sometimes, a book becomes a classic because of marketing and hype. But, sometimes, a book becomes a classic just because it is so good. There are two Christmas books that everyone should have and How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss is one of them. The second book is The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.
I doubt that summaries are needed for either of these book so, I will spare you that. But, let me tell you why I have found these two books to be so very special.
First of all, short of Ebenezer Scrooge, the Grinch is, arguably, the most iconic character in Christmas literature. Dr. Seuss has done a masterful job of creating a character so repugnant and evil that you have to root against him. But, his redemption is so profound and complete that, you can’t help cheering for him in the end. The rhyming nature of Seuss’ prose makes this story a delight to read aloud or to listen to. And, just like reading a story in a pirate voice is fun, I cannot…..I mean, absolutely cannot read this story in any other voice than that of Boris Karloff, from the original cartoon movie. If I was tasked with having to read aloud one story over and over again, for all of eternity, it would be How The Grinch Stole Christmas in a Boris Karloff voice. Man, I love it so much!!! And, so do the kids.
As for The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, this is my #1 book, and is the favourite choice, year after year, of the kids in my classrooms. The reason for this is simple….this story is all about the power of believing in something bigger and more profound than yourself. Believing in something is a powerful tonic for what ails all of our souls and what better thing to believe in with all your heart than the magic of Christmas. The way this book ends, with the ability of those who believe to hear the ringing of the bell, is as powerful a closing scene as almost any book ever written. I had the pleasure of working with children for thirty years and, believe me, the innocence of childhood hearts is as precious a gift as there is in this world; something that The Polar Express captures completely.
As I said waaaaaaay off of the top of this post, at one time, I owned hundreds and hundreds of Christmas books. The list I just gave to you is, by no means, exhaustive nor complete. There are countless other good books out there that help children understand the traditions, emotions and reasons for all that we do during the Holiday season. I hope that you enjoyed my list and that you all have a wonderful Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, etc., wherever you happen to be.