When I was a little girl, the first story that really stuck with me was that of The Ugly Duckling. It was the story of a little bird who was shunned for not being beautiful until she grew into a swan and was accepted. That story haunted me when I was five. The thought of someone being bullied, feeling helpless and alone... it absolutely shaped the way I saw the world, the way I see the world to this day. Because that's the job of a good story, to shape you. And 2018's best picture books from Goodreads prove that this generation of kids is reading profound stories of love, inclusion, acceptance, and diversity on a regular basis. And I think this bodes so incredibly well for the future.
Goodreads, the world's largest site for book reviews and recommendations from readers, recently dropped the top choices for its 10th annual Goodreads Choice Awards. These awards are based on the reviews of more than five million readers, meaning the choices are especially unbiased. And this year, the best books for kids definitely have a recurring theme: teaching kids about kindness, diversity, self-confidence, and empathy. Some are written by celebrities, sure, but most of all these books are a beautiful example of the beautiful people this generation of little readers might some day be, if they use these stories as their guide.
The top award, with more than 25,000 votes, went to a book written by Empire actress Grace Byers called I Am Enough, which uses beautiful illustrations by Keturah A. Bobo and easy to follow similes to teach children the importance of self acceptance. One of my favorite lines? "Like the sun, I'm here to shine."
Another story of acceptance and love written by Last Week Tonight's John Oliver is A Day In The Life Of Marlon Bundo (although Bundo gets credit on the cover). Bunny Marlon lives with his grandfather, Vice President Mike Pence, and is very lonely until he meets another boy bunny and falls in love. Because it's never to early to teach your children that love is love, and it's always a good thing. Not to mention 100 percent of the proceeds for this book were donated to The Trevor Project and AIDS United.
Rounding out the top three most popular picture books for kids in the Goodreads Choice awards was an important story written and illustrated by Vashti Harrison, Little Leaders: Bold Women In Black History. This illustrated book tells the true stories of 40 women who made their mark in the history books by carving their own paths and defying the expectations of people around them. Because what better story to inspire your child to always aim high than the true stories of women who deserve to be recognized?
The reality is, the stories we hear as children inform the people we are going to be. They imprint on us in a conscious and subconscious way. And the fact that parents are voting for books like these, books about strength and love and acceptance, because their kids clearly loved them says so much about where we might be heading as a human race.
It's a pretty wonderful thing.
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