January Picture Books

Character Theme: Children's Rights and Responsibility


I Have the Right to be a Child by Alain Serres

A young narrator describes what it means to be a child with rights; from the right to food, water and shelter, to the right to go to school, to the right to be free from violence, to the right to breathe clean air, and much more. The book emphasizes that these rights belong to "every child on the planet, whether they are black or white, small or big, rich or poor, born here or somewhere else.” It expresses that knowing and talking about these rights are the first steps toward making sure that they are respected.

To read a summary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, go to www.unicef.org/crc/files/Rights_overview.pdf.

Critical Question: What is the difference between a right and a want?

Loving by Ann Morris

This book uses clear, vivid photography to record scenes of families who hail from all over the world engaged in everyday activities. Children will easily identify with at least one of the situations shown, and discussions about the rights of children can evolve from the images observed. The index repeats each picture in miniature, naming the country in which it was taken. Loving reinforces that everyone of us, no matter who we are or where we come from, has the same need to feel loved, safe and secure, which is what the UN Convention communicates.

Critical Question: In what ways can you see the rights from the UN convention demonstrated in this book?

For Every Child: The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Words and Pictures by Caroline Castle

In November 1989 the United Nations formally adopted 54 principles which make up the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. From the right to a name and a nationality to the right to education and play and special protection for disabled children, the fourteen rights most pertinent to young children have been carefully chosen and interpreted here in simple language. Each illustration depicts a different right using a double page spread with pictures that will captivate readers.

Critical Question: What needs are the most important ones for children to have satisfied? How do we tell the difference between the important needs and the wants?

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

This book tells the true story of a brave six-year-old girl who helped shape American history when she became the first African-American sent to an all white school in New Orleans. It vividly captures the courage of a little girl standing alone in the face of racism after desegregation was enacted in 1960.White parents began forbidding their children to attend the school. Angry crowds taunted Ruby as she was escorted to class by federal marshals. Ruby "began learning how to read and write in an empty classroom, an empty building." Her inner strength and perseverance, however, never wavered. After many months, one white family began sending their sons to Ruby's school, and soon the other students returned-and integration was achieved. Concepts such as integration, civil rights, and the power of hate are presented and will promote class discussions about human rights, especially those pertaining to children, integration and education.

Critical Question: How might remembering Ruby's experiences help us to ensure that all children have their basic needs met?

Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

A little girl living in a rough area of town is inspired by her teacher to look for something beautiful in her surroundings after her teacher writes the word "beautiful" on the blackboard at school. Her neighbors tell her about their own beautiful things. Miss Delphine serves her a "beautiful" fried fish sandwich at her diner. At Mr. Lee's "beautiful" fruit store, he offers her an apple. Old Mr. Sims invites her to touch a smooth stone he always carries. Beautiful means "something that when you have it, your heart is happy," the girl thinks. Her search for "something beautiful" leaves her feeling much happier. She has experienced the beauty of friendship and the power of hope.

Critical Question: What can we do to improve and appreciate the beauty of our own living environment? What can we forgo and live without?

This Child, Every Child by David J. Smith

This book uses stories and statistics to compare the lives of children around the world today. Some children, readers learn, have enough food to eat and safe drinking water, but many others are not so lucky. Far too many children lack opportunities that others take for granted. What is it like to be a girl in Niger? How are some children forced into war? How do children around the world differ in their home and school lives? This Child, Every Child answers such questions and sets children's lives against the rights they are guaranteed under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Critical Question: Are the children's lives in this book very similar, a little different, or very different from our lives?

The Day of Ahmed"s Secret by Florence Parry Heide

Ahmed is very eager to share his exciting secret with his family while he is working as a butagaz boy, delivering cooking gas to customers all over Cairo. The busy city and its market are beautifully illustrated in watercolour, and depict Ahmed, his thoughts and his work as he rushes home to tell his close-knit family about his news. The rights found in the UN Convention can be observed in the storyline and discussed as a class.

Critical Question: How is Ahmed's life and needs similar and different to our own? What can we learn from Ahmed's enthusiasm and work ethic?

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams

Two Afghani girls living in a refugee camp in Pakistan become good friends after relief workers unload used clothing and everyone scrambles to grab what they can. Lina manages to locate one brand-new sandal, but soon sees that the matching shoe is already on the foot of another girl, Feroza. Soon, the girls decide to share the sandals and take turns wearing them. The story, setting, and living conditions in the camp are realistically illustrated using watercolours, and both the mundane and emotional realities of their daily lives will encourage class discussion about rights.

Critical Question: What can we learn from the friendship and caring attitudes that these girls share? How does this relate to the rights of the child?

The Roses in My Carpets by Rukhsana Khan

Using watercolour illustrations, this book describes the life of a young Afghan boy who lives with his mother and younger sister in a refugee camp. Their shelter and food are modest and meager. The boy finds solace in learning to weave intricate carpets using rose patterns. Having already lost his father during the war, the boy learns that his sister has been hit by a truck. She ultimately survives, and the boy dreams that one day he and his family will be sheltered from the war in a space "the size of a carpet" where no bombs can strike. Within the space are roses.

Critical Question: What can we learn about hope, perseverance, and what is really important to our lives from reading this book? How does this relate to the UN Convention?