Being a kid is hard. Every day a new challenge comes around that might stop you in your tracks. How you deal with it is key.
There are a lot of books out these days about believing in yourself. I’ve written a bunch about the idea of believing in yourself in the past, but it is a topic that resonates with me and with children. When you are learning to do something new, it is so easy to just give up when it is hard, but where would that get you?
Not giving up is the main focus of Ashley Spires’ new book, The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do (Kids Can Press, May 2017). In this story, Lou and her friends are brave adventurers who have big dreams and can do anything. Except that one day when they decide to play pirates, her friends suggest that the pirate ship be a tree and she has never climbed one before. Lou suggests other games, comes up with excuses why she can’t climb the tree, and finally admits to her friends that she just doesn’t know how. With a little help and encouragement, she decides that she will give it a try. What’s even better? Spires doesn’t actually show Lou getting up the tree. She gives it a go, still doesn’t make it, but she will be back another day to attempt it again. We loved Spires’ earlier book The Most Magnificent Thing, and this is a great addition to books about perseverance and determination.
Another awesome addition to this grouping is Fuchsia Fierce, by Christianne Jones. Young Fuchsia has a bold, fierce name, but she is “quiet, shy, tiny, and timid.” She is also very afraid to try new things or stand out. What she really excels at is making up excuses as to why she can’t do new things. Her parents send her to camp confidence and she finally gives in and tries something new. She learns how great it is to try new things and that it is okay to mess up and not be perfect. Best of all, she learned to believe in herself. Kids will have a lot of fun with the colorful illustrations by Kelly Canby as well.
Peter H. Reynolds understands that sometimes it is the voices in our heads holding us back from discovering what we can do. In The Dot, young Vashti believes that she can’t draw. Her art teacher encourages her to “just make a mark and see where it takes you.” In anger, she makes just a dot, but her teacher makes her sign it. The next week, Vashti sees that her teacher has framed her work and hung it on the wall. Again in a rush of anger, Vashti says that she can do better and finally starts to let herself go. She just needed someone to give her a little push to get away from her fears saying “I can’t” to believing that she could.
Children are not the only ones who have fears. In Arturo’s Baton, Syd Hoff reminds children that even adults get nervous and even adults have objects that are like security blankets. Arturo is a famous conductor who believes that his baton gives him great strength. When Arturo loses his baton right before a world tour, he wants to cancel the whole performance, but the show must go on! He is forced to go on without his baton, but he still does an amazing job and realizes that the power has always been within him. I think it is super important for kids to see that grown-ups aren’t perfect either. We don’t have all of the answers and sometimes we get scared too.
Finally, while it is important to remember to believe in yourself, you also have to keep in mind that you can only do what your body is actually made to do. In Dragolin, by Stephen Cosgrov, young Dragolin is sad that he can’t figure out how to breathe a flame like all of the other dragons. A young armadillo gives Dragolin the secret – “If you believe…then there is nothing you can’t do.” Rather than trying to breathe fire, Dragolin tries to fly and then tries to walk through a tree, two things he simply cannot do. The armadillo amends his earlier statement to say that he can do it “if it’s physically possible for you to do it.” Dragolin finally understands and figures out how to breathe fire. By believing in yourself, you can be better than you are. This is an older book, but the lesson still rings true.