Posts Tagged poverty

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

My children NEED everything. Every toy. Every book. They have no concept of what things cost, no concept of moderation, no concept of the difference between want and need. In a nutshell, they are children.

I, on the other hand, am keenly aware of money, especially in this economic climate. I am keenly aware of what things cost, the need for moderation, the difference between want and need. I am a parent, it’s my job. I hate this job. I hate this job because I can’t figure out how to acknowledge that children don’t (and maybe shouldn’t?) understand money, and yet teach them to appreciate what they have, understand the difference between want and need.

Those Shoes

Those Shoes

So enter a book. I love books. I especially love Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. Those Shoes is the story of a boy who wants a new pair of cool shoes.

I have dreams about those shoes.
Black high-tops. Two white stripes.

My children dream of $50 Star Wars Lego sets. 

“Grandma, I want them.”
“There’s no room for ‘want’ around here — just ‘need,'”
Grandma says. “And what you need are new boots for winter.”

And thus comes the story of how our young friend deals with his wanting, how his grandmother deals with his wanting. We see the humiliation when his teacher sees how his shoes are falling apart and finds some extra shoes in “a box of shoes and other stuff he has for kids who need thing.” But these have an old cartoon animal on the side and they are not cool — they are the opposite of cool. We see the elation when he finds a pair at a thrift shop (even though they are too small and he has to squish his toes to fit them in). And then we see the amazing thing he does with the shoes. I’ll give you a clue, it has to do with another boy who wants shoes just like those but can’t afford them (and has small feet).

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Blog Action Day — Poverty — Lily and the Paper Man by Rebecca Upjohn

Wednesday August 15th is the official Blog Action Day– Poverty so I wanted to give a big shout out to my favorite book for children dealing with homelessness: the new, award winning Lily and the Paper Man by Rebecca Upjohn!

Lily and the Paper Man

Lily and the Paper Man

Lily and the Paper Man (winner of the ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year) is about LIly, a sweet little girl who loves jumping in puddles and saying hello to neighbors. But one day, as she and her mom are walking, Lily accidentally backs into Ray, the homeless man who sells newspapers on the street. His gruff voice and scruffy appearance scares Lily, who no longer wants to walk down the street with her mother anymore. Her mom (who does a great job modeling good behavior to Ray and listening to Lily’s fears) takes the bus with her instead until the day when the first snow comes. Then, Lily can’t help herself, she can’t wait to walk outside in the snow and eat snowflakes.

This time when they pass Ray, Lily notices: “a thin shirt through the holes in his coat and bare feet through the holes in his boots. Lily shivers.” As the weather turns colder, Lily keeps wondering about Ray (who she calls the Paper Man) and how he is managing in the cold. Finally, she decides she will help her Paper Man, and goes around to all her neighbors and friends collecting things for him. The scene of Lily giving Ray a bag full of warm clothing is lovely, especially when she adds her own special quilt for him to have as well.

I think teaching children’s about poverty and people who are homeless is a tough thing to do. As parents, we don’t want our children to really understand that other people don’t have enough money for heat in the winter or new clothing when they need it (except of course when our children are whining on and on about another toy they want and you want to scream: “Look how many toys you have! Other children don’t have this many toys..” But I digress.). But children do need to learn about poverty and learn, from an early age, to be agents of change — just like Lily in this story. Lily does something that is really so small, but that shows that she recognizes the humanity in another person, even if that person is gruff or doesn’t look nice, or smell nice. By doing the simple task of collecting a few items from her neighbors, she changes Ray’s life. When you read this story, you can talk with your children about how important it is to help even one person.

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