I love this book. Seriously. We're at the stage where I thought we would be out of the picture book arena for a while, as Mary Tyler Son has moved on to chapter books and Lego guides almost exclusively. I've missed them, honestly, as the picture books in our home library gather dust while they wait for Mary Tyler Baby not to drool on them or rip their pages. Board books for baby for the foreseeable future.
Friends gifted our older boy with The Day the Crayons Quit a few weeks ago and it was instant love from mom and child both. Written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, this kid's book delivers in some pretty surprising ways.
At the heart of the story are the demands of individual crayon colors, stating their position on why they have it harder than the other colors in the box and how that leads to their decision to quit. My son is amused by the idea of a crayon quitting, and not so sub-consciously, loves the concept of standing up for yourself and calling the shots for once -- a five year old's dream.
I love it for how it expertly weaves the lesson of empathy through its pages. Color by color, readers young and old are brought into the hidden lives of crayons -- the color pecking order, if you will. Red whines about how busy it is and how it is employed even on holidays like Christmas and Valentine's Day. Red wants a break. White feels empty, not even showing up on the page. Pink bemoans being thought of as a girl's color and dreams of being used to draw dinosaurs and cowboys. Black is tired of only being used as an outline color and fantasizes about a day at the beach.
The book concept is clever and humorous and won't bore a parent to death while also making kiddo think without knowing it. They'll be too busy giggling to realize the important lesson they are learning. Teaching a child to empathize, the act of understanding and sharing the feelings of another, is, from my point of view, one of the primary tasks of successful parenting.
Imagine a childhood where all children could better empathize with one another. Bullying would cease to exist as we know it. How amazing would that be? Pffft, a mom can dare to dream, can't I? Racism, sexism, classism, violence -- *POOF*. A lovely world, indeed!
But enough with my Utopian fantasies.
Long story short, this book is a great tool for introducing the concept of empathy to young children. Read it with them, giggle with them, then slowly encourage them to employ empathy themselves in their day-to-day. Start with the bugs they squash or the flowers and leaves they pick distractedly. Teach them about the value of all living things. From crayons and nature, move on to higher order empahty -- why Sally might feel left out when the boys refuse to play with her, or why Billy might be afraid to play baseball, as all kiddos don't like flying orbs careening towards their heads.
If you want to read more about teaching our children empathy, here is an article I highly recommend.
Another great feature of empathy is that when you are bone tired, frustrated, at the end of your parental rope, you can sit down and explain that to your kiddos, with the hope that they will actually understand. Ha! Speaking of fantasies . . .