Positive thoughts are with Japan today

All of my positive thoughts are with Japan and its people today so the book review and giveaway that was scheduled to appear here today is getting bumped to next week.

Japan Tsunami Wave Height
Japan Tsunami Wave Height from NOAA

How are you watching the news of the devastation from both the earthquake and the tsunami? Have you talked to your kids about it yet? We talked a lot about the Gulf Oil Spill when it happened, but they are off doing things today so we haven’t discussed this tragedy yet. Any tips?

The advice I like best is to really let them take the lead, stay age-appropriate, reassure them adults are working hard to keep them safe, and then empower them to take action in some way to help.

How to empower your kids, or yourself, to do something to help? I think there are two very powerful methods:

1. Giving. Giving to others in times of need is something that benefits everyone. Acts of kindness can be a lesson children carry with them the rest of their life. My top three choices to give money are: Mercy Corps, Red Cross, and Global Giving. Just be sure that any organization you give money is trustworthy and will use your money efficiently and with the intention of which it was given.

But kids likely won’t understand the act of cash donation unless it is their own money. How can you illustrate this act of  giving more clearly? Make them earn it, then match it with your own money to model the behavior you hope to see in them. They can earn it through chores, helping a sibling or grandparent, or anything else you can come up with.

2. Learning. This is an opportunity to spend time learning about the people and culture of Japan so your kids can develop an understanding of how they fit in with their own small worlds. Building connections between children halfway around the world expands their horizons and again provides an opportunity to develop empathy, curiosity, and compassion.

My favorite way to learn? Books. Here are five books that would be a wonderful addition to your home libraries (all available at affiliate Amazon) and should be available at a local library near you. I just put all five on hold at mine….

Japanese Children Favorite Stories
Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories Book One by Florence Sakade

This book was first printed in the 1950’s and is filled with popular Japanese folktales and simple illustrations. From the publisher: “Playful goblins with long noses, magic tea kettles and a delightfully brave hero who just happens to be one inch tall-these are some of the wonderful characters you’ll meet in this collection of the 20 best-loved Japanese children’s stories. Drawn from folklore and passed down for generations, these classic tales speak of the virtues of hard work, humility, kindness and good humor – ‘Once upon a time . . .’ has never sounded so inviting.”

Sky Sweeper
Sky Sweeper by Phillis Gershator

The illustrations in this book were created from delicate Japanese papers and earned a Caldecott Honor. Written in a Zen minimalist style with rich illustrations. From the publisher: “Young Takeboki needs a job and the monks in the temple need a flower keeper – so Takeboki sets to work, sweeping up flowers and leaves and creating swirling miniature worlds of his own in the temple garden. As the years go by, others ask him: Don’t you want a better job? But as the seasons shift, each as beautiful as the last, Takeboki knows the pleasures of nature and of humbly doing a job well. He is happy.”

One Leaf Rides the Wind
One Leaf Rides the Wind by Celeste Mannis

Peace and tranquility are discovered in the gardens and the traditional Japnese tea ceremony through counting and haiku. Discover the beauty of Japanese gardens and the fun of haiku.  Older children can learn even more in depth about Japanese culture through the footnotes that are included.

Japan (A to Z)
Japan (A to Z) by Jeff Reynolds

Describes the geography, history, culture, industry, and people of Japan using the alphabet from A to Z. Filled with quick and interesting facts accompanied by wonderful photos will surely provide a fun way to learn about Japan.

Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho
Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho by Dawnine Spivak

Matsuo Bashō is probably the most revered Japanese haiku poets. Basho wandered the country, in a time when that was most dangerous, to find inspiration for his poetry. This book is based on Basho’s diaries of his travels, prose and poetry. Each double-page spread includes, “a segment of the story, a painting of Basho on his journey, a haiku reflecting some aspect of the text, and a word that appears in three forms: a painted Japanese character, its transliteration, and its translation into English.”

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Positive thoughts are with Japan today — 3 Comments

  1. I love the list of books you have here. This is great advice. My kids are only 4 and 2. My son saw a little of the news when I was watching and asked me about it. I was trying to explain a little without going into too much detail and freaking him out. I just basically told him that there were some people who needed help right now. He seemed satisfied with that.

    • Thanks Rachael. There was a definite conversation happening on the Facebook page about when kids are too young to even know about tragedies like this. I think if our children are exposed to news like this, it is always best to be a little prepared and know how to follow their lead with age-appropriate explanations. Sounds like you did great! :)

      I still maintain that books are always a good idea, for any age, and are great for us to feel that connection to another culture as well!

  2. I told my 5 year old son about it, and showed him the picture of the big wave. We said a prayer together, and prayed specifically for the children who were affected. I also told him about the Haiti disaster, and he saw me in tears about it. I think it is healthy to let them know, to foster love and compassion and empathy for little boys and girls half a world away. Thanks for posting this. I was going to go the library tomorrow and you have inspired me to pick up a book you have suggested, to further our discussion at home.

    My heart and thoughts are with the people of Japan.

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