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Why children’s books are a great way to inspire kids to dream big

This guest post from Ethicool Books co-founder, Teigan Margetts. Teigan and her publishing company have a wonderful ethos, creating picture books about the world’s big issues and inspiring children to create positive change.  

By Teigan Margetts

As parents, we often observe our children with great pride, pondering what wonderful things they might do when they grow up. I know I do this with my own sons, currently aged 2 and 4. Right now, my eldest LOVES inventing wild and wacky stories (he’ll be a writer for sure!), and my youngest, well, he seems to love going down the slide way too fast and collecting droves of flowers, stones and sticks wherever he goes. Perhaps he’ll be some sort of explorer?!?

On a more serious note, though, all I would ever wish for my children’s futures is that they live a life full of passion and purpose. And given the precarious position the world finds itself in from a climate and equality perspective, I certainly hope that part of that purpose is to help make the planet a better place.

To help that aspiration along for our little ones (and children everywhere), my husband and I have just this year founded a publishing company, Ethicool Books. Ethicool publishes children’s books about the world’s big issues, and encourages kids to create positive change. Our books cover sustainability, equality, mental health, bullying, and many other issues, all discussed as part of gorgeous stories with beautiful illustrations. We think that young children want – and in fact, deserve – to learn about these issues from a young age, so they can be inspired to grow up and do something about them. And we think that books are the absolute best way to achieve this.

Here’s why:

Reading encourages active learning

When it comes to learning about world issues, is there really a difference between a child watching a documentary and reading about something in a book? There most certainly is, according to research on how children learn. 

Children, especially younger children, learn best by interacting with people, as opposed to passively via a screen. When you’re reading your little one a story, they become more engaged in a book because they are commanding your attention, and also more likely to ask questions and interrogate what they are reading. In a nutshell, reading a book makes for a far more active and enjoyable learning experience, as it also enhances your child’s connection with you.

Children learn through stories 

Does anyone else find it impossible to remember the swathes of facts we were taught at school? I certainly did, and nowadays, I’m glad that I have unearthed a scientific reason for that.

Many thousands of years ago, before humans had written the first word (or symbol), we had to rely on stories to communicate. In ancient civilisations, stories were the only way that different generations could pass down essential information, and often, this information became a matter of life or death (for example, Aboriginal elders often discussed what bush berries were edible and which were poisonous).

Due to our reliance on stories for survival, our brains developed a natural affinity for them, so much so that we are 20 times more likely to remember a story than we are a simple fact. 

The moral of the story? If you want to teach your children something important, use a good book to do it.

Oral language predicts future success 

Books are important for teaching lessons, but they’re also critically important for teaching words. Research shows that children whose parents have read them five books a day enter kindergarten having been exposed to an astronomical one million more words than children who haven’t been read to.

There’s a common saying at schools, which is ‘those who read, lead’ and science has shown this to be categorically true. Children who have an extensive oral vocabulary from being read to find it easier to learn how to read, and then learn how to write. Children who read extensively have greater knowledge of themselves and the world around them, with benefits ranging from better academic success all the way through to improved job prospects for those who are exceptional communicators. 

Reading books teaches children words, but it also teaches them the meaning behind them. Here at Ethicool, we’re hoping that a generation of children who grow up talking freely and openly about mental health, for example, feel empowered to take proactive steps to look after themselves and seek help if needed when they’re older.

Stories encourage empathy 

If we look at some of the world’s big issues right now, such as climate change and inequality, action usually requires seeing things from others’ perspectives. For example, action on equality, whether it be gender, race or income equality, requires us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and undo some of the biases that may have formed.

Stories can be the ultimate way to help little ones do that. This is because they enable children to encounter situations, people and ideas outside of what they have themselves experienced, and help them to see things from other people’s perspectives. With Ethicool, we hope that our stories will help broaden everyone’s perspectives, leading to a kinder world.

Ethicool is a publisher on a big mission, but for me, it actually started from quite a sad place: I lost my mum just before I started the business. Mum was the kindest and most caring school teacher, and I will never forget how she always managed to procure food at her school when children in her class didn’t have enough (or anything) to eat.

One of my books, Simon and the Sad Salad, focuses on this very issue. Recently, we had a kindergarten teacher reach out to us and say that after they read the book to their class, they noticed that the children were much more proactive with sharing their lunch.

Books really can change people’s behaviour, and we really hope they can change everything. And we truly and positively can’t wait to see what the next generation can achieve. 

Ethicool’s gorgeous collection of books are available exclusively online. You can browse their range here.

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