The best stories are the ones which give us an unanticipated and fortuitous glimpse into our own lives through the experiences of another. The best stories are the ones which touch our hearts in a place where a new dream has taken root and give us the courage to let that new dream flourish. For me, Disney-Pixar’s latest creation, Brave, is such a story. Centered on a young and fiercely independent Scottish princess named Merida, Brave is a truly refreshing tale. Merida’s courage and determination to decide her own fate and the wisdom she learns to accept along the way are inspiring to anyone facing a defining decision in life, and it seems like it isn’t often that such a choice is absent from our plates. The struggles and problems that Merida faces are realistic and relatable, and the movie has strong themes emphasizing the strength and value of family bonds, which came to mean even more by the end. Merida’s Mother, Queen Elinor, had one line in the movie that I found to be particularly inspiring. As Merida and her mother were having a disagreement, the queen tried using an ancient tale to help convey her message. When Merida brushed the tale off as “just a legend,” Queen Elinor responded with, “Legends are lessons: they ring with truth.” That line got me to thinking – even though a lot of the best books are fiction, they still hold so much meaning within their pages. Books are especially powerful at transporting the reader to a different place and perspective, and children love adventurous stories, especially when they are led by another kid.
With that in mind, here are some reading suggestions and tips on how parents can bring out the magic and help their children absorb the value in a story:
Books: The Quiltmaker’s Gift or The Giving Tree Themes:
- Letting go of greed and giving to those less fortunate
- The happiness that spreading kindness brings to your heart
- Appreciating that love sometimes means being selfless
After reading the book, a great way to bring the lesson to life would be to have your child look at their old clothing and toys and ask them if they could choose any that they would want to give away to a child who doesn’t have any toys. Help your child take their donations down to a local Goodwill and let them know how much their kindness will mean to someone who needs it.
Book: Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Themes:
- Looking forward to the future with a positive attitude
- Keeping a sense of adventure
- Acknowledging your own intelligence and capability
Creating a collage or coloring pictures that represent the hopes and dreams of your children would be a fun activity to follow these books. When the pictures are finished, have them framed and hang them on the walls of you child’s bedroom so they will always remember the places their dreams can lead them.
Books: You Are Special or The Story of Ferdinand Themes:
- Recognizing value in diversity
- Being comfortable with being yourself
- Seeing value beyond physical appearances
Create an acrostic poem that represents all the qualities your child likes about himself/herself. Write you child’s name vertically on a piece of paper and help them come up with one characteristic that begins with each letter in their name.
Books: Where the Wild Things Are or The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Themes:
- Appreciating the values and comforts of home
- Imaginative and limitless thinking
- The hardships of growing up
Read these stories inside an elaborate blanket-fort to inspire the kind of imagination that these books are based on. Go on a walk through the woods dressed as royalty (crowns, swords) and see what kind of "wild things" and adventures you find in your backyard kingdom.
Books: Guess How Much I Love You or The Kissing Hand Themes:
- The unconditional love of a parent
- How to help a child be brave when temporarily separated from home and loved ones (when going to school, going to summer camp, etc)
Both of these books make excellent bedtime stories. Consider buying a copy of one of these books – or any book that is special for you and your child – and write all of the ways and reasons you love your child so that they will always be able to open that book up and be reminded, even at the times they are away from you.
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