February is the month of love, but in my opinion this subject is worth attention all year long. Leo Buscaglia, also known as “Dr. Love,” earned this nickname because he was an author and motivational speaker on the subject. As he said, “Every day we are offered new means for learning and growing in love.”
Buscaglia was my inspiration when choosing these books, which I believe help children see some ways love is expressed.
Love Is Passing Down Wisdom From Generation to Generation
“Bedtime Stories” is a book written to spread the wisdom of an older generation to a younger one. Research shows that the average American is spending less and less time sharing stories with children.
Holiday Retirement, a provider of independent living with more than 30,000 senior residents living at communities nationwide, wanted to do its part to change this. It sponsored a contest to find the best stories written by its residents.
The result is a book that will help guide children to an understanding of the world. At the end of the book is a resource to help others share their stories with children. The proceeds from book sales go to the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), a charity dedicated to helping improve family literacy.
Molly Koch, Associate Director of Health & Wellness for Holiday Retirement, arranged for me to talk to some of the seniors involved in writing or illustrating the series of five short stories represented in this book.
Irvin Wordan, author of “Hoppy the Rabbit,” feels that children should not give up easily. His story inspired his own daughter to heed this message.
Dennis Smith, illustrator of the short story “Hoppy the Rabbit,” told me that after being in the military, he continued to socialize with other veterans. Some had lost limbs. When the idea for this story came up, he thought about them and how a prosthesis with a spring might have helped. He said, “I wanted children exposed to an idea using modern technology for healing. I think the Veterans Administration could copy the idea from this imaginary story.”
Agnes Thurber, author of “Daddy Long Legs,” wanted children to appreciate both the greatness of nature and the love of a parent for a child.
Barbara Smith, author of “Mortimer Bean’s Crazy Machine,” wanted children to look for creativity within themselves and to laugh at the humor in life.
Love Is Selfless and Unconditional
Adults, be prepared to shed a tear if you read “You’re Lovable to Me” by Kat Yeh out loud to a child. In this book, mischievous bunnies apologize to their mother for the day’s naughtiness.
Mama Bunny gathers her children together and says to them that they are her little ones and are always lovable to her no matter what. Similar books end at this point with the reassuring reminders of unconditional love (this can never be repeated too much). However, this book continues.
Grandpa Bunny comes for evening tea and sees an exhausted Mama asleep on the couch. Grandpa puts a blanket on Mama and tells her that even though she’s grown and has children of her own, he’ll always love her no matter what.
Love Is Seeing Your Child for the First Time
“I Love You Like Crazy Cakes” by Rose Lewis follows a woman on her journey to adopt a baby girl from China. It is based on the author’s own experience. The story begins with a baby in what appears to be an orphanage in China and ends with the baby in her own crib in her new home.
The book acknowledges the birth mother, saying that there were tears for the Chinese mother who could not keep the baby. This book is a love letter from parent to child.
Love Is Making the World a Better Place by Sharing Your Ideas
“What Do You Do With an Idea?” written by Kobi Yamada is a great story and life lesson for adults as well as children. The book encourages thinking outside the box.
A boy gets an idea and tries to ignore it. But he can’t. The idea grows and grows and the child starts paying more attention. He tells some people about it, but they discourage him. The boy almost gives up but an inner strength stops him from doing that. He starts to seriously nurture the idea. Then something really special happens. The boy embraces his idea.
The illustrations add to the story. Illustrator Mae Besom utilizes gray to emphasize the ordinary and color to depict the extraordinary idea. She also makes the picture of the idea (which looks like an egg with legs and a crown on top) grow and grow as time passes.
Besom uses a clock to symbolize time. At the end of the book, no gray is shown; only color portrays the fruition of the idea. The boy realizes an idea can change the world.
Love Is Making the World a Better Place by Sharing Your Passions
“The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos,” by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham, is a true story that certainly belongs in a short list of children’s books on love.
Paul Erdos loved math and he loved how math could help the world. He lived a life that was very different from most. He traded his knowledge of math for the help from others to take care of his basic needs, and although he had a hard time taking care of himself, he was able to overcome this fact.
As a grownup, Erdos lived on the road, traveling from conference to conference, owning nothing but math notebooks and a suitcase or two. Rather than working alone as many mathematicians do, Erdos collaborated with others in the field of math. By doing so, he brought out the best in other mathematicians.
The extent of his partnership with others was so immense that it gave rise to the Erdos number: If you have co-authored a paper with Erdos, you have an Erdos number of 1. If you co-authored a paper with someone who wrote a paper with Erdos, your Erdos number is 2.
Einstein had a number 2.
Erdos had an expression: “My brain is open.” Perhaps after reading this book, a child will be inspired to open the brain and discover a passion.
Love Is Hugging Others
Scott Campbell, the author of the “Hug Machine,” seems to be of the same mind as Leo Buscaglia. He believes that more hugging is needed in a society which is deprived of physical contact. In Scott’s book, an adorable boy with extended arms is featured. The boy wraps those arms around people, animals, and objects, without discrimination. He even takes on extra-special hugging challenges, such as the spiky porcupine and the too-big whale.
When the reader is through, the young reader most likely will want to receive the boy’s hugs and to imitate the boy. As long as the adult stresses personal safety to the child, there is no better message than to have a warm and caring approach to life.
Love Is Life
While your child is reading special children’s books on love, you might enjoy some of Buscaglia’s books for adults. At one point in time, Buscaglia had five books on The New York Times best-seller list. His books focus attention on what makes life worth living, LOVE.
Leo Buscaglia said, “Love is life. And if you miss love, you miss life.”
Linda Wiegenfeld is a retired teacher. She can be reached for comments or suggestions at email@example.com