I keep an ever-growing stack of books in my office that are candidates for becoming Jambo Book Club books. My seven year old often thumbs through them looking for a good bedtime story. Yesterday, she pulled out this one: Children in Our World: Poverty and Hunger by Louise Spilsbury and Hanane Kai. I said, “Really? For bedtime? How about we have a Very Important Conversation tomorrow?” We’re right in the middle of Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary, so I actually think we will have a good bridge to talking about poverty since in Ramona and Her Father, Mr. Quimby loses his job and the resulting concern about making ends meet puts strain on the entire family.
Children in Our World is a series of books that covers Refugees and Immigrants, Racism and Intolerance and Global Conflict. I have also read Racism and Intolerance and found it to be all right, but not good enough for a recommendation. I admit to being exceedingly picky about books that discuss racism. I have not yet read Global Conflict or Refugees and Immigrants, however, I can recommend Poverty and Hunger.
The first thing that jumped out at me about Children in Our World: Poverty and Hunger was the cover. The family on the cover, a mother and daughter, were White. I was relieved that it wasn’t a family of color. Black and brown people are often stereotyped as being chronically poor, although most poor people in the United States are White. Additionally, White people get to be poor without every White person also being stereotyped as poor and without poverty being considered a personality flaw. I also appreciated the honesty of showing a mother and her child because poverty in America is overwhelmingly female (55.4% of the population of poor people in American are women).
Children in Our World: Poverty and Hunger takes a hard look at the causes of poverty and hunger and discusses each one. War, natural disasters, poor farming conditions, health problems, and low wages are all discussed as causes of poverty and hunger. The last third of the book is dedicated to how to help to alleviate poverty and hunger. This portion focuses mostly on the role charities and schools play in providing food, job training, farming assistance, education and health care to people who are struggling. Finally, the book encourages children to talk to an adult if they are still distressed about people going hungry. Adults, if your children come to you to talk about poverty and hunger, you can introduce them to some of the easily accessible charities that serve hungry people like Goodwill, food pantries, and missions that serve people through providing multiple services such as food support, education, job training, health care and gently-used clothing. In the Atlanta metro area, we visited Sweetwater Mission in Austell to see the great work they do. Sweetwater Mission welcomes volunteers and donors.
Children in Our World: Poverty and Hunger is appropriate for kids ages 4-10.