During this time in 2020, it is easy to focus on what we don’t have or what we are missing. I know there have been summer vacations that were scrapped, parties of all kinds cancelled, and time with friends and family shortened or, in some cases, vanished. And those are just the top of coronavirus missed get-togethers and events. It’s easy to focus on the negative and wallow in those thoughts. Now is a good time to try to focus on something other than the negatives. Our kids, and all of us, need that reminder to focus on gratitude for the things that we have. This can be a hard concept to teach, but books are a great way to present, reinforce, and inspire the concept. And, as we lead our kids to this more positive attitude we move ourselves to that point. Gratitude has been proven to create a more positive attitude in general. It is certainly a powerful life tool that we can all strive to remember and work towards.
1. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
This is a picture book story of a child and his grandmother as they travel through a city. This journey is captured through some wonderful illustrations. CJ, our young main character, voices several complaints to his grandmother. His grandmother in turn points out the beauty of things and keeps CJ looking for the fun in their travels. Their ultimate destination is one that promotes the value of service to others.
2. Gratitude Soup by Olivia Rosewood
This rhyming picture book has Olivia the Purple Fairy use her imagination to make “Gratitude Soup.” She thinks of people, things, events, etc. that she is grateful for and places them in her imaginary soup. The soup keeps her happy all day long. This is a great book for younger children who can have fun imagining their own “soup.”
3. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
This book is geared to younger middle school children. This is the story of a twelve-year-old girl who has always had a hard time communicating and connecting with others besides her parents. She counts by 7s in order to comfort herself. When her parents pass away, the reader will wonder if she can overcome this huge blow. But as she deals with this in her own way, she finds people who are accepting of her and finds that family can be untraditional but just as powerful.
4. Refuge by Alan Gratz
This story will suck middle graders in with the action-packed story of three young people as they search for their ultimate journey to find a home. These three stories cover three time periods from the 1930’s to 1990’s and then to 2015. The characters must demonstrate courage, overcome huge dangers, and maintain hope throughout. A great read to expand knowledge of historical events and foster gratitude at the same time.
5. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
This is the story of an eleven-year-old who has cerebral palsy. She can’t walk, talk, or write but has a fantastic mind with a photographic memory. Her struggle is to get others to know what she knows. An amazing story with great insight to a disability that many young readers may not be familiar with. The main character’s determination and resolve to communicate and make herself known to others is one that will have the reader cheering for her. This book will definitely get your middle schooler thinking beyond themselves.
6. Family Gratitude Journal
You can find one of these in your local bookstore or an online store. However, you can create your own in any blank journal. Have family members draw, write, or transcribe other members gratitude ideas and thoughts in this journal. I would keep it informal and let this be left in a place that family members can add to as they feel the urge. At other times, it can be pulled out and everyone can go around and explain their thoughts on gratitude or something that they are grateful for on that given day.