Stories with Character: A Mom's Thoughts on Children's Books


Stories with Character: A Mom's Thoughts on Children's Books

Two of the greatest gifts we can give our children are a love of reading and a strong sense of self.

In our house, the stories that continue to find their way onto my daughter’s bookshelf use charming characters, wit, and wisdom to teach kids (and remind their parents!) to celebrate creativity, embrace individuality, and simply roll with the punches. Our favorites? Pete the Cat, and Olivia.

“Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes” (by Eric Litwin and James Dean) follows the cool and kind Pete as he accidentally steps in large piles of unavoidable messes—a giant pile of blueberries, then strawberries, mud, and a bucket of water—but, as the story goes, “Did Pete cry? Goodness no! He kept on walking along and singing his song.” Pete gives kids permission to misstep, confidence to keep moving forward, and the mentality to take unexpected setbacks in stride.

“Olivia“ (by Ian Falconer) follows a precocious young pig as she marches boldly into new experiences and challenges clichés, like why everyone suddenly wants to be a princess, in “Olivia and the Fairy Princesses”. Olivia is limited only by her imagination (and sometimes, her parents’ patience). The author brilliantly incorporates fine art and cultural themes into Olivia’s adventures, from the photo of Eleanor Roosevelt hanging over her bed, to Olivia imagining herself among the U.S. Supreme Court Justices. The point: dream big. The subtler point: story time can cover a lot of ground, so embrace the teachable moments.

The benefits of reading to kids are tremendous. When we read to our children, we improve their language skills, imagination, and creativity, and we prepare them for academic success. Children’s Bureau 2023 – Benefits & Importance of Reading to Children | Children’s Bureau ( Books like “Pete the Cat” and “Olivia” empower kids to be playful, imaginative, active learners. Whether our children regard these characters as their mirror or their peers, their stories communicate the messages our children need to hear.

Meg Ross is a writer, creative, and mom