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Friday, January 15, 2016

Can We Help?: Kids Volunteering in Communities. By George Ancona. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2015. $20.00 ages 5 and up

"A community garden grows produce to give to organizations that help feed people who don't have enough to eat. Men, women, and children volunteer time to plant, grow, and harvest fruits and vegetables. At harvesttime, families are invited to pick the produce."

It's extremely important today that our kids learn the value of helping others. There are needs everywhere we look. As well as that, in a world where communication is too often made through text and social media and we are too involved in our own lives to notice what is happening for others, we need them to feel empathy and to act on those feelings.

There are many ways that we can encourage children to get busy and helpful beyond their own families. They can certainly help others in their community, and in the greater world by learning about what is happening there. George Ancona, as he has done in previous books, encourages kids to get involved in many fun ways to make a real difference. He encourages them through his lively photographs to help friends, family, their school community and others within their neighborhood.

He shows a significant number of children who have taken part in a host of wonderful ways to make their world better.

"You can help your family, a neighbor, or even someone you don't know. If someone is hungry, you can get him some food. If someone is lonely, you can read him a story. You can help or volunteer alone, with a friend, or with your family."

He sets about showing his audience just exactly how they can help. Whether it's knitting scarves and hats for the homeless, help with gardening so that others might reap the benefits of the beautiful bounty grown for their benefit, taking food to a food depot that ensures meals and sustenance for those who don't have enough to eat.

What children volunteer to do may take a few minutes, a few hours, or a continuing effort through weeks and months. In doing so, they begin to appreciate their own efforts and want to do more. The pages are filled with photos that show how each project comes together. Because the children are named, it feels as if we are meeting some very special and kind kids willing to put themselves out for others. In doing so, they grow a real sense of community spirit.

You are sure to be encouraged to get your school students, or your own children, involved in finding a way to make a real and lasting difference where they live.

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