I’ve been overjoyed to see more and more reading-themed posts on parenting blogs and in mainstream media, more and more book-related content on Instagram and Twitter. You can’t imagine how happy it makes me to discover hashtags like #readersareleaders and see how increasing numbers of parents, teachers, grandparents, and librarians are celebrating the many joys of reading with kids. From where I stand, it looks like a reading revolution is on its way – a resurgence of weekly trips to the library, book clubs, and bedtime stories.
Of course, there’s a lot we need to do to make sure ALL kids have access to books and proper education, but that’s a rant for another day. For today, I want to talk about that fabulous concept – “Readers Are Leaders.” Is it just a catchy phrase? Is it true because it rhymes? Or is there more?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I get ready for my first year as a leader of a Brownie Girl Scout troop. Yup, my fabulous Daisy Scouts have “bridged” to the next level and traded their blue smocks for the signature brown sashes. As a Daisy leader, I used picture books frequently in our meetings to help the girls investigate topics they were curious about, broaden their horizons beyond our suburban doorsteps, and inspire them to chase their dreams.
Our troop favorite last year? My Name Is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry, illustrated by Mike Litwin. This book inspired us to research famous former Girl Scouts and all they’ve achieved.
Girl Scouts aims to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” More simply, to build leaders. And so, I realize, does the best of children’s literature.
As a Brownie troop, we’re about to embark on a journey (journey = a group of badges with a whole new attitude) called “It’s Your Story – Tell It!”
This journey focuses on using stories to help girls DISCOVER, CONNECT and TAKE ACTION by identifying the problems or concerns in stories, thinking of ways to address the problems, and then putting what they’ve learned into action in the real world.
I’m loving the list of book suggestions GSUSA has put together to get us started – books like Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, The King’s Equal by Katherine Paterson. I’m making my own list, including Ada’s Violin and Maybe Something Beautiful.
And while I plan, I’m loving the idea that books teach readers to look beyond their own experience and recognize different cultures, traditions and behaviors. That they teach readers to empathize, to identify problems, and to take action.
Those are the skills of readers. Those are the skills of leaders.
Whether with my troop, or with my daughters, or when buying books as gifts, I’m going to keep in mind the power of books – and reading – to shape future leaders. I hope you will, too.
If you’re looking for more resources and ideas of books that build leaders and inspire kids to make a change, you can also check out the great new #booksforbetter hashtag and #ATWChat Twitter chat, happening the first Monday of every month at 8pm EST. September’s theme is “books that evoke change” and features Grandfather Gandhi author Bethany Hegedus, so I know I’ll be finding lots of inspiration for my troop’s journey there. If you miss the chat live, you can find an archived version by heading over to All The Wonders.