We all want our children to live long and healthfully, but did you know that merely tweaking the images of aging they’re exposed to could add years to their lives? The earlier the better when it comes to protecting kids from negative age stereotypes—even preschoolers.
So stop nagging the kids to eat their peas, because internalizing positive images of getting older is more strongly linked to longevity than a low-fat diet or daily exercise, especially when we begin in childhood. (Read about age stereotypes research.)
However, before we read to preschoolers we may need to unlearn our society’s most common myths about aging. Getting older is not all about frail bodies, deteriorating brains, low energy, and unhappiness. A tremendous article on Next Avenue.org aims a karate chop at the heart of common untruths.
Read “6 Aging Myths We Need to Stop Believing,” then look for these books—
10 Positive Aging Picture Books for Pre-schoolers:
- Gabby and Grandma Go Green is unusual in its portrayal of an environmentally conscious grandparent, but older adults will be very familiar with the “waste not, want not” attitude displayed here. Author/illustrator Monica Wellington shares that her memories of sewing and crafts projects with her own grandmother sparked this dynamic little story.
Grandma and granddaughter whip up re-usable cloth bags (directions in the back) and then shop local—at their city’s Farmer’s Market. They recycle bottles and egg cartons, enjoy a picnic and plan for more green projects. Important messages come through with few words and it all looks cozy and fun. The illustrations are a visual treat—packed with additional “green” hints for pre-readers to notice. (3-5 years) Dutton Juvenile, 2011.
(Well-known elder blogger Ronni Bennett recently wrote about elders who were green long before it was fashionable on As Time Goes By.)
- Grandmas Are for Giving Tickles and Grandpas Are for Finding Worms(ages 2-6) have something preschoolers love, perhaps even more than playing dress-up—“lift-the-flap” pages! And what makes me happy? Negative stereotypes are avoided and grandparents are active, engaged with the kids and knowledgeable. “Grandmas know about butterflies. And computers. And snails.” Grandpas play ball, build bookshelves, and carry you when you’re tired. Author Harriet Ziefert is paired with illustrator Jennifer Plecas for both these adorable little books (Puffin Books, 2000). A former teacher, Ziefert has written hundreds of books for young children and collaborated with many illustrators.
He highlights individuality—for example, showing us a dancing grandma, a grandma racing in her wheelchair, a grandpa living with a grandma, and a grandpa living with his friends. What most grandmothers and grandfathers have in common is also shown—such as “all grandmas like giving lots of kisses” and “all grandpas like to make you laugh. It’s amazing what can be conveyed in 150 words and 21 pages of jazzy colorful illustrations!
- Prolific author/illustrator Todd Parr dedicated The Grandma Book to his two grandmothers, one of whom he thanks for “believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.” This April he will be honored with the Mills-Tannenbaum Award for Children’s Literacy—for promoting a lifelong love of reading in young children.
- See five more at bottom of post
How do we promote a lifelong love of reading in preschoolers?
Children’s literature blogger Jen Robinson recently wrote about proven strategies to encourage lifelong reading on her excellent blog Growing Bookworms. She gleaned these nuggets, based on the latest research, from The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (7th edition). Jen shares her plan to implement his ideas with her 3 ½ year old daughter she dubs “Baby Bookworm.”
- “Perform repeat reads of the same book”
- “Fill more book baskets”
- “Read more slowly”
- “Continue to limit TV time, and turn on the closed captioning” (I love this idea!)
How do we promote a lifelong love of life?
In the interests of myth-busting around aging and encouraging “baby bookworms” to view late life as the vital and interesting stage it is…
I propose that parents and grandparents:
- Fill those book baskets with Positive Aging picture books
- Read those books over and over (and over)
- Read those Positive Aging books s-l-o-w-l-y
- …AND take time to chat about the fun things those older adults are doing in the lovely illustrations
Jen Robinson shares that the purpose of reading slowly is to “allow the child to build mental pictures of what he just heard you read.” I’d like to see us all work on building mental pictures of a satisfying life at every stage.
5 more Positive Aging books: (click on title for my review)
- My Abuelita by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Yuyi Morales. An artistic, working grandma raising her grandchild.
- Albert the Fixit Man by Janet Lord, illus. by Julie Paschkis. An active, neighborly older man.
- Here Comes Grandma also by Janet Lord, illus. by Julie Paschkis. An energetic long- distance grandmother.
- The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norman Juster, illus. by Chris Raschka. Contented, loving grandparents host grandchild for overnights.
- My Hippie Grandmother by Reeve Lindbergh, illus. by Abby Carter. Baby Boomer grandma actively engaged in her community.
Photos courtesy of author/illustrators—Todd Parr, Julie Paschkis, Jennifer Plecas and Monica Wellington.
Disclosure: I was not required to write these reviews and I received no payment for this post.