Whether you love it or rebel against it, Valentine’s Day does present us with the perfect opportunity to talk to our children about the many ways in which we express love and affection and show others that we care.
Love comes in many forms: romantic and platonic, happy and sad, family love and friends who respect and hold each other in high regard.
Picture books are a great way to introduce these concepts and initiate discussion with your child. These books talk about love, compassion and respect and actually illustrate characters giving and receiving unconditional love and the benefits of it. Some are gentle, sweet books that generate ‘warm fuzzies’ and a sense of security and belonging while others introduce a deeper awareness of our diverse society.
Either way, here are some beautiful examples of all kinds of love to read with your little ones …
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney is a timeless story of unconditional love, beautifully illustrated in gentle watercolours, that has captured the hearts of children and adults alike. Parents will relate to Little Nutbrown Hare trying to find a way of measuring the unmeasurable and Big Nutbrown Hare’s declaration “I love you right up to the moon – and back!”. This beautiful book is a common gift at baby showers and a very popular bedtime story in many households.
Two books by the wonderful Mem Fox highlight the complexities of a mother’s unconditional love.
Koala Lou is a little koala who worries when her busy mother forgets to tell her how much she loves her. Koala Lou sets out to win the Bush Olympics to earn back her mother’s love but in the end realises that she never lost it, and never will.
In Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild little Harriet has a series of naughty incidents that test her mother’s patience but both Harriet and her Mum know that they love each other no matter what. This gentle story promotes self-management, manners and forgiveness and will appeal to every Mum who has ever had a frustrating day with their toddler and every child who just can’t help being a bit tricky.
In I Need a Hug Aaron Blabey, author of the popular Pig the Pug series, incorporates his signature rhyming text and bold illustrations to tell the story of a little porcupine who just wants a cuddle. All the other animals turn him away because of his prickly spikes but finally the porcupine meets an animal who feels equally rejected and is happy to hug. This is a simple, sweet story about friendship, kindness and learning not to judge a book by its cover.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch was first published in 1986 but the story of parenthood, life and death and unconditional love is timeless. When the roles of child and parent become blurry this book reminds us that no matter how old you are, you’re always someone’s child and that no matter how old you are, you are never too old to love, or be loved by your parents. Tissues may be required by adults and older children reading this story but younger children will take from it what they are ready to process.
Julian at the Wedding by Jessica Love is a joyful story of friendship and individuality. The flamboyant Julian goes with his abuela (grandmother) to the wedding of two brides. He meets a new friend and after their wedding roles as ring bearer and flower girl are over Julian and Marisol get up to all sorts of mischief. When things take an unexpected turn to pair learn that everything is easier with a good friend by your side. The illustrations in this book are absolutely beautiful and the text is so subtle that most children will not even notice the significance of many of the concepts this book is addressing.
Love Grows Everywhere by Barry Timms and Tisha Lee explores love of all kinds. Love between friends, neighbours and family. Overt, demonstrative moments to small, tender gestures. Love that nurtures plants and the environment to love that nurtures relationships between all people.
Children of all ages will love the gentle rhyming text and the beautiful illustrations help convey the message of kindness, empathy and love.
Happy Love Month!