Barefoot Books | Magical Castle Build-a-Story Cards

Stories shape the way we see the world. Great stories allow us to relate to one another, nurturing our social experience and fostering kindness within ourselves. That’s the magic of storytelling! Here at Barefoot Books, we’re all about storytelling. We want to teach kids to learn how to tell great stories, too.

Perhaps you’ve heard of story cards. They’re cards that have illustrations and no words on them designed to help kids learn storytelling and writing skills. We knew we wanted to create some of our own because they are such a great fit for our product line. We started by kid-testing some existing story cards created by other companies. The cards were great in most ways, but we found that kids were having a really hard time creating stories that made sense. So we thought, “How can we improve on this when we make our own deck of story cards?”

That’s how our Magical Castle: Build-a-Story Cards deck was born! We asked illustrator Miriam Latimer (you’ve seen her artwork in our beloved Ruby series) to create this magical world full of potions and dragons and unicorns and castles. We divided the cards into three categories: red cards that depict characters, blue cards that depict objects, and yellow cards that depict settings.

Barefoot Books | Magical Castle Build-a-Story Cards | Cards

With the cards divided into these categories, kids can create stories that have more of a structure. We also created an instruction booklet chock full of activities that show kids that when you play with these different story elements, you can create fun and interesting stories that actually make sense.

At Barefoot Books, we always like to have multiple layers of learning in our products. That’s why we included a social-emotional element to our Magical Castle: Build-a-Story Cards with character pairs that have easy-to-identify emotions. In the instruction booklet, we ask them to create stories involving friendship and conflict resolution. There’s so much in this one little deck! Kids will be learning about story structure, writing, and developing social-emotional skills. Want to engage the kids in your life in imaginative storytelling? Get your own copy of Magical Castle: Build-a-Story Cards now!

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A message from our CEO and Co-founder, Nancy Traversy

Just Like Brothers | Barefoot Books

When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game
But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game
Oh, you get love for it, you get hate for it
You get nothing if you
Wait for it, wait for it, wait
I’ve got to be in
The room where it happens
– by Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of “Hamilton”

 

Dear Barefoot Friend,

Last week, I discovered this story by my role model and friend, Abby Falik, who founded Global Citizen Year, an organization dedicated to building the next generation of global leaders.

I met Abby 7 years ago when my eldest daughter, Meaghan, enrolled in her bridge year program for students between high school and college. As an 18-year-old, Meaghan spent several months in Sebikotane, Senegal, a transformative experience that culminated in her building a library for the children in the village. Here is a video that captures her story.

Late last year, Abby attended the Obama Foundation Summit where President Obama reflected: “I’ve been in ‘the room where it happens’ and here’s the secret: no one in that room is inherently better equipped than you…You all are equally qualified to be in that room – you’ll get there if you can keep believing in yourself, the power of others and your ability to connect the two.”

We can all be “in the room where it happens”…

If the future is going to look different than the present, we need a generation of leaders with the curiosity, imagination, compassion and conviction to change things for the better. For more than 25 years, our mission at Barefoot has been to combine the best of the past, with the best of the present, to educate our children to be the caretakers of tomorrow.

Just as Abby Falik and the Global Citizen Year community are working hard to help equip high school students with empathy, insight and moral courage, at Barefoot we are helping to grow a generation of open-minded, curious and compassionate leaders through the power of story and connection.

Looking back

For a quarter of a century, we’ve worked hard to make sure that all children feel “seen” when they read our books.

From the publication of The Animal Boogie in our early days, with its cast of multi-ethnic and multi-abled children, to Baby’s First Words in 2017, featuring a multiracial family with 2 dads, our books have always validated a wide range of children by accurately and sensitively depicting characters who look and live like them.

In 2016 we introduced The Barefoot Book of Children, which was described by Caryl Stern, President and CEO of U.S. Fund for UNICEF, as a “a colorful and hopeful celebration of childhood” and received a starred review in Publishers Weekly.

Late last year, we launched our Mindful Kids activity deck at a time when the importance of mindfulness in our daily lives has become so much more than just a buzzword.

And in 2017 we were honored by Forbes as one of the 25 Best Small Companies in America who set “the standard for excellence in children’s books” and who “defied conventional wisdom with a publishing brand that parents and grandparents recognize, trust and buy.”

Looking ahead

As 2018 begins, I feel a renewed sense of purpose and passion for the work we are doing in the Barefoot community.

Today, as nationalism and xenophobia surge, it is more important than ever before that we raise our children to be open-minded, globally aware and compassionate citizens; and to be the next generation of empathetic leaders.

With new books in our 2018 collection, including Just Like Brothers, the heartwarming tale of a young boy and a wolf cub who question prejudice, and La Frontera: El viaje con papá / My Journey with Papa, an immigration story of a courageous journey to a new land, our commitment to opening children’s hearts and minds is stronger than ever before.

Since we began as a small, home-based business in 1992, we have put more than 20 million books into children’s hands. In 2017 alone, that number was 1 million books. Let’s make it our collective goal to double that to 2 million books in 2018.

We are “in the room where it happens”

In the words of my friend Abby Falik, “Organizations and ideas don’t move history, people do.” As President Obama says “you’ll get there if you can keep believing in yourself, the power of others and your ability to connect the two.”

As part of our community, you are in the “room where it happens”. If you believe in Barefoot’s mission, you have “skin in the game”. Each time you help to put a book into a child’s hands, you make a difference. You are educating and expanding young minds and helping to create our next generation of leaders.

Together, we’re driving a movement to open children’s hearts and minds through the power of stories.

And together, we are part of something more powerful than we can be on our own.

Let’s do this together.

Warm wishes,

Nancy Traversy | Barefoot Books

Nancy Traversy | Barefoot Book

 

 

 

Nancy Traversy
CEO and Co-Founder


Finding the perfect artist for a project is one of the trickiest but most rewarding parts of creating a book–or, in this case, a deck of cards! And Mindful Kids is no ordinary publishing project. A typical picture book has 32 pages of artwork. By comparison, each of the 50 cards in this deck is lavishly illustrated with a detailed scene on the front, and several smaller pieces of artwork illustrating different steps of each activity on the back—not to mention the colorful, hand-created design elements that make this deck both beautiful and easy to use. Overall, Mindful Kids contains over 200 separate pieces of artwork!

Barefoot Books Mindful Kids Card Deck

When searching for an illustrator for this project, we knew we needed an expert at drawing facial expressions and complex postures. We were also looking for a connoisseur of pattern and texture, since it wouldn’t be a Barefoot product without that level of attention to gorgeous detail. Finally, we wanted a fresh, fun, and quirky style, to keep the cards feeling young and engaging.

Our co-founder and (now retired) editor-in-chief Tessa Strickland initially discovered Mina Braun’s work at a gallery in Edinburgh. When we looked through her portfolio, we were captivated by her bold palette and the sophisticated yet whimsical style of her prints and illustrations.

Once we signed a contract with Mina, we sent her the text for the cards, a description of the design elements we wanted to include (such as the decorative borders and color-coded corner elements), reference photos for some of the trickier poses, and specific instructions for sketching out the cast of characters.

Mina writes:

Barefoot Books | Mindful KidsMy work-process usually begins with plenty of pencils and a large sketchbook. Here I bring to paper anything that comes to my mind about the brief. I really enjoy this first stage of sketching ideas.

When starting with Mindful Kids, I drew lots of quick little doodles whilst working my way through the script. To me, those first ideas tend to be the strongest ones and in this case, most of them became the actual illustrations later on.

After deciding for a color scheme together with the production team of Mindful Kids, as well as creating a set of eight different characters for the card set, I made a rough pencil sketch for each card. Once they were approved, I then made a more detailed version of each rough by hand.

After scanning them in, I then created the final color artwork on the computer, using a digital drawing tablet to work over the drawings. I often use handmade textures and patterns as well, collaging them into the artwork in Photoshop.

Mindful Kids was created from the sunny studio I share with three other artists, which is part of a communal art-space in the heart of Berlin-Neukölln, Germany.

We also worked heavily with Alex Strick and Beth Cox, consultants at Inclusive Minds, to ensure that the artwork reflected our high standards of diversity and inclusivity. For example, we chose to depict one of the characters as a child with spina bifida who uses a wheelchair. Inclusive Minds helped us art-direct realistic and comfortable poses for this child outside of his chair on some cards as well, to combat the stereotype that children who use equipment to move are inseparable from that equipment. They also helped us find reference images for a child-friendly hearing aid for another character.

We’re thrilled that a wide range of children using these cards will be able to see themselves reflected in the illustrations. As you explore these cards with children in your life, I hope you’ll fall in love with Mina’s characters just as we did!

Learn more about Mindful Kids!

Lisa Rosinsky is Senior Editor at Barefoot Books. You can follow her at @LisaRosinsky.


Introducing My Friend Robot!: See inside the must-have STEM book with the award-winning author | Barefoot BooksLike many small children, my three-year-old daughter has a big imagination. She excels at thinking outside the box. For instance, playing with her dolls includes pretending to fix the robots my scientist husband works with – and then putting them to bed with her dollies!

Thinking outside the box and promoting imagination and innovation are some of the goals of STEM learning (science, technology, engineering and math). STEM is all about combining ideas and skills that are as different as dolls and robots to come up with something new! It’s a popular topic right now among kids, educators, and caregivers. So when we at Barefoot Books were looking for a subject for our next singalong, I took my inspiration — like so many authors before me — from my daily life!

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to our upcoming singalong My Friend Robot! It’s about a girl who loves robots — but also about so much more. Let’s peel back some of the layers together!

We’re always looking for new topics and subjects to cover in our books, so we packed My Friend Robot! with STEM concepts for kids to learn. This book teaches these topics by following a project step by step — building a treehouse with a robot!

The book covers:

  • Simple machines: The robot and children use one of each of the six simple machines to build the treehouse together. Introducing My Friend Robot!: See inside the must-have STEM book with the award-winning author | Barefoot Books

  • Carpentry: As the treehouse comes together, readers are introduced to different tools, safety equipment and the critical skill of following instructions in a sequence.

  • Programming: When the singalong ends, kids can dive deep into six pages of educational notes to learn more about simple machines, robotics and programming. It even includes a fun game that teaches basic programming principles without a computer! Introducing My Friend Robot!: See inside the must-have STEM book with the award-winning author | Barefoot Books

Introducing My Friend Robot!: See inside the must-have STEM book with the award-winning author

But if I’ve learned anything from being surrounded by robots, it’s this — there’s more to robotics than gears and sensors and code. My husband studies how robots and humans can work as a team, which inspired us to bring a social-emotional angle to the story as well. I wanted to explore what the robot can teach the children, and in turn what the children can teach the robot. So My Friend Robot! can also start conversations about:

  • Independence: Our clever main character builds her robot herself, and comes up with the idea to build a treehouse with her friends. We hope this book empowers children to imagine their own projects. Caregivers and educators can ask: What would you build with a robot friend?

  • Community: Kids and grown-ups alike will be inspired by this diverse group of neighborhood kids collaborating on a treehouse that they can all share.

  • Introducing My Friend Robot!: See inside the must-have STEM book with the award-winning author | Barefoot Books

  • Teamwork: The robot helps the children by sharing what it is good at, like using tools and building, and then the kids get a chance to help the robot by sharing what they’re good at, like…

  • Empathy: When the puppy is nervous about climbing up in the treehouse, the children teach the robot how to empathize with the worried puppy and comfort him.

Who would have thought that a picture book about a robot could be a tool for teaching so many different topics? That’s what you get from carefully crafted, high-quality picture books like the ones we make here at Barefoot Books. It has been such a pleasure to work on this book both as author and editor, to create something that will inspire children like my daughter to innovative, out-of-the-box thinking!

Introducing My Friend Robot!: See inside the must-have STEM book with the award-winning author | Barefoot Books

But there is so much more to this amazing project than what I’ve told you here! Stay tuned to learn more about My Friend Robot!, including its fun illustrations, music, and animation, as we count down to the book’s release this autumn. I can’t wait to tell you all about it! In the meantime, visit our website to learn more about this exciting new book and discover more of our fun STEM stories!

Introducing My Friend Robot!: See inside the must-have STEM book with the award-winning author | Barefoot Books

About the Author

Kate DePalma, Senior Editor | Barefoot Books

Kate DePalma, Senior Editor | Barefoot Books

Kate DePalma
Senior Editor, Barefoot Books
Author, My Friend Robot! (as Sunny Scribens)

As Senior Editor at Barefoot Books, Kate DePalma has helped develop dozens of picture books. She co-authored The Barefoot Book of Children, which has won four awards, including the Nautilus GOLD Award and Foreword INDIES Silver Award for Juvenile Nonfiction. She holds an M.A. in Classics from the University of Texas and is also a published poet and scholar.

 


How we're bringing mindfulness to preschoolers and beyond | Barefoot Books

How can you help children build empathy, manage everyday emotions and reduce stress and anxiety? With mindfulness! It’s the latest hot buzzword in education and early childhood development, for good reason: a growing body of research shows that practicing mindfulness has a direct impact on kids’ brain development and behavior. Mindfulness teaches you to focus your attention, expand your awareness, and build kindness and patience. These skills help kids become compassionate global citizens, which fits perfectly with our core mission here at Barefoot Books!

 

Why a deck of mindfulness cards?

Mindful Kids is the very first deck of mindfulness activity cards for ages 4 and up. Like our bestselling Yoga Pretzels, Mindful Kids is a deck of 50 activity cards packaged in a sturdy box for easy portability, so you can carry it with you and use it all day long. Each double-sided card is fully illustrated with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions. The activities are divided into 5 categories designed to fit into each part of the day, from morning to night.

How we're bringing mindfulness to preschoolers and beyond | Barefoot Books

The activities and an 8-page instructional booklet include tips that make them accessible for children with a wide range of abilities. (More about that below!) And the large, laminated cards make it easy for kids to grab the cards they want and keep them close for reference as they explore the deck.

 

Developing Mindful Kids

We started by commissioning the text from an expert! Whitney Stewart is an award-winning children’s book author and mindfulness instructor. She has practiced meditation for over thirty years, and is certified to teach by both the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Teens Program and the Prison Mindfulness Institute. Whitney has tested each activity in this deck with children in her own classes and programs.

Next, we turned to our very own Stefanie Paige Wieder, M.S.Ed., to make sure the activities and language were developmentally appropriate for even the very young end of our target audience (ages 4 to 104!). In the process, we tested them repeatedly in the office. Ever since, I’ve been practicing these activities myself when I need to find a few moments of inner peace during the day!

 

Making the deck diverse and inclusive

How we're bringing mindfulness to preschoolers and beyond | Barefoot Books

We worked extensively with Beth Cox and Alex Strick at Inclusive Minds to make sure the artwork shows a diverse cast of characters, and that the activities are accessible for a wide range of children. We discussed everything from choosing the clearest term for a pointer/index finger (we chose “pointer,” because that tells you what it does!), to considering when it was appropriate to change the instruction “stand” to “stand or sit” (which makes the activities more inclusive for children who might not be able to perform them standing), to what a kid-friendly hearing aid looks like.

 

How we're bringing mindfulness to preschoolers and beyond | Barefoot BooksI especially loved discussing the depiction of children with disabilities in the illustrations. For example, one of the characters has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. Beth and Alex coached us through the art-direction process to make sure that we were portraying a sporty, modern-looking wheelchair, as well as showing this child outside of his wheelchair, using other supports like couch cushions, on several cards—to combat the stereotype that children who use wheelchairs are inseparable from their equipment.

 

Bringing the product to life

One of my favorite parts of the editorial process was working with fabulously talented illustrator Mina Braun, whose artwork brings such whimsy and humor to each activity. It’s not every artist who can take an abstract brief like “girl

pretending to be a tree” or “child sends love to the whole universe” and turn it into sweet, sophisticated artwork. Kids will love all the funny details in the illustrations…including the mindful pets!

How we're bringing mindfulness to preschoolers and beyond | Barefoot Books

 

When can you use Mindful Kids?

Do the kids in your life ever need to calm down? To practice patience? To think about the way someone else might be feeling? You can use these activities in any of these situations, and many more. When else do you think you’ll pull out a few Mindful Kids cards during your day? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! Or if you want to follow the conversation on Twitter, look for #mindfulkids.

Mindful Kids will be available in October 2017.

 

Lisa Rosinsky is Senior Editor at Barefoot Books. You can follow her at @LisaRosinsky.


Building Empathy in Children: Lessons From Early Childhood Education by Stefanie Paige Wieder, M.S.Ed. | Barefoot Books

By Stefanie Paige Wieder, M.S.Ed., Senior Director of Product at Barefoot Books. Originally appeared on Edweek on October 31, 2016.

Imagine if we stopped teaching math to children over the age of 5, yet expected them to grow up to be totally proficient with math in their daily lives. Sounds like a pretty bad idea, right?

Sadly, this is exactly how we treat social-emotional learning (SEL) in most cases. The good news is that, since early childhood education has long included SEL as one of its pillars, educators of school-age kids don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel.

The “empathy gap” has been getting a deluge of attention recently, and with good reason. Just google “empathy” and you’ll quickly find that the ability to understand and share the feelings and perspectives of others is now widely considered a crucial 21st century competency. It’s also the foundation of global citizenship. Students might learn about other people and about world events, but without empathy, they won’t necessarily care what’s happening or choose to be agents of progress and change.

It’s wonderful that SEL is now getting the attention it deserves for students of all ages, but early childhood educators have known about the importance of empathy for a very, very long time. Friedrich Fröbel, Rudolf Steiner, and Maria Montessori, among other luminaries of the 19th century, grounded early childhood education in the importance of nurturing the whole child.

The Recipe for Empathy

Empathy can be defined as having a number of components. To my mind as a child development specialist, there are three major social-emotional and cognitive skills that come together to create the ability to empathize. These are:

  • Self-awareness, or the ability to identify and label one’s own feelings and motivations
  • Perspective-taking, or the ability to see things from someone else’s point of view
  • An understanding of cause-and-effect, or how one’s own actions might impact others

In other words, empathy relies on an awareness of self, an awareness of others, and the ability to understand how the two interrelate.

A Snapshot of SEL in Early Childhood Education

Children in high-quality early childhood classrooms have ample opportunities to develop their understanding of themselves and others. SEL is considered a fundamental part of each child’s preschool education, just as important as early literacy, math, and science skills. It’s a key component of both curriculum design and student assessment. SEL also gets reinforced in countless “teachable moments” every day. Take a look at how the pre-K teacher in the following example fostered SEL in multiple ways:

Two 4-year-old children, Max and Suki, are in the block area of their pre-K classroom. Suki grabs a block out of Max’s hand. Max yells, “No!”
A teacher approaches and asks, “Hey guys, what’s going on?”
Max cries, “She took my block!”
The teacher, getting down to the children’s eye level, asks, “Suki, why did you take the block Max was using?”
Suki says, “Because I needed a block like that one to build my bridge.”
The teacher asks, “Max, how did that make you feel?”
Max says, “Sad. And mad!”
The teacher then inquires, “Suki, what could you do instead of grabbing the block?” [No response from Suki.] “Why don’t you try asking Max if you could use that block?”
Suki asks Max if she could use the block. He says, “No, I need it now.”
The teacher responds, “Okay, Suki. Max is using that block now. Let me help you find something else to build your bridge. Let’s look at the block shelf.”
Suki hands the block back to Max and follows the teacher to the block shelf.

In this scenario, the teacher:

  • Set the stage for a safe and open conversation by signaling a neutral (rather than disciplinary) tone.
  • Prompted Suki to reflect on the motivation for her actions, promoting her self-awareness.
  • Gave Max practice with identifying and labeling his feelings.
  • Helped Suki see that her actions had an impact on another person, which encouraged her to think about cause and effect.
  • Gave both students the opportunity to assert their needs in an appropriate way.
  • Modeled respectful problem solving.

Over time, with consistent scaffolding from teachers, young children can begin to internalize these behaviors and do them more independently. This is the foundation of empathy. But students need continued guidance and opportunities for practice as they grow and their cognitive and social skills become more advanced.

SEL for School Age Children

Building Empathy in Children: Lessons From Early Childhood Education by Stefanie Paige Wieder, M.S.Ed. | Barefoot Books
Although many formal curricula and learning standards for older children pay scant attention to “the whole child,” I’ve seen firsthand how SEL can successfully continue past the early childhood years. When I was with the Lesley Ellis School in Arlington, Massachusetts, I had the pleasure of witnessing skilled teachers of elementary and middle school students continuing to weave SEL into the classroom. At times they adopted aspects of formal curricula like Open Circle, and at other times informally wove SEL into the existing curriculum units using books and activities.

While studying immigration, the 5th and 6th grade students at Lesley Ellis not only learn what some of the push/pull factors are that lead to people immigrating, but they also examine the emotional toll immigrants can go through by staging a mock Ellis Island. By “putting themselves into the immigrants’ shoes” (so to speak), the students can, for instance, “experience” getting turned away if they are asked to represent someone who has a cough or doesn’t fit some other type of health requirement. The students then write a journal entry, in the voice of their Ellis Island persona, describing the immigration experience.

This is a beautiful example of how SEL can and should grow with children as their skills develop. Like the students in the pre-K example, the kids in this scenario practice self-awareness, perspective-taking, and the appropriate expression of feelings through language. By not only learning about people from other parts of the world, but also experiencing what they might feel, these kids are on their way to becoming caring global citizens.

Getting Scrappy with SEL

Even if you teach in a program where you have little control over the formal curriculum and there is no SEL curriculum in place, there are still ways to take the cue from early childhood education and meaningfully integrate SEL into daily classroom life. Here are some resources that will help you informally incorporate books, assignments, and discussions that promote self-awareness and perspective taking.

  • Barefoot Books is an independent children’s book publisher with a wide selection of global, diverse, and inclusive books that foster SEL for children from birth through ages 8+.
  • Dr. Michele Borba, author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, offers practical articles and resources for educators on her website.
  • Roots of Empathy offers a fascinating, evidence-based classroom program used around the world that has been shown to raise social/emotional competence and increase empathy. Learning about their curriculum can give you some ideas for SEL lessons.
  • The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley website includes an education section with links to a variety of SEL articles for educators.
  • The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence website describes its “RULER” program, an evidence-based approach to teaching emotional intelligence, and has a publications section with research articles about the impact of SEL.
  • Ashoka’s Start Empathy Initiative offers the Start Empathy toolkit for educators Homa Tavangar, author of Growing Up Global, provides an overview.
  • Jordan Catapano, a high school English teacher in the Chicago area, wrote an excellent blog post in which he offers simple, empathy-boosting strategies teachers can use.
  • School 21 in London uses what they call a Wellbeing framework to approach SEL. You can read about it and find practical tips from their curriculum.

Building Empathy in Children: Lessons in Early Childhood Education by Stefanie Paige Wieder, M.S.Ed. | Barefoot Books

 

Stefanie Paige Wieder, M.S.Ed, is Senior Director of Product at Barefoot Books and a child development expert with over 20 years of experience. She earned her dual master’s in Early Childhood General & Special Education / Infant & Parent Development & Early Intervention from the Bank Street Graduate School of Education and her B.A. from Harvard University.

 

Want more of Stefanie’s expert tips to nurture your child or students’ empathy? Download a FREE empathy-boosting activity and discussion guide here!

Building Empathy in Children: Lessons from Early Childhood Education | Barefoot Books


4 Ways to Celebrate the Lunar New Year with Children | Barefoot Books

Welcome to the Year of the Rooster!

According to the lunar astrological calendar, every year in a twelve-year cycle is ruled by a different animal — and as of the Lunar New Year on Saturday, January 28, 2017, the rooster is in charge! The rooster’s place in the Lunar Zodiac was established in the mists of time, when the Jade Emperor decided that a different animal should rule each year and, to determine the order of the animals, challenged them all to an epic race. The rooster (or “cockerel”) finished tenth, earning it the tenth place in the Lunar Zodiac.

So if you were born in 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993 or 2017, this is your year! You’re known for being adventurous and hardworking; but it’s your kindness — no matter what place you finish in a race — that friends and family really appreciate.

Cherished in China, Korea and beyond, the Lunar New Year is a great way to introduce the children in your life to another culture’s traditions. Here are a few kid-approved ideas for celebrating the Lunar New Year:

Have a Lavish New Year’s Eve Dinner

Traditionally, the festival opens with a lavish New Year’s Eve dinner held in honor of deceased ancestors. This meal is a time for all living family members to come together with the deceased, creating a united community to celebrate past and present generations.

In the past, family members filled bamboo stems with gunpowder and burned them to drive evil spirits away; today, people use firecrackers instead. Each is rolled in red paper, as the color red is considered lucky.

4 Ways to Celebrate the Lunar New Year with Children | Barefoot Books

From The Great Race

Send Letters to Loved Ones in Red Envelopes

The use of red extends to red envelopes or red packets that are traditionally passed out during the celebrations. The packets almost always contain money ­— sometimes chocolate coins — and the amount is always given in even numbers. The number eight, for instance, is considered lucky, as is the number six, because in Mandarin it sounds like the word for “smooth,” promising a smooth year.



To create your own special Lunar New Year letters for loved ones, print our FREE Share your Love DIY Letter / Envelope on red construction paper, or on white paper and slip inside a red envelope!

Make a Paper Lantern

The fifteenth and final day of the celebration is commemorated with the Yuan Xiao Jie, or the “Festival of Lanterns.” Gathering under a full moon, adults and children light up the sky with their lantern displays and a lantern-carrying parade. Learn how to make a paper lantern in the informational notes in Lin Yi’s Lantern (US / Canada), a gorgeously-illustrated Barefoot tale from China!

4 Ways to Celebrate the Lunar New Year with Children | Barefoot Books

From Lin Yi's Lantern

Share a Story to Learn More About the Culture!

Research shows that children (and grown-ups!) often draw incorrect conclusions about other cultures. In order to help children challenge stereotypes and develop global literacy, it’s important for adults to educate themselves and correct their own misconceptions. It’s easy to get started: just share stories from other cultures with the children in your life. It’s a great way to prompt conversations about diversity!

Keen to explore East Asian cultures? You’ll experience the excitement of a rural market in Lin Yi’s Lantern (ages 5-9) (US / Canada), discover the warmth and wisdom of Buddhist thought in The Barefoot Book of Buddhist Tales (ages 6+) (US / Canada) and meet “The Beggar Princess” in The Barefoot Book of Princesses (ages 4-9) (US / Canada).

And, of course, be sure to watch the Jade Emperor’s epic race unfold—and find out why there is no Year of the Cat—in The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac (ages 4-9) (US / Canada). Find additional tales from China and beyond here!

4 Ways to Celebrate the Lunar New Year with Children | Barefoot Books

Want more ideas?

For more information on the traditions and customs of the Lunar New Year, and for recipes and crafts you can make with the children in your life, check out our Pinterest board!

Want to find out which animal you are? Download a Lunar Calendar from The Great Race to use in your classroom, for fun at home or as a festive desktop wallpaper!

Do you have any Lunar New Year traditions? What is your Lunar zodiac animal? Share your stories with us on Facebook or Twitter!

 

4 Ways to Celebrate the Lunar New Year with Children | Barefoot Books

 


Making Diverse Picture Books: An Inside Look from The Barefoot Book of Children Co-Author Kate DePalma

By now we all know that #WeNeedDiverseBooks — both that children benefit tremendously from being exposed to diversity through literature, and that the statistics about diversity in picture books remain pretty grim.

The solution to this problem is simple: we as publishers just need to make books that feature children of all different shapes, sizes, races, abilities, cultures, lifestyles and backgrounds. Brandon Taylor observed in a recent article that “There Is No Secret to Writing about People Who Do Not Look Like You” and in many ways this wisdom relates to many parts of creating a book — illustration, art direction and editing.

In other words, talking about the need to represent all children in books is easy; actually doing so is another matter entirely!

Diversity in Barefoot Books’ Picture Books

Introducing children to other people and places and ways of life has been part of the mission at Barefoot Books since we started making books nearly 25 years ago. For us, diversity means creating versions of classic tales from various cultures to add to our collection of global picture books. It means creating stories with main characters of color, whether they’re from countries or cultures that might be foreign to Western readers, like Chandra’s Magic Light (US), Lin Yi’s Lantern (US/CA) and Girl with a Brave Heart (US/CA), or from places that might look familiar to Western readers, like Sand Sister (US/CA) and Shopping with Dad (US/CA) and the Ruby books (US/CA), to name a few (Find more here!).

Making Diverse Picture Books: An Inside Look from The Barefoot Book of Children Co-Author Kate DePalma

From Ruby's Baby Brother

Diversity means featuring strong, substantial female characters in our books, and including children with a range of different disabilities in our books — particularly in our line of singalong stories, which often feature diverse groups of kids going on adventures together and bopping to the beat. It means representing diverse lifestyles — different family structures, different socioeconomic statuses, and even choices like breastfeeding.

And it means always looking for new ways to make our list and our company even more diverse and inclusive. We’ve learned that being a publisher that prioritizes diversity is an active process — and I’d love to tell you more about it!

Making Diverse Picture Books: An Inside Look from The Barefoot Book of Children Co-Author Kate DePalma

From My Big Barefoot Book of Wonderful Words

Diversity in our books starts with diversity in the humans who create them. We search for authors and artists (and home office staff!) of all different cultures and backgrounds. We’ve learned that we can’t just sit back and wait for a diverse range of contributors to cross our paths, so we’re trying to actively seek out contributors who bring those diverse points of view to our books, which includes communicating our need for diverse contributors to agents, who are often critical gatekeepers to the publishing process.

The Wonderful Diversity of Wonderful Words

Visual representations of human diversity are a huge part of diversity in picture books. When we decided to create My Big Barefoot Book of Wonderful Words (US/CA) — a big, busy word book full of scenes with crowds of people — we knew we had an opportunity to include lots of different kinds of people.

Making Diverse Picture Books: An Inside Look from The Barefoot Book of Children Co-Author Kate DePalma

From My Big Barefoot Book of Wonderful Words

So we worked with a group called Inclusive Minds in the UK as we developed the illustrations to help us out. Inclusive Minds helped check that our representation of people, particularly those with disabilities, was accurate and positive. For example, we discussed at length the best way to represent a child who might be on the autism spectrum, and decided to include a child on the playground who is happily absorbed in playing alone (see above) — an image that readers can interpret as they wish.

But inclusivity in picture books doesn’t start and end with people! In the illustrations on the left, you’ll see that we also added accessible equipment to the playground, a hearing aid loop sign to the library and textured pavement to the sidewalks (used at intersections as an aide for people with visual impairments).

There’s Still Work to be Done

Despite all the talk about diverse books, there’s still SO far for us to go before the books on offer catch up with the narrative. As creator of books for children, I feel a tremendous responsibility as someone who has an amazing platform to reach children to create the diverse books that the industry and the world so desperately needs.

But more importantly, as a mother, I want to get my daughter off on the right foot. Children start building their concrete ideas about the world long, long before they can understand the abstract notions of diversity and inclusivity. I want to normalize diverse and inclusive depictions of the world so that they are a part of my daughter’s schema, part of her world from the beginning.

I’m sure many of you parents, educators and caregivers can relate! How has the issue of diversity in children’s publishing impacted your family and your life? I’d love to hear from you on social media! Use the hashtag #AllChildren to join the conversation!

And be sure to check out The Barefoot Book of Children, our new book that tackles issues of human diversity head-on with inviting artwork and an accessible text. We consider it the culmination of Barefoot’s mission to open hearts and minds. Share it with a child today, and do your part to change the world for the better!

About the Author


Kate DePalma
Senior Editor, Barefoot Books
Co-Author of The Barefoot Book of Children

As Senior Editor at Barefoot Books, Kate DePalma has helped develop dozens of picture books; Kate also writes picture books under her pseudonym, Sunny Scribens. She holds an M.A. in Classics from the University of Texas and is also a published poet and scholar.


How do you make a book for all children? Co-Author Kate DePalma on The Barefoot Book of Children

Do you struggle to find books that represent the children in your life? If so, the statistics about diversity in picture books show that you’re not alone. That’s why we created our one-of-a-kind new book, The Barefoot Book of Children - for families, classrooms and daycares just like yours. As a mother of a young child and one of the co-authors of the book, I’d love to tell you all about how we at Barefoot Books made this beautiful book for all children.

The Making of The Barefoot Book of Children

We assembled an entire team of specialists to work on The Barefoot Book of Children: our own Stefanie Paige Grossman, M.S.Ed, Child Development Specialist; Maria-Veronica Barnes, Director of Education at Lexington Montessori School in Massachusetts; and Beth Cox and Alexandra Strick at Inclusive Minds. A book of this scope and magnitude called for bringing in lots of knowledgeable people.

These specialists helped us make sure that our book was truly achieving its goal of being inclusive and accessible to all readers, and that it was depicting the rich diversity of the human experience in the best way we could in 64 pages.

How do you make a book for all children? Co-Author Kate DePalma on The Barefoot Book of Children

From The Barefoot Book of Children

With their help, we made small but important changes to the text, like asking readers not what they can “hear and see and smell” from where they are but instead asking what they “hear or see or smell” (emphasis mine) so as to not assume that the reader has full use of all 5 senses. It took input from the entire team to decide the best and most age-appropriate way to address the idea that people can be transgender or experience gender dysphoria in the endmatter section for our Bodies spread. We decided on the following wording: “Some people feel comfortable in the bodies they were born in. Some people don’t.” Readers can interpret this a number of ways.

The result of our hard work on the details of The Barefoot Book of Children is something incredible to behold. David Dean’s illustrations not only introduce readers to a huge range of different ways of life, but also specifically seeks to represent children in ways that defy stereotypes that young readers might have already absorbed. We think images like artistic Darnell (see image on left) and the adventurous hijabi girl photographing the Kuwait Towers (whose hijab is made of the bojagi quilt the Korean children are sewing, see image below) are significant and essential to the book.

How do you make a book for all children? Co-Author Kate DePalma on The Barefoot Book of Children

From The Barefoot Book of Children

Join the conversation!

Children’s publishing has a serious diversity problem, and I feel a tremendous responsibility as a creator of children’s books to be a vocal part of the solution. I consider diversity and inclusion every single day as I do my job as an editor and author, and I’m so proud to work for a company that has prioritized creating diverse books for decades. Starting conversations about diversity cannot be the sole responsibility of those who are underrepresented. But conversations about diversity must include a diverse range of voices.

So I’d love to hear from you! How has the issue of diversity in children’s publishing impacted your family and your life? Share your thoughts on social media with the hashtag #AllChildren to join the conversation!

And be sure to check out The Barefoot Book of Children, a book that tackles issues of human diversity head-on with inviting artwork and an accessible text. We consider it the culmination of Barefoot’s mission to open hearts and minds. Share it with a child today, and do your part to change the world for the better!

About the Author

How do you make a book for all children? Co-Author Kate DePalma on The Barefoot Book of Children


Kate DePalma
Senior Editor, Barefoot Books
Co-Author of The Barefoot Book of Children

As Senior Editor at Barefoot Books, Kate DePalma has helped develop dozens of picture books; Kate also writes picture books under her pseudonym, Sunny Scribens. She holds an M.A. in Classics from the University of Texas and is also a published poet and scholar.

 


Bringing a global worldview to business...and to kids! | Barefoot Books

Bringing a global worldview to business...and to kids! | Barefoot BooksOur CEO and Co-Founder, Nancy Traversy, had the pleasure of being on The Global Mom Show, a podcast for moms with global worldviews. Host Mary Grace Otis talked with Nancy this week about living her life with a global worldview and how she brings this mission to Barefoot Books and the products we create.

As Nancy shares in the interview, she and Editor-in-Chief Tessa Strickland co-founded Barefoot Books in 1992 as two young moms working from home with the dream of creating beautiful books that celebrate diversity, spark curiosity and capture children’s imaginations. From the very first books they published, they sought to share stories from cultures all over the world to help children see and value all the things we hold in common, no matter where we live or who we are.

Today, we’re more committed to publishing diverse and inclusive books than ever before! Check out the interview to get a sneak peek with Nancy into a very special book coming out in September. Listen in now!