What we’re reading: What Does It Mean To Be Present?

presentI’m a day late on Children’s Book Week but I hope you will forgive me!

I work in the school library on Fridays, and the best thing about that is that I get to peruse the shelves and get an idea of what is new and popular in the world of children’s literature. If I knew when I was starting out in my adult life what I know now I would have been a children’s librarian. Ah, well, there’s still time for that….

Anyway, a few weeks ago there was a new series on the shelf by Rana DiOrio, “What does it mean to be….?” and the one that particularly caught my eye was What Does It Mean To Be Present? Usually I am underwhelmed by books that try to teach children lofty concepts like presence and environmentalism (a notable exception, The Peace Book by Todd Parr, is one of my favorite children’s books ever written ever). I find that they are usually very preachy and over-simplify things to the point of missing the real truth of their subject. I usually prefer story books that get at these lessons in a more oblique way, like The Forgiveness Garden or Max’s Words.

But this one I love. The illustrations by Eliza Wheeler are and adorable and pleasingly understated while profoundly enhancing the concepts for young children. Harry spent a long time studying the page about “focusing on what’s happening now, instead of thinking about what’s next”, noticing how the girl in the picture was half-heartedly working on her school work while gazing longingly at the playground outside. The book shows instead of tells, presenting examples of presence that are meaningful and doable for children such as listening carefully, tasting your food while you eat slowly, practicing gratitude, and enjoying the feel of your dog’s fur. The book is intended for children, but I know plenty of adults – myself included! – who would benefit from the lessons it contains.

We purchased the NOOK Kids Read-to-Me version of the book and my kids love listening to the child narrator whose voice makes the concepts all that much more accessible for them. And if you need one more thing to love about this book, the publisher, Little Pickle Press (founded and run by Rana DiOrio) is a Certified B Corporation with a commitment to social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. (If you were looking to buy a dead tree copy of the book you can order directly from the publisher, or my favorite book seller, Better World Books, which is a Certified B Corporation as well.)