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Movie Mom

Talking to Children about Poverty

posted by Nell Minow

Families may find that their children have picked up some of the concerns about the economy from the news or overheard adult conversations. They will need to be reassured that even if their families have suffered some financial setbacks, they have all of the love and courage they need to keep them safe. And they will also need to be reassured that there is something they can do to help those who are less fortunate.
This summer’s American Girls movie, Kit Kittredge, is a very good way to begin a conversation with children about the current economic problems and their consequences. I particularly appreciate the way that it makes clear that the homeless characters are less fortunate but no less filled with dignity, decency, and humanity. The range of responses to poverty depicted in the film gives families a lot to talk about. So does the way that even the poorest find ways to help others in need.
Slate has a superb discussion of children’s books that discuss poverty by Erica S. Perl. From classics like Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, Little House on the Prairie, and Ramona and Her Father to more recent books like Spuds, these stories give families a chance to talk about difficult issues with that all-important distance because it is happening to other people at other times.
And Perl includes that most irrepressibly sunny survivor of hard times, Annie , who reminds us that even the most hard-knock life will be sunnier “Tomorrow.”

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