The presidential candidates have uttered few words about the 15 percent of Americans who live in poverty. Our culture is a long way from the sense of communal responsibility that inspired Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his second inaugural address, to say, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."
Our presidential candidates don't discuss the poor, but I feel that as a parent, I should. In America, it's too easy to live in a bubble that reinforces one's own class reality. My husband, the child of a Hungarian refugee, is passionate about our children perceiving their privilege and understanding that not every child can get the toy she wants, when she wants it. I want our children to absorb the American, yes AMERICAN, value of Communitarianism that gave our country the roads, public schools, and libraries that enabled my grandparents to flourish and enter the middle class.
So I set out to raise our young children's awareness about life beyond the bubble. Since our kids are three and five, I decided to start our conversation with picture books that depict economic struggle in America. I had help digging up some of these books from librarian Deivis Garcia, at the Montclair Public Library.
These books work on both sides of the class divide, confirming what some children already know, and educating others. Perhaps their most important readers are the poor and working class children whose emotions they validate. None of these books are dour or preachy; they celebrate resourcefulness and show that life can be sublime, no matter what you own.
These books are helping my kids develop gratitude for what they have and respect for those who have less.
Follow Jennifer Dorr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jennydorr