How would you get people up off the couch so they can go out and improve the world? Micah, age 10, suggests: “Put spikes on all the couches.”
Kids Make It Better from Workman Publishing is a little bit like those “Kids Say the Darnedest Things” compilations, but with one significant difference: it really wants kids to make a difference, not just to say funny things. Writer and artist Suzy Becker asked kids for their solutions on a wide variety of topics, from dealing with pollution to staying out of trouble to stopping nail-biting. Each solution has a cute cartoon illustration, but then there’s a section for your child to write in your own solution and draw a picture of it. Some pages also have “Yes, Kids Can!” sidebars telling the stories of kids’ solutions that have actually worked to make a difference for that problem.
At the back of the book is an observation log to mark down problems that you spot on your own, and then a section called The Make It Better Action Plan, which challenges you to pick one problem, brainstorm solutions, and then work toward putting one of those solutions into practice. It includes suggestions about researching other groups already working on solutions for your problem, and a list of websites of organizations that may come in handy while you’re trying to change the world. Finally, there’s a certificate of honor at the back “in recognition of exceptional service to the community and an ongoing commitment to making a better world.”
The book is cute, but behind the kid-themed cartoons is a very serious idea: getting kids to think creatively and critically about making the world a better place. Even if your kids come up with off-the-wall suggestions to the problems in the book, it gets them thinking about it, and puts them in a problem-solving mindset. As somebody who is always trying to change the world, I love the idea of this book, and I’m excited to see what sort of solutions my six-year-old comes up with.
Becker recently asked a bunch of kids what they would do about the BP oil spill, and whether BP should be punished for the consequences of the leak. Read on for some of the kids’ answers.
Reilly, age 7: “I would make a wall to block the oil from coming out. Then I would take out the animals and put sunscreen on them and then clean the water up and put the animals back. BP should make sure everybody is OK and help clean up the oil.”
Matt and Nikhil, age 7: “Make robot fish that eat oil. Scientists should make charts that show where the oil is. Take all the animals out of the water and put them in a huge tank. They should make a wall. They should make a giant boat to scoop up all the oil. BP should make their pipes be on land instead of underwater.”
Justin, age 7: “[BP] should set out a sorry note. They should have to run the marathon.”
Josh, age 7: “The company should buy more fish and put them back in the ocean.”
Emma, age 8 1/2: “The best way would be to take a boat over where the oil spill is and some scuba divers would dive down with weights on their feet and fix the pipe then they would take the weights off and swim up. You could take a metal box with an open side and jam it on the pipe and then the oil would go back into the pipe”.
Kyle, age 8: “I would make tons of small, microscopic germs and feed them hyperotic pills to get them hungry and hyper and enlarge their stomachs so they can eat all of the oil.”
Wil, age 8: “If I could stop the oil spill, I would take a bunch of cockroaches and give them scuba gear so they could drink up the oil.”
Makiah, age 10: “BP should work for no cost and do everything they can to solve this problem as their punishment. When it is solved they should dedicate their time to preventing another problem like this.”
Leilan, age 7: “While they are working and working to fix the oil leak, BP should get everything in the ocean and protect it from the oil. They should get a boat and net and try to get every fish and shark and octopus and plant and everything in the Gulf Ocean out until they clean up all the water. Sort of like Noah and the Ark, get two of everything so they can have more babies and then they won’t be gone forever. First, they should say they are sorry for causing this problem. Then BP should figure out how other people won’t cause this same problem.”
Jake, age 7: “Cut a giant puzzle piece the size of the hole and put it in”.
And my personal favorite:
Nolan, age 4: “To stop the oil leak he would push it out of the way with a bulldozer. For their punishment – they should get a baby tadpole and put it their bathtub. And play with it.”
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book.