There is so much teachers don’t know about the lives of the children who come through their classrooms. So much that kids may not know about their classmates or friends. And a world of details we all don’t know about others whose lives may never intersect our own.
I WISH YOU KNEW leads readers to think about what we may not know, social situations that may directly influence how a child or an adult is feeling, and how we can only guess about those feelings—unless we’re encouraged to share.
The story begins with a girl describing her school, and how she sees time passing in relation to the tree at its center. Her favorite place is the school garden, where her father helped plant rows of sunflower seeds. The sunflowers become a touchstone for her father, when he is deported. The story returns to that touchstone at the end, as the flowers grow, as her teacher helps her plant more seeds, and as they wait for them to bloom. A metaphor for the waiting to be together once again with her father.
I WISH YOU KNEW helps the reader enter into the thoughts and hearts of several children, one whose parent is being deported, one who’s hungry, one whose family member is away on assignment in the military, another who lives in a shelter, and a teacher who wishes her students knew that she’s there to help as they navigate their feelings and the difficulties in their lives.
It’s a perfect book to use in the classroom to create sharing circles, a safe community of listeners, that allow kids to talk about things that are important to them, but only when they’re ready to share.
Ultimately, this book will help children feel less alone and aware that others face similar or different struggles of their own, a wonderful way to build empathy in the classroom and at home.
Magdalena Mora’s illustrations, created using ink, gouache, pastel, and digital collage, are just as gentle and expressive as the text. A beautiful book!
If you have a home garden, a plot in a community garden, or a school garden, plant sunflower seeds. See how long they take to grow, and then harvest the seeds to plant them the following year (if the birds don’t harvest them first!).
For younger children, pair this book with Winnie the Pooh’s FRIENDSHIP GARDEN where Pooh and his friends plant sunflowers. This was one of my son’s favorite books when he was in kindergarten.
Check out Key Strategies for Teaching Children Empathy.
Title: I Wish You Knew
Author: Jackie Azúa Kramer
Illustrator: Magdalena Mora
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2021
Theme: Empathy, deportation, sunflowers
Ages: Elementary school
For more picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.