It is that time of year when we especially honor those who have served as members of our country's armed forces. Veterans Day is not the time to debate the wisdom of specific wars, or war in general, for that matter. (Neither is it probably the right time to discuss why there is no apostrophe in the spelling of this holiday). J It is an occasion to express thanks to those who have given of themselves in this way and a chance to help our kids begin to understand this – always in age appropriate ways, of course.
In our families, many of the veterans have passed on. We can remember them with our children through photographs and stories. If we have friends or relatives who are living veterans, it would be an excellent time to invite the children in our care to draw pictures or write notes to them. Authentic opportunities to communicate on paper are truly powerful in the lives of developing writers – as well as for the recipients of such efforts. Perhaps your children are of an age where attending a parade or other community event would make sense.
A quick search related to Veterans Day on Amazon tells me that there are many books on this subject – for children of all ages. Since lots of them are out of stock right now, it seems that quite a few people have been purchasing them.
Many of these books appear to be informational in nature – and I'm certain that some of them are excellent. We would want to use the same basic criteria for judging quality that we would employ for any informational work: accuracy and quality writing. It is also a good thing to avoid didactic or "preachy" books; children are intelligent beings and they will, over time, reach their own conclusions about many things – factoring in their families' values and other sources of input.
Some of the available books related to this topic go beyond mere information. Eve Bunting's The Wall is an excellent example of this. It is a picture book (illustrated by Ronald Himler), but the content is sophisticated enough for even middle schoolers. The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans by Barbara Walsh (illustrated by Layne Johnson) looks to be another excellent choice. Both works would, I think, convey the definite message that veterans and those who care about them are people with natural, tender feelings. Surely books that portray true aspects of humanity are important for our children.
Some of the available books go beyond a viewpoint that is White only. Under the Eagle: Samuel Holiday, Navajo Code Talker by Samuel Holiday and Robert S. McPherson looks promising, and there are several other selections about that dedicated group of soldiers. Walter Dean Myers' Fallen Angels, a young adult novel, will give even grown-ups a better understanding of The Viet Nam Conflict – and especially the experience of Black soldiers in that era. Our older kids are in need of these (and other) perspectives.
If I could make a wish for all of our children today, it would be that they respect the service of others – but truly consider carefully (when they are old enough) whether or not military service is the best option for them. It is my further wish that they will not be forced into it by a lack of opportunity or direction. As parents, it really falls to us to see that our children are well enough equipped to have choices and options available to them. I am wishing safety and good health to all of you – and to your beautiful children.