Homeless Persons' Week (HPW) is an annual themed week coordinated by Homelessness Australia. It is used to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness and the surrounding issues. It is held in the first full week of August each year. And while it is not a topic I would usually embrace explicitly with the young children I teach there are books that I might read to and discuss with them that highlight how important it is to have a home. While talking I might also touch upon how important it is to have a private place, a space that you can call your own, and how for many people, children included this is difficult because of the home they live in. It may be overcrowded, under-resourced, lacking in adult supervision or just too temporary.
These books do some of these things:
• Way Home by Libby Hathorn and Gregory Rogers. This classic prize-winner was published after Margaret Wild and Gregory Rogers' Space Travellers which also dealt with homelessness, but this time the 'aura' of the book was much more convincing. A young boy Shane appears to be wandering the city streets at night. He finds a cat and takes it home with him. Home, as you find out at the end of the story is a makeshift cubbyhole. The tenderness Shane shows to the cat highlights what being 'human' is about and gives the reader hope. The illustrations are rich visually and choosing one of the double page spreads would make a good stimulus for a See Think Wonder routine or the Making Thinking Visible routine that looks at what comes before and after this picture.
• Flyaway Home by Eve Bunting and Ronald Himler tells the story of a young boy and his father who live in an airport and have to keep moving from terminal to terminal to avoid being noticed. The boy observes a trapped bird who finally finds freedom and this gives the boy hope for the future. So just like Shane who reaches out to the cat, this boy empathises with the bird.
• Broken Beaks by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer and Robert Ingpen. This is the story of friendship between a sparrow and a homeless man who suffers from a mental illness. It uses the metaphor of broken beaks to explain disabilities.
It is interesting that like the two stories above that need for love and being with other living things is also highlighted through friendship with an animal.
--Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE; Founder the Jane Goodall Institute; UN Messenger of Peace
"Enchanting, moving, and beautifully written. Broken Beaks is a brilliant way to help young children begin to understand the tragedy of the homeless."
• Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams, Khadra Mohammed and Doug Chayka. This story is set in a refugee camp in Pakistan where families are waiting to be resettled. When some clothing is delivered two young girls find one sandal each and would like to find its partner. In the process Lina and Feroza meet and begin to understand the meaning of sacrifice and friendship.
• One Hen by Katie Smith Milway and Eugenie Fernandes. In this story of a young Ghanian boy, named Kojo, he is not homeless, but extremely poor. With a small loan he buys a chicken and then sells his eggs and thus becomes able to sustain himself and eventually others. This inspiring story shows children what can happen with hard work, the desire to change and help given for the right things. It is also based on a true story and the real-life story of Kojo is at the back of the book.
•Scrawny Cat by Phyllis Root and Alison Friend. This story is much more lightweight than the others, but very suitable for a discussion about home and being homeless with very young children. Here a lost, scrawny, and hungry cat finds himself alone in the world after having once been loved by someone who scratched behind his ears and used his name. Now he is lonely and everyone just tells him to 'get out of here'. Finally he finds someone who takes him in.