The world is not what it used to be. Our children will inherit an earth and a global society that is drastically different from the one our parents left us. They are going to have to figure out how to prosper on a planet at a time when every living system is declining at a rapid rate. They are going to have to learn to thrive in a society where old divisions between culture, race and creed are blurring, and where humanity’s fate hinges on people’s willingness to cooperate.
As parents, we are going to have to help our kids prepare for these challenges. If you’re like me, that might seem like a daunting task. Where do we begin? Changing the way we live and explaining why we do things differently is one powerful method, but the right tools can also help.
Imagine new modes of play and education that assist in expanding kid’s minds and enabling them to appreciate the significance of their role in the new world. Consider kids books that serve as conversation starters, rather than bedtime pacifiers. At present, visionary entrepreneurs are bringing such innovations to the marketplace.
Meet Rana DiOrio, a former investment banker and private equity investor, and current mother of three. DiOrio recently founded Little Pickle Press, a company with the mission of “helping parents and educators cultivate conscious, responsible young minds by inspiring readers to help children in need, celebrate diversity, and protect the environment.”
Little Pickle Press just released its first book first book, What Does it Mean to Be Global?, which is designed to get parents, educators and kids engaged in discussions about the goodness in exploring, appreciating, and respecting other children’s traditions, religions, and values the world over. Ten percent of the purchase price is donated to the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
According to DiOrio, who authored the book: “My objective was to help children to understand that we are all part of a wonderfully diverse global community. This is a difficult concept for young minds to grasp, so it is my hope that the book sparks curiosity in children and meaningful discussions with their parents and teachers.”
Many parents avoid conversations about topics like globalization for fear that they are too intense for kids to deal with, particularly at bed time. But DiOrio sees this as a missed opportunity. “I believe that children are often times capable of a lot more than we give them credit for,” she says. “I know that most children, mine included, appreciate when we take the time to have engaging discussions with them, especially about topics that are perceived to be out of their reach.”
There is so much vital stuff to talk to kids about, and kids feel drawn to meaningful conversations. So why not produce more meaningful content? That’s exactly what Little Pickle Press intends to do, starting with a series. “What Does It Mean To Be Green?” – a book exploring how children can help to protect the earth’s natural resources each and every day – is due out in March 2010, in anticipation of Earth Day. “What Does it Mean to Be Present?” – a book that introduces children to what DiOrio describes as a “life-changing ability” in a playful and accessible way – will launch in October 2010, just before the holidays. In all cases, 10 percent of proceeds will benefit the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
DiOrio explains that Little Pickle Press fills a gap in the conscious kids market: “We need to improve the quality of and messages in the content we create for young, impressionable minds. We also need to be increasingly respectful of the planet throughout the entire supply chain. And we need to give back, to serve humanitarian needs.”
So far, large traditional publishing houses and kids marketers have been either unwilling or unable to fulfill the goals that DiOrio describes. On the content side, the stuff being distributed by most of the large kids marketers and publishing houses tends to merely gloss over social and environmental issues rather than getting kids personally involved. On the supply chain side, kids publishers and toy manufacturers are often unwilling to pay for “extras” such as recycled paper or even non-toxic materials that can be potentially dangerous to kids. And on the contract side, kids publishing houses are notoriously unfriendly towards artists.
Little Pickle Press does things differently. In addition to existing for the sole purpose of producing meaningful content that helps kids grow up with the confidence and will to help repair the world, the company is respectful of the types of relationships it forges with others. “We are pro-artist,” says DiOrio. “We allow [illustrators and authors] to retain rights, to participate in a truly collaborative design process, to stand in the spotlight, and to rely on us to market their work ardently.”
The company also takes environmental sustainability to what most publishers would consider an extreme. “We print on only recycled paper, use soy inks, and ship in green packaging predominately direct to our customers to minimize the harmful impact on the environment,” says DiOrio. “Think of it as growing a cucumber, without pesticides and fertilizers, then selling that cucumber at the local farmer’s market.”
It might take the children’s toy and publishing industry another decade before we see a complete phase out of all toxic business practices, let alone the mainstream integration of meaningful content. But that might not be such a bad thing for fast moving entrepreneurs like DiOrio, smart enough to seize the day.
Readers of this blog get a discount on “What Does it Mean to be Global?” code: SFBAY09
Follow Christine on Twitter