Peace stories for children
[PDFs below you are welcome to crib from]
Welcome! Many people search for “peace stories for children” and wind up here. I hope you like what I have, and I’m always glad to read comments and other ideas. You can post below, or find my email address in “About.”
I used some of these for Children’s Time readings at Northern Virginia Mennonite Church. Several are “secular,” though, so *** don’t panic*** if you’re not a church-y person . . .
1. Six Crows by Leo Lionni - this is a great, short children’s book about peace.
A review of Six Crows from the School Library Journal:
“Lionni’s story about a farmer facing marauding crows teaches a lesson about making peace in the midst of escalating conflict. The farmer is enraged by six noisy crows who keep eating the wheat in his field, and he builds a scarecrow to frighten them off. The crows are disturbed, but not willing to give up, so they design a kite to scare off the monster. The farmer then builds a bigger and fiercer scarecrow, and the crows a fiercer kite. Meanwhile, the wheat is dying from neglect. A watching owl manages to bring the two sides together, and they work out a compromise. This brief, simple story works on a literal level as well as on a metaphoric one. It is illustrated with Lionni’s usual handsome, colorful collages which project well for reading aloud to groups.” (By Amy Spaulding, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn)
2. The story of John Newcomer from Plant a Seed of Peace by Rebecca Seiling (Herald Press). Newcomer was a Mennonite who made hunting rifles for a living in the early 1770s; when he was pressured to sell guns to the new U.S. government for military use he stopped making them altogether, switching to other blacksmithing work.
Plant a Seed of Peace has many great biographical stories, although most seem aimed at somewhat older children and I couldn’t adapt them for the young kids at our Children’s Times.
3. Peace Tales: World Folktales to Talk About by Margaret Read MacDonald – one of these is on the home page of this blog (“Blog” tab above). About 30 good folktales — no illustrations, though.
4. Peace stories from the Old Testament. I’d say they are literally few and far between, but here are five:
..I. Abraham makes peace with Abimelech. Genesis 21: 22:34. Abraham establishes peace with the Hebrews’ former enemies, the Philistines.
..II. Joseph forgives his brothers after they sell him into slavery. Begins at Genesis 37. Why is this a peace story? Because forgiveness has something to do with peace.
..III. The story of Ruth and Boaz: Boaz treats Ruth, a foreigner, well. The story is explained in the book of Ruth; especially Chapter 2, verses 5-12. Why is this a peace story? Because Ruth was a stranger in Israel, and a foreigner; and often throughout history, strangers and foreigners have not been treated well. But Boaz was kind to her. Being kind to foreigners has something to do with peace.
..IV. Jonah: The crew of the ship is kind to Jonah, for a few minutes anyway. The book of Jonah, Chapter 1, through the first half of verse 13 explains how Jonah asks a ship’s crew to throw him overboard, but AT FIRST they do not. They at least make an effort to save him. I think this is a tiny peace story embedded in the larger story of Jonah. I’ve heard from people who disagree with me, about this; but I think that strangers making an effort to save a guy who is clearly bringing them very bad luck is admirable and worth pointing out to children (at least).
..V. Swords to plowshares: Micah, Chapter 4, verses 3 and 4 is one of the places in the Old Testament where this appears. I like the phrase in this version in which “no one will make them afraid.” I think of all the children over the centuries who have been made afraid by the warmongering choices of their parents, and I like that verse.
Okay, there you are, you can stop reading.
I have put those five stories into a book; if you would like to look at it, here is a pdf of the entire interior:
[Note about the seven lambs in the first story (Abraham and Abimelech): I have simplified this story in my book. In reality, Abraham's gift of the lambs was not completely a no-strings-attached gesture; Abraham used them to help get Abimelech admit that a certain well belonged to Abraham. For a children's story, I think the surface transaction is good enough: the men exchanged gifts and agreed to get along with each other.]
If you’d like to see the Amazon listing of this book, here is a link:
5! My new book: A Map and a Mule, two stories from the life of Queen Isabel of Portugal. Isabel was a peacemaker of the 1300s who helped prevent one war by assisting with drawing the border between Portugal and Spain, and prevented a battle between her husband and their son (!) by riding on a mule between their two armies. This is a short book (24 pages) for children preschool through about 2nd grade.
***New review!: “A great short story . . . I read it to a 6-year-old who liked it too”
Here is the entire interior:
(If you find either of these PDFs of mine helpful, I’d be glad to hear about it! There are comments below, and my email address is at the “About” tab.)
6. Why is the dove a biblical symbol of peace?
First, a dove appears in the story of Noah and lets him know that the destruction of the flood is over.
“Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find no place to set its feet because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and then sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.” (Genesis 8: 8-12 NIV)
Second, a dove was a symbol of The Holy Spirit.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)
Finally, Jesus used the dove as an example of innocence when he gave directions to his disciples.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 NIV)
(These examples and others are gathered at this site, although it uses a version of the Bible which will put kids to sleep:)
7. A story about a family member who is/was a war veteran – I told the children this one for Veterans’ Day. I was able to use my paternal grandfather, who fought in World War I in what George W. Bush would have called the Evildoer/Bad Guy side; that is, he fought for the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, alongside the Germans.
I told the children:
On Veterans’ Day we remember veterans, which means soldiers who fought in wars. My grandfather was born in 1899 and he was drafted into the army when he was 17 or 18. “Drafted” means the government told him he had to join. He fought in an artillery unit. (I showed a photo of him from later in his life.) During the war he was seriously wounded in the abdomen by a bullet or a bomb. He made it to a field hospital and was told he would survive, but that he needed to eat as little as he could for several days, because his stomach was not working right and could not handle the food.
His sister came to visit him and felt sorry for him because he was not eating. She brought him a lot of food, and she encouraged him to eat; he did so, and that almost killed him.
That is what happens in war. Young men and women go away from their homes and families; some of them do not come back at all, or they come back wounded, sometimes for life. (And then sixty years later — within his lifetime! — the soldier’s grandchildren might well be told that the soldier was on the wrong side of the war, and/or might not be able to see the point of the war in the first place . . . I did not say this while delivering this Children’s Time story.) This is why on Veterans’ Day we remember veterans; and we remember to help, like we always do, any veterans who have come home wounded, or who have come home without jobs; and we work to make sure that we avoid wars so young people do not have to go fight in them.