What is peace?

It started with a question.

How do we create peace for children?

“Today’s children inherit challenging issues including rampant climate change, systemic racism, global pandemics, ongoing violence and displacement, war and persecution, poverty, and extractive global trends amongst many others” (Early Childhood Educators of BC, 2022, p. 3).

As this is the world that children are inheriting today, as early childhood educators and people alongside children, how does one aid them to not only live meaningfully within this world, but ignite a flame in them to uplift the world, their community, and most importantly, themselves? How do they find and build peace in a world filled with chaos?

Wendy Halperin, author and illustrator of children picturebook peace found motivation for her book while attending a conference on peace (Halperin, 2018). One presenter asked the attendees why do we collectively make a habit of teaching about war but not peace?

And if we teach peace, will the children today who will be leaders of tomorrow have the tools and inclination to choose peace? How does one teach peace? This led me on a journey to explore a study on peace: what is peace, how is it created, how is it obtained, how is it sustained?


Books to build a better world.

Books for young children provide an opportunity to both validate their lived experience and at the same time “create bridges of understanding across the barriers of the world” (Said, 2015). It has the ability to give one a sense of belonging and give one new perspectives and understandings of the human experience.

For this reason, the inquiry into peace and how we can inspire children as creators of a better world will be supported by the following collection of children’s books.

Peace comes from within.

Before we speak of teaching peace or inspiring peace, the inquiry begins with a selection of books that explore peace itself.

What is Peace? by Wallace Edwards is an interesting first book for our journey. In all it’s pages, there is not a single statement; the entirety of the book is comprised of only questions. It is purposefully open-ended, thought-provoking, and holds space for the reader to define peace for themselves.

The next books offer, or at least gather, some possible answers to our question: what is peace. Paired with National Geographic images of people from all corners of the world, A Little Peace by Barbara Kerley offers stunning images of lived reality of people in communities across the globe and what peace means to them.

Peace Is An Offering by Annette LeBox and illustrated by Stephanie Graeginis a rhyming story that encourages all to learn of peace in their own context, in small ways and big ways, in joy and in sorrow, in solitude and in company. It reminds us all that peace is present if we just look for it. Vladimir Radunsky collects children’s authentic responses on this question and shares them with us in What Does Peace Feel Like? And lastly, the aforementioned peace by Wendy Halperin takes us through everyday conflicts with the message that it is within our power to upholds and disrupts peace in those moments.

The common thread amongst these books is that peace is contextual and individually defined. The common refraine is that peace is created, realized, and honed within oneself.

Peace through self-acceptance.


If peace originates from within oneself, then it may be important to be connected, understand, appreciate, and love one’s authenticity.

Children are each unique individuals, full of potential and vastly capable in their own ways (Government of BC, 2019). Literature should reflect their vibrant and dynamic lives, and bring about a sense of belonging, comfort, and acceptance through seeing their experiences reflected back from within the pages.

I Am Human: A book of Empathy by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, encourages acceptance of oneself as a perfectly imperfection person – as is all human. While we are each unique, we are all connected and belong together. A complimentary book is Grace Byers’ I Am Enough. Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo, Byers affirms and assures young readers that the way they are is enough and worthy of belonging.
From a place of self-acceptance and appreciation, one is able to reach out to accept and appreciate diverse others.

Diverse literature explore the complex topics of race, ethnicity, abilities, sexual orientation, gender, social economical status, culture, religion, beliefs and more that collectively reflect the depth that is being human. As Zapata et. al (2018) astutely highlights, diverse literature “can transform students’ identities and the narratives they carry about the people they encounter” (p. 7) and can be a tool to “engage not only the complexi­ties of our diverse human condition but also our shared truths and experiences” (p. 8).

Here is an offer of a short collection of children literature, a tip of the iceberg, that speaks to diversity.

In All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman, children celebrate each other’s culture and traditions during the school day. While doing so, they create a space where everyone belongs and all are welcomed.

Similarily, Same, Same But Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw invites readers into a friendship shared between two children across the world. They discover many ways they like and do the same things, though they live in a different place and culture.

Lastly, concept book What Makes Us Unique?: Our First Talk about Diversity by Jillian Roberts, Illustrated by Cindy Revell, uses simple, clear examples to illustrate diversity. It points out our unique thoughts, wants, expressions, and appearances – while highlighting our similar needs – for love, respect, friendship, and belonging.

Peaceful solutions to problems.


With the ability to embrace each other in any walks of life, children can find solace in each other as they face the problems that plague their world.

As educators, one may assist in building problem-solving skills through engaging in quality literature. Children hone skills for peaceful, considerate negotiation of a complex world with complex people by having access to books that “contains authentic characters, realistic problems, and possible resolutions” (Harper, 2016, p. 81) that “heighten their awareness of emotions, foster sensitivity to others’ feelings, encourage tolerance, promote empathetic behavior toward others, and reinforce moral development” (p. 85).

One such book is All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee. Marrying simple verse with generous illustration to tell the day of the lifes of two children, the story normalizes problems and emotional influxes that children may experience in a day.

This can be paired with books like The Problem With Problems By Rachel Rooney, Illustrated by Zehra Hicks, and What Do You Do with a Problem? By Kobi Yamada, Illustrated by Mae Besom. While both style, tone, and pictures are quite different, the message is the same: it normalizes problem and gives children the confidence, encouragement, and direction to solve problems through collaboration and communication without being overly prescriptive and didactic. 

Children books can serve up gripping stories that tackle complex society issues, inspire critical reflection, and offer contextual meaning making (Ciecierski, 2017). One such book is Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth which tells an Asian fable of three monks that inspired a village to work together to benefit the whole community with three stones boiled in water. Many children will be far removed from this reality, yet they can be inspired to consider the power of collaboration.

Jon J. Muth authors children books that imparts classic Zen wisdom, and his book Zen Shorts offers short stories that take yet another angle at looking at peace. Children in his stories face the highs and lows of daily life and the panda character offers a different perspective while leaving the choice of action up to the children in an open-ended and empowering format. 

Children are aware of the larger complex issues that make up their lived reality. Contrasting the one open-ended stories, one may want to offer books that specify actions that ignite change. 

Sometimes People March by Tessa Allen is a simply written yet explanative concept book filled with soft illustrations of people gathering en mass to stand up for what they value and belief. Young readers are introduced to the idea of activism and how the public are empowered to speak out and how doing so together amplifies the message.

Activist and poet Amanda Gorman’s book Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, illustrated by Loren Long, pairs powerful and lyrical verses with pages of hopeful and uplifting pictures to share the story of the coming together of children, working through fears and doubt, to make change happen for all.

More Livable Worlds

Children inherit a broken, hurt, and tattered world. As a generation, their legacy is yet to be decided, but as adults walking alongside children, perhaps we still have the chance to change our legacy.  May part of that legacy be to pass on messages, tools, and stories of peace. Let us live up to Early Childhood Educator of BC’s position paper on the role of educators (2022) and fulfill our responsibilities to “disrupt the legacies of the past in order to activate transformative change for the future” (p. 2) and “move towards more livable worlds” (p. 3). May poet Solli Raphael’s poem “We Can Be More” (Ted Talkx, 2018) represent the voices of many children and inspire us to do more, be more, and change the world for all.


Ciecierski, L., Nageldinger, J., Bintz, W.P., & Moore, S.D. (2017). New perspectives on picture books. Athens Journal of Education, 4(2), 123-136. https://doi.org/10.30958/aje.4-2-2

Early Childhood Educators of BC. (2022, February). The role of the early childhood educator in British Columbia. https://www.ecebc.ca/application/files/5716/4617/5189/Position_Paper_-_The_Role_of_the_Early_Childhood_Educator_in_British_Columbia_rev.0226.pdf

Government of BC (2019). British Columbia Early Learning Framework. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/early-learning/teach/early-learning-framework

Halperin, W. (2018, January 7). Peace the book [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3Ia4WeEd6M

Harper, L.J. (2016). Using picture books to promote social-emotional literacy. Young Children, 71(3), 80–86.

Said, S.F. (2015, September 29). Can children’s books help build a better world? The Gaurdian. https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/sep/29/childrens-books-build-a-better-world-sf-said

Tedx Talks. (2018, August 14). We can be more – a 13-year-old poet’s campaign to save the world | Solli Raphael | TEDxSydney [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lm0r3yFh0zU

Zapata, A., Kleekamp, M., & King, C. (2018). Expanding the canon: How diverse literature can transform literacy learning. . Newark, DE: International Literacy Association. https://www.literacyworldwide.org/docs/default-source/where-we-stand/ila-expanding-the-canon.pdf