What does every child need to know about coffee?
Some people might say, "Nothing, kids don't need to know about caffeine and espresso!"
But Phoenix-based child researcher and author R. Bradley Snyder disagrees. And in the Need to Know children's book series he's co-authored with longtime friend Marc Engelsgjerd, Sndyer breaks down the basics of topics ranging from coffee and pizza to punk rock and the economy.
Sure, most people wouldn't even consider trying to explain the differences between Neopolitan and Chicago-style pizzas to children under the age of six. But Snyder says tackling topics that are important to parents is "an interesting way to promote interaction between parents and kids."
The books, which are designed for pre-readers, are meant to be read to children by an adult. According to Sndyer, that gives parents the opportunity to put more complicated ideas into context, or to pause and answer questions. Facilitating a conversation between children and adults, Snyder says, is one of the main benefits of reading to children.
The idea for the series came when Snyder was looking at his young daughter's bookshelf. He saw plenty of stories about animals living in idealized farms that haven't existed in reality for decades. But none of the books touched on subjects that he, as a parent, really cared about. Snyder wanted to teach his daughter about the things he was passionate about, things like rock n' roll music and a good cup of Joe.
He started with the vision of a children's book about Elvis, but the idea evolved into a six-part series that also includes books on coffee, pizza, the economy, punk rock, and cancer.
In 22 pages, Snyder and Engelsgjerd go from general statements about the universality of a topic, for example, coffee: "Grown-ups love coffee." Then narrow in on history ("It was popular in Arab cultures 700 years ago.") and then give an overview of how the product is made. The authors also aim to show both the good and bad sides of each topic; in the case of coffee, that meant mentioning the importance of fair trade beans.
The extensive amount of research put into each board book means that even though they're written for children, they can be both informative and entertaining.
Snyder says part of the reason the authors chose pizza and coffee as two of the subjects for the first part of the series is because both are made from such simple ingredients. Unlike fancy cuisine, both coffee and pizza rely on dedicated artisans to be truly delicious.
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"We are care about people [who] care about their craft," Snyder says.
The What Every Child Needs to Know series can be found at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix and Tempe and Hissy Fits Children's Resale in Phoenix. The books are also available at local bookstores across the country and at museum shops such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
For more information check the Need to Know Publishing website.