We need ‘Little Critter’ books for justice

At least around my house, woe befall the Mommy who, in running out the door with her hands full of kids and all their stuff, forgets to turn off a light.

Because, apparently, Dora the Explorer told my twins that leaving lights on kills penguins. And polar bears.

And they really like penguins and polar bears.

It’s great, really, the way that they have been indoctrinated into a conservation ethic. My oldest son won’t throw away anything from his lunchbox, in the hopes that everything can be composted or reused.

They would never leave the water running when they brush their teeth, the same way my generation learned to put on seatbelts automatically.

And they, because they are 4, are never shy about reminding the rest of us.

It’s everywhere they turn, and they’ve learned, and they become our social conscience.

The WonderPets save arctic animals, too, and the Boxcar Children recycle, and even Nancy Drew has an Earth Day mystery.

It’s a plot line, yes, but it’s also a way of life.

It’s the way of their lives, now, and so the way of ours.

And that made me think: we need to get on the ‘get them through the children’ bandwagon.

I mean, if Little Critter can save the Earth, can’t he (is Little Critter a boy?) fight racial injustice? End homelessness? Oppose heterosexism? Combat the stigma associated with mental illness?

If children all over this country watched TV programs and read children’s books and had cross-promotional tie-ins about economic inequality and the evils of social service retrenchment, grown-ups would hear about it every time we proposed massive tax cuts or bashed unions.

If Dora had to go past the DMV and around the bank and through the neighborhood with the inadequate police protection and the broken streetlights, in order to get to the office to pick up her food assistance (all while hauling around her twin baby siblings), my kids would be asking me why we make it so hard for people to get help.

And maybe that would help to spark a movement, the same way that my kids now excoriate each other if they find the refrigerator door left open.

Maybe we have some episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood to write: I think they are going to organize to keep Wal-Mart from taking over their local businesses while squeezing their suppliers.

If it was on Netflix, my kids would totally watch that.

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