Books are a wonderful way to introduce a variety of career options to young kids. Here's a collection of my favorites.
Little People, Big Dreams Series
Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.
Clothesline Clues to the Jobs People Due
Who wears what to work? The clues in each lively verse can be spotted hanging from the clotheslines. A mail carrier’s uniform, the artist’s brushes, and the chef’s apron all hang from the clothesline. Then turn the page to learn which professionals wear and use the special gear in the jobs they do. Clever illustrations show the workers helping one another, and in the end, everyone joins together for a celebration that is out of this world. A perfect choice for reading aloud and encouraging kids to join in the guessing and reveal.
Who Will I Be?
When Isabel’s teacher asks her students who they want to be when they grow up, Isabel doesn’t have an answer. Isabel knows it makes her happy to help her friends, neighbors, and family—but can a person really grow up to be a helper? It’s time for Isabel to open her eyes and her heart and see all the different jobs people do: the police officers, firefighters, soldiers, teachers, doctors, and clergy who dedicate their lives to helping people every day.
The Career Explorer
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" This is a common and favorite topic of discussion for kids. It's never to early to start talking about how and why people do the work they do. The Career Explorer is a book that introduces children to the basic principles of the career development process. With the help of Mae Morer, the career explorer, children learn that choosing a career is a life-long process that starts with looking inside themselves at their values, interests, personality, and skills. Colorful geometric illustrations and rhyming text highlight a selection of possible careers in STEAM fields (science, technology, engineering, art, and math).
Jobs Around Town
Searching for the perfect job, the Bear siblings learn to celebrate the many talents of others and begin to imagine where their own gifts will take them as they grow.
When I Grow Up
One night while getting ready for bed a little boy starts to wonder what will life be like when he grows up. He could be a painter, a musician, a mountain climber, a mayor. He tells his mother all about his big ideas…and all of the other things he wants to do. But when will he grow up? And why does it take so long?
Annie's joyful exuberance and her family's whole-hearted support leave no doubt that her dream is within her grasp. This delightful story―with backmatter about women astronauts―encourages young readers to pursue their dreams and reach for the stars.
Iggy Peck, Architect
Some kids sculpt sand castles. Some make mud pies. Some construct great block towers. But none are better at building than Iggy Peck, who once erected a life-size replica of the Great Sphinx on his front lawn! It’s too bad that few people appreciate Iggy’s talent—certainly not his second-grade teacher, Miss Lila Greer. It looks as if Iggy will have to trade in his T square for a box of crayons . . . until a fateful field trip proves just how useful a mast builder can be.
When I Grow Up
It’s Show-and-Tell time in Mrs. Krupp’s class, and Billy just can’t wait for his turn! Today the class is discussing what they want to be when they grow up, and our exuberant eight-year-old hero is bursting to tell everyone about his future career plans.
The Boy Who Loved Math
Most people think of mathematicians as solitary, working away in isolation. And, it's true, many of them do. But Paul Erdos never followed the usual path. At the age of four, he could ask you when you were born and then calculate the number of seconds you had been alive in his head. But he didn't learn to butter his own bread until he turned twenty. Instead, he traveled around the world, from one mathematician to the next, collaborating on an astonishing number of publications. With a simple, lyrical text and richly layered illustrations, this is a beautiful introduction to the world of math and a fascinating look at the unique character traits that made "Uncle Paul" a great man.
ABC What Can She Be
Each page introduces a letter of the alphabet and highlights a career that is fun, challenging, and makes a big impact in its own way. A boldly illustrated, fun family read, ABC What Can She Be? is a great way for parents to introduce their small children to the bright futures before them.
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Before I was a mother to preemie twins, and a children’s book author, I was a career counselor. During my 8+ years in the profession, I worked with hundreds of young adults struggling to select majors, choose careers, and plan their futures. Many of these students were experiencing significant distress over these decisions. Of course, this was understandable, because there is a perception that you must choose the perfect career. But career research tells us that this perception is false, and most people have several completely different careers throughout their professional life. One thing that always struck me was that after a few meetings, students began to relax. Once they were introduced to the career development process, the stress decreased and they were able to create a plan to find a career that was a good fit for them at this point in their life. If only they had been introduced to the career development process earlier. Perhaps they could have avoided a great deal of stress and unrealistic expectations.
The career development process is the same whether you are 5 or 50 years old. And it is never too early to discuss with children why and how people do the work that they do. In fact, around 3-4 years of age, is the ideal time to introduce the basic tenets of career exploration. This is the age where pretend play is developing, and many parents begin to notice an interest in careers and the future. Here are a few things that parents can do to foster a healthy sense of career development in young children.
Learn About the Career Development Process
The career development process begins with self-awareness. One must know their own values, interests, personality, and skills. Without this information, a career decision is incomplete. Often times people are making career decisions based on one or two of these factors (typically interests and skills). Parents can assist their children by helping them build self-awareness in all 4 areas.
When children are young, exploration is key. Career decision is many years away, so the focus at this age is exposure to as much as possible. One simple way to do this, is by reading books about different careers. Encourage children to explore what they like, what they are good at, and even what they aren’t so good at. Interest and skills can take years to develop, so why not start now. Early exploration builds skills, career awareness, and a variety of interests. All of which will be beneficial down the road.
Share Your Own Career Experiences
A very easy way parents can help their children in the career development process is to share their own experiences. Make sure you are sharing what your work day was like, and what you enjoy about your job.
Children go through many phases before a career idea ultimately sticks. Regardless of what your child is currently “in” to, it’s best to always talk about it in a positive way. I can’t tell you the number of college students that I have counseled that have found their passion, but it’s not accepted by their families. I advise parents to always come from a place of support. There are plenty of people and factors that will tell your child that they can’t do something. What they need from you is unconditional support.
Career development is a life-long process. Its never too early to start helping young children understand the steps. If you want more information, I have many more resources to assist parents, including an Introduction to Career Development eCourse. Check out www.metwobooks.com for more.