I recently read two children’s books, You Can Do It and You Can Be a Friend, that I highly recommend reading, even if you can’t find a child to read them to! Both books were written by Tony Dungy. (The second book, You Can Be a Friend was co-authored with his wife, Lauren Dungy). In 2007 Tony Dungy gained fame by becoming the first African-American NFL coach to win the Superbowl. Since retiring from coaching, he has turned to writing as a career. He has written several very successful adult books.

The first book, You Can Do It, was ranked No. 1 in the children’s picture books section of the New York Times Best Sellers list in 2008. Beautifully illustrated by Amy June Bates, it tells the story of a little boy named Linden who is frustrated that he doesn’t yet know what he wants to be when he grows up. Every other person in his family knows, but he doesn’t. His loving and caring family convinces Linden not to worry–God has a plan for him. Linden just needs to be patient until that plan is revealed to him.

A trip to the dentist turns out to be just the inspirational ticket and little Linden decides that when he grows up he wants to make people smile and thus decides to become a dentist. The book is actually a true story and Linden is Tony Dungy’s little brother, so we find out that Linden actually did grow up to be a dentist. I loved the feeling of family unity in the story and I think that kids will relate to Linden’s frustration.

The second book, You Can Be a Friend, was just released this month. Also beautifully illustrated (Ron Mazellan is the illustrator) it is a story about a girl, Jade, who is unsure how to relate to her new neighbor, Hannah. Hannah, a girl Jade’s age, is confined to a wheelchair. As in You Can Do It, Jade has the support of a warm and loving family that helps her work through her feelings. Her father suggests they find an activity they can all do together and they invite the new neighbor to go bowling with their family. This turns out to be just the right icebreaker and the two girls become friends. It’s a great teaching moment, showing kids that God made all of us, He wants us to be friends with everyone and, if you can look past the differences in another person, you may find that you have a lot in common.

Both books say they are for ages 4-7, but I think they can be read to younger children and I believe older children can benefit from reading them as well.

Emily Hall is the stay-at-home mom of two children, ages 11 and 15. She has a degree in psychology with an emphasis in child development. She has held many roles through the years including working at a group home for abused children, teaching pre-school and being a nanny. Currently she volunteers in a church-run outreach program to urban city children helping them to improve their reading skills. Needless to say, she has gratefully read many children’s books through the years!