Teaching Community Development to Children

I was recently thinking about ways that citizenship skills and the concept of community are conveyed to young children.  Part of this thought process led me to wonder how young is too young to introduce the concept of community capacity.  Since the way I try to convey the concept of community capacity with adults usually involves reference to the Community Capitals Framework, it was with delight and a new appreciation that I re-read a book with my youngest daughter recently.  The book, Maya and the Town that Loved a Tree , is one I loved reading to my two older children when they were little – aside from the messages, its illustrations are bright, lovely and thought provoking, even for little ones.[1] 

However, the publication suddenly took on new meaning in the context of recent work I have been doing, using the Community Capitals Framework.  Without giving away the story, I highlight below some of the community-related concepts I think it conveys:

  • natural capital is the foundation on which other capitals are built[2]
  • capitals can be consumed, to the detriment of a community, when one capital is favored with the goal of maximizing that single capital[3]
  • the potential inherent in an asset-based approach to community development[4]
  • the “spiraling up” that occurs when a community invests in social capital to work together to re-invest in capitals that have been drawn low[5]
  • the synergistic effect that occurs by using a community capitals approach to community development[6]

Having identified some of the key community concepts I think this book illustrates, I encourage you to check it out and see if you agree.  What books and/or other strategies would you recommend for helping children learn about community development?  Finally, knowing that Dr. Seuss’ books are often used in college classrooms, I wonder what you think of using a book like this to help convey these concepts to adults.  I welcome you to share your comments and responses to these questions via the Enhancing Rural Capacity Community of Practice Facebook page. 


[1] Shaw, Kiki & Shaw, Kathryn.  (1993).  Maya and the Town that Loved a Tree.  Universe Publishing.

[2] Flora, Cornelia Butler & Flora, Jan L. (2008).  Rural Communities:  Legacy + Change.  Third Edition. Westview Press:  Iowa State University.  p.19

[3] Ibid, p.17

[4] Ibid, p.17

[5] Emery and Flora (2006).  Spiraling-Up: Mapping Community Transformation with Community Capitals Framework.  Community Development (v.37, no. 1).  The Community Development Society.

[6] Ibid.