Children are exceptionally good at motivating us to be better people. They're like little sponges, and if the message they are soaking up is simple and intuitive, they'll hold onto it forever.
That's the idea behind getting children involved with the Summit Reads program, which this year is focusing on the water crisis in our country. Once a child has learned about water conservation, he or she is a tiny, hovering, constant reminder to turn off the faucet, dial back the lawn sprinklers or take shorter showers. After all, whether they fully grasp the concept or not, we are doing this for them, for their future.
To get kids involved, the Summit Reads steering committee created a poster contest that encourages kids to present their concerns about and solutions for our water problems in a visual format.
"I think that children are very aware of some of the issues that we are dealing with, with our ecology, and this gives them a creative outlet for expressing this," said Stephanie Katz, Summit Reads committee member. "Last year's submissions were very interesting; some had a lot of narrative and some didn't have any words."
Katz was reluctant to suggest specific topics for poster ideas, as she didn't want to stifle kids' creativity.
"Something to do with the water crisis," she said. "Either to show the damages that it's doing or solutions, or it could just be a pretty water picture, but it has to have something to do with water on our Earth."
Though sculpture is not allowed, entries can use multimedia or collage to create texture or stand off the page. The posters will be judged by representatives from Art on a Whim gallery in Breckenridge, and last year's prizes included art supplies and gift certificates, Katz said. Winning posters will be displayed at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge.
Katz said children are welcome to browse the Summit Reads bibliography for books to learn more about the topic of water, and older students can even tackle the main program selection, "Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis," by Cynthia Barnett.
"Some of our 11th and 12th graders would be capable of reading it," Katz said of "Blue Revolution." "It's geared for an adult audience, but there's nothing in it objectionable for high schoolers to read by any means."
Katz recommended "Rough Waters," by S. L. Rottman, for young adult readers.
"It's actually written by a Coloradan about Colorado rivers," she said. "All of the river descriptions take place in Brown's Canyon, and the descriptions of it are wonderful in the book.
"'Downriver' and 'River Thunder' have to deal with the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Those are clearly teen books because they have a little bit of interaction between boys and girls, although nothing graphic."
"Wicked and Wonderful Water," by Judy Kentor Schmauss, is a great book for third- and fourth-graders, Katz said. She said that same age range might also enjoy "A Drop of Water," by Walter Wick.
"He's been around a long time and done a lot of books," Katz said. "It's not illustrated; it's got photographs, which are pretty dramatic looking."
For picture book "readers" and listeners, Katz suggested "The Snowflake," by Neil Waldman.
"The Snowflake is absolutely beautiful," she said. "The illustrations are gorgeous; the snowflake turns into a drop of water and goes through the entire year as it runs down the mountain into the summertime. That one is particularly pretty."