Self-help books for busy moms

Dec 11, 2008 at 12:48 p.m. ET

I was reading to Sunshine the other night when I was reminded (again) that almost the entire self-help section at the bookstore and library could be replaced with children's books, and short ones at that.

Mom Reading to Daughter

Instead of 400 pages of "Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much," how about 32 pages of "So Few of Me." Yeah, I know, they are not precise one-to-one matches on content, but the basic message of the latter book (do less, but do it better) is the basic premise of so many much longer books out there. It's a message worth hearing, no matter how long - or short - the book. And I do prefer shorter.

It's all about the message

Yes, this does head into the territory of "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," but even that book is 240 pages. Which is too long for any kindergartener.

Instead of 300 pages on being true to yourself if you want to be happy, how about 72 pages (with sparse words and lots of illustration) of "The Story of Ferdinand." Instead of a tome on courage, how about 48 pages (with sparse words and lots of illustration) of "Slide Already!" Instead of looking to a self-help guru for inspiration about perseverance, look to "The Little Engine That Could."

I bet there's a classic kid's book to match almost every self-help topic out there. From simple board books to first chapter books, fables to fantasies, the important messages are there, if only we hear them and heed them. Just because they are couched in simpler language among illustrations doesn't make the messages any less valid. It does, though, make them much more fun.

Not just for kids

I admit that sometimes I buy children's books for myself. Oh, I'll say it's for Sunshine, Woody, or Alfs, but it's really for me. I keep a copy of "The Dot" at my office for when I need to be reminded to trust my creativity. I've even been known to give children's books as gifts to adults - and they are always well-received.

The next time you think you need help from a book, bypass the self-help section and go straight to the kids' section - then read the books with your kids. You'll be done with the book more quickly, have a broader smile on your face, you and your child will have had some bonding time - and you can move from thinking about the message to action on it much more quickly. And all that is worth a whole lot more than the cost of any of those self-help behemoths.

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