Want to cut to the chase? We’ve put a TL;DR (‘too long; didn’t read’) at the bottom!
Former US First Lady Jackie Kennedy once said, “There are many little ways to enlarge your world. Love of books is the best of all.” It’s no secret or surprise that reading can open our children’s eyes to a whole new world. However, actually instilling a love of reading from an early age seems to be getting harder than ever.
Screens of all shapes and sizes constantly vie for our children’s attention – from 24/7 kids TV (remember when cartoons were only on twice a day??) to apps designed to appeal to even the tiniest of tots. The digital era also ushered in some challenges that our older kids can start to experience: information overload, fake news, polarised opinions, internet trolling and bullying, decreasing attention spans, and more.
But all is not lost. Belgium-based Canadian mompreneur Christina Laloire-Reinards is convinced that with the right books, we can “inspire compassion and a greater love of reading to create a more sustainable, just, humane world!” … and we agree with her!
Her Little Humane Books subscription service – offering English-language books on a range of highly relevant topics, with titles suitable for different ages of readers – aims to help parents sow and nurture those seeds from early on. We eagerly agreed to try out a 4-month subscription.
Read on to find out how Little Humane Books fits in our lives here at village HQ, and what we thought!
A little background on our home reading
I have three boys, aged 8, 11 and 13. While books have always been very present in our household, in recent years, I’ve found it harder and harder to motivate my boys to read. Yes, they still like to be read to … but there too, with the stresses, strains and time constraints of family life, I’ve slacked off a little on bed-time reading.
We have the added complication that, despite having an anglophone mum, my boys’ first language is essentially French – by virtue of having a French-speaking dad, going to a French-speaking school (though in the ‘Dutch immersion’ stream), and doing basically ALL their activities in French. So naturally, reading in English can also feel like more of a chore for them.
Another challenge is that many of the books we already have seem a little ‘outdated’ (or just downright boring!). Some were bought for us by well-meaning family back home, some were even remnants from my own childhood, others were picked up at second-hand sales etc. Yes, I’ve sought out some specific titles myself that I thought would bring really valuable messages to my boys – thinking about books like Stories for Boys who Dare to be Different or Buddha at Bedtime – but without easy access to an English-language bookshop or library (swoon!), I just haven’t been taking the time to check out reviews or recommendations for suitable books.
So when I heard about Little Humane Books, I was really excited.
Little Humane Books: the concept
With a Little Humane Books’ ‘personal’ subscription (they also offer a subscription that’s available via your child’s school, as well as one-off gift cards – see the website for more details), your child receives an inspiring, age-appropriate book every month. Books are delivered to a Mondial Relay pick-up point of your choice – and with locations all over, this is a pretty handy solution. Incidentally, packages can be addressed to the child themselves, which is a lovely touch.Little Humane Books
When you sign up, you indicate whether your child is a ‘pre-schooler’ (age 3-5), ‘early reader’ (age 6-8), or ‘keen thinker’ (age 9-11). If, like in our house, your child is not a native English-speaker, Christina is on hand to discuss their reading level to make sure books will be appropriate.
You also get to choose themes that particularly interest you/your child, including Human Rights, Equality, Environmental Care, Humane Living, Activism, Cultural Diversity, Animal Welfare, Peace and Gratitude, Well-being and Mental Health. Or if they all sound good to you, ‘any of the above’!
Each month, as well as a new book, you’ll get a few extra items that your child can look forward to, like a handmade bookmark and a little extra surprise (like a notebook, or an eco-friendly keyring). You’ll also receive a handy summary of the book which explains which of the Little Humane Books themes the book discusses. This is a welcome heads-up for parents before your child gets into reading the book.
And while looks aren’t everything, the packaging is all really attractive, and professional. Christina made the Christmas edition a little special with some seasonal wrapping. Her site also mentions possibilities for wrapping the first package of a subscription as a birthday or holiday gift, which is a lovely gesture.
The first delivery even includes a lovely tote bag your child can use to carry their monthly books, and that encourages them to keep it with them even on the go (image of this further below).
When Christina first reached out to the village and shared her vision for Little Humane Books, I felt that the concept fitted perfectly with the ethos of the village – a parenting resource that truly aimed to support parents in raising kind, compassionate, and informed kids. So, we agreed that in return for helping spread the word about Little Humane Books, we would try a 4-month subscription for ourselves.
The first month got off to a great start with a wonderfully chosen book that instantly appealed to my three boys: the story of Kunkush the refugee cat. Kunkush gets lost on his family’s journey from ISIS-controlled Mosul, Iraq to Europe. It’s based on a real-life story, which made it all the more appealing and engaging.
I had asked Christina to find a book that would be suitable for a 12-year old non-native English speaker, and we told her which of the eight themes we were most interested in (right now, for us, this was Human Rights & Equality, Activism and Cultural Diversity). So Christina nailed it with her choice of book for us! The book really gave my boys a new perspective on what it must be like to have to flee your own country, and it triggered some interesting conversations.
Subsequent months’ books and accessories were also very well received in general, and their timing was particularly appropriate:
Celebrations Around the World arrived just in time for us to read about Halloween and Dia de Los Muertes (which we’d known very little about). We also got to discover some Muslim and Jewish celebrations they boys had heard of, but didn’t know much about. It even got us talking about celebrations that’s were not included in the book, like one close to my own heart, St Patrick’s Day.
We started reading November’s book, Great Women who Made History, just around the time it was becoming clear that Kamala Harris would become the first US vice president of colour. What great timing to talk about achievements of women and to reinforce the message that women are just as capable as men! The book taught me some things too, as I wasn’t so familiar with some of the women and their stories … always nice for my kids that I can learn alongside them!
Our last book, Destination Planet Earth, was also highly welcome, particularly its sections on saving the planet, the water cycle and volcanoes! A beautifully illustrated book that appealed to all three of my boys and that will become a regular go-to on our shelf.
Overall, we were very impressed with the subscription. The books were expertly chosen, and each triggered some really interesting conversations. Thanks to the attractive packaging – and even the small touch of addressing the package to the child – and little gifts, my boys were excited when each new package arrived, and keen to find out what our new book would be about.
Value for money?
The cost of a personal subscription starts at €20 per month for a 6-month subscription, rising to €22 per month for a 3-month subscription. To have full flexibility to decide from month to month, you pay €24 per month. Subscriptions automatically renew, but it’s easy to skip a renewal if you prefer (e.g. if you’re going on holiday).
Delivery is not included, and is billed separately – this starts at €3.25 for delivery to a Mondial Relay point anywhere in Belgium.
While you may of course be able to find the same, or similar, books cheaper elsewhere, it’s the whole experience that makes a Little Humane Books subscriptions worth the money: the service that Christina offers in researching and selecting books and tailoring subscriptions to particular needs, the attractive packing and lovely selection of thoughtful and eco-conscious gifts, the book summaries that can give parents a head-start on the themes covered, and in general the very positive experience that has children eagerly awaiting the next book at the start of each month.
We tried out a 4-month ‘personal’ subscription to Little Humane Books, receiving one book per month for our ‘keen thinker’ (the 9-11 age category) in line with the themes we had shown interest in. We really liked the books we received – both the variety and the quality – and the whole experience was just great. Founder Christina was on hand to support us in getting started (e.g. discussing English reading levels of my francophone kids), and we really appreciated the little extras that came with every package (like a short book summary, bookmarks and a little gift).
My boys were excited when a new package arrived each month, and keen to discover our new book – not bad for kids who often find reading a chore. I also enjoyed the conversions that the various books triggered, and I know that we’ll come back to the books in the future too.
The cost may put some families off (EUR 20–24 per month depending on how long you sign up for), but for those who can afford it, we felt that overall, it would be worth the money. The fact that you can easily skip renewals also gives full control over your subscription.
Try out a subscription and see for yourself!