The author and mother of two on the importance of reading as a family.
Since her mother's defeat in the November 2016 election, former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton has mostly avoided the political spotlight. She's even denied rumors that she might be the next Clinton to seek political office. But she's always been an activist for the causes she cares about, a tradition that started far before her time in the White House—through the books her parents read with her as a kid.
Last month, the mother of two young kids, Charlotte, 2, and Aidan, 9 months, released an updated paperback edition today of It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired, & Get Going, a book meant to empower young kids to get involved in their communities. Real Simple spoke with Clinton about her recent release and her reading traditions at home.
Why did you decide to write books for kids?
When I was a kid, I read something that had a huge impact on me: 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do To Save The Earth. It was the first book that I read that very much felt like it was talking to me in a way that was really empowering, and it taught me about global warming and climate change, but also what I could do about it and the different choices that I could make at home and school to make even a small difference, and how a small act could make a really profound difference. I wrote It’s Your World in the hope that it could empower other people in the same way that I felt very empowered by that book, through sharing information about challenges I was really hearing kids were focused on, but also sharing stories of young people who were responding to those challenges in their homes, in their schools, in their communities, and really around the world. I hope that It’s Your World will even impact one person in the way that 50 Simple Things impacted me as a kid.
What favorite books do you read with your kids at home?
Oh my gosh, there are so many favorites. The last book we read every night before bedtime for Charlotte is, and this has now been true for many months, is The Paper Bag Princess, which I think is just a fantastic book. I would recite the whole thing for you right now if we had the time! I definitely have it committed to memory because we do read it every night. We love all the Mo Willems books. We love How To Catch A Star by Oliver Jeffers. They also really like some of the books that I loved as a kid, which makes it so fun for me to read, like The Runaway Bunny, to Charlotte and Aiden.
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Are there any special reading traditions you shared with your parents that you have passed down to your kids?
I’m so grateful that my parents read so many different things to me, and encouraged my love of reading. My husband Mark and I are trying to do the same thing with our children. With Charlotte we read the books that I just mentioned and we also read Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site and Chugga Chugga Choo Choo to her, and books that might be thought of as conventionally “boy” books, because we want her to know it's okay for girls to read books about trucks, trains, boats, and planes in the same way Aiden listens to The Paper Bag Princess and the Pinkalicious books. That’s what is important to me, ensuring that they are being read to in the way that both encourages a love of reading and more importantly, curiosity about the world. We want to figure out what kind of stories and characters they resonate with by exposing them to lots of good stories about girls, boys, trucks, mermaids, animals, and kind of everything else.
It’s Your World is now available in paperback. Chelsea’s next book for kids, She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, will be released in May.
This interview was edited for length and clarity