Celebrated children’s author Zanni Louise shares how she encourages preschoolers to care about values

Zanni Louise, author of Too Busy Sleeping and Archie and the Bear, has launched a picture book series designed to help preschool and early primary readers engage with values. Feeling a personal draw to themes of friendship, family and kindness, Zanni says she wanted to create books which were useful for parents and teachers of young children. 

The books in the Human Kind series include Honesty, Persistence, Kindness, Imagination, Self-belief, Courage, Resilience, Respect and Gratitude. We're thrilled for Zanni that her book Persistence was highly commended in the 2021 Educational Publishing Awards Australia.

Making it real

An important way to enable kids to engage with the values in the series was to make the ideas more concrete, Zanni says.

“Values are abstract, often complex concepts, so I wanted to provide a practical tool to open up the door to discussion in a fun, accessible way,” she says. “We introduce values through the voices of five fictional characters, who talk about what the value means to them.”

The target audience of preschool and early primary children was involved in the books’ development, as Zanni interviewed young students in their classrooms about their viewpoints on values. She says the children were “so eager to share their thoughts with me” and some of the anecdotes they mentioned made it into the books as examples.

All in the family

As she developed the stories, Zanni also consulted child and adolescent clinical psychologist Dr Ameika Johnson – who just so happens to be her cousin. Ameika helped her understand why values were so important and how to talk about them with children, Zanni says.

“We imagine the books will be particularly useful in classroom discussions, so I wanted to create practical materials to help educators engage with the books,” she says. “The resources provide questions educators can ask their students, as well as suggestions for how to guide discussions.”

Working together

Zanni teaches the Australian Writers’ Centre’s course in Writing Picture Books and says she enjoys teaching as much as she does writing – which, given the number of books she’s now published, must be a lot.

“I love the in-class dynamics and the magic that happens when we workshop our stories,” she says. “I love meeting new students, and having the privilege of reading students’ stories week to week.”

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