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Book cover courtesy Penguin Random House

Chelsea Clinton Encourages Kids to “Start Now”

Former first daughter and bestselling author Chelsea Clinton talks about her new book, "Start Now! You Can Make a Difference."

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Chelsea Clinton
Chelsea Clinton

Former first daughter and New York Times bestselling author Chelsea Clinton wants kids to know they are never too young to start making a difference. Her latest book, Start Now! You Can Make a Difference (Penguin Young Readers, October 2018) geared toward children ages seven to 10, discusses problems dealing with health, hunger, climate change, endangered species, and bullying, so young readers can understand the world around them, and be inspired to help. (She even gives a shout-out to Boulder’s Douglass Elementary on page 94 of the book, for the school’s Food Waste Club, started by Douglass students.) Colorado Parent talked to Chelsea about her book, her background, and her life as a mom.

Colorado Parent:
Your book features true stories about kids who have made a difference in their communities and the world. As you learned about those children, was there a common characteristic or trait you noticed in them?
Chelsea Clinton:
They are all really curious, and their curiosity is matched with optimism. They observed a challenge in their community and they had the optimism to think that things could be different. Also, they were really fortunate to have adults in their lives that support them to do the work they wanted to do.
CP:
What did you learn about making a difference while you were growing up, surrounded by world leaders and change makers?
CC:
I am lucky that I had adults that accepted me and supported me so that I could make a difference early on, including my parents, my grandparents, and teachers. When I discovered an issue that I cared about like protecting planet earth, my school supported me in starting a service club. Every year my grandparents gave me a membership to an organization that helped endangered species. My other grandma was a smoker, and I remember saying one year that all I wanted for my birthday was for her to quit smoking. And she quit. I was fortunate to have adults that listened to me.
CP:
Why did you feel it was an important time to write about this subject for young kids?
CC:
When I was on my book tour for my book It’s Your World, it struck me how many parents and teachers asked, “When are you going to write a book for younger kids?” I’d been thinking about it for a few years, and it felt like the right time. I’ve always said that you’re never too young to make a difference, and I hope this book will show young readers that it’s true.
CP:
As a mother yourself, what’s one value that you try to instill in your children, to give them the confidence to make a difference as they get older?
CC:
We talk to our kids (ages two and four) a lot about the choices we make at home. When we change a light bulb we talk about saving energy, we talk about why we take out the recycling, we talk about why we turn off the water when we brush our teeth. We talk about how small changes can create bigger changes. We also talk about being kind to ourselves and one another, and we role model kindness.
CP:
How do you suggest parents begin to teach their young children about world events, without overwhelming or scaring them?
CC:
I think it depends on what is happening in your own community, neighborhood, or school. Start with what feels relevant to them. The conversations you have change over time—when they are eight the conversations are going to be different from when they were four. Help them understand they are part of the world. They can know some of what is happening in the world, and teach them how to positively contribute.
CP:
What has been your favorite part of the work you did for Start Now?
CC:
I think my favorite has been learning the kids’ stories. Some of them were ones I was familiar with, but many of the stories I didn’t know until I started searching for them. I learned a lot, and if I could name just one story that stood out to me, it is the story of Christian and the buddy bench (page 107 of Start Now). Now there are buddy benches in all 50 states and in 14 countries around the world! I loved that [the buddy bench] fights loneliness but also creates a more inclusive community.
CP:
What’s one of the most rewarding things about being a parent for you?
CC:
I love being with my children, getting to love them and support them, and I’m thankful for moments we have together. I want my children to be brave and stand up for themselves, but also teach them how to stand up for others.

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