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Pippa Goodhart, the amazing author of Fair Shares, told us all about her trip to Edinburgh Book Festival!

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Pippa Goodhart and Anna Doherty at Edinburgh Book Festival

We all know that familiar cross child complaint that ‘it’s not fair!’ Being fair is a question that drives adult politics too, and yet there’s not often agreement about what is, or isn’t, fair. Being fair is complicated, and that was what we wanted to explore in the sold out Sharing Is Caring session with young children at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last week.

Brilliant young illustrator Anna Doherty and I did an hour’s session revolving around our new picture book, Fair Shares. It’s a simple story of Hare and Bear both wanting to reach and pick pears from a tree, but neither can reach high enough. So Hare has the idea of standing on chairs … but is it fair that Hare needs two chairs in order to reach the pears whilst Bear needs only one? And what about wise Beetle who doesn’t actually like eating pears anyway? There’s a bit of a surprise ending! But the story’s message is to show the need for equity rather than equality.

We explored the story, acting it out with children wearing pairs of hare and bear ears, and me as the tree holding pears up high. When tall child Bear got a pear but short child Hare didn’t, we divided the audience into bears and hares. The hares shouted out, ‘It’s not fair! We want a pear!’, and the bears responded, ‘Nair, nair, nair! We don’t care!’ Then we thought about how that made the hares and the bears feel, and how we might make things fairer and happier. So then the bears chanted, ‘We are nice so we WILL share!’, acting out tossing pears over to the hares, and everyone munched invisible fruit, and there were smiles all round.

We thought about how a cake can be shared by cutting it into equal portions … as long as not too many people turn-up for tea. But how cutting up equal shares wouldn’t be a good solution if more than one person wanted a teddy bear. We shared the story of Puss in Boots where the three brothers inherit three different things … but it turns out that the youngest one’s apparent bad luck in getting the cat turns out to be good luck by the end.

Then we tried a funny game of luck. Anna drew pictures of three characters, and then filled a ‘shop’ with three different hats, shirts, and shorts. Children pulled numbered ping-pong balls from a bag to allocate the clothes by luck. That began too well, with each character getting a T-shirt. But it soon went nicely wrong, ending with one character with two hats on his head and nothing on his bottom, making the point that using luck wasn’t a good solution for that particular sharing problem.

The children were each given a picture by Anna that shows Bear, Hare and Beetle each holding a basket. There were stickers of fruits, and crayons for drawing, and the children decided what to put into each basket, sharing the fruits out and trying to be fair. Some gave the same number of fruits to each, some were more sophisticated in their thinking about who would want, and needed, what. And all, I think, had fun. Anna and I certainly did!

  • How can we explain the idea of fairness to children?

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