Planning and Children's Literature

Introducing planning issues to young children through storytelling can help them grasp the basic concepts.

literature, children, cities, urban sprawl, transportation


Nancy Templeton


Danielle Capozzi


Brittany coyle

Can a four-year old understand city planning issues such as urban sprawl, transportation policy, and the function of cities? If you convey them through simple stories with identifiable characters, young children can begin to grasp the basic concepts. A classic example of such a story is The Little House (1942) by Virginia Lee Burton. It is a story of a small house in the country who happily wonders about the distant lights of the city, which she watches grow ever closer as the seasons pass. Soon, a road is built in front of the house, bringing more little houses and other development. Eventually the little house is surrounded by cars, elevated trains, and skyscrapers. Ending on the cheery side, the ancestors of the builder find the little house and move it back to the country.

Other similar classic children’s stories by Virginia Lee Burton to consider sharing with young ones include:

Maybelle the Cable Car (1952): Maybelle, a San Francisco cable car is to be replaced by buses when she is saved by a group of cable car supporters. The story recounts actual events in San Francisco's effort to keep the city's cable cars running.

Katy and the Big Snow (1943): Katy, a crawlor tractor with the City of Geoppolis highway department, comes to the rescue when a big blizzard snows the city in. Only Katy is strong enough to plow the streets so the city can function again.