Kids today are going through something that wasn’t part of their parents upbringing. Even kids who were homeschooled didn’t have the same level of boundaries and limitations on social development that are happening right now and with all the conversations about what divides us dominating the news cycle, it’s important for kids to remember how we’re all connected and the ways in which every human being is alike. That’s why a new children’s book from National Geographic Kids called A World Together by Sonia Manzano is so important right now.

Sonia Manzano is perhaps most recognizable as Maria from Jim Henson’s Sesame Street, a role she played from 1971 through 2015. Generations of children learned important developmental lessons from that series, which Sonia was an Emmy-winning writer on, and the spirit and tone of A World Together certainly feels connected in many ways. It teaches kids about how other kids live around the world and reminds us of our basic needs as humans and the powerful themes that unite us all.

The powerful words from Sonia Manzano are accompanied by a tapestry of photos from National Geographic photographers around the world, representing over thirty countries. The back of the book includes a guide to where each photo was taken and can be used as a resource for parents to find more information about how kids live in other parts of the world. A World Together is not only designed to help kids feel connected to the world around them, but also to help them develop a love of learning and understanding more about others. It sparks a yearning for empathy without ever mentioning it.

The fact that this book comes from the mind of Sonia Manzano is no coincidence, as readers will discover in a letter from her at the back of the book. She shares family photos that fascinated her as a child in the Bronx of her mother and older sister dressed well in front of a shabby looking home in Puerto Rico, a world she never knew first hand until she was older. That childhood interest in the life her family knew before she was born makes her the perfect person to tell this intricate story.

Family, friendship and love are some of the major themes of A World Together that will help widen your child’s world and make them feel more connected to it during a time where social interactions are heavily reduced. It’s important for kids to continue to grow and learn and this book offers a safe way from them to be exposed to the cultures and people of the world that may seem different at first, but are more like them than they realize. In many ways, A World Together feels like essential reading for every child and belongs in the classroom of every elementary school teacher.