Jessica Alba wants to raise her kids with "their feet on the ground" by teaching them to help others — and to recognize what they have.
The importance of giving back is the premise of her new kids' book, A Bear to Share, which the actress wrote with her friends and Baby2Baby Co-CEOs Kelly Sawyer Patricof and Norah Weinstein. The picture book, which is illustrated by Alicia Más, was published by HarperCollins Publishers on Tuesday.
"I grew up with parents who worked three jobs each and lived paycheck to paycheck. I started acting at a young age so I probably have a different understanding and view than maybe a lot of people in my circumstance as far as what it means to struggle and how you want to be treated if you ever were in that circumstance," says Alba, 40, in a joint interview with PEOPLE.
"I always want my kids to have their feet on the ground and understand that they can do something about it — and never to take anything for granted," Alba continues.
In A Bear to Share, a little girl named Tiana is torn after she's given a new teddy bear to replace her older, slightly worn teddy bear, Bach. When she learns that her friend Timothy doesn't have a teddy bear of his own, Tiana gives him her new one.
"Tiana knew Timothy deserved a bear to love and make his own," the co-authors write in A Bear to Share. "One with both of its eyes and all of its stuffing so he could feel as special as she did when she got Bach."
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Kindness is one of the lessons that the co-authors strive to teach their kids on a daily basis. When Weinstein goes school shopping with her two kids she says they also shop for a child at Baby2Baby. (In the past decade, the nonprofit organization has distributed more than 190 million items to children in need.)
"I think it's these constant reminders that really brings it to life for kids," she says. "Which is why we think it resonates so well as a story because most children can relate to something like a teddy bear — that even those things are things that other children are struggling to afford."
Weinstein adds, "The more that we can talk about it with our kids, the more that we think it will lead them to adulthoods where they are citizens who give back."
Jessica Alba/Instagram Jessica Alba with her family
Alba says A Bear to Share is a "very tender book."
"I'm hoping that it will help children understand that not everyone is the same and that you — no matter what age — can help others out," the Baby2Baby ambassador says, adding that it can help teach kids "compassion and empathy."
The book is directly connected to Baby2Baby's mission. During the pandemic, the nonprofit has rushed to meet the needs of children and their families.
COURTESY OF BABY2BABY The authors
"This year at Baby2Baby, we served one million children across the country," says Sawyer Patricof, explaining that WIC doesn't cover diapers for families in need. "We are talking to families every day who are... choosing between food and diapers. Families have been resorting to making homemade diapers out of newspapers and towels. Or having a diaper, hanging it to dry and then reusing it on their baby because they couldn't afford them."
She explains that Baby2Baby has organized drive-through distribution centers in cities throughout the U.S. during the pandemic.
"In those moments when you see parents and you're able to... hand them diapers, food, groceries, and the things that they need for their children, there are tears in the parents' eyes," Sawyer Patricof remembers. "We met grandparents who thanked us and cried and were saying, 'God bless you.' You could really see the need was so great."
Alba, the founder of The Honest Company, says that giving back is a focus for her family throughout the year.
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"When I'm thinking of these different concepts, I do bounce a lot of these ideas off of my kids and ask them what they think or if they think it would be impactful," Alba says. "My kids also have volunteered at Baby2Baby and participated in various events throughout the year. We will do different things as far as volunteering and feeding the homeless. My husband will also provide socks and I'll provide hygiene products. [My kids] are on the ground and actually help and distribute items."
Even Hayes is included in the conversation. Alba says reading A Bear to Share has become part of their routine.
"My son Hayes, who is more appropriately aged for this book, he loves it," she says. "This is the book he wants to read at night, and when a kid gets into a book, it becomes the book that you read every night for weeks and months on end, sometimes years. So, this is already a staple in our house."
A Bear to Share is on sale now.