Chelsea Clinton‘s kids may still be little, but she’s already raising them to be agents for change and to stand up to bullies — lessons she has outlined in her new children’s book Start Now!: You Can Make a Difference.
“I found books really empowering as a kid and hope that this book helps empower kids today,” the former first daughter, 38, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. She shares son Aidan, 2, and daughter Charlotte, 4, with husband Marc Mezvinsky.
“[My kids] love being read to and talking about what they’re reading in books,” she explains. “Particularly for young readers, books are not only a way to help break down and communicate ideas [but] stories of real empowerment.”
Start Now!, released this month, is Clinton’s fourth children’s book and gives young readers a better understanding of big issues like hunger, health, bullying, climate change and endangered species. Written for kids 7 to 10 years old, the book also shares tips and true stories about activism to inspire readers to make their own impact.
“I am incredibly hopeful because as you listen to [kid activists] and you understand their work, you can’t be anything but hopeful,” Clinton says about the prospects for the future. “That doesn’t mean that there aren’t real challenges. I’m just inspired by how many young people are unwilling to accept the status quo.”
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While Charlotte and Aidan won’t be able to read her new book for a few years, that hasn’t stopped Clinton from teaching her kids about the issues she cares about.
“My children are still relatively small. They’re 2 and 4. My daughter turned 4 last week and yet they are people,” the Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation says. “So we talk to them and engage them in issues and in ways that help make the world the way we want it to be. We talk about climate change and using energy responsibly.”
Clinton continues, “We do it at home with our climate-smart light bulbs, or making sure we turn off water when we’re not using it so we’re conserving water. Our kids help us carry out the recycling.”
Another problem Clinton wants to confront is the pervasiveness of bullying. While preparing for the book, she spoke to children who raised concerns about the issue.
“One thing that really struck me was how often I was asked about bullying,” she says. “Many kids brought up bullying and what [they can] do to stand up to bullying, how can they support their friends who have been bullied, what can they do to prevent bullying.”
“I was just so impressed and heartened by how seriously they were taking this,” Clinton adds, “and also so sad because it’s clearly such a feature of their lives.”
As a result, in the book, she outlines steps to deal with bullying. They’re the same techniques she has used while responding to trolls on social media.
“Good morning Roseanne — my given middle name is Victoria,” Clinton tweeted in response. “I imagine George Soros’s nephews are lovely people. I’m just not married to one. I am grateful for the important work @OpenSociety does in the world. Have a great day!”
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She also had a response for Twitter user @Jae4GoColts, who wrote she looked like a donkey, according to Yahoo.com. (His tweet is no longer available.)
“Hi James! Donkeys are known for their independence, intelligence & persistence and horses for their speed, perceptiveness & memory,” she tweeted on June 6. “I’m flattered by the compliment, thank you!”
Clinton hopes her children will learn from the kindness she extends to these individuals.
“I hope that my children see their mother standing up for [herself] and standing up for what I think is important in a way that is strong and yet always from a place of kindness and humanity,” she says. “I refuse to allow my humanity to be lessened by someone else’s meanness.”
She adds, “I choose to believe that all of us can be better and that if we treat each other with kindness hopefully, over time, kindness begets kindness.”
Clinton wrote Start Now! with these values in mind, and wants to inspire her kids and others to be activists — no matter their age.
“We talk about protecting the environment or we talk about healthy eating habits, protecting ourselves, being kind and protecting our community,” Clinton says about the discussions she has with her own children. “Hopefully these early conversations help us have more detailed, nuanced conversations over time.”