You could still see the messages written three different languages chalked on the sidewalk in front of my daughter’s school earlier this week from the October 10th Kindness in Chalk event. The words were faded then, but they still have me hope.
I couldn’t watch this video without getting a little teary. I know I’m kind of a sucker for this kindness stuff, but give it a chance. :)
Words matter, and small kindnesses matter. I really believe that, and I believe that we need to take this message beyond Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. As always, I’m planning to spread the idea with books.
Start with some picture books:
- The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts – In this picture book, Sally notices everything, and she ends up making a big difference.
- Because of You by B.G. Hennessy – A picture book to share the idea that every person can make a difference.
- Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal – Start talking about paying it forward with kids in this picture book.
You might also wish to check out the Year of Minnesota Nice blog–not to mention the Be Nice Box–for more ideas to spread kindness in your community.
When I first read Wonder by R.J. Palacio, I had no idea how popular it would become. Frankly, I was distracted by my disappointment that it hadn’t been published in time to include in my article about books that explore physical differences. I blogged about for my employer twice (naming it a “promising bloom” here and mentioning the multiple narrator device here), and it’s come up this blog at least once that I remember.
Since then it has become a bit of a phenomenon. There was award buzz, a hashtag, and a whole movement surrounding this book. And it’s moving beyond kids: in the UK, there is an adult/all ages version of the book on shelves. I’m happy whenever you get adults to consider young people’s point of view by getting them to read children’s books, but this book in particular, I’d like to push into the hands of the general public. It is an opportunity to see out so many difference eyes, to see why people make the choices they do, and what the consequences of those choices might be. The best way to get people to make kind choices is to share stories like this one.
If I haven’t convinced you to read it yet, perhaps the book’s trailer will do so:
Kindness is an all ages choice, and this book spans a wide range of ages, as I mentioned. But for those with preschoolers or primary graders looking to explore kindness and empathy, try one of these:
- Fairy Goes A-Marketing – this is a picture book version of a poem about a fairy who sets her caged animals free or gives away she things to help others.
- Say Hello – Explores the feeling of being left out and encourages kids to include everyone.
- Jamaica’s Blue Marker – Jamaica doesn’t want to share her markers with Russell until she learns to look at why he acts so mean at school.
- Each Kindness – A new girl starts at Chloe’s school, but she won’t play with her. It is only after the new girl has moved again that Chloe realizes she could have been kinder to Maya.
- A Home for Bird – A little frog goes to great lengths to help a new friend find a home.
These books are great for starting discussions, but in all honesty, any story will do. In the words of Pulitzer Prize winning author Jane Smiley:
“Reading fiction is and always was practice in empathy — learning to see the world through often quite alien perspectives, learning to understand how other people’s points of view reflect their experiences.”
Wonder stands out because it is the story of someone who is very different and it explores the choices we make when faced with difference, but I believe that fiction can create a kinder world if we let it.
Please, choose kind.
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First some serious links:
- I avoided reading the Rolling Stone article “One Town’s war on Gay Teens” for days. It kept popping up on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, and it was never a good time to read what I knew would probably make me cry, so I would scroll past. I finally clicked one afternoon on my bus commute home from work. I did indeed cry a bit, but that isn’t terribly unusual for my commute reading. Later this week, I picked up an advance copy (via my employer) of The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves, and I was tearing up again. The bus is an emotional place for me! :)
- Breast cancer has been in the news with the whole Susan G. Komen Foundation/Planned Parenthood controversy, but I’d like to point you to the person who helped me get beyond the pinkwashing. Susan Niebur, who blogged about mothering with cancer at Toddler Planet, passed away on February 6, 2012. I never met her personally, but I’ve been following her blog for a long time. She had a rare type of breast cancer that doesn’t present with a lump. If you want to make a difference, consider donating to Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
And the less serious link:
- Voting for the Are You Local? best new band contest has opened. Listen to the songs by some great MN bands, rate them, and the winner goes to SXSW. Some of my favorites bands (& people) are on the nominee list. Check them out!
For more interesting stuff, find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
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