Tag Archives: empathy

#blogbookaday: Be Kind

8 Apr

Be KindSummary:  “A picture book about the power of kindness.

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate contemplates how to make her feel better and what it means to be kind. From asking the new girl to play to standing up for someone being bullied, this moving and thoughtful story explores what a child can do to be kind, and how each act, big or small, can make a difference–or at least help a friend.” (Taken from Goodreads)

Review: A girl spills her juice at lunch and the main character thinks of ways to make her feel better and goes through ways their mom taught them to be kind. In the end, drawing a pretty picture and sharing it with the girl is how the main character chooses to be kind. This is a wonderful story to use as a starting point for a conversation on how to stand up for kids getting picked on, how to be kind to kids at school or on the playground and how to be nice to the people in your community. I loved the simple ways the chose to highlight, making it very easy for any kid to “choose kind.”

Personal Reaction: I really liked that this story shared specific ways children can be kind to the people around them. I think that so many times adults will say, “Be nice.” or “Be kind.” or “Be friends with so and so.” But, kids aren’t given concrete examples of how to do that. This book solves that problem and I think would make a great read aloud for elementary school classrooms about what it means to be kind.

Title: Be Kind
Author: Pat Zietlow Miller
Illustrator: Jen Hill
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: February 6, 2018


#blogbookaday (1)This is a new idea I’m trying on my blog this year that was inspired by @donalynbooks and @heisereads – to provide a brief review of a picture book every day of 2018. You’ll get a brief summary of the story, a review of the content, illustrations and theme, my personal reaction to the book and all the pertinent publication information! Enjoy!

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Why Matt de la Peña Writes for Children

10 Jan

35356379.jpgWhy We Shouldn’t Shield Children From Darkness written by Newbery Award-Winning author Matt de la Peña was published on Time’s website just a few days ago, but what an impact it has made. I myself have read over it a handful of times and each time I do, I marvel at how well that man can write a story and how lucky I am to live during this golden age of picture books that is occurring right now – not just because the books being published right now are well-written and beautifully illustrated, but because their are authors and illustrators out there making sure that they show the diversity of lives children lead and continue to fight for the importance of all types of picture books in this world.

“Maybe instead of anxiously trying to protect our children from every little hurt and heartache, our job is to simply support them through such experiences. To talk to them. To hold them.”

I think there is nothing truer than supporting kids in this world by allowing them to feel, but knowing you are there to help them and hold them when they need it. Otherwise, how else will they learn to deal with difficult decisions, unkind words or actions, or sadness. It is a disservice to children to expect them to what to do with big feelings – how to manage them if necessary and to believe it’s okay to feel things. Picture books, as Matt points out can share a glimpse of your own life and show you that you are not alone in this world and they can help you to experience a life outside of your own, teaching empathy and understanding.

Picture books are powerful things and with kind-hearted, true people like Matt de la Peña behind them, I think the world is a much better place.

Racism, Children’s Classics and the World Today

18 Aug

newshour.jpgThis post has been in my heart and mind for a few days now and after seeing Grace Lin speak about this very issue on PBS NewsHour and in light of recent events, I think it’s an important subject that kids, parents, teachers, librarians and everyone in between should be thinking about and discussing.

Grace Lin’s talk was titled, “What to do When You Realize Classic Books From Your Childhood Are Racist.” Recently, I’ve seen a number of posts about The Little House on the Prairie books being labeled as racist (and they are). So this wasn’t a new idea to me, but one I hadn’t really thought about much before and that’s where my white privilege comes in. I loved reading The Little House books when I was younger, in fact, historical fiction was one of my favorite genres – Caddie Woodlawn (also racist), Anne of Green Gables (relatively forward thinking) and the American Girl books were my bread and butter. As a child, I don’t think the fact that Ma hated Indians was something I saw as racist, I knew the history of the migration of European settlers onto Indian land and understood that Ma’s hatred grew out of her fear for her family as wrong as it was. The same way I knew that you didn’t use the words that Mark Twain used to describe black people in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or how I have a fond memory of a teacher reading aloud The Indian In the Cupboard, but now as an adult see how truly incorrect the depiction of Native Americans truly was in this story. It’s not that I read them and accepted them as truth, I knew that because they spoke of the past, there were things that didn’t bear repeating in the world today.

You have to realize that many of these classics were written during a time (50+ years ago) that this vocabulary, depiction, illustration, language was, if not widely used, accepted by many. That doesn’t make these stories any less racist, but it does in fact leave an opening for an adult in a child’s life to open up conversation about history (and presents times as we’ve been seeing lately). It’s a chance to teach kids why we don’t use certain words, why a certain depiction is incorrect or why an illustration is offensive, hurtful and just plain wrong.

Does it mean we clean up these stories, removing language, illustrations and whitewashing our history? No. Does it mean we ban these books from children, never letting them read what we grew up reading? No. In fact, I think it’s a great way to teach children current events, history and so much more. I have a teacher-friend who recently shared this story on Facebook – a few years ago he had the most difficult class of children he has ever taught, a fifth grade class that wasn’t afraid to throw racial slurs around the cafeteria and playground like it meant nothing. So he paired the kids up and had them interview each other with a list of predetermined questions and a Venn diagram to illustrate their differences and similarities. Of course it didn’t take long for the kids to realize they had more in common with each other than they thought and were surprised by this revelation.

Kids aren’t born hating people that are different from them. They are taught hatred and  books are a great door in which to show kids the effects of racism, sexism, and just about every other -ism out there, but it’s also about showing them what it means to have respect, empathy, kindness, compassion and hope – all things we need a little more of in this world.

Each summer we offer a book discussion for middle grade students and on more than one occasion, I’ve offered a title with a character who is portrayed as having a disability. Kids are open in a book discussion to asking questions to better understand a character’s life and they feel comfortable in the book club space to be able to ask these questions. I know that asking questions can be microagressive to people who are different from yourself and I think there’s a way to ask questions respectfully and insightfully (which is a whole other post), but I think what this world could use is more instances of kids being comfortable asking the questions they have to understand the world around them, after all they’ll be here longer than we will and I’d love to see acceptance become the norm instead of the exception. So don’t be afraid to talk to kids about what they’re reading, kids want to be able to ask questions and to understand, but if no one is there to ask the questions to, how will they find their answers?

Okay, so this post has been meandering for much longer than I anticipated, but if you’re still with me…. check out Grace Lin’s absolutely astounding Tedx Talk or her books, including Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and so many others, she’s pretty awesome.

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