READ - REFLECT - LOVE
“The child is a well-spring of love.”1
- Maria Montessori
Social distancing may present a unique opportunity to develop social-emotional skills. Children’s literature has exploded with stories designed to foster kindness, gratitude, compassion, cooperation and peace. Having spent the last decade developing a social-emotional curriculum for young children between the ages of 4-7, I have found that there is no better way to highlight, cultivate and celebrate a child’s innate basic goodness than through stories and heart-centered reflection.
Each week throughout the quarantine period I will offer teachers, parents and home-schoolers a list of my favorite books in a given social-emotional subject area. This week we will feature books related to the topic of kindness.
Kindness is the “action” inspired by feelings of empathy and compassion. When children are educated about the importance of kindness and encouraged to extend acts of kindness at an early age, it becomes a habit for them. They quickly realize that extending kindness to others makes them feel good too! Studies indicate that “people who engage in kind acts become happier over time… When you are kind to others, you feel good as a person -- more moral, optimistic and positive.” 2 In addition to these psychological benefits, extending kindness has been shown to measurably reduce stress, lower blood pressure, relieve pain and symptoms of depression and support the immune system.3
After enjoying one of the stories below I recommend that you reflect upon the story, perhaps by playfully relating it to your own life experience. Then, I suggest that you propose a “Take-it-to-Heart Reflection Question”. (for example: “What is something kind we can do to surprise mom/dad/sibling/neighbor/friend today?”) Once you have posed the question, suggest that you take a few moments to “hold” the question in the area around your heart before responding. Close your eyes, enjoy a few long, slow deep breaths. Model a meditative minute or two of reflection. When you open your eyes share your suggestions and hatch a plan to put them into action.
Breadcrumbs Best Books on Kindness (Ages 4-7):
Cuyler, Margery (2007). Kindness is Cooler Mrs. Ruler, Simon & Schuster, NY, NY.
In Brief: An entire classroom embraces kindness at home, at school and throughout the community.
Quote: “During the next few days I want you to perform five acts of kindness for your families.”
Cowen-Fletcher, Jane (2012). Baby Be Kind, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA
In Brief: Simple acts of kindness make for happy babies. This board book is a lovely introduction to kindness for the very young.
Quote: “Share cookies or crackers or whatever you’ve got…”
DiOrio, Rana (2015). What Does it Mean to be Kind?, Little Pickle Stories, SanFrancisco, CA
In Brief: This beautifully illustrated book presents a host of examples of kindness in action.
Quote: “Being kind means… celebrating differences in others”
Dismondy, Maria (2016). The Jelly Donut Difference, Maria Dismondy, Inc., Dearborn Heights, MI.
In Brief: This book illustrates how children and families can make a real difference right in their own neighborhood by staying alert and mindful of the needs of others and responding with creativity and kindness.
Quote: “You found a great way to spend your time and it made my weekend extra special.”
Hallinan, P.K. (2002). Heartprints, Ideals Children’s Books, Nashville, TN
In Brief: “Heartprints” are the impressions left behind by deliberate acts of kindness. From a simple smile, to a labor of love, this rhyme covers many examples of kind deeds and gestures.
Quote: “A heartprint is formed when you do something kind.
Your love touches others, leaving heartprints behind.”
McCloud, Carol (2006). Have You Filled a Bucket Today?, Ferne Press, Northville, MI
In Brief: This book explores the many ways to “fill a bucket” through kind words and deeds. Your choices make you a “Bucket Filler” or a “Bucket Dipper”... smiles offer clues along the way.
Quote: “You feel good when you help others feel good.”
McCloud, Carol (2006). Will You Fill My Bucket?, Ferne Press, Northville, MI
In Brief: This sequel to Have You Filled a Bucket Today? Presents a variety of kind, loving gestures and deeds from around the world.
Quote: “Will you fill my bucket and snuggle cheek to cheek?”
Murphy, Mary (2002). How Kind, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA
In Brief: A kindly hen triggers a barnyard-full of benevolence that ultimately comes full-circle! A wonderful affirmation that what goes around comes around.
Quote: “Rabbit is very kind thought Cow. How can I be kind too?”
Nelson, Kadir (2015). If You Plant a Seed, HarperCollins Publishers, NY, NY
In Brief: This beautifully illustrated primer on kindness is as rich and deep as the soil in which the seeds of kindness are sown. A must read for ALL AGES!
Quote: “If you plant a seed of kindness, in almost no time at all,
the fruits of kindness will grow and grow and grow…”
Pearson, Emily (2002). Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed, Gibbs Smith, Layton, UT
In Brief: Mary’s ordinary act of kindness travels magically around the globe and right back to Mary… positively affecting millions along the way.
Quote: Ordinary Mary’s extraordinary deed had come full circle,
and on its way changed the lives of every person living.”
Rekstad, Natalie Lynn and Sophie Noell Lynn (2015). The Secret Adventures of Anonymouse.
In Brief: This book is a playful invitation for children to perform anonymous, random acts of kindness without the expectation of praise or reward.
Quote: “She soon discovered many ways a little mouse with a big heart could help others.”
Stein, David Ezra (2008). The Nice Book, Penguin Young Readers Group, NY, NY
In Brief: This playful guide to etiquette and kindness is perfect for the very young.
Quote: “...and don’t forget, be nice!”
Wallace, Nancy Elizabeth (2006). The Kindness Quilt, Amazon Publishing, Las Vegas, NV
In Brief: Inspired by a fable, a classroom kindness challenge spreads like wildfire.
Quote: “We should try to do something kind every day.”
Montessori, Maria (1995). The Absorbent Mind, Henry Holt & Company, New York, NY, p. 289.
Lyubomirsky, Sonja, PhD. (2013). Cited in How Random Acts of Kindness Can Benefit Your Health by Priya Advani, Huffington Post, 06/11/2013.
Hamilton, David R. (2010). Why Kindness is Good for You, Hay House U.K., London, p.28.