Two simple words.
Two simple by which our lives should be easy to live.
Everywhere we look we see a need for more understanding, more empathy, more acceptance...more kindness.
As I see things that are happening in the world around me, I am so worried...not only for lack of kindness that I see on a daily basis, but also for the fact that children are witnessing this and seeing it as “the norm”. We can’t let our next generation grow up thinking that this is ok. We must teach, and more importantly, MODEL, what it looks like, sounds like and feels like to be kind.
In her book, Be Kind, Pat Zietlow Miller (with illustrations by Jen Hill) takes a look at what it means to be kind. This beautifully written book shows children (and adults) the incredible impact that an act of kindness, no matter how small, can have on one person...and beyond.
As teachers start thinking about the new school year, Be Kind is a book that needs to be added to every classroom and school library. Its powerful message must be shared with students to allow for critical discussions about the importance of kindness, especially kindness toward those who we may find to be different from us. Children must know that through showing (and living) kindness, they can make someone’s life better, their school better, the world better.
I had the opportunity to ask Pat a few questions...Here’s what she had to say.
Me: Be Kind shares such an important, needed message. Why did you feel that this was the right time to write Be Kind?
PZM: I think it’s always the right time for kindness.
When I wrote the book several years ago, I didn’t necessarily think that the timing was especially critical. And then, as the book’s release date neared, I started reading about more things happening where people were being unkind to others – often because of their race or religion or citizenship status.
And then, my daughter’s school at the time experienced a few similar instances of some kids targeting others they perceived as different. That hit very close to home. So when the book finally came out, I felt it really was the right book at the right time.
I hope that it reminds people of our common humanity. That we all need kindness and help from time to time. And that the world is a better place when we all are be kind and help each other.
Me: What do you hope children (all people) will take from this book?
PZM: I hope children and adults will remember a few things:
Opportunities to be kind are everywhere. With people you know and people you don’t. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you’ll see lots of ways you could be kind to lots of people.
Anyone can be kind. You don’t have to be smart or talented or special. Regular old everyday you can do it. Wherever you happen to be.
Being kind doesn’t have to cost money. You don’t have to make some big gesture or travel to the other side of the world – unless you want to. You can be kind just by using your words and your actions. By watching people and being aware of how they’re feeling.
Being kind is the right thing to do. Because we’re all more alike than different. And it’s easy to forget that, especially if we’re afraid of something or feel threatened. But if we can see the true person in front of us as an individual with thoughts and feelings and hopes and fears of their own, it’s easier to be kind.
You have many chances to be kind. Sometimes, like the character in my book, you may try to be kind and not have it turn out the way you’d hoped. But you can think some more and try something else.
Me: What have you heard from teachers, librarians and students who have read Be Kind?
PZM: I’ve heard from several schools that have read the book and then listed all the ways they could think of to be kind on sticky notes or a bulletin board or links on a paper chain. And, some schools have gone into the community and done service projects or tracked small acts of kindness students have performed.
I’ve also heard that the book led to some great discussions with kids about what it means to be kind and who can be kind and what being kind might look like at school or at home or in a community.
And those conversations and opportunities to be thoughtful are what I’m the most happy about.
Me: Thank you Pat for taking the time to answer these questions and for writing this very important book. I hope that Be Kind is shared in every school, with every student in the coming school year!
As is usually the case, I was discussing this blog post with my friends. I asked Michele Knott, a K-4 literacy specialist from the suburbs of Chicago, if she would share another book that she felt embodied this theme of kindness.
Here is what Michele had to say:
“Sometimes it's a good thing to help kids think about kindness in a different, not as direct way. I used the book The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates this year with a 4th grade classroom. In this book, the umbrella is used as a metaphor to show how wide kindness can be spread. The umbrella stretches and grows as needed. Everyone can fit under the umbrella, regardless of size, shape or color. And while the umbrella is always there when needed, you'll find days where it is not needed at all. This book ended up bringing about a powerful conversation for this class as they understood the metaphor and how it was used. I loved that the readers can interpret the greater understanding for themselves, yet have a powerful group conversation about what kindness looks like.”
Two words that can change a life.
Two words that can change the world.
Kurt Stroh is a K-4 teacher-librarian from Grand Rapids, MI. He is passionate about making sure that all children have access to books, have freedom to choose from those books, and have the ability to see themselves (and learn to understand others) in those books. He blogs at strohreads.blogspot.com. You can find him on Twitter: @strohreads.