Last night I read the book, Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, to my daughter Charlotte. The story focuses on a girl who witnesses a classmate getting made fun of. This incident, along with the girls' desire to support her friend, leads her to contemplate appropriate and meaningful ways to show kindness to others: adopting a dog from a shelter, helping a neighbor carry groceries, assisting a visually impaired person cross the street, painting a picture for a friend...
Charlotte is seven years old and is one of the most compassionate children I have come across. I purchased this book for her, and others like it, at a conference in 2015. Her bookshelves are full of books like this one; books which challenge stereotypes, promote empathy, and make children think about what kind of people they want to be. While I would like to take credit for my daughter's exemplary character, I know her personality is the result of many inspirations and influences: her family, her friends, her teachers, her school. But also her books.
Books are as influential on our children as they are on us adults. The power of a book's message should never be underestimated. As we work to shape the character of our children, it is important to reflect on the books we read them. How are the characters portrayed? What questions do our children have about what they heard? How do our children feel about the outcome? Modeling deeper-level thinking about what they read and see can provide parents with insight into how their child is interpreting the world. Teach them to ask questions, to challenge what doesn't seem right, and find ways to personally connect to their books. It is through this very process that all of us learn how to relate to the world.
After I kissed Charlotte goodnight, I was so hopeful. What will the repercussions be of a generation raised on storybooks where anyone can be anything, where the world is a forgiving place, and where kindness prevails?
Here is a recommended book list for children under five.
Here is a recommended book list for children five to nine.