After a tumultuous week of world politics that has left a lot of the people I know feeling confused and a bit helpless, it seemed only natural to write a blog post about kindness. As always, I turn to my ever-expanding collection of picture books to find the comfort I am looking for and happily I find it everywhere. I think it is part of my job as a parent and a teacher to make sure that children are not frightened of diversity, that they looks out for people who are having a hard time and, most important of all, that they spread kindness wherever they go. I know most people reading this will feel the same. So if you are looking for a starting point and some positive role models look no further. Here are my favourite books for modelling kindness.
Pass it on by Sophy Henn
This book starts with the notion that not every day will be perfect but with a positive attitude you can find a silver lining. It also gives children the really powerful message that that their behaviour can have a positive effect on others and help them to have a better day. It has a short repeated phrase ‘Pass it on’ giving children something to join in with even on the first time of reading. As with everything she does, Sophy Henn’s illustrations are vibrant and beautiful and by the end of reading it you will be smiling. I have read this with pre-schoolers and with much older children. My class are 7/8 years old and when we launched our acts of kindness this was the book we started with and they loved it. It really is a fantastic way to introduce to children (and adults) to the notion that they can make a positive difference to others.
Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won
Elephant is in a seriously bad mood until he discovers a surprise package at the front door. Inside is a hat. This instantly cheers him up and he decides to take them to his friend, Zebra’s house but when he gets there Zebra is also feeling grumpy. So Elephant shares his hat with his pal to cheer him up and they move on to visit the next friend (also grumpy) and the next and the next, each time cheering up their friends by sharing the many-layered hat with them. By the end of the book everyone is taking part in an informal hat parade, their grumps long forgotten because of the actions of their friends. This book beautifully illustrates that small act of kindness make a huge difference.
The Sniffles for Bear by Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton
This book tells the story of Bear who is feeling unwell. Bear is a pretty dramatic chap and does not cope well with being ill so when his friend Mouse finds out he’s poorly, he decides to pop round and try to help. It is not easy to help Bear. He wants the situation to be treated seriously and does not feel like being cheered up. (It is worth mentioning that Bear thinks he may be dying and there is a conversation about leaving a will in case your child is sensitive to these issues. The tone is quite light hearted and it is clear that neither the mouse or the author thinks he will die and that bear is over-reacting but not every child will respond well those issues). Eventually all mouse’s good intentions wear Bear out and he falls asleep and wakes up feeling much better, but now it’s Mouse’s turn to feel ill. Luckily Bear knows just how to look after his friend and is happy to reciprocate. This is probably best suited to slightly older children as the storyline and language is quite mature in places but it is a really interesting look at the tricky side of friendship and illustrates the importance of looking after each other, even when it’s tough, perfectly.
Dogger by Shirley Hughes
I have seen lots of lists lately which give ideas of books which should be staple reads during childhood an in my opinion, this should be on every one. I can still remember the first time I read this story and the way I felt about the completely selfless act Bella performed so that her little brother could be reunited with his favourite toy. One of the things I like best about this story is that it showed that this wasn’t an easy decision- sometimes doing things for others is hard. However, if Bella was ever in any doubt that she had done the right thing her brother’s reaction more than makes up for it. I believe everyone’s book shelf should have a bit of Shirley Hughes’ magic on it and this is a great place to start.
The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes
The Little Gardener is a tiny figure who works all day but he is so small that he feels that, no matter how hard he works, he cannot make a difference to the place where he lives. Eventually, when he is exhausted and almost ready to give up, he makes a wish that he might have a little help. The Little Gardener falls asleep for a month, during which time some children see a flower in his neglected, overgrown garden and decide to start tidying things up. When he wakes there has been a dramatic change and the Little Gardener’s life is changed forever. This message in this book is so strong because children can see things from both sides- that it’s okay to be like the Little Gardener and ask for help and have hope, but also children have the power to help others every day through small acts of kindness even when they don’t know who they are helping. Emily Hughes is one of my favourite author-illustrators and I love everything she does. This was the first book of hers that I read and I still return to it regularly- sure sign of a winner.
I hope you have found something here that will help you to share the idea of kindness and positivity with your little readers. As always, I love to hear what you are reading at the moment so if you have any good suggestions, let me know below and happy reading…