Spread a little kindness…

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

fullsizerender-16This 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

fullsizerender-14Elephant 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

img_8920This 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

fullsizerender-15I 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

fullsizerender-13The 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…

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A taste of childhood: A year in Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem

img_7911Recently it was my little magpie’s birthday (she is known as the magpie because she is constantly hopping around and has always had an eye for anything sparkly). It had been an exceptionally busy week with me going back to school after the summer holidays and her starting at her new school nursery and so I had had to be very organised with all the birthday planning and it wasn’t until less than a week to go that I realised I had almost forgotten something very important- her birthday book. She couldn’t have a birthday without a book so I started to think about all the things on my ‘To buy’ list which she might like and scrolling through instagram and all my favourite book accounts to see if there was something she would love. As a looked down my feed I saw the ‘Brambly Hedge’ account pop up with ‘Autumn Story’ and I knew it would be perfect.

img_7915As it happened I bought the ‘A year in Brambly Hedge’ box set. The little magpie is very interested in seasons at the moment and so the fact that there is a story for each season is perfect. But also there was a little selfish part of me that wanted the books for myself because I remembered reading them and being in love with the intricate illustrations when I was little. For anyone who has not come across these books before they are as quintessentially British as any Beatrix Potter or AA Milne story. They follow the lives of a community of mice, shrews and voles who live in the hedgerows, trees and bushes of the English countryside.

img_7910The author has taken time to give each of the characters its own personality and they are often featured across the different books so you feel like you get to know them a little bit. They have quite a lot of text in each book but all the stories are exciting- a surprise birthday picnic for Spring, a riverside wedding in Summer, a little mouse lost in the woods in autumn (my favourite) and a Snow Ball in winter- but it’s the illustrations that really draw you in. They are so detailed and as a result the more you look at them the more you notice. What I loved when I was little, and still love now, are the intricate cross sections of the trees where you feel like you can look inside their houses and see the little creatures busy in their homes. I spent many hours looking at these and they still fascinate me today.

img_7911As English animal stories go, these books have all the warmth of a tea party at Pooh corner, mixed in with the adventures of Peter Rabbit but because they were written much more recently (the 1980s) the language is easier for our modern day children to understand. If you are a fan of AA Milne and Beatrix Potter, these should be on your radar! It’s also worth mentioning that they are the perfect size for little fingers as they are small hardbacks which all come in a presentation box. They look so lovely on their shelf- is it just me or does everyone find a set of books like this really satisfying?

Does anyone else have fond memories of these books? My favourite of all was ‘The Secret Staircase’ (I think I might have to save that for ‘book of the week’ one week) but I find them all captivating. I’d be really interested to know if these books ever made it further afield than Britain. Did anyone growing up in another country read these as a child? Drop me a comment below, I love hearing from you!

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Travelling with books

The summer holidays are always an exciting part of a teacher’s year, and this year has been no exception. One of our first adventures was a road trip from Manchester , where we live, to Sligo on the west coast of Ireland to see one of my oldest friends get married (we have been friends since brownies!) We hadn’t done a major road trip as a family like this before but we thought the ferry would make a nice change from a plane plus we could pile the car up with all sorts of stuff rather than the rather poultry suitcase allowance we would get on a short flight. All good so far. But just how many books could we fit in a family car and how may would we need to get us through a week of hopping around B’n’Bs and hotels? Eventually I whittled it down to ten books and they had to be versatile enough to be read many times. You’ll be glad to know we made it through the holiday, had a great time and read all the books on the list several times so if you are doing something similar soon this might come in useful.

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Back to School Books

If you, like me, have a little one going to nursery or school for the first time this September (blub), or if they are starting a new school, or if the summer holidays have been so long and lovely that your children have just forgotten all the fun things about school and seem a bit reluctant to go back then broaching the subject can be a tricky. Why not try one of these books to help them reflect on their feelings about school, start a converstaion about what they are looking forward to and give them the opportunity to share anything they might be nervous about.

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