One Book I Am Saving for My Child, and Why

As editorial director of NYMetroParents, I see a lot of books coming across my desk (I’m always surrounded by stacks of them, on the floor, my windowsill, the chair purportedly for guests). And as the mother of a 3-year-old and aunt to kids across the age spectrum, I am fortunate to be able to bestow some of these books upon the kids from time to time. But it’s not often I stash away a book for when my son is older. We live in an apartment in Brooklyn, for crying out loud—storage is at a premium!
This month, though, I am taking one book home to put high on my son’s bookshelf for a few years down the road: Each Kindess, by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Nancy Paulsen Books; ages 5-8; $16.99).

What One Reviewer Said

In a starred review from Booklist: “Starting with the title, this quiet, intense picture book is about the small actions that can haunt… Woodson’s spare, eloquent free verse and Lewis’s beautiful, spacious watercolor paintings tell a story for young kids that will touch all ages.”

 

What I Felt

Reading this story—told from the perspective of a young girl who is being mean to a new classmate—made me feel many things: sad for the innocent girl seeking acceptance, compassion for the young narrator, nostalgia for my own childhood, and pangs of regret for moments—unidentifiable from this distance of years beyond my own girlhood—when I might not have extended an olive branch to another in need.

I might not be able to visualize one of those moments of neglect (for I don’t think I was ever outright mean to another classmate, but my insecure young self undoubtedly did not always have the courage of conviction to step from the shadows to be simply welcoming to one of the less-popular crowd), yet I can feel them in a mildly haunting way. That is the quiet and powerful way this book speaks.

The profound feeling of emptiness, of having not only missed an opportunity to be kind to a fellow human being but to have to live with the knowledge that the moment for that particular kindness is past, which the narrator, Chloe, feels, is conveyed beautifully. It is a teachable moment, a conversation starter for adults and children, an avenue to the topic of the importance of being kind in a world crowded with talk about bolder acts of bullying.

 

Bullying by Degrees

October is National Bullying Awareness Month, and for good reason. The statistics and tragedies are newsworthy and compelling. And all parents should be schooled on how they can affect positive change.

Woodson’s book, though, points the spotlight on a milder (is it?) form of bullying. In a recent guest post on our blogs, she writes about the importance of everyday acts of kindess—please check that out.

The cliques may have changed over the years, but the reality of a hierarchy among kids—whether by degrees of popularity, interests, family income levels, whatever—will persist forever. And the desire to belong, to be accepted by one of these groups or by an individual, is felt deep in the bones when we are growing up. That deep-seated desire can make it challenging to be able to step up and do the right thing sometimes. By instilling the notion that acts of kindess every day—even the littlest ones—can change the world, we empower children. We empower them to be kind, to believe in themselves, and to see the goodness in others.

Reading Woodson’s book, too, is a good kick-in-the-pants reminder for us parents, too. (It never hurts to be reminded to be kind.)

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