It's hard to believe, but back to school is around the corner (or has maybe already started for some!) Whether you're in the "I wish the summer could last forever!" camp or "time to get these kiddos back to school!" camp, one thing is universal: the nerves, anxieties and questions that no doubt come with back to school. Will my kiddos eat their lunch? Ask to use the bathroom in time? Find friends to play with at recess? Loose every piece of Tupperware I pack for them?
But amidst all of the questions, there's one that matters most to me: will my child be treated with kindness? By their classmates and by their teachers? And will they be kind to the other kids in return? This is what I want for my kids, and who I want them to be towards others. A little bit of kindness opens the door to everything we want for our kids in school: safe space, comfort, confidence, positive learning outcomes, empathy, inclusiveness and so much more.
So this year, as you prepare your kids for school, think about what matters most to you. Do the back to school shopping. Spend the time researching the ultimate bento box style lunch box. Visit and revisit the school yard until your kids are comfortable. I've done all of these things and more! But also spend some time talking about and role modelling kindness. Help your kids be the kind of kids you want them to be surrounded by. We are their first teachers, after all.
To get you on your way, here are some great picks for back to school reading, to inspire and encourage your kids to bring kindness to the classroom.
Have You Filled A Bucket Today by Carol McCloud
If you`re going to read one book and one book only, make it this one!! This book presents the most tangible and helpful concept for kids - that everyone has an invisible bucket that can either be filled up with acts of kindness or dipped from when others are unkind. And better yet, when you fill up someone else`s bucket by doing something kind, you fill your own at the same time. Win win! There are so many crafts and creative play ideas (Pinterest time!) that pick up on this idea, which kids find so easy to understand. I`ve heard of lots of teachers doing units on this book and reading it in the classroom. What a wonderful way to start the year - I`m hoping my kids are so lucky and that this book finds its way into our classroom this year!
What Does if Mean to be Kind? by Rana DiOrio
A beautifully written and illustrated book that serves as a perfect starting point for conversations about being a kind person and treating other people, animals and the planet with kindness. Full of lovely concrete examples and kids will enjoy not only the words but also the pictures, picking apart what is happening on each page. Simple and to the point but sometimes basic is best!
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
This gentle book tells the story of Brian, a young boy who is left out and "invisible" to his classmates, often chosen last and teased by his peers. Until another boy shows him kindness and attention, which completely changes Brian's experience at school. A perfect starting off point for discussions about being a good friend, standing up for other kids, treating others with respect and being inclusive. All things that we want for our kids' classrooms and for all the Brians out there.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Sweet little Chrysanthemum is a little mouse who is excited for her first days of school, until the other kids start teasing her and making fun of her unique name. Quickly, her excitement turns to embarrassment, but with her parents and teacher continuously reinforcing how special it is to be unique, Chrysantemum keeps her spark. This is a great book for kids to see how their words can hurt other kids` feelings, and to remind them to be kind. It also shows a beautiful depiction of a teacher as ally and role model, for little ones who are nervous about the transition to school and need a gentle reminder that they`ll be in good hands with their teachers.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
Unlike the other books profiled thus far, this story doesn't have a happy ending and as such, may be better for slightly older kids (ie not my kindergartener) who can truly think through the impactful story and consequences. This memorable book tells the story of Chloe and her group of friends who deliberately exclude Maya, a new girl, from their social circle at school. Instead, they tease her for her differences (second hand clothes and simple toys). Eventually Maya stops trying to be included and one day stops coming to school altogether. Only after Chloe's teacher gives a lesson on the impact of kind gestures does Chloe truly appreciate how she could have acted differently, and regrets the unfriendly choices she made. Seeing things from the viewpoint of the instigator is a powerful depiction and will really make kids understand the power of their actions, both kind and unkind.