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Raising Kind and Inclusive Children by Reading With Them

May 20, 2019

I'm so proud that an article I wrote was accepted by HowtoLearn.com! From their site:

 

One of the most significant ways that parents are raising kind and inclusive children is by reading to them. This lovely article that was sent to us by author Lindsay C. Barry is one that every parent will want to read.

 

My number one goal as a mother is to raise kind humans. I believe all actions and choices stemming from a place of kindness and inclusivity are good ones.

 

We teach our children how to read.

 

We teach them math, geography, history, social studies…the list goes on.

 

We teach them to play nice and respect others, and to keep their hands to themselves and say please and thank you.

 

But how do we specifically teach kindness?

 

It’s more of a vague concept and not exactly concrete. We can tell our children to “be kind,” but what does that mean and look like?

 

In my experience as a mother of two young boys, modeling is the best way to show what kindness looks like. But am I kind and courteous and empathetic ALL of the time I’m around my kids?

 

Can I model all likely scenarios that they’ll be faced with in their lives? The answer is no – I can barely get us all out of the door on time every morning.

 

All my life I have turned to books. When I became a parent, I knew that my love of books was something I wanted to pass on to my children.

 

 

My own mother was an English and Creative Writing teacher for 35 years, so it makes sense that my #1 mom hack is reading books with my kids.

 

As a huge book lover, it’s a natural fit for me to use books as a way to teach my kids about kindness and inclusivity.

 

Best of all, it’s great bonding time and leads to wonderful conversations – some silly, some serious, but all important.

 

Rather than me talking at my kids, reading with them takes the pressure off all of us. It’s a really easy and subtle way to impart important messages and values.

 

Some of my friends are naturally gifted at coming up with scenarios and then discussing them with their children.

 

I find that my kids don’t want to rehash every social interaction with me after school, and if someone was unkind to them or if they were the ones being unkind, they usually don’t want to tell me.

 

Reading stories with messages of kindness and inclusivity takes the personal aspect out of the conversation and allows me to talk with them without pressure. We can talk about the characters and the choices they made and how their actions affected the outcomes in the story.

 

When and if they are ready to share a similar situation from their own lives, we can relate it to one of the books we’ve read.

 

When I visualize childhood development from pre-school to high school, I picture kindness threaded throughout each stage.

 

It looks a little different during each time period of course, but acts of kindness are invaluable and integral to society. Reading books with a message of kindness is so simple but so crucial.

 

One of my favorite authors is Mo Willems. His Elephant and Piggie series are a treasure trove of books with subtle messages that are fun to read together. One of my favorite books of Willems’s with the messages of kindness and inclusion is Can I Play Too?

 

A snake wants to play catch with Elephant and Piggie…but of course he has no arms! How will the snake play catch with them? It might not look like the “normal” way, but they figure out how to include the snake in their game.

 

Another book I’ve come to rely on is What Should Danny Do? The Power to Choose Series by Ganit and Adir Levy (and illustrated by Mat Sadler). This is a choose your own adventure, or in this case, good or bad choice, to try and reach all the different endings.

 

Sometimes my kids want to choose all the good choices. Sometimes we go with all the bad choices.

 

It’s cleverly written and the concept of the power to choose is something I bring up during the day with my sons.

 

Another series that is a must have in my library is The Berenstain Bears. If you are stuck on how to start almost any conversation with your child, consider looking up one of Stan and Jan Berenstain’s books.

 

My favorites for kindness and inclusivity are The Golden Rule and The Trouble with Teasing. 

 

Kindness impacts all lives, and the ripple effects from being kind can really be endless. Reading together has its own positive effects – not only in terms of listening, language and reading skills, but also in that special bonding time.

 

That’s why I suggest reaching for books with messages of kindness, empathy and inclusivity to share with your children.

There’s nothing better than a good book, a little life learning and some snuggle time with your children.

 

 

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