Teaching Kids About Kindness Through Reading

It’s a touch quieter than normal in our house this year. For the first time in my career as a mom, all three of my children are in elementary school. Jordan is a big kid this year; she’s in sixth grade. Charlie is in fourth grade, and little Ben is in all-day, every-day kindergarten.

In between the time I drop them off and pick them up, I have six hours of silence. I use some of that time to write, some to exercise and some to visit with friends. But my favorite hours come on Wednesday afternoons when things are very un-quiet.

Every Wednesday afternoon, I volunteer in the school library. I get to read to my son’s kindergarten class and two first-grade classes.

It’s noisy. It’s chaotic. I usually end up needing a nap when I get home. And it’s splendid.

The librarian lets me pick what I read to the kids, so being a big fan of kindness, I always look for a story that will provide an entry into taking a moment to talk with the kids about the importance of being kind.

Some of the first-graders remembered me from last year. When I walked into the library, they started hopping up and down saying, “You love kindness! You love kindness!”

Don’t you love it when kids get it?

When my new friend, Galo Kostka, heard that I was reading to the kids, she shared this special story:

“I love the fact that you are reading to kindergartners and teaching them about kindness. That reminds me of one morning years ago when I went out for breakfast. A woman came in with two little girls and she carried a book on kindness. She gave their order to the waitress and then read to the girls while waiting for their food. When the waitress came with my check, I asked for their check, too. I told the waitress to tell the woman their check had been paid, because when she teaches children about kindness, she makes my world better. When I returned the following week, the woman and each of the two girls had left written notes for me. I still have them.”

Galo’s story has given me a new approach to restaurant visits.

I’m not a huge fan of handing my kids an iPod or any other electronic device in a restaurant, but I am certainly guilty of occasionally ignoring them after the waiter puts the free crayons and kids’ menus in front of them. We talk for a while and someone will usually suck me in for a word search or a game of tic-tac-toe, but inevitably, there comes a time (especially for my youngest) when the patience wears out and bodies get squirmy. As much as I love kindness and I love to read, it had never occurred to me to bring along a book. A book! It feels like a fresh, new idea in this age of technology and screen time.

What could be better than getting our kids to read and learn about kindness at the same time? Now, if I can just get them to order something other than chicken tenders.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.

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