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Each Kindness, a Children’s Book by Jacqueline Woodson: Review and Therapeutic Art Prompt

Each kindness Jacqueline Woodson

I have a memory of sitting on my mom’s bed and her making up a story to tell me before I went to sleep. I think it was about a boat and maybe it was not at bedtime but what really matters to me is the feeling of being her whole world at that moment. I have enjoyed reading and making up stories to children before bed and to my young clients during a session. I hope the story and the moment have an impact but as my own recollection shows, the memory was more about the relationship.

Educators and caregivers probably all know the value of reading to your children to enhance their language development and reading skills. I know I can google and find overwhelming information about studies to promote the value of reading frequently to the young person in your life. Also, I have noticed that children who say they would rather play video games all day also enjoy being read to and the bedtime story is a ritual that seems to help them wind down.  

As a therapist I use books in my practice to bring up a recurring theme or that relates to a skill I hope to impart and emphasize during the session. Next, I invite the child to explore their own feelings and thoughts related to the theme of the book by providing an art prompt for the book. One book that I’ve used recently is one I found on a google search when looking for a theme that could help a child during this difficult time and honor the actions of a great leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I Came upon the book Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. I enjoyed the illustrations by E.B. Lewis, which are lively and tell the story along with the words of the book. The story is about kindness being a ripple that can far outreach one small act so even the tiniest act of consideration has an impact. The tone of the story is portentous and pensive. This story can captivate a child at any age but it does not have a happy or whimsical ending. For me the significance of this story  is the moment of reflection in a child’s life where they may experience feelings of regret. I believe this reflection may start with a conversation about how to move forward and learn from that regret. 

After reading the book to my young art friend (age 8), I asked her to think of what she could create to tie in to the theme of the book. The art prompt, which was a collaborative effort that we created together, started with a drawing of a pebble in the middle of the paper. My young art friend and I used markers to draw our pebble together and then wrote out ideas for being kind to others around the stone as though they were ripples. Variations for writing could also include ideas for ways to be kind and considerate to others in the future. Expand on this idea or create your own with your child, the child in your life, or with your inner child. 

Please feel free to share some titles of books in the comments section and creative ideas that you used to engage with the book.

****Addendum 1/24/21***

I was given some feedback from my young friend which I feel is important to include in this post.  I was drawn to the book due to my wish to hear the voice of an author who is Black and female. I was privileged to find Ms. Woodson’s website linked above and learn that she has been honored by many awards for her stories such as the Coretta Scott King Award. The theme of the book resonated for many reasons but also in part because January is a time for renewal and remembrance but this year there is even more significance since a man who committed many unkind acts was voted out of office. Another reason I was drawn to this book is because the author discusses her curiosity about the moments in her life where she was unkind and treated unkindly in her past and how this is probably an common experience. I can remember the hurts I inflicted and how unkindness of peers impacted me which was an unfortunate ripple that still reverberates although I have processed my wounds and regrets.

I am unsure if the author would prefer to be identified as Black or African American but I do know she talks about her son’s experience in one of the videos I found about her. In the video she mentions towards the end when her son is shocked about his experience being the only person of color in some spaces.  She goes onto say that he seems “almost offended” going out in the world and being seen as some oddity. The story leads me to wonder if what he wants is to be truly seen and offered kindness in the form of respect and acceptance; not microaggressive staring and questioning about his place in the world. The theme of the book does illustrate a moment when the narrator is beginning to truly see the new girl and perhaps starts to think of kind words and actions to communicate to her. Journaling and writing poetry helps me when I feel unseen and my voice feels stuck. One writing prompt I can offer is to write about when you have felt truly seen and what that means to you.