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A Small Kindness by Stacy McAnulty

A Small Kindness

It’s easy to be kind when it’s a small problem, it’s hard to be kind when it’s a big problem. 

– Aiden, First Grader

I had popped into this first grade classroom to relieve a busy teacher as they were wrapping up a discussion on kindness. Aiden floored me with this comment and I knew I had to come back to grow that idea a little more. What kind of problems are small enough that it’s easy to be kind? What kind are so big that it’s hard to be kind? This is the stuff of meaty first grade conversations.

It was like a game of tag.

The next day, I brought with me A Small Kindness by Stacy McAnulty and read it to the group while we continued to grow our first grade ideas on kindness. McAnulty shows how kindness spreads from classmate to classmate in a school. Wendy Leach’s illustrations grow from sepia-toned to bright color as the kindness spreads. This simple technique is perfect for kindergarten and first graders – they feel like they’re cracking a secret code as the color grows on each page! 

Jasmine gave a turn to Xavier

As I’d hoped, this picture book continued to expand the class’s thoughts about kindness. Children turned to talk to those around them, sharing their thoughts and ideas.

It’s like they are tagging people with kindness! – Holden

Cora offered a seat to Mateo

It’s like infection tag! – Joey

Lily shared with Declan

These first graders highly recommend A Small Kindness to other first graders. When thinking about why Stacy McAnulty wrote the book, Maya offered, “She wrote it so people will know that kindness is good.”

This read aloud is the kind of touchstone text you can refer to again and again as you are building your classroom community. You can ask students to be on the lookout for how they can spread kindness to others and celebrate the many ways students pay it forward.

And everybody won.

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