“We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” Toni Morrison
As readers, we are drawn to words. Over the years I have been drawn to Michener, Uris, Tolkien, Barbara Kingsolver and Barbara Ehrenreich. As a youngster in Poland, I was raised on the works of Janusz Korczak, the poetry of Jan Brzechwa, Maria Konopnicka and (in translation from Spanish) Monro Leaf’s The Story of Ferdinand. After we arrived in the United States, I read Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books, Hugh Lofting’s Dr. Dolittle stories and Maguerite de Angeli’s Door in the Wall. And of course, there were all the classics – the Brothers’ Grimm, Johanna Spyri, Jules Verne, Charles Dickens. Who are some of your favorite authors?
As writers, we know words matter. I often say, “Words are my world”. “In the beginning was the word.” We paint the world through words. We develop characters and plot with words.
As parents and teachers, we teach children to use words wisely.
This is increasingly important when our country’s leaders use derogatory, negative, foul language and resort to name-calling. As someone who was called names, tormented and bullied due to cultural and neurological differences, I’m sensitive to this type of language.
What message does it teach our children? How should we respond?
I suggest we respond with love by teaching kindness. Being kind can make a huge difference in someone’s life.
Some books that teach the importance of our words, kindness and inclusivity:
The Big Umbrella words and pictures by Amy June Bates. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers 2018. 32 p; 89 words
There is always room for everyone under the big umbrella that loves to gather people in. This free verse, beautifully illustrated poem shares the message of inclusiveness in a fun way. Our hearts have the same capacity to expand – there is no limit to how many people we can love and include.
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller ill by Jen Hill. Roaring Brook Press 2018. 32p; 400 words
When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her dress, her classmate tries to be kind. But it is not always easy. Examples of kindness include giving, helping, and paying attention. These small acts are important and build more acts of kindness.
If you plant a seed words and pictures by Kadir Nelson. Baker and Bray 2017 (an imprint of Harper Collins).
In this short poem, we learn that the things we plant grow and grow and grow. They can be carrots or tomatoes, selfishness or kindness.
Words and Your Heart words and pictures by Kate Jane Neal. Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, 2017.
In her debut, Kate Jane Neal explains simply and directly the power our words have. She shows how our words impact others – both for good and for evil.
Here is a poem I wrote about words:
WORDS: HANDLE WITH CARE
As children, we were told to say:
“Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words can never hurt me.”
Yet words often cause injury and pain…
The scars don’t show,
but the wounds may never heal.
or their absence
They can hurt, or they can heal.
They can bruise, or they can mend.
They can kill – or give new life.
evoke image, smell, taste, sound, mood, feel.
Words have power.
Words are real.
tell a story,
convey a message,
convince the skeptic,
stir up mood and feelings.
Use them with care
to encourage, engage, enrich.
It is said: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
can change lives.
can change the world
one word at a time.
What is a quote or poem that resonates with you?
What are some of your favorite books that teach kindness?
How can your words help change our world?
Share it in the comments to pass along the power of words.