Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

Each Kindness


written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E. B. Lewis published by

Nancy Paulsen Books in 2012

  • Coretta Scott King Honor Book
  • 2013 Jane Addams Peace Award
  • 2013 Charlotte Zolotow Award
  • Best Book of 2012 – School Library Journal
Coretta Scott King award

Coretta Scott King award

Jane Addams Peace Award

Jane Addams Peace Award

Charlotte Zolotow Award

Charlotte Zolotow Award

This multi award winning picture book should be on every parent and teachers -must read list.  Jacqueline Woodson – author of Brown Girl Dreaming  (Blog review coming soon) has written a stunningly poignant simple story highlighting the importance of practicing kindness.    I cried reading this book,  it is very touching.

  • Some facts about poverty in Americaus_infographic_poverty_statsPoverty State Advocacy Infographic imgres-1 images images-1
  • 14 million children in the United States living in povertyaccording to the 2014 Kids Count Data Center Report  data center here
  • 22% of children live in a household that is food insecure at some point during that year
  • One in 5 children live in Poverty in the United States today

Jacqueline Woodson, herself grew up in poverty.   (Note to myself- my 9 year old daughter did not know what the word poverty meant…. a shocking reminder of the clean urban existence we follow in Singapore)

Listen to her interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s show Fresh Air discussing what it was like growing up poor in America here

The book focuses on the character of Maya,  the new girl in the neighbourhood,  juxtaposed against Chloe-  who is well established in her suburban American elementary school community.   Maya is poor.  She faces discrimination because she does not fit in with her classmates.

This is Maya.

This is Maya.

We all stared at her.  Her Coat was open and the clothes beneath it looked old and ragged. Her shoes were spring shoes, not meant for the snow.  A strap on one of them had broken.

The author uses the perspective of Chloe- and  shows vividly how her actions and her deliberate rejection  affects Maya.   It is a fascinating examination of group dynamics and highlights the problem faced in many schools today with bullying.

Maya- showing her Jacks to the other girls-

Maya- showing her Jacks to the other girls-

Maya-  tries time and again to fit in to the group.  She uses her game of Jacks,  a deck of cards,  a doll, and even a jump rope- to try to engage with Chloe, and her friends-  each time,  she is rejected,  and forced to play on her own.  “Whenever she asked us to play, we said no.”

So Maya played a game against herself.

So Maya played a game against herself.

Woodson does offer a hopeful solution to this dilemma.    The classroom teacher – Ms. Albert uses an object lesson to illustrate social dynamics.  She holds a small stone and drops it into a glass of water.   Ripples shimmer off of the pebble representing the  magnifying effect of small acts of kindness.

This is what kindness does, Ms. Albert said.  Each Little thing we do goes out, like a ripple into the world.

Ms. Albert and the stone

Ms. Albert and the stone

Chloe is left to ponder how she might have reacted differently.  Sadly,   she never gets an opportunity to reach out to Maya with a warm smile or gesture of acceptance.  She must face the uncomfortable feelings of regret.  This is where this book is so powerful, and compelling.   There have been many times in my life where I have had to undergo  the disquieting prickly feeling that an opportunity is slipping away,  and that I must go outside of my comfort zone,  and reach out to someone who is in need.

I’m grateful  that there is a book like this,  that offers parents an opportunity to speak to children about this subject.  Each day provides multiple situations,  where one can act….and choose to be brave and bold and kind.

I love the publicity given recently to movements promoting KINDNESSimages-3images-2images-5 images-4In Singapore,  we even have the Singapore Kindness Movement  encouraging citizens to pay it forward,  and look after one another through acts of graciousness and neighbourly concern SKM 

I love giving gifts,  but at times I feel paralyzed by fear,  about what is the appropriate gift to give.   Woodson gives the excellent reminder,  ” Even small things count….  Each kindness….makes the whole world a little bit better.”

I love this classic Christmas song link to youtube  

which for me is a stark reminder of the importance of giving-  and how even at times when we feel we have little to give  our fear should not hold us back.   The importance of giving,  is actually the intention and heart not the substance of the gift –

Pentatonix performing the Little Drummer Boy

Little Drummer Boy – was composed by Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone in 1958inspirational-christmas-stories-the-little-drummer-boy-14e images-1

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.


Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
2 Corinthians 9:6


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