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Sharing Kindness, Bringing Light as We Read Together

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This post is written in collaboration with Monica Valentine, program specialist in the Young Readers Center.

The journey towards the winter solstice brings with it a season of festivals and holidays celebrated by families around the world. Many of these celebrations share common themes such as gift giving, good will, and the presence of light. This year in her annual holiday reading, Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden reads the book “Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light.” The debut picture book by author/illustrator Apryl Stott tells the story of two unlikely friends—a small girl named Cocoa and a big gentle bear who is misunderstood by the other animals in the forest.

Before you watch the read-aloud, discuss with the child or children in your life:

  • What does kindness mean to you? What is the most recent time that you were kind? Share your own acts of kindness that you have given and received.
  • Talk about your best friend. What makes them your friend? What is special about them? What would you want everyone to know about your friend.

In the story, Bear shares with Coco his disappointment that the other animals assume he is mean just because he is so big. Coco comforts Bear and allows him to express his sadness, and then, Coco sets out to help the others see Bear in his true light. Their plan to spread kindness and light with fresh baked cookies and homemade lanterns is met with suspicion from the other animals. On their way home they stumble upon an opportunity to show their kindness to an animal in need, without expecting anything in return. This is Coco’s chance to show everyone else that her friend Bear is indeed a kind, giving soul.

Through their adventure, they learn that kindness is about “giving away love instead of gifts… it’s doing something nice without expecting to get anything in return,” Coco gains a new understanding of her grandmother’s advice, “when life gets dark as winter’s night, share some kindness, bring some light.”

Paper lantern and fireworks over river with boats at night. Artist Kohei Ise, 1938. Prints and Photographs Division

When you have finished the story, talk with your child about this advice. Ask them if they think there are ways that your family spreads kindness and light in your community, or ways you could in the future. Maybe you could donate to a local food bank, or offer to help a neighbor with an outside chore.

Coco is surprised to find out that the other forest animals are afraid of Bear just because he’s so big. Sometimes humans also judge others by the way they look or things they may have heard about them. Ask kids: Can you think of someone you know who is  misunderstood or treated unfairly? Are there ways you can come to that person’s aid? Remember that kindness is about giving love away without expecting anything in return. Think together about ways that your family can share kindness and light. Maybe your family could make home baked treats to give away or share some light by making a paper lantern. Check out these beautiful illustrations of lanterns in the Library’s collections to inspire you.

During this holiday season, many of us might encounter sadness or challenging circumstances. Let’s keep sharing kindness and bring light to ourselves and all around us.

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