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How a New Children’s Book Is Promoting Kindness to Strangers

An opportunity for parents to have an important discussion.

When bestselling children’s book author Jill Twiss considered the theme for her next book, she turned to the same source of inspiration that led to her first book, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, spending 30 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list—the news.

Harper Collins, used with permission
Source: Harper Collins, used with permission

Jill, a senior writer for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, was concerned about the polarization in the country and a general rise in sentiments of us versus them. “Kids soak in everything around them, whether we want them to or not," Twiss explained. "In the current climate, I was worried that younger kids might become less accepting of children who are new or different and I wanted to help parents start a conversation about that.”

Thus her new book, The Someone New, illustrated by EG Keller, was born (see the gorgeous one-minute book trailer here).

In The Someone New, Twiss hopes to teach children that it's okay to be nervous about meeting someone new, whether it be a new classmate or a new brother or sister. But overcoming that fear and approaching newcomers with kindness won't just benefit the 'someone new'—the giver will also reap tremendous benefits.

In numerous studies, acts of kindness have been found to boost happiness and well-being among those performing them. Researchers had previously assumed that acts of kindness toward people we know (to whom we have ‘strong ties’) would provide a greater boost to well-being than acts of kindness towards strangers (to whom we have ‘weak ties’).

However, a recent study directly investigated the difference in the benefits we get when bestowing acts of kindness toward those with whom we share strong and weak ties, and found that acts of kindness towards strangers gave participants just as big a boost in well-being and happiness as acts of kindness towards friends or family members.

Indeed, the impact of performing acts of kindness, for the children doing so, is so significant, for the past decade there has been a strong push toward teaching ‘kindness’ in schools as an essential part of the curriculum and a variety of kindness curricula have already been implemented in schools.

“I want The Someone New to teach kids that even though meeting someone new can be scary, kindness is stronger than fear. And that new people and experiences can add so much to our lives!” Twiss said.

Indeed, the book provides an opportunity for parents to tell stories from their own family histories about their own parents, grandparents, or ancestors who moved to new towns or states, immigrated to new countries, adopted new cultures, or overcame illness and disability. It is also an opportunity to reinforce for children how mutually beneficial it is to perform acts of kindness toward a stranger, as well as toward more familiar people, like siblings, other family members, or friends in need.

And finally, the book is an important reminder to children that at some point in our lives, whether when starting a new school or job, or moving to a new place, we are all likely to be The Someone New.

Copyright 2019 by Guy Winch

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