“Words Are Not for Hurting”: Teaching Children to Be Kind with Their Words

“I don’t like you.”

“You talk funny.”

“Your hair looks weird.”

These days some children use their words to cause pain. They throw around harsh syllables strung together with absolute thoughtlessness. They are exposed to a barrage of media and other mediums that make them believe it is okay to spit out whatever they wish, without taking any responsibility for the consequences their words may have. They are not taught otherwise, so really, how can we blame them?

Words Are Not for Hurting by Elizabeth Verdick does a fantastic job of laying down the law around how to use words to help and not hurt. This book is essential in Kindergarten classes and homes of 4 year-olds everywhere. This culture of being rude and unkind willy-nilly is an epidemic that needs to be curbed. As teachers, often we are in very influential positions when it comes to how our students grow up. We can steer them towards being respectful and considerate, generous and tactful. And while it is important for students to learn the basics of Math and Science and Reading, it is more important for them to learn how to be good citizens of the world.

In her book, Verdick systematically charts out how words are formed, with letters, and then maps out what kinds of words there are, then seamlessly seguing into hurtful words versus kind words. She offers scenarios to explore feelings and play out different alternatives to addressing the pain caused by hurtful words. This book makes for a clever read-and-think-aloud. Students will pick up poignant details in the illustrations that display body language and facial expressions showing a range of emotions. They will bounce off ideas and deliver very clever and sensitively-thought-out reflections that will warm your heart, because really, there is goodness in all of us that just needs a firm foundation to build on.

So, add this book to your list of MUST-HAVE read-alouds, if you’re a kindergarten or even higher grade teacher. Sometimes, we all just need a little guidance to be a better version of ourselves.

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