Walt Whitman and His Support for Wounded Soldiers

Walt Whitman was born in the early 1800s on Long Island. During the Civil War, Walt Whitman’s brother was hospitalized in Washington DC. When Whitman came from New York to see him, he was already passionate about the Union’s cause. Seeing wounded soldiers in DC, he decided to become a volunteer nurse for the hospital. During his time there, he visited many soldiers, helped them compose letters home, and brought them little gifts. His dedication and kindness brought joy and peace to soldiers who were far from home and had no relatives or friends nearby.

His support for wounded soldiers and his need to write about their cause can be see in Not Youth Pertains to Me: “I have nourish’d the wounded and sooth’d many a dying soldier,/ And at intervals waiting on in the midst of camp,/ Composed these songs.”

Check out Poetry for Young People – Walt Whitman for more facts about this amazing writer and his support and compassion for soldiers and their families. This book is idea for children 9 and up.

Activities for Parents and Teachers

Learn about the branches of the military and ways we can help soldiers and veterans through various nonprofits.

We hear a lot about what bystanders can do when they see bullying. Some effective ways are simple: 1) ask someone if they want to hang out or 2) change the subject when gossip starts. Whitman’s poems and his time as a volunteer nurse are great examples of the power that simple acts of kindness can have on others. He wanted wounded soldiers to know that they were appreciated and had a friend to help them.

Questions for Journaling or Discussion

What is one small act of kindness you can do to help others in your community today?

Has anyone in your family served in the military? What do you know about their service and those that helped them, if they were injured?

Walt Whitman

How Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Poetry Can Inspire Today’s Children To Write

Edna St. Vincent Millay is one of the most important American poets of the first half of the 20th century. Her poetry is filled with carefully measured rhymes and imaginative themes that can inspire children today to write creatively.

Millay published many books of poetry throughout her life and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1923. Her life was filled with exciting trips and good friends. At the same time, she dealt with serious health problems as an adult and her family had very little money when she was a child. Despite the lack of resources, her mother always encouraged her to write. Her poetry caught the attention of several supporters early in her life who helped her get published. One supporter even paid for her education at Vassar College.

Her poetry reveals her deep passion for life and her imaginative spirit. She wrote about her love of the ocean, romance, and the New England landscape of her childhood. She also wrote poems with magical elements as well as poems where she just lets her imagination about ordinary items run wild.

Some of her poems are accessible to children and are in the book Poetry for Young People – Edna St. Vincent Millay. In this volume, they include part of a longer poem called A Very Little Spinx:

Wonder Where This Horseshoe Went

Wonder where this horseshoe went. 
Up and down, up and down, 
Up and past the monument, 
Maybe into town. 

Wait a minute. “Horseshoe, 
How far have you been? ” 
Says it’s been to Salem 
And halfway to Lynn. 

Wonder who was in the team. 
Wonder what they saw. 
Wonder if they passed a bridge — 
Bridge with a draw. 

Says it went from one bridge 
Straight upon another. 
Says it took a little girl 
Driving with her mother.

I love this imaginative conversation with a horseshoe about its travels. Sharing this with children gives them permission to be imaginative and to write adventures that ordinary items around them might have taken.

Millay kept many journals throughout her life where she would work on her poems. In the Respect Program, all children get to decorate a journal. Each child then uses it create their own poetry and to help them process their own life experiences through writing. Here are some ideas to inspire the children in your life, with a little help from Millay’s poetry.

Activities for Parents and Teachers

In today’s world, a similar theme could be, “I wonder where these tires went.” Write a poem about where a set of tires could have gone. Use your imagination to create any scenario that interests you, just as Millay does with the horseshoe.

Millay was was born in 1892. Talk with children about the fact that many people at that time traveled by horse or a horse and cart. Visit a horse farm and learn about how and why they put horseshoes on horses. While there, give the children a chance to take a riding lesson. Ask the children to write about the experience when they get home.

Questions for Journaling or Discussion

What do you think riding in a horse-drawn carriage would be like?

Where is a place you would like to visit? Write about what you want to do there.

Is there a friend or family member you would like to travel with? What makes them a good travel companion?

Children decorate notebooks in the Respect
Program for writing poetry and journaling

The Meaning of Life According to Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson is known for her great poetry and her shyness. While she rarely left her home, especially later in life, she adored her nieces and nephews and wrote often to family and friends. Her poetry includes timeless topics such as nature, death, hope, and kindness. One of her poems I share with elementary school children in the Respect Program is:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

There are two themes here to discuss with children. First, that acts of kindness are important. Second, that kindness makes life meaningful. We all want things to happen that don’t occur. Sometimes our team doesn’t win, we don’t place in a competition, or we don’t have as much money has we wish we did. While these are disappointments, they do not mean that our life is without meaning. There will be other competitions, new goals to strive for, and (no matter what) opportunities every day to do some small act of kindness that proves we “shall not live in vain.”

Small act of kindness in Emily Dickinson’s life were not just about helping others, but about giving her life purpose. For example, she baked cookies and prepared other goodies for her nieces, nephews, and the other neighborhood children. After cooking them, she would take the baked goods up to her bedroom, on the second story of her house. There, she would place them in a basket with a rope tied to it. Next, she would wave to the children playing outside and, as they came near the house, she would lower the basket with the rope so they could enjoy the food.

The poem above and this story are a part of the Respect Program because they provide an accessible introduction to a poetic genius, and a reminder that small acts of love leave a legacy all their own.

Activities for Parents and Teachers

Talk about the poem with your children and ask them to name small acts of kindness they can perform, like saying “Hi” to a shy student at school or listening to a friend talk about something they love to do. Ask them: “Does being kind improve your mood?” or “Does being kind to someone make you feel different about how your day is going?”

Read the book Poetry for Young People, Emily Dickinson with your children. This collection includes the poem above as well as some poems that describe various animals (without mentioning the animals’ names). Have your child or class guess what the animal is in each poem. The answers are upside down in the book (on each poem’s page). This activity can build children’s confidence as well as support reading comprehension skills.

Questions for Journaling or Discussion:

What are some small acts of kindness that you are glad to have done for other people?

What small acts of kindness can you do tomorrow to help others?

What gives your life meaning?

How can a kind act for another person improve your well-being?

Art made with wax sticks, crayons, and paper by a child in the Respect
Program. The picture is of two children holding a heart between them.

Book Review: Brook & Brax Undercover Ninjas

I am always looking for great books to introduce children to through the Respect Program. In our digital age, getting children to read and discuss great stories with positive messages is more important than ever. I was therefore delighted to read Brook & Brax Undercover Ninjas recently and I want to encourage you to check it out for the children in your life.

The book was written by Antonio Lumley and is ideal for children ages 8-10. The book is 142 pages and has comic book style illustrations at the end of each chapter that summarize the action in that section. Marc Rene does a beautiful job with the illustrations, bringing to life the adventures of Brook and Brax.

The story starts out with an introduction to first graders Brook and Brax, who are best friends. One day they are being bullied by Puke and Lil Dumps. While running away they duck into a store and meet Sensi Iron Post, a wise man who teaches them martial arts.

At first, the two boys think learning martial arts will be easy. However, they soon learn it is a lot of work because “anything as great as being a ninja is not easy to obtain.” We then fast forward five years, all of which they have spent in training. At this point, Sensi Iron Post gives them magical ninja suits to help them to protect those in need. The descriptions of each suit are wonderful.

Once they have their suits to enhance their martial arts skills, they head to school and realize that the students, teachers and principal are in danger. While they have been focusing on their training and classes, they realize that Puke, Lil Dump, and their group of bullies known as the Stank Rebels have taken over most of the school. The Stank Rebels are stealing, taunting, and assaulting adults and students daily and it is up to Brook and Brax to save the day.

One thing that impressed me about this story is that during their battles with Puke, Lil Dump, and the Stank Rebels, the two boys use the minimum force needed in every fight. For example, Book and Brax have ninja suits that can make weapons. At one point, one of the boys makes makes daggers. “Fortunately for the Stank Rebels, these weapons are make of wood instead of metal; therefore, it wouldn’t cut and slice, but it sure would hurt if hit with them.” Deciding to restrain, not destroy, the Stank Rebels is a powerful sign of discipline in both Brook and Brax.

Antonio and his thoughts on bullying are just as interesting as the story. He told me, “I was raised in the inner city of Boston, Massachusetts by my mother in a single parent household. Often times I got bullied as a child by local gangs. So, when Brook & Brax get bullied by Puke, Lil Dumps, and the Stank Rebels, that actually came from my own experiences. Although I did not train in the martial arts, I had to learn on my own how to fight and defend myself or else the cycle would never be broken. I also learned that bullies typically pick on others that they perceive as weak or abnormal, in order to make up for whatever they are lacking mentally, physically, or spiritually. They themselves often come from broken homes and that is one mechanism they use to lash out or find confidence.”

You can definitely see the influence of broken homes in the lives of Puke and Lil Dumps, which also adds an added depth to the story.

Overall, the book is uplifting and entertaining. I hope you will pick up a copy for you and your child to read soon. The story is a great way to remind us all that we can learn to protect ourselves and be supportive of others, especially when we have good friends by our side.

Antonio Lumley and his book Brook & Brax Undercover Ninjas

Book Review: The Red Pig

I recently met Kelly Ann Guglietti, a wonderful children’s author with a passion for helping children build their self-esteem and empathy to help protect them against bullying.

The Red Pig is a wonderful book of hers for early elementary school children. In addition to the story, there is a section at the end of the book filled with activities and questions for children to answer about how to deal with bullying. The questions are a great way to help children think about how they can create a safe social culture in their school or community center.

The story is about a pig, Cyrus Bacon, who lives on a farm with other animals. He is red because he is angry about being bullied. In his anger, he starts to bully those who have been unkind to him. Realizing that this is only making the other animals angry, he decides to change his ways. He begins by volunteering to help the other animals plan an anniversary party for Farmer Ray and his wife Adelia. At first no one wants him to help. However, once he apologizes for being rude to them, he is invited to be a part of the anniversary party team.

The story is realistic in that a person being bullied will sometimes start to bully others. Cyrus could have continued to be bitter and resentful towards the other animals, but he chooses to end the cycle of bullying by taking responsibility for his actions. By being the one to change, he changes the social culture.

I wish the farm animals in the story had not bullied Cyrus to begin with, but I am very proud of Cyrus. His kinder behavior stops the cycle of bullying that all the characters have been trapped in for a long time.

Learn more about Kelly Ann’s books at: https://www.kelly-ann-guglietti.com

Kelly Ann Guglietti, with her book The Red Pig

Book Review: The Power of One

Trudy Ludwig has been a favorite children’s author of mine since I met her in the mid-2000s. Her books present wonderful life lessons to help children deal with bullying and stand up for themselves in an assertive, rather than aggressive, way.

Her latest book is The Power of One – Every Act of Kindness Counts. The story is about all the small ways we can be kind, build friendships, and grow a caring community.

The text shares specific things we can do for others while the illustrations show seeds being planted which eventually turn into a thriving community garden. The illustrations by Mike Curato are beautiful. As the characters in the story plant seeds, Curato’s pictures bring the garden to life and shows the joy of building a positive community.

Trudy also includes information for adults in the back of the book on simple ways to grow a positive community through actions like “including the excluded in your group, game, or activity” and “having the courage to take responsibility for intentional/unintentional wrongdoing by apologizing and making up for the hurt you’ve caused others.”

My favorite part in the story is when she says, “One good listener…can make even the smallest voice heard.” Listening to others is one of the most powerful things we can do to make all children and adults feel welcome and appreciated. Getting children to think about the importance of listening is a critical step in stopping bullying, understanding different perspectives, and creating a safe social culture where children can thrive.

“You don’t have to be a superhero to be a hero in another kid’s eyes,” says Trudy. “It all starts with each of us reaching out in kind ways to make a positive difference in others’ lives. And the more acts of kindness we do, the better we become in improving our relationships with one another and our communities.”

Trudy Ludwig and the cover of her latest book.

Why We Must Do More Than Say “Stop Bullying” to Stop Bullying

I was an anti-bullying consultant with a rural school district early in my career. One day I was leading a focus group with 5th and 6th graders about how they felt about the school’s culture and rules. One boy said in frustration, “I know what I’m not supposed to do, I don’t know what I am supposed to do!”

I think about this boy often as I teach children positive social behaviors to replace negative ones. Telling children “bullying is wrong” should be the beginning of an anti-bullying conversation, not the end of it. In the Respect Program we provide a variety of tools to children to help them regulate their emotions, build confidence, and stand up to a bully without becoming mean. This way, when they are thinking about bullying someone or need help dealing with bullying, they know what they are “supposed to do!”

The Respect Program empowers children to stop bullying by:

1) Creating art, acting, and writing so they can find new hobbies that give them confidence. Hobbies are also a great way to make new friends.

2) Participating in role plays where they practice different ways to stand up to a bully without becoming mean.

3) Journaling, pounding on clay, and doing other safe creative activities to deal with their anger and frustration.

4) Thinking about the kind of person they want to be. For example, we discuss the importance of being kind, even when you have nothing to gain, and keeping the promises we make to others.

What are other effective strategies to stop bullying in your school or community organization?

Children in a Respect Program lesson decorating
mugs with anti-bullying/healthy friendship themed art.

Modeling Kindness For Children Prevents Bullying

Without a doubt, children see and hear much more than adults realize. When children watch adults interacting with each other, it is their first glimpse into what is acceptable behavior.

When we are around children, but talking to adults:

  • Do we listen to others with compassion?
  • Do we change the subject when someone is incessantly gossiping?
  • Are we respectful and kind, regardless of whether they are a CEO or a janitor?

No one is perfect at relationships, but if we work hard to listen to friends and treat others with respect we will prevent bullying by modeling these pro-social behaviors for children. Not to mention, these positive behaviors will also help us to have more inner peace and healthy relationships!

Reading Books Increases Empathy, Which Stops Bullying Behaviors

Through reading books, we learn about other people’s experiences, challenges, and feelings in a fun and entertaining way.

In my anti-bullying classes, I use books and poems to teach children different ways to deal with bullying.

The Respect Program gives children a chance to talk about how characters in a story or poem react to bullies. It begs the question, “Could their approach to bullies work for me?”

There is nothing better than seeing a child’s eyes light up when they learn a new strategy from a story about how to be assertive without being mean. This not only helps a child who is being bullied, but also helps a child think about healthy ways to express their anger so they do not bully others.

Reading Books Increases Empathy