Each Kindness

When Ms. Albert teaches a lesson on kindness, Chloe realizes that she and her friends have been wrong in making fun of new student Maya’s shabby clothes and refusing to play with her.

This book has been included in WOW’s Kids Taking Action Booklist. For our current list, visit our Boolist page under Resources in the green navigation bar.

Featured in WOW Review Volume XIII, Issue 4.

3 thoughts on “Each Kindness

  1. Lauren Freedman & Angeline Hoffman says:

    I first encountered this book at a Scholastic Book Fair. I was just browsing the books, picking them up one at a time and skimming. When I came to Each Kindness, I opened to the first page and E.B. Lewis’ painting of the winter landscape kept me wanting more. As I turned the page, I thought this is going to be a story about welcoming a new child into a school and classroom. As I flipped through the pages the first time, I realized that it was more complicated than that. As I began reading it a second time, I realized that while the “new” girl, Maya, reached out, the first person narrator of the story talked about how she and her best friends rejected her. After the teacher does a lesson on kindness, the narrator realizes the opportunity she has missed as Maya has moved away. I found this to be a particularly powerful story as it is about a lesson learned the hard way. The beautiful paintings juxtaposed against the cruelty of the children narrated in clear, simple phrasing hits the reader squarely in the stomach. I felt both Maya’s pain of being ignored and rejected and the narrator’s pain when she recognizes that she has been the cause of that pain.
    I remember when I first encountered this book taking a Children‘s Literature Class and learning the author is well known. In addition, the illustration on the front cover appealed to me, a lonely sad girl standing by a lake. This reminds me of the how emotions confront children. The title: Each Kindness, brings a new perspective in reading this book because of how a new student is mistreated by her classmates. Probably an experience that we have all experienced at one time in our school years. The main issue of being a new student and especially trying to befriend one particular girl, Chloe, sets up this story. Creating friendship through kindness is an issue that never happened because of Chloe’s personal observation of Maya. Children have different backgrounds, and because of this, Chloe is judgmental toward Maya based on her clothing, her lunch, and her toys. The teacher teaching about “kindness” opens up Chloe’s mind on how she has behaved toward Maya, and it was not kindness. The new student, Maya, never had the opportunity to have a friend; she was ignored but I felt she was a strong girl. When I say she was strong it is because she accepted it and played by herself. If it was me, I would be crying all the time. This story empowers Chloe, to treat Maya with “kindness” but she never gets that chance because Maya moved away. The illustrations were beautiful and creating reality within every stroke that caused the story to connect with the readers. Yes, I felt the pain of both Maya’s loneliness and Chloe’s feelings changing because of the pain she caused.
    Yes, I have been on both sides of this. Entering a new school in 6th grade was rough in the beginning, but unlike Maya, I stayed long enough to make friends. I think the harder aspect is dealing with knowing that you may have hurt someone. I don’t think Chloe really thought about what she and her friends were doing from Maya’s perspective until the lesson on kindness when she could feel in some ways the pain she had caused Maya. It is a hard lesson and one that stays with you. Your point about differences and the girls judging Maya based on the clothes she wore and the lunch she brought is well taken. That the girls made their decisions about friendship based on such superficial things shows how limited and limiting their thinking was. Without the teacher’s lesson, Chloe would probably never have thought about Maya again.
    Yes, I agree and I feel that the teacher realized the situation with the girls’ mistreatment toward Maya, and stepped in and created a lesson on “kindness”. This age group is very impressionable and with the right guidance, the students can realize what they have done [mistreated Maya] and change their behavior [Chloe waiting for Maya to come back to school for a chance of kindness toward her] to make it right.
    What did you think about the illustrations and how they influenced the story? I think the paintings add to the poignancy of the story from both of the girls’ perspectives.
    I agree with your response to the illustrations and how they influence the story. The paintings bring alive the real event in a way that captures the feelings of each character represented in the story. The color of each stroke represents the surreal world of school and how each and every one of us feels in response to this story of kindness and friendship.

  2. I haven’t read this story yet, but it sounds like The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes would be a good comparison.

    While the teacher might be seen as too slow, kids will read this as a story about kids. The mentor/teacher who points the way cannot come in earlier, or the story doesn’t work AS A STORY. The conflict cannot be solved earlier, or there’s no story.


  3. Mathis & Moreillon says:

    Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E. B. Lewis reveals Chloe’s story of how she reacted to a new girl, Maya, who joined their class one winter day. From Chloe’s perspective we realize that Maya most likely was from a poorer family than many of her new classmates, however, she seemed eager to become part of this tightly-knit group of friends. Despite her efforts to share toys, rope-jumping, and just smiles, Maya was consistently rejected by Chloe and others. One spring day when Maya was not in class the teacher used the ripples created by a small stone to teach a lesson about the effects of kindness. Chloe makes a conscious decision to change how she treats Maya, however Maya never returns.
    Janelle’s Take
    The reality of this story is what makes it so powerful. The attitudes of the children toward Maya are contagious as they seem to band together against her efforts to be friends. After the story progresses from winter to spring, the teacher brought a simple lesson to the class. The lesson wasn’t stated to be deliberately given because of how the children acted towards Maya. And, while almost every child could identify something they had done that was an act of kindness when the teacher requested they do so, Chloe thinks only of her troubling actions towards Maya. These thoughts intensify, especially when Maya fails to return to school, and Chloe realizes she can never be kind to her or make up for her rejection of Maya. Many of life’s lessons are ones that are learned because of actions and regrets that can never be taken back—missed opportunities that people can only change in future relationships. Such lessons create a hollow feeling—a pain that lingers and is sharply felt at times when the situation or person returns to one’s mind. There are real life instances when people take on the journey to “make right” such actions, only to discover it is not possible.
    This is a most powerful lesson in that it makes one more aware of not only how hurtful this is/was towards the other person but how it leaves its “forever” mark on the person inflicting the unkind actions or words. The teacher in this story taught a powerful lesson for those who were ready to receive it. Knowing what I have witnessed about such bullying and unkind actions among school age children, I am left to wonder if effective intervention could have been done earlier—especially as many of the ongoings were probably not in front of the teacher. Yes, she must have noticed the child being isolated but at what point with the child present would she have interacted? Since the reader does not know the whole context, as the story is from Chloe’s perspective, perhaps the teacher did try something else but it was this lesson on kindness in the absence of Maya that brought Chloe’s feelings to the surface—feelings of being unkind to Maya.
    Judi’s Take
    While I agree with Janelle that this life lesson is beautifully and poignantly conveyed, I had a great deal of trouble giving this teacher the benefit of the doubt. Why did Maya have to suffer as an outcast in this classroom from winter into spring? Even if the teacher did not see the events on the playground, I doubt that a teacher who is aware of her students’ social and emotional lives could have missed Maya’s loneliness and ostracization by the other children in the class.
    E. B. Lewis’s illustrations dramatize Maya’s plight. When the new girl first enters the classroom, we see her as a child sitting at a desk would see her—looking up at her downcast eyes. Woodson’s print tells us “her shoes were spring shoes, not meant for the snow. A strap on one of them had broken.” Readers immediately recognize Maya comes from an impoverished home situation and Chloe recognizes her “difference” immediately. Then when the teacher Ms. Albert asks the children to say good morning, Chloe reports that most were silent. Chloe even moves her chair away from Maya when the new girl takes the seat next to hers and “every day after that,” Chloe does not return Maya’s smiles when she enters the classroom.
    Readers’ hearts will ache for Maya but where is the teacher as this situation develops? We are told that weeks pass and the students whisper about Maya’s strangeness and refuse to play with her even though she continues to ask for their friendship. Finally, one of Chloe’s friends gives Maya an unkind nickname and the other girls laugh. While one could argue that Maya is more ignored than bullied in this story, my experience tells me that most teachers would be aware of this situation and try to intervene long before spring and Maya’s departure from the class.
    The timing of the kindness lesson made me think that Ms. Albert didn’t want to guide the students in this awakening until after Maya stopped coming to school. Lewis’s illustration of Maya’s empty desk epitomizes the loneliness this child must have felt for her entire tenure in this classroom. And then when the teacher announces that Maya’s family moved away and is not coming back, the next sentence says: “Then she told us to take out our notebooks, it was time for spelling.”
    While Chloe learns an invaluable lesson in this story, I wish Ms. Albert could have been a more aware and caring social and emotional guide for the children in her classroom. Educators are responsible for educating the whole child. While Woodson gives this teacher the power to influence the children’s understanding of the ripple effect of kindness, it seems regrettable to me that Maya had to suffer for so many weeks in order for others to learn this lesson.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *