Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Can Kindness Be Learned from Books?

I grew up with books. My mother read to me and I had exposure to lots of books around the house, and stacks of them from the library. I learned to read very early, somewhere between ages 3 and 4, I think. As a grown-up, I still adore picture books. I love reading them to children and I also read them myself.

So I was pleasantly surprised to spot one that felt so familiar on the shelves of our public library. I'm sure it was read to me as a child. I checked it out lovingly, and could hardly wait to dive into the pages again.

Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey, was first published in 1941 and won the Caldecott Medal as the most distinguished American picture book for children in 1942. It tells the story of a family of ducks who are trying to make it to the Public Garden, only to encounter traffic problems along the way.

Set in Boston, this book, which has sold over two million copies, still spoke to me as I re-read it again today. Of course I remembered the kindly policeman, who sends in a traffic alert for patrol cars to stop traffic so that Mother Duck can safely get her babies across the street.

Did this early story seep into my consciousness and make me a kinder, gentler person today?
I like to imagine that one of my best traits in life is kindness to animals. Was I inspired as a young child by the art and the words of Robert McCloskey?

Could this be why I stopped my car on the road just last week, so a family of fourteen wild turkeys could cross the road safely?

What do you think? Can kindness by learned from books? Does it seep in unconsciously from the literature young people are exposed to?

Do you have a favorite children's book that might have influenced your life?
This is a totally un-scientific study, but let us know!


Rhea Rhodan said...

Not sure if it can be learned from books, but they can certainly inspire it, and inspire parents to model it. BTW, I recognized that cover (but not the title). I'm sure my mother read it to me. I learned empathy and kindness from both my parents--how they treated animals and other people. From my parochial grade school? Not so much.

Linda Benson said...

Rhea - you should try and find a copy of this book. It brought back wonderful memories. My mother, especially, was (and is) very kind to animals, and I'm sure that (like you with your parents) I learned a lot from her. But I like to think that I could be inspired by words and pictures in a book too. And of course growing up with Walt Disney didn't hurt either.

Patricia said...

Lovely post, Linda, and I'm going to try to get that book off ebay. My house is filled with children's books from my youth as well as the hundreds I bought for my two kids but this one is new to me. And I LOVE ducks, so thank you for telling me about this one.
I remember the first book I got after my mom enrolled me in a book of the month club. It had a whale or a shark on the front. To this day I am enamored with sea life and yearn for it to be protected.

Linda Benson said...

Hi Patti - thanks for stopping by. Make Way for Ducklings is still in print, I'm pretty sure, so you should have no trouble finding a copy. Isn't it funny how we latch onto and remember books from our childhood? Hope you find that whale or shark book, too!