Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Pets Provide Unconditional Love

Having a pet is giving your child a friend who loves them unconditionally, a friend who silently listens to all of their troubles, a friend who cuddles next to them when they are sick, and a friend that does not care in the least what they look like.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Picture Book Recommendations for Gift Giving

We have three picture book recommendations that will make great gifts for Easter Baskets, graduations, and other special occasions.  Each of these recommendations is Mom approved by Dede, Teenager with a Difference approved by Peter (16), and SuperSibling/Middle-Schooler approved by Jacob (12).  Happy gift giving!

We're All Wonders is a beautiful new picture book written and illustrated by R.J. Palacio, the same author of Wonder who inspired the #ChooseKind movement.  This book already has a prominent spot on our coffee table because we love the message and illustrations so much!  It's a timeless masterpiece that we think will become a mainstay in all early education classrooms.  The story is a simple yet powerful reminder that everyone is different and kindness is important. Great gift for any age!

The Courage to be Kind by Jenny Levin & Rena Rosen is a new picture book full of advice for parents and teachers.  It's written to be read aloud and encourages open and honest discussions about how we should be kind to everyone.  There are photos and information about several conditions including Autism, Tourettes, Dwarfism, and Apert Syndrome.

The Girl with Many Faces by Brenda Scott-Coleman was published in 2012, but we just discovered this little gem.  The book gives simple advice to young children who have difficulty making friendships.  We love the message that, "friends are not made by the way they look.  Friends are made by smiling, sharing, caring, listening, and joining together in fun and play."  The price is unfortunately high for a soft-cover picture book, but we still wanted to recommend because of it's fun advice on how to make friends.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Teachers #ChangeTheWorld #ChooseKind

The novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio plants the seeds of acceptance and inclusion to all who read it. Chris Jones, a middle school teacher in Capistrano Unified School District in Orange County, California, recognized the positive impact this book would have on students.  She took it upon herself to develop a 6th grade curriculum using the #ChooseKind theme in Wonder.  Mrs. Jones piloted the program last year with two schools in the district and then offered it to all 6th grades for the 2016-17 school year. 

Peter with Ladera Ranch Middle School Teacher, Chris Jones
Peter with Don Juan Avila Middle School Principal, Josh Wellison
The curriculum includes lesson plans developed and organized by Jones as well as materials from both RandomHouse and Children’sCraniofacial Association.  She worked locally with Coto de Caza Charity Classic’s annual fundraiser, raising enough funds to purchase a copy of Wonder for every 6th grader in the district.  CUSD is one of the country’s largest school districts with fourteen middle schools and about 4,000 sixth graders.  Nine of the fourteen middle schools participated in the #ChooseKind curriculum.

Ladera Ranch Middle School Projects

Shorecliffs Middle School Project 
In addition to hosting a training session for all the participating teachers, Mrs. Jones invited each school to host a #ChooseKind Wonder assembly.  My 16-year old son, Peter Dankelson, and I traveled from Illinois to California, bringing the story to life for Capistrano students.

Aliso Viejo Middle School

1 of 3 Assemblies at Ladera Ranch Middle School

Marco Forster Middle School
Peter and our family, like all CCA Kids, represent a true Wonder story.  Hearing from Peter gives students a better understanding of what it’s really like to live with a facial difference, why kindness should matter to them, and why it’s not always enough to just be “friendly.”  We educate students about trachs, feeding tubes, cochlear implants, and fake ears in a fun and educational format that puts everyone at ease and invites questions.  We explain why these devices are needed and how they are used.  Students get to hold each device, including Peter’s prosthetic ear!  By the end of the assembly, kids are no longer thinking about Peter's facial difference but are, instead, more interested in his favorite Star Wars movie or video game.  Making the real-life connection reinforces Wonder’s lesson about the value of diverse friendships and how anyone can #ChooseKind anytime, anywhere.

Vista del Mar student asks Peter is he wishes he could change how he looks

Peter Takes a Selfie with Shorecliffs 6th Graders
Peter and I were welcomed at all the CUSD middle schools we visited during our week of appearances.  Students showed us kindness with their applause, standing ovations, and chants of ‘Peter, Peter.’  Amber, a sixth grader at Shorecliffs Middle School, even surprised us by paying for our dinner at a local restaurant!  Another student raised his hand during the Q & A, not to ask a question, but to ask if he could shake Peter’s hand.  As a Mom, it was so heartwarming to witness how excited the students were to meet Peter, have him sign their copy of Wonder, and want to connect with him on social media.

Peter signs books at Niguel Hills Middle School

Peter signs a Wonder-blue cast at Newhart Middle School

Niguel Hills student asks to shake Peter's hand

Ladera Ranch students give Peter a standing ovation

Marco Forster students thank Peter for the assembly

Niguel Hills students have fun taking a selfie with Peter

Carl Hankey students pledge to #ChooseKind

When coupled with a real-life connection, students become inspired to cultivate a community of kindness in their school.  Students who are inspired to be kind make school a safe and fun place for everyone!

Thanks to teacher Chris Jones for bringing this lesson and experience to sixth graders at Capistrano UnifiedSchool District.

1 of 2 assemblies at Niguel Hills Middle School

Poster at Vista del Mar Middle School

#ChangeTheWorld #ChooseKind

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Great Kindness Challenge

Many schools nationwide participated in The Great Kindness Challenge this past week.  Our family was invited to Half Day School in Lincolnshire, IL to kick off their week of activities, and we had a great time speaking with the students and sharing our message to #ChooseKind.  Thanks for their donation to Children's Craniofacial Association in honor of our visit!

Amy Rutledge at WGN-TV Chicago joined us at Half Day School to cover Peter's story.  We were then invited to be on the WGN-TV Morning News.

As we move forward in 2017, we look forward to sharing our #ChooseKind message with even more students!

Peter's Story on WGN-TV Chicago

Steve Cochran Show Interview with Amy Rutledge about Peter's Story (starts at 30:45)

The Great Kindness Challenge

Sunday, January 15, 2017

#ChooseKind Book Recommendations for Younger Readers

I've always loved to read, and I couldn't wait to share this passion with my children.  When Peter was in NICU, we recorded our family reading books so that he could hear our voices even when we weren't there.  After Jacob was born, bedtime reading became Peter's favorite part of the day because he got to have Mom or Dad all to himself!

I've spent countless hours reading to my boys over the years.  After the chaos of the day, it was always a time of relaxation and comfort.  Although they are now 16 and 12, we continue to include family reading through audio books on long car rides.  I also still enjoy searching for books to read together and can now ask for their opinion on the story and it's message.

Jacob has become my collaborator in reviewing books that might support our #ChooseKind message. He and I read the books together and decide if it's a "keeper" for our list.  Wonder by R.J. Palacio is, of course, our favorite book to share the #ChooseKind message. Because it's a story best for ages 10+, however, we are often asked for picture book recommendations about kindness.

Listed below are books on our shelf that we've read together and feel worthy of recommending to young readers.  Several of these books speak directly about kindness and empathy while others are ones we've enjoyed because of their positive message and engaging story.

We hope you enjoy one of our recommendations and sneak in some extra snuggle time with your little one(s).  We are always looking for book suggestions, so please share your favorites by posting in the comments.

Picture Books about Kindness, Empathy, Being Different, and Anti-Bullying

Picture Books about Self-Esteem or a Positive Life Lesson

Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Happy New Year!

From our family to yours, best wishes for a 2017 full of health, happiness & kindness!


Choosing kind,

The Dankelson Family