Bucketfilling — Family and Classroom Books Encourage Positive Behavior

I stumbled upon two very similar books based on a concept I admit I was not familiar with, bucketfilling, designed to help parents and teachers focus on building character in pre-school and elementary school children.   I did further research and discovered that there is a programs for teachers to use the concept in their classrooms — and there are examples of how it is being used in schools.  Since I just wrote a post July 5 on The Family Virtue Guide, I thought this would be a nice companion.  It essentially works with many virtues/values we hope to instill in children.   This is a great school project!

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?  A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids,  is written by Carol McCloud and illustrated by David Messing for pre-schoolers to age 8 years.   Actually the author says that  filling the bucket begins at birth when parents love, hold, touch, care, play, and read to their children.  You are filling an invisible bucket for your child as well as your own.   As children grow, it is important that they are also taught to love, be kind, helpful, unselfish and respectful of others.   McCloud wrote this book and designed a program to teach the daily practice of bucketfilling David Messing’s illustrations  are colorful, bold and captivating and support the message.  The characters are multi-cultural and have disabilities.  There also is a companion guide for young children, Fill a Bucket.

This book visually conveys a very simple but profound message children will understand – and it’s fun because the illustrations speak to you!   Everyday people from all over the world, walk around carrying an invisible bucket.  You can’t see it, but it’s there.  That means children,  parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, neighbors, classmates and people you don’t even know, all have an invisible bucket.  There is only one purpose for the bucket — to hold your good thoughts and feelings about yourself.   You fill your bucket when you  are kind to someone, smile, give someone a hug, listen when they are sad, run an errand or say hello to a stranger.  You fill someone else’s bucket, but you also fill your own bucket.   When you feel sad, upset and lonely your bucket is empty.   It also can be empty when you are mean or hurtful to someone.  That’s called “bucket dipping.”   Then everyone’s bucket is empty.   But, when you are a bucket filler, you make your home, school, community and world  a better place to be.   

How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids, is written by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer, Ph.D.  and illustrated by Maurie J. Manning.   Rath co-wrote the book with the late Dr. Donald O. Clifton, who has shared his “bucket” story since the 1960s.  The original book was an adult non-fiction, which became the basis for this children’s story book.  Reckmeyer  is Executive Director of the Donald O. Clifton Child Development Center for 25 years, and has helped thousands of kids build lives around their strengths.  The authors have written this book in story form.

Felix is building a block tower and his persistent little sister wants to help.  He repeatedly tells her NO!    Fed up, feisty Anna grabs her doll and takes a big whack at the tower and it tumbles.   Felix yells for Grandpa, who  begins to tell Felix about the invisible buckets that everyone has over their heads.  He tells Felix he  just emptied his sister’s bucket with his actions.  The next morning  Felix wakes up and  sees a small bucket floating above his head.  The bucket is full and as he goes through his day,  he begins to see how his interactions with other kids, empty and fill his bucket, drop by drop.   He  wonders what it feels like when you have an empty bucket.  Once he learns how easy it is to be helpful to his classmates and his sister, he is excited and happy.   As Felix realizes that every drop he helped put into someone else’s bucket, he felt a drop in his own bucket.

The Family Virtues Guide

Since I’ve written a few blogs recently on pushing, mean girls and bullying, I thought I would introduce a book I used in the late 1990s when my daughter was young.  I wanted to find a way to work with her on caring, kindness and respect.  I learned about The Family Virtues Guide, by Linda Kavelin Popov, Ph.D., from teacher friends who used the program in their classrooms in Minnesota.   Dr. Popov founded the The Virtues Project,  in Canada in 1991.  Today the program has ignited a global revolution in 95 countries.  Its mission is to offer multicultural programs and materials which empower people to remember who they are and to live by their highest values.  The project was honored during the International Year of the Family by the United National Secretariat as a model global program for families of all cultures.   

 The book is about virtues, which are universally valued by all faiths and cultures in the world.   The Guide is based on sacred traditions of the world’s religions, yet it does not promote the practices or beliefs of any specific faith.  There are 52 virtues listed in the book including: caring, compassion, consideration, forgiveness,  generosity, helpfulness, kindness, love, respect, responsibility, service, trust, and truthfulness.

I was thrilled with this guide, because it allowed the entire family to take part.  Every day our daughter selected a card from the deck and read it out loud.  If an incident would arise, we might select a card for her.  Her father or I would read the chapter on the virtue from the book and we would discuss it as a family.  And, of course she had her own ideas about what a specific virtue  meant to her.   For instance, if the consideration card was selected for the day, we talked about having respect for other people and their feelings, and thinking about how our actions affect someone else.  We discussed how to practice compassion starting with paying attention to herself and to others.   It meant that she needed to be aware that day at school when someone looked lonely or sad.  Then practice what she learned by doing something nice for the other chid.   For example, befriend a new student, listen to a friend that has been teased, or let someone go first.   At the end of the day during dinner, we’d discuss if we had the opportunity to show compassion.  And, as parents we shared about how we each used the virtue at work.  Some days were more fruitful than others.    It became a game and we had fun with it.    

The book and deck of cards were retired and sat on my book shelf for a few years, until my husband’s daughter was looking for a way to help her very competitive boys get along.   So I passed along my book and cards and she began to use the program with her sons.   It too became a family project.

This also is an outstanding classroom project.  There are instructions at the end of the book about making a Virtues Tree Felt Board.  It has many applications in the classroom and can be used to acknowledge student efforts.  With bullying on the rise, it would be a helpful project to use with young children.

Little Girls Can Be Mean

You’re Mean, Lily Jean,  written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton for children 4-8 yrs.  Carly always plays with her big sister, Sandy.  They are both imaginative and play great games of pretend.  One day  a new girl, Lily Jean,  moves in next door.   The  sisters are taken with Lily Jean, until she begins to boss everyone around.  Since Carly is the youngest, Lily Jean,  orders her around making her crawl like a baby, moo like a cow and play the royal dog.  Tired of being bossed around, Carly comes up with a plan to teach mean Lily Jean a lesson.  Will Carly change the dynamics?   After all, kids just want to fit in.

Wishinsky wrote an important book for parents to read to their daughters about how little girls can be mean.  A good book for the classroom.  Denton’s soft watercolors capture the mood of each character, and children will find the illustrations engaging.

Little Girls Can Be Mean:  Four Steps to Bully-Proof Girls in the Early Grades, written by Michelle Anthony, M.A., Ph.D., and Reyna Lindert, Ph.D. , 2010.    

Book Jacket:  In today’s world, girls are facing myriad friendship issues, including bullying and cliques.  This is the first book to tackle the unique social struggles of elementary-aged girls, giving parents the tools to help their child become stronger, happier and better able to enjoy friendships and handle social cruelty.   Michelle Anthony and Reyna Lindert’s simple four-step plan will help you become a problem-solving partner with your daughter.  They also offer tips for educators and insights that girls can use to face social difficulties in an empowered way.    

After reviewing Lilly Jean is Mean, I discovered this important resource book for parents, teachers, and counselors for girls K- 6.   I would have gladly welcomed a book like this to help me with creative approaches and strategies to strengthen my daughter during those vulnerable years.   We know all kids will be mean at some point.  At the same time, you also don’t want your child participating in bullying and cliques.   Kids want to feel accepted.  If they are in a situation where teasing is happening, you hope your child will stand up for the kid being targeted.   It is important to begin teaching  girls at a very early age, that being mean is not okay!   

With the increase of societal bullying, the Ohio legislature recently passed legislation requiring schools to develop a curriculum for students on bullying.  The message is clear — bullying in school is not acceptable.  I hope this is a trend that is occurring across the country. 

I also recommend you visit a friend’s website, Elizabethannewrites, as she has written an excellent three-part series about bullies,  “Beyond Neener, Neener, Neener” posted April 23, 25 and 26.

Lively Elizabeth!

Lively Elizabeth!: What Happens When You Push, written by Mara Bergman and illustrations by Cassia Thomas, for children 3-6 yrs.  Bergman uses rhyme in a very vibrant way to capture her characters and story line.  Cassie, a  first-time children’s book illustrator, impressively uses vivid color and detail to beautifully support this story.   A winning combination for both author and illustrator. 

Elizabeth is a tad too high-spirited  for her own good.  She is energetic,  fun-loving, and mischievous.   While standing in line at school, she decides to push Joe Fitzhugh, who knocks down Ethan Snell, who falls on Annabelle, who bumps Norine… thus creating huge chain reaction of crashes, flailing arms and legs, knocked down sporting equipment, books and musical instruments.   Joe Fitzhugh explodes in anger at Elizabeth and yells “You pushed me and hurt everyone!”  Elizabeth faces her peers, which may even more challenging than the teacher.   

Lively Elizabeth is fun story that provides an excellent teaching moment for parents and teachers to start talking with young children about pushing, accountability,  apologizing and forgiveness.  In fact, it’s a book to be read and reread often to remind children to respect one another.