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.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key – ADD/ADHD

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, written by Jack Gantos as a YA book for kids 10 yrs. and older.   This is the first in a series of four books about a boy who is a handful.  Brilliantly written from Joey’s viewpoint, Gantos captures with great authenticity Joey’s out-of-control world with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).   Joey opens the story commenting,  “At school they say I’m wired bad, or wired mad, or wired sad, or wired glad, depending on my mood.”  Although he takes “dud” medications in the morning, by lunch time they wear off.   Joey feels like there is little he can do to keep himself from bouncing out of his chair.  This leads to big trouble and a lot of time outs.

Gantos takes you on a roller coaster of a journey inside the mind,  feelings and actions of Joey, who is reared in a dysfunctional family.   Joey’s intentions are good, but he ends up swallowing his house key,  disrupts his class daily,  ruins a field trip, hurts himself when he sticks his finger in an electric pencil sharpener, and accidentally injures a classmate.   He is sent to a special-education program where he is evaluated.   This book is both heartbreaking  and humorous, as Joey attempts to hold his world together.  It certainly is a page turner.  You can’t help but love Joey and want to cheer for him as he tries to gain control over his world.  Gantos has a gift of getting into the core of his characters.  His book won the National Books Awards and are in their second and third printings.  I highly recommend this book for any child with ADD or ADHD, parents and teachers.  A great discussion book to use in a classroom.

Joey Pigza Loses Control, the second in a series by Jack Gantos for kids around the 5th grade.   I found myself so invested in the first book, I had to find out what happened to Joey.   Joey’s medications are finally administered by a patch, and we find him beginning to find his way.  He is more  self-confident, respectful,  focused, thinks before acting and feels better about himself.  Until, his father appears on the scene and wants Joey to spend the summer with him.  Mom isn’t happy, but decides that Joey needs to get to know his father.   Dad is a baseball coach, and Joey turns out to be an outstanding pitcher.  What Joey soon discovers is that his father  is more wired and out of control than he is.   His father feels that Joey needs to deal with his hyperactivity like a man, and takes away his patches.

Once again, Gantos takes the reader through another page turning book, and Joey’s journey becomes more interesting and complicated.   Joey begins to  feel himself spin out of control without his medication.   His hyperactive father wants Joey to be manly about handling himself, so he takes him on a reckless course of bungee jumping and teaching him to drive a car, when he can’t see over the dashboard.  However, Joey has learned some  tools to keep everything together for as long as he possibly can.   Will Joey succumb, or make the right decisions for himself?

It is very tempting to review all four books, but I don’t want to give away Joey’s remarkable journey.  There is a third and a fourth book in the series:  What Would Joey Do  and I Am Not Joey Pigza.

Information for Parents:  Some studies estimate that 1.7 percent of children have ADHD, while others claim the number may be closer to 26 percent.   The Journal of the American Medical Association says that ADHD ” is among the most common neurodevelopmental disorder in children.”   Boys are affected three times as often as girls.  Sometimes ADHD is accompanied with a learning disability.  There are organizations available to help both children and adults with ADHD.  They focus on possible causes, symptoms, treatment, support and coaching.    CHADD is an excellent resource.

Journey with me…



Special-needs-children-222x225Welcome to Children’s Books Heal!   I specifically chose to use “heal” in my blog name, because I felt it more inclusive of what I wanted to communicate — books have the power to heal.  Many of the books I plan to  review will focus on children and teens with special needs.   It’s  a broad category ranging from autism, Asperger’s syndrome, cancer, cerebral palsy, hearing and visual impairments to anxiety, ADHD, intellectual disability, adoption, divorce and grief.  I also will target books that are  multicultural,  about peace, conflict resolution, virtues, and the power of music and the arts to heal.  Each book will be hand-picked for the quality of its message.

In January 2011, Scholastic, the largest publisher of children’s books, released the Top 10 Trends in Children’s Books from 2010.    Among those trends was an increase in fiction with main characters who have special needs.  Examples included My Brother Charlie, Marcel in the Real World, and Mockingbird — all great books I will share.

According to a study published by Brigham Young University professors in the December 2010 issue of Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities,  “Despite an increasingly positive portrayal  of characters with disabilities in Newbery Award-winning books, there still is not an accurate representation of the nearly 7 million children with disabilities attending U.S. public schools.”   They studied Newbery Award and Honor books published from 1975 to 2009.

“We are hoping that this will be a call to authors,”  said Professor Tina Dyches.  “We’ve got so many wonderful authors in the world and we would love to see more inclusive characterizations in high quality books where kids with disabilities are being recognized for who they are no not just the limitations of their disabilities.”

I am a journalist and writer who  hopes to review high quality books for children and students with special needs.  I bring with me many life experiences.  My husband and I have a large blended family, with two adopted children, one a foreign adoption.  We have parented children with disabilities and special needs.  I also know what it is like to live as an adult with a disability, as I had a serious brain injury seven years ago.  And, I know how grief impacts children and families.  In 2009, our grandson was a casualty of the war in Iraq.   These experiences have influenced my choice in writing books for children, and the theme for my blog.

Please join me in my journey of writing and blogging.