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In The Kindness of Children, Vivian Gussin Paley, PhB’47, spins her narrative from the threads of children’s kind moments. She begins with the story of Teddy, a multi-handicapped boy who visits a London nursery school classroom. He sits in a wheelchair, wearing a padded helmet, barely able to speak. Yet the other children include Teddy in their play easily and naturally, responding to him in a way, Paley suggests, that adults may not. Touched by the instinctive kindness of children, Paley recounts such scenes to students and teachers around the country, inspiring acts of compassion.

Interwoven among these stories are bits of wisdom passed along to Paley by her mother. At one point, Paley listens to a non-English-speaking fourth-grader recall the time she relied on a fellow classmate to interpret a teacher’s words, and then compares the little girl’s experience to that of her mother as a young, frightened immigrant. Paley not only talks of kindness but also instructs children in the art of compassion through role-playing and discussions of what the stories mean to them. Throughout, Paley emphasizes how children can shape their own values as well as each other’s by practicing acts of kindness.—J.P.

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