American novelist James Baldwin wasn’t speaking solely for himself when he declared in 1963, “It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” Without that connection and the ability to reach across barriers both physical and metaphorical, said Baldwin, it would be impossible to tell a story of his own — the ability to empathize with another would be broken.
Books have always had a secret sort of magic that opens up doors to new worlds within our own. Reading and writing those stories is important if you’re ever going to extend that same sort of openness to your fellow, kindhearted human adventurers.
This August, Random Acts is hoping you can help us write a special chapter in our story. Throughout the month, we’re encouraging our supporters to get out and #GetKind in support of our official theme, “Teaching Kindness With Words”, which focuses on literature, libraries, and literacy. There are a myriad of ways in which you can help us achieve that goal:
- Create a love of reading and books in the younger generations of your community. Lend a hand at your local library by volunteering your time as a storyteller in the children’s section — not only does reading to kids help develop a positive association with books, it helps them in their studies overall. According to a study out of the Institute of Education at the University of London, children and adolescents who read or were read to often displayed improved cognitive skills and better grades in school. Not only that, it also increased understanding of new ideas to which they might not otherwise be exposed.
- Volunteer to read to the blind and/or tutor adults with literacy issues. In 2009, a federal National Assessment of Adult Literacy survey showed that some 32 million adults in the United States alone were unable to read anything more advanced than a children’s picture book. That’s not to place the blame on anyone in particular, of course, since there are plenty of reasons why someone might have trouble understanding the words in front of them. Instead of letting those numbers slide, spend some of your own free time helping those who need it — they’ll appreciate the assistance more than you know.
- #GetKind for your librarians! Running a giant building full of books (and knowing about each and every one of them, no less) is tough work. Honor the librarians and bookshop keepers in your community by leaving a kind note for them, or putting together a gift… and remember to take those books back on time!
- Tell your favorite writers how much you care. Authors and poets and screenwriters alike all have a very difficult job: to craft a the story or message that grabs your attention and doesn’t let go until it’s changed your life a little bit. Oftentimes, those efforts go overlooked. This month, remind those whose work you admire that you support them — a kind missive often means the world to those who feel left behind in the chaos of everyday life!
- Plan a read-a-thon. Love going on adventures but don’t have the finances to trek out every week? Open a book! Get your classmates, colleagues, or besties together and spend the day chilling out in a blanket fort with their favorite snacks. (Footie pajamas optional.)
- Host a donation drive! Whether you’re collecting books, gently used magazines, writing utensils, or e-readers, find a school, library, or literacy program in your community that needs some new supplies and help them rebuild their stockpile. Want to create a place of your own, where those around you can go if they want a new novel? Start your own book-borrowing club and go green for the environment at the same time!
- Write, write, write. The world can never have too many stories. Start your own novel, short story, poetry collection, play, or script — and then finish what you’ve started. Too many of us have unwritten adventures in our heads just dying to get out. Give yourself a pen and paper, a typewriter, or a keyboard, and let your own imagination fly… it’s the best way to #GetKind for yourself.
- Share. No story can live without people to pass it on. Post some of your favorite passages online and encourage others to find some of their favorites too — creating a network of sharing with the world can open up important dialogue that otherwise might be ignored.
Whether you’re a new reader or a seasoned novelist, we hope you use this month’s #GetKind theme to start a brand new kindness adventure of your own, one that will inspire those around you to reach past their boundaries and do the same — because as a certain beloved fictional character once reminded us, we’re all stories in the end.
… Just make it a good one, eh?