There’s a lot of meanness in the world. You see it every day on social media (or anywhere online, really) and in person. People are upset and on-edge. We’re out of patience. This pandemic has gone on for more than a frickin’ year. But let me ask you: if you’re not part of the solution, are you at least not part of the problem?

I know, I know. I’m not perfect. I’ve had my share of angry moments—okay, more than my share—and I am in no place to judge anyone. It’s HARD being kind…isn’t it? Well, there’s kindness and then just not being mean…right? I would disagree. I don’t feel there is a neutral on this. You can act or not act on a kind impulse, and while it might not make you bad not to act on the kind act, it doesn’t make you kinder. And if you don’t say something mean that came into your head, that doesn’t make you meaner. See what I mean?

But what have books got to do with this? There’s a lot we can learn from fiction and non-fiction, and I believe as readers, we are better equipped than non-readers to empathize with others. Here’s an interesting article from the BBC. I recommend giving it a read. But beyond gaining better empathy, what are some ways for readers to show kindness? So glad you asked!

  1. Learn from what you’ve read.

Have a character you just loved (or maybe annoyed by) because they were so kind and understanding? When you’re in a situation that requires kindness, try pausing and asking “What would ___ do?” If you’re a Christian, Jesus works for this very well. Let the people in books inspire and motivate you to do good or at least do no harm.

This one naturally leads to the next one:

2. Watch what you read.

If every single book you consume is full of snark and meanness, you might start reflecting it unconsciously in how you treat people. Or maybe it’ll make you hyper aware of how you behave. Whatever the case, be careful. Input usually equals output.

There are many ways to be kind with books. Here are a few:

3. Gift your favorite book to a friend or family member and tell them why you think they will like it.

Adding in a personalized reason will make the recipient feel good that you thought it through when you thought of their tastes. For example: “I know you really enjoy ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ and fantasy novels, so here’s your own copy of Six of Crows. I think it’s right up your alley.”

4. Leave an encouraging note or a dollar bill in a library book or book at the store.

Librarians often clean out the books you return, especially during this time of COVID, so I would say wait on this one.

5. Leave a review of a book you liked on Goodreads and/or the site you got it from.

Authors will adore you. They will.

6. Contact your favorite author and tell them you enjoyed their book/s.

It’s fast, it’s simple, and you could make the author’s day/year/career so much writer. We’re an easily-discouraged bunch. We hear no…a lot. We hear what we did wrong…a lot. A kind word can go a long way.

7. Tell a librarian you appreciate them.

These smarties are so important to society and are highly underrated. And any job where you work with the public takes extra patience and kindness. You could really uplift them if you just left a message on their Facebook or Twitter about how great they are doing. Also, be sure to like their pages and follow them and interact with their posts. It can be discouraging to see minimal interaction on something you poured many hours into.

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These are just a few ways you can be a kinder reader. Do you have any ideas? Please share in the comments!

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Keep your nose in a book,
Beth

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