I recently received a copy of "Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids" by Carol McCloud and David Messing through a book swapping website in which I participate. The book was published in 2006 and I can honestly say that I am distressed that I did not run across this book until now. I shared it with my nearly 8- year-old daughter and the first thing she asked was whether she could take it to school to read to her class.
The concept of this book it so simple and well-communicated that it is remarkable (and a little tragic) that we all don't already think in these terms. Essentially it explains that we all carry an "invisible bucket" that carries our good thoughts and feelings about ourselves. We all also contribute to the filling (bucketfilling) or emptying (bucketdipping) of others' buckets through how we treat them. Kindness and kind or loving actions fill buckets and mean or thoughtless actions dip in buckets.
But here's the brilliant part – the book explains that when we fill others buckets, we also fill our own. However, McCloud also teaches dipping in another's bucket never fills one's own bucket, and that "bucketdippers" often have empty buckets and may mistakenly believe that dipping in another's bucket will help them.
McCloud challenges children to fill others' buckets every day and to ask at the end of each day, "Did I fill a Bucket Today?" That's it. Brilliant.
I have tried to communicate these concepts to my daughters in much more convoluted ways. I have talked about "feeling powerful" (as in, excluding others may make us feel powerful, but what feels even more powerful is knowing we were responsible for INcluding someone). I have talked about the golden rule and setting an example (as in, treating your sister unfairly teaches her that is how we are meant to treat our sisters and she will do the same back to you). But both of these are clumsy and don't seem to have made an impact. McCloud's explanation is so simple and eloquent and seemed to really resonate with my daughter.
The illustrations by David Messing are just lovely – anthropomorphic buckets filled with rainbows of stars and hearts and flowers and children dipping ladles into buckets. I don't think Messing could have been more inclusive either – people of all races are depicted. Different ages and relationships abound. Differently-abled children and adults are represented. Bucketfilling between the generations is common, as well as between children and other children.
Surely this is great to plant this concept in children's heads. But what I find really exciting about this book is that it really gives children useable language and methods and reasoning to take out into the world (or more to the point, onto the playground) with them. I'll admit, I am a bit ambivalent about how I'd feel to hear children at my daughter's school saying "Hey, stop dipping in my bucket!" during recess – it's a little too reeking of self-help for my tastes, BUT the truth is that many children NEED this kind of help.
If a school adopts the concepts of bucketfilling and bucketdipping (see my links to the website below for products and programs that support the book, as well as actual presentations and trainings that can be arranged for students), then these concepts can become true guiding principles for how children are expected to treat one another.
Just imagine if we really could teach children that including and being considerate and respectful of others is the best way for them to feel good about themselves, rather than the more common practices of exclusion and bullying. I think this book is an excellent start. I'd love to get this book in the hands of elementary school students, teachers and administrators everywhere.
For elementary school students:
For preschool and early elementary students: