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Hats off to Mr. Musumeci’s 5th grade class of 2013 – 2014 (Reach Academy, Oakland, CA)! I wish I could give a copy of this book to everyone I know, both children and adults. This book, with a foreword by MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) founder, Jon Kabat-Zin, is written and illustrated by kids, for kids, and it is the most accessible and complete description of mindfulness for children I have read yet.
The most powerful parts of the book are the students’ own illustrated accounts of instances when mindfulness could be helpful in dealing with difficult emotions and situations. This could be infinitely helpful to students and teachers alike in defending the why of mindfulness in schools. The students cover topics ranging from dealing with anger when hit in the face with a soccer ball or cut on the lunch line, to loneliness when family members go away, to nervousness when their ride is late to pick up from school, and how to effectively “shield” from bullying.
These kids have done their research too. There are pages relating to the science behind mindfulness, specifically how it changes brain function. Illustrations accompany information about brain chemistry, the brain on stress, the release of hormones cortisol and adrenaline when we enter fight or flight or flight, and how mindfulness practices can set things right.
The last portion of the book contains techniques for practicing mindfulness such as mindful breathing, body scan, mindful walking, mindful noticing of feelings, and mindful communication. My favorite is a technique called “shark fin” which I intend to use with my own students. There is even a bit on mindful eating. The scripts are designed to be recorded by the reader and listened to for practice.
They close by reminding the reader to practice mindfulness every day and wishing the reader a happy life. They liken mindfulness to a seed growing inside your body, and mindfulness practice being what helps it grow. Such a powerful experience for the students involved in creating this, and a such a gift for all who read it!