Book Title: The Happiest Birthday Ever
Author: Stephanie Berger
For Ages: 4-8
Themes: kindness, generosity, love, empathy, compassion, understanding, giving, character, community, emotions
Related learning areas: Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), character education, emotional intelligence
Overview of the book
Ben is excited about his birthday and can’t wait to turn seven. With 10 days to go, he tells his mum that he’d like to have a party with balloons, a treasure hunt, and candy but more than anything he just wants to make people happy. Ben's mum has a unique birthday party idea that's guaranteed to fulfill his wishes.
Ben sends out the invitations to his party but his friends are confused when they see the letters RAOK at the top. They’re also asked to bring a stuffed animal instead of a gift! What could this be all about??
On the day of the party, Ben explains to his friends that RAOK stands for Random Acts of Kindness. His friends are surprised to learn that because he is turning seven years old, they’re all going to participate in seven good deeds.
Ben’s friends are excited by this lovely surprise and pile into the car to get started. Their first stop is the Police Station where they'll give their first RAOK. As the children hand over the stuff toys they had brought with them, they explain to the officers they’d like them to be given to children who are feeling scared or anxious to help comfort them. What a beautiful gesture!
The next RAOK fulfills Ben’s wish for a treasure hunt, but he and his friends have fun hiding treasure in the park instead of finding it. The children move on for their next acts of kindness and eventually finish them off at Ben's house where they make thank you cards for soldiers.
At the end of the day when Ben is tucked in his bed, he tells his mum it was the best birthday party ever! Ben loved being kind and wants to continue to do RAOK’s even when it isn’t his birthday.
A word from the author, Stephanie Berger
"The Happiest Birthday Ever is inspired by my 40th birthday when I did 40 random acts of kindness in one day. It was a day I'll never forget, filled with so many emotions. I had so much fun and wondered why more people don't do this on their birthday. So I started blogging about ways you can give back to the community and spread kindness on my blog, timewellspent.site.
I soon realized that kids were not my reading audience and I wanted them to be inspired to spread kindness and have fun doing it at the same time. I wanted to write a story that kids can relate with and imagine themselves within the story attending the birthday party. I want kids to realize that spreading kindness can be a great way to celebrate their special day and have fun with friends at the same time. It doesn't take long to realize that it is even more fun to give than it is to receive.
My dream is for my readers to be inspired to not only spend their birthday spreading kindness but that any day of the year is a great day to be kind. Just think of the ripple effect if we all started doing random acts of kindness on our birthdays. Kindness is contagious!"
Why I love it
The concept of this book is something I’ve often thought about so you can imagine how excited I was to finally see it written in story form. I love that in an age where kids can appear to be very self-centered, this story explores and inspires generosity and selflessness. It encourages children to give on a day that they'd normally receive but by thinking of others and their needs or feelings they are actually filling their own cup as well.
The RAOKs mentioned in the book are inexpensive things children of all ages can easily participate in. Given that we have our own kindness cards to inspire children to “pay it forward”, I love that each of the acts of kindness given during the party was accompanied by a card that explained about this birthday generosity. The cards act as a physical reminder of the kindness they've received and is a great reminder to also try this unique party concept when their birthday comes around. The author has included copies of the cards at the back of the book for children to use.
I also love that Ben and his friends are making strangers happy and giving back to the community. The story reinforces that kindness isn’t just reserved for the people we know and love, it should extend to everyone we encounter. The concept of caring for the wider community is particularly important given our widening divide and disconnection with our neighbours.
This is a great read-aloud book for the classroom with so many things teachers can discuss with their students. Teachers could also highlight that buying the book supports the Make a Wish Foundation as it is the authors’ wish to “give more children a reason to smile.”
How the book is making a difference
Books like this are important because they give children ideas of things they can do to be kinder, more thoughtful citizens. This is highlighted by a review left by one parent who purchased the book. I wanted to share it because I feel the need to reinforce the impact a book and concept can have on a child's outlook.
“I purchased this book for my kids (ages 4 and 7), as I definitely want to instill kindness into them at a young age. After reading it just a few times at home, it didn’t take long for the concept to kick in with my older child. While out to lunch one day, my 7yr old asked me about “the book we read with the RAOK word in it.” I asked him if he remembered what it stood for, which he did, and we discussed it a bit more. Then, on our way out of the restaurant, he saw a wet cloth on a table and proceeded to clean the table on his own, so it was ready for the next customer. The waitress was beyond impressed and it put a smile on everyone's faces. My son then walked out the restaurant with a huge sense of pride, as he himself had helped out that day with an act of kindness!” – Lori Powell
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