Words Are Not for Hurting
by Elizabeth Verdick
illustrated by Marieka Heinlen

Elizabeth Verdick's Words Are Not for Hurting
Illustrated by Marieka Heinlen

Children's book review by Suzanne Holland

Ages 4-8

“Use your words!”

How many times as a parent, or as a teacher, have we expressed that directive to children?

Yet every time children get in a squabble they seem to hurl insults at each other. At least in my experience, the two most hurtful things a child can say to another are: “You’re not my friend anymore” and “You can’t come to my birthday party!”

We might pass that off as being somewhat benign, but believe me, to a heartbroken five year old, it is devastating. How then, can we pass along the message that words can wound?

Words Are Not For Hurting is a great resource that addresses this very issue. I have read this book to my class many times, and often reread it throughout the year to reinforce the idea that one can hurt someone by using insulting words.

One of the things I most appreciate about this book is that it starts off with a positive tone. Instead of immediately stating what is considered bad, it makes the point humorously and gently.

“Some words are long, like thingamajig, and some are silly like Wiggly Giggly”. The kids usually laugh at this and we take a few moments to make up our own silly words. The illustrations by Marieka Heinlen are great; they’re bold and brightly colored and have that kid drawn look.

Of course, eventually the book turns to hurtful words: “You can’t play with us” and “Get out of here!” The book then shifts to naming and identifying the feelings that are evoked. There is ample opportunity to discuss how a person feels when someone is mean to them, but also how it feels to be the name caller.

What is a little different about this book is that it shows how kids can fix their mistakes, by apologizing or explaining that they didn’t mean it. The empathy points to both the victim and the doer.

The story ends with an empowering message that with 26 letters in the alphabet, you can choose lots of words that are friendly.

Words Are Not for Hurting, and a companion book, Hands Are Not for Hitting, are perfect for initiating conversations about how to be a friend.

Best of all there is a generous activity and resource section for parents so they can explore this important topic in depth.

Read more of Suzanne's reviews.

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