kveller q&a

This Children’s Book Shows How You Can Teach Your Kids That Difference Is Beautiful

the courage to be kind

Books change lives. While books may seem like they’re going out of style in the age of the internet, we can never replace the lessons and vivid worlds books create, especially for children. I can still remember some of the first books I read that made an impact on me (“The Velveteen Rabbit,” anyone?), which is why I love the fact that this new children’s book, “The Courage to Be Kind,” exists.

The book, written by Jenny Levin and Rena Rosen, is an illustrated primer for teaching kids about difference–and how difference is beautiful. The book offers various situations and scenes to show how parents and kids can work to be more inclusive and compassionate to those who have disabilities and special needs, for instance.

courage to be kind

I was lucky to be able to speak with Levin and Rosen about writing the book, and what some of their favorite things are. Here’s what they said (Jenny’s answers are first, followed by Rena’s).

Kveller: Did you always want to write children’s books? How did you start?

Jenny Levin: This is actually my first foray into any type of creative writing. It wasn’t ever something that I craved doing.  However, I felt like there was a huge need for a type of book like, “The Courage to be Kind” and nothing existed that satisfied what I was looking for. That’s how I came up with the idea for the book. I wanted something to teach my students and children and writing my own book seemed like the only way to do it.

If you could be anyone or anything, just for one day, what would you be?

If I could be anyone for a day I would be an Olympic gold medalist. As someone who races for my own personal records I can only imagine the devotion olympians give to the sport. To devote so much time and energy and then win it all and know you are doing it for your country must be an incredible feeling unparalleled to anything else.

What was your favorite children’s book or young adult novel growing up?

My favorite childhood story was “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” I always thought the town of Chew and Swallow was so outrageous!  It took me a few years to even catch onto all the humor in the book but it is one story I can remember reading over and over again.

What TV show have you binge watched?

I’ve spent many treadmill hours binge watching TV shows, though my favorite was watched from the comfort of my couch. In the months before my first daughter was born, my husband and I binge watched Lost, sometimes four episodes a night, knowing this was our last chance to keep our own sleep schedule for a very long time!

Who are you, in one sentence?

I am a passionate mommy, teacher, wife, friend, marathon finisher who wants to do it all and tries to live with gratitude.

Biggest pet peeve:

My biggest pet peeve is listening to automated voice recordings. They take so long and usually I get distracted in the middle and don’t know what button to push and then have to start all over again.

If you were a Jewish holiday, which one would you be?

I love Purim. I think it has some wonderful mitzvot about giving to others unselfishly. I love seeing my kids get so excited about dressing up and delivering food to friends. The holiday has many fun aspects to it along with a woman saving the day.

What’s the best thing about yourself? What’s the worst?

The best thing about myself is that I’m very goal-oriented and will work tirelessly until I can achieve the goals I set forth. The worst thing about myself is I have a hard time remembering my ideas when I want to say them so I have a bad habit of accidentally interrupting people. It is something I’m working on. Luckily, after 15 years, my husband is finally used to it!

Childhood goal:

I always wanted to be a second grade teacher, and luckily I have been achieving that goal for over ten years now. I also knew I was really clumsy, so another goal was to walk without tripping over my own two feet. I’m still working on that one!

rena and jenny


Kveller:  Did you always want to write children’s books? How did you start?

Rena Rosen: Surprisingly, I had not always wanted to write a children’s book. I did however want to help children and advocate for others. My passion has stemmed from having been born with a craniofacial difference, a cleft lip and palate. I felt the need to use my experiences to help others like me and to build support and empathy for all people.

Two years ago, I began speaking at schools with the intention to facilitate conversations between children and their care givers about physical differences. I have gone to about a dozen schools and have promoted kindness, compassion and acceptance of all people regardless of differences. I have always wanted to build awareness and promote positive interactions with all people that have differences for the simple fact that we are all human and all deserve to be valued and appreciated.

If you could be anyone or anything, just for one day, what would you be?

I suppose if I could be anyone for just one day, I would be Ellen DeGeneres, I think she is such an incredibly kind, funny and strong woman. She has made her mark in this world in such a positive way, to share in similar passion and motivation to do good is enough for me!

What was your favorite children’s book or young adult novel growing up?

My favorite children’s book growing up was “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams. I had always loved this one stuffed animal growing up and I was sure as anything that with all the love in the world that I gave to him, he would become real. Isn’t childhood the greatest??

What TV show have you binge watched?

What TV show have I binge watched? Just about everything on Netflix. I’m a bit of a Netflix junkie.

Who are you, in one sentence?

I am a person with big dream and a lot of passion for helping to make the world a better place.

Biggest pet peeve:

My biggest pet peeve is when I see people riding bikes without helmets. It drives me crazy!

If you were a Jewish holiday, which one would you be?

If I were a Jewish holiday I would be Hanukkah, It is so bright and festive, people are always so happy around Hanukkah.

What’s the best thing about yourself? What’s the worst?

The best thing about myself is that I can laugh at my mishaps, the worst is that I stress about the unknown.

Childhood goal:

My childhood goal was to be a teacher, which I have accomplished.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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