Victoria would see the girls at the popular table and wonder longingly what it would be like to sit with them. One day, the kids at the popular table mocked the clothes she was wearing. Feeling hurt, she went back to her regular table and spontaneously invited this boy who was sitting alone to join her group. He turned out to be great.
From that moment on, they started inviting every kid who was sitting alone. Their table turned into the happiest table in the cafeteria. Finally, a couple of the girls from the popular table slunk over. Victoria realized that her table was the true popular table because they were friendly and kind.
Alexis has a little brother on the autism spectrum. She was at band practice one day, and her teacher said, “Guys, you’re playing like the kids on the short bus!” It was so insulting (the short bus was for the special needs kids).
Alexis raised her hand and said, “You can’t make fun of the kids on the special needs bus. They’re just like the rest of us.” The teacher was really embarrassed and apologized. Alexis was really embarrassed, but then she realized that she had stood up for the right thing and she felt really proud of herself.
A girl lives in a noisy, messy house with her parents and many siblings. Her friend lives in a big, opulent, empty house with a nanny and a housekeeper and parents who are never home. After several visits, her friend says, “When I have my own house, I want it to be just like yours.” The girl with the messy house learns to value her own family because that is where the real joy is.
What do these three stories have in common? For starters, they’re inspiring, just what Amy Newmark, editor and publisher of Chicken Soup for the Soul series, is aiming for. The Chicken Soup for the Soul books have connected hundreds of millions of people around the world, and Newmark is hoping that the stories in her latest project—Think Positive for Teens and Think Positive for Preteens—will “infuse wisdom and advice and culture” to teens today.
The success of the other “Think Positive” books – for adults and one for younger children – spurred Newmark to create these books for teens and preteens. “I really wanted to get all of these positive thinking values into this book. I can’t think of a better time than during the pandemic when kids are at home and have some down time to read and really need the emotional support that’s in these pages.”
Think Positive Values:
- Being true to yourself
- Picking true friends
- Doing the right thing even when it’s hard
- Making the effort even when it’s hard
- Trying new things
- Treasuring your family
- Counting your blessings
Stories that Validate and Empower
Now available for purchase, these books have a different format. “They’re shorter, less daunting,” Newmark explains. “Inside there are graphics kind of like the insides of magazines. I’m realistic; we’re competing for the eyeballs of these kids with social media. I want these books to impart all of the values and advice that parents and grandparents want them to have but in a very easy-to-read manner so that kids will actually pick up the books and read them.”
So far, the feedback has been positive. “Parents tell us that this is like their secret weapon.” When parents try to share their wisdom, it often doesn’t work. Using Chicken Soup stories is like outsourcing the lessons.
Asked whether parents read the stories with their preteens and teens, Newmark explains that it depends on the relationship. “In some cases, parents just give the books to kids and hope that they’ll read it, especially with teenage boys.” With a laugh, Newmark continues, “Teenage boys will sometimes just grunt at you. Girls are more likely to have the discussion.”
According to Newmark, there are also some families who read the stories around the dinner table and discuss them. “That’s so fabulous. Who wouldn’t benefit from stories about finding true friends and not just going with the popular people? These are stories we all need to hear,” shares Newmark.
Newmark has some great advice for parents who don’t know how to get their kids to read the book. “Well, if it’s a boy, leave it in the bathroom! If it’s a girl, leave it on the night table and see what happens. You just kind of put it there and hope they pick it up. The nice thing is that the stories are short so they can read one and then go back to Instagram.”
The stories work because they are validating, reflects Newmark. “We’ve all been through these things. Everyone’s had experience with the popular table. Even the girls who were at the table will tell you that they were unhappy and insecure. There is something so empowering about doing the right thing and standing up for what you believe and making true friends.”