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Sarasota Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020 8 months ago

Reading initiative aims to 'fill buckets' online

Embracing our Differences teams up with school districts in Manatee and Sarasota.
by: Harry Sayer Staff Writer

Carol McCloud believes in being kind — it’s her defining philosophy. 

She also thinks children could benefit from it, as well. The Venice resident, preschool teacher and children’s author points to a study of orphans in Romania who were emotionally malnourished from lack of love and care.

“These neurologists use the idea that (the orphans') little pockets were never filled, meaning their mental and emotional health was never developed,” McCloud said. “It teaches them that what they say and do affects other people, which is actually a pretty huge thing for kids to learn in life.”

McCloud felt the message would be good for a children’s book and published “Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids” in 2006. The book encouraged children to imagine everyone having an invisible bucket, and that it was important to fill those buckets with kindness and compassion. It’s a simple metaphor that McCloud felt children could easily understand.

Families and teachers have agreed it’s something worth learning. By last count, McCloud’s “Bucket Fillers” book series has sold over 3 million copies and can be found in classrooms around the world. 

McCloud will join the Embracing Our Differences nonprofit to host a “Bucket Fillers” virtual reading initiative in Sarasota and Manatee county classrooms on Nov. 17. 190 volunteers will read “Bucket Fillers” books to more than 6,000 students in 370 pre-K through third grade classes. 

Embracing Our Differences has two such reading days each year, one in the fall and the spring. McCloud was approached by Embracing Our Differences several years ago and eventually had her books become part of their reading days.

The typically in-person event will pivot to being streamed live to the various classrooms and students. 

Staff started planning for the virtual event in May and used a virtual workshop in July as a test run. This year’s event also has partnered with the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County to have the book reading streamed to its learning centers. 

Embracing Our Differences has built up a pool of volunteers to help with events over the years, with many of them originally meant to be read at schools for the first time.

“There's no reason that programming that we're doing for Sarasota County students, we shouldn't be offering tto Manatee County students because both districts are great collaborators in this work,” said Ben Jewell-Plocher, Education Director with Embracing Our Differences.

The delivery of the reading is changing even more. While Sarasota classrooms will have live Zoom calls to hear the “Bucket Fillers” books, classrooms in Manatee County will have pre-recorded specials with VIP readers such as Embracing Our Differences board member Charlies Williams and McCloud reading to the students. 

 “In addition to problem solving how to deliver (the reading), we also added another 3,000 kids,” Jewell-Plocher said. “We've actually produced eight different videos that are kind of like PBS read along specials … it’s been rewarding to create these encapsulated things.”

Jewell-Plocher said Embracing Our Differences is looking at the success of the online and pre-recorded approaches for its upcoming reading day in the spring. 

The initiative is a matter how pride for McCloud, who is thrilled to see the Bucket Filler message reach so many children. It’s a simple message, but one she thinks can change people for the better.

“Not everybody is always nice, not everything goes according to plan,” McCloud said. And yet, we still can realize that we have a lot of control …  And we can do some things to make it better.”


Harry Sayer is the Black Tie Reporter for the Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and previously worked the Black Tie beat for the Observer newspaper in Winter Park and Maitland. You can catch him at one of Sarasota's fundraisers and shindigs. 

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