A Kids Book About: The Podcast

Kali Talks About Hope

Episode Summary

Kali Thorne Ladd, author of A Kids Book About Hope, talks about an irreplaceable, never-ending thing which exists in and around all of us.

Episode Notes

Kali Thorne Ladd, author of A Kids Book About Hope, talks about an irreplaceable, never-ending thing which exists in and around all of us.

A Kids Book About Hope (view book)

Full Book Description:

What does it mean to have hope? Hope is trusting that good things are possible, no matter the circumstances. It’s also something we all have inside and can give to those around us. Hope is a powerful choice we can make to bring about change, healing, and light to the world we all share.

About the Author:

Kali Thorne Ladd (she/her) is a social entrepreneur, passionate about the neuroscience of love and belonging as a driving force for education transformation and human flourishing. Kali was the founding Executive Director of KairosPDX, a school and nonprofit organization anchored in the rehumanization of children in education. She is currently CEO of the Children’s Institute.

Episode Transcription

A Kids Book About: The Podcast

Kali Talks About Hope



Matthew: What is hope?

Jordan: Hope is a symbol of joy and peace. Hope to me is a flower blooming on a spring morning. Hope looks like an ice cream melting in the hot sun. It makes me feel happy.

Kai: Hope is patiently believing in something. 

Kali: I think hope is a tool that we have access to at all times that builds resilience and optimism and our ability to keep moving forward even when things are difficult. So, you know, I think hope is a light in the wilderness and a path sort of in the darkness that gets us to better places.

And right now I think it is something that the world is in need of more than ever, uh, and that our children are in need of. I think our children personify hope in ways, so they are both they are both hope themselves for us adults, but I also think that they are in desperate need of hope as they think about their own futures and their lives.

Matthew: Welcome to A Kids Book About: The Podcast!  I’m Matthew. I’m a teacher, a librarian, and I’m your host. 

The voices you heard just a moment ago were from Jordan, Kai, and Kali. 

Each week we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. 

Kali: Okay. Well, my name is Kali Thorn Ladd. And I am a mother and a woman who is passionate about children. I am a Black woman. I live in Oregon. I grew up in New England. And I wrote A Kids Book About Hope. 



Matthew: Hello, listeners! 

I’d like to read you a poem. It’s called ‘“Hope” is the thing with feathers’ and it was written by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -

That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -

And sore must be the storm -

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -

And on the strangest Sea -

Yet - never - in Extremity,

It asked a crumb - of me.

Hope is a real thing and an important thing. It’s also, perhaps, best described through feelings and metaphors.

Kai: Hope looks like waiting for a friend at the train station, knowing that he's going to be there. 

Matthew: Did you notice that in the voices that started our episode? Listen as Kali describes what hope looks and feels like to her.

Kali: Well, I'll start by saying it looks and feels and sounds like different things for different people. So I can share what it looks and feels and sounds like for me, recognizing that that differs from person to person. But to me, it looks like beauty, whether it be a sunrise, a rainbow, green growing between a crack in the sidewalk.

It looks like a smile from a stranger or an act of kindness that we don't expect. And I think it is a seed of promise for a new and better tomorrow that often starts with our children. It feels like possibility to me. It feels like strength, it feels like love, it feels like power, and it feels like faith.

And it sounds like “I can do this.” “Better is possible.” “Tomorrow is a new day.” I actually go to bed every day thinking tomorrow's a new day! And I have hope that a new day can bring new things, and there's a lot that goes when you have a hard day. Sometimes just knowing that you get a restart on the next day is hope.

And it's, this is a hard thing that isn't forever. In terms of hope is not sort of a constant thing. It doesn't look the same every day, but it's accessible every day. So, um, I think it sounds like feeling as though I'm going to be intentional. I'm going to be focused in seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and believing that better is possible.

It sounds like, “Tomorrow will be better.” 

Matthew: Hope is important. 

Hope tells us “tomorrow will be better.” But hope is more than just a reassuring feeling. Kali reminds us of the importance of seeking hope, of looking for it.

Kali: So I'm gonna get a little nerdy on this in a way that I couldn't in the book because I really love neuroscience and I I've done a lot of reading and research in this area because my profession is working with children and has been my entire career.

There's a guy named Marty Seligman who did an analysis of well being in people and how predictive it was of death in people who were ill. And he found that with cancer patients, his quote is, “Pessimism is a risk factor for developing cancer.” He also found that optimism is a protective factor for all diseases, from cancer to cardiovascular disease.

So, hope, actually, I think, is the seed of optimism. And optimism enhances our well being. So it helps us not just mentally, but physically. It literally, physically changes our, um, DNA to function better and it keeps us alive. So I am surprised more people aren’t talking about hope because it's not only something that in a sort of ethereal way sounds and feels good. Science tells us that hope is critical to our survival. It's critical to our thriving. 

And so I think hope is super important for every human being, child or adult, if we want to live a life of flourishing. 

Kai: What do you think hope is? 

Grownup: Well, that's a good question. What do I think hope is? I think hope is having faith in something, even though you don't see it or feel it.

Kai: I like that. 

Grownup: I'm glad you like it.

Matthew: Just as Kali reminds us of the importance of having hope, she also warns of the dangers of losing hope.

Kali: When we don't have hope, it can be crushing. And when we are experiencing thoughts and emotions are intermingled in our brain. So when we feel hopeless, it impacts the way our brains function and our brains can literally shut down and stop functioning. And the parts of our brain that are most important, what they call the prefrontal cortex, where decisions are made and impulse control occurs, that part of the brain shuts down. So it means we make worse decisions. It means that we can't really think straight and we can't differentiate between what is good for us and what is bad for us in the same way.

So, hopelessness has this net impact on our brain development and our brains functioning properly, where it becomes hard for us, uh, to overcome it. And this is, you know, depression can set in and all these other things. Whereas I think hope, when it is illuminated, not only helps our, as I was saying, our bodies to function well. It actually optimizes our brain power so we can think better, we can make better decisions. We have, it has a halo effect where it helps other people feel better. So there is such a beautiful thing that we experience when we have hope, and it is a dark thing that we experience when we're hopeless. 

Matthew: Let’s take a quick break. When we return, Kali will talk about the need for a hope revolution. And why, as she writes in A Kids Book About Hope, “Neither your story, your circumstances, nor your identity dictate the hope you have or the hope you can gain. Hope lives because you do.”

Kali: I believe in the idea of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is a South African phrase that means “I am because you are.” I am who I am because we are interconnected. So my being impacts your being and that this idea that our humanity is interconnected and I believe in that. 

I think we can never underestimate the power we can have on another person, whether a person we are friends with, whether a person we are related to, or a person that's a complete stranger, that being kind, that seeing them. That knowing that they matter and letting them know they matter can inspire hope in others and that hope can be game changing for them. 

It only takes sometimes one kind word or one noticing of another person to change their life. And I think we all carry that ability. And I think it's really important right now that we remember that we are interconnected. That my success is wrapped up in yours. And the more we can remember that as a community, a collective community of human beings, the better we will be as a society. 

Matthew: We’ll be back in just a moment.



Matthew: Welcome back.

Today on the podcast we’re talking about hope with A Kids Book About author Kali Thorn Ladd.

Hope is radically important. What I mean by that is that the idea of hope is transformative. It is heart-changing. It is world-changing. And it is easily witnessed by observing those who act or speak with hope. Hope holds within it the power for us all to change everything and to be a light of change in and through others as well as in and through ourselves.

Kali: We need a hope revolution in our world. Something that radically changes our perspective to believe that despite hard things, better is possible. And that we can collectively chart a path towards this.

I also think that we have to remember. And I did say this, but I want to emphasize it that hope can literally save our lives. It has an impact on us, not just mentally, but physically. Um, so hope is not just a nice-to-have, it's a need-to-have in order for us to be thriving human beings. 

There's a quote by Clint Smith, who was a poet and an educator. I don't know if you've heard of him. And he posted, “I wrote about being a black parent in this moment and how my children are both respite from all the tragedy transpiring in the world and a reminder of how high the stakes are to build a better one.” 

And I think he illuminates that children are both hope themselves, but also that we have to build a world that is better for them because the stakes are high and hope is one of the bricks in that building.

Matthew: Kids, would you consider yourself hopeful? How does it feel to hear Kali share that quote that you are hope itself?

Maybe you find it easy and natural to tap into a feeling of hope. Or maybe circumstances have made that difficult for you. It is not always easy to find hope in hard situations. It’s not always the first thing our brain focuses on. It takes a certain amount of strength to find hope in times of challenge. 

Kai: Having hope makes me feel good. You know, being able to know somebody could come back or could be there. 



Kali: I think, you know, I think of it as a superpower. I'm fortunate that I think I am a hopeful person naturally, but I know that you don't have to be that way in order to harness hope. And I think I'm aware of the fact that my ability to be here today is very much connected to the hope that other people had  before me. 

My grandparents, I talk about in the book, they had a lot of hope. If you look at their lives and look at what my parents lives became all the way to my life. If they had not hope, I would not be where I was and am today. And so I think hope is a generational thing. There can be a legacy of hope that we inherit. And I think that is a fortunate thing. 

I also, when I look back on my life, you know, I grew up as a really shy kid. I was the only black kid in my community and it was lonely and isolating. And I think children for many different reasons experience that isolation and loneliness growing up. And I held on to hope, uh, despite that. And sometimes the world will tell you things about the way you look, about the way you sound, about how you learn, that tells you you're not equal or you're less than. And, and that can be crushing. 

And so hope is really important. So you know that those things don't define your success. Those things don't determine your success. That regardless of what the world may say, there is hope in who you are and that you can be anything you want to be. And nobody can take that away from you. And I think that was really important for me in my upbringing. 

Matthew: Our time’s almost up. I’m about to send you back out into the world. So let’s  think about how we’ll use what we learned today in order to step out into that world in a more intentional and, perhaps, meaningful way.

Kali, are there any actions we, the listeners, can take to be hope, and to help instill and grow hope in the spaces we share with others and with others themselves, including our friends, our family, and our community?

Kali: First I would just say this is a book for everyone, not just for children, but for adults as well. I think the seeds of hope are planted in every human being, and I think we need to be aware that our actions and words matter to children. They are always listening and watching us as adults, and we are the greatest purveyors of hope for them. So, when we lose that awareness, it easily can have a net impact on children. And honestly, I think we don't always realize how profound that impact can be. 

So I would say, and you probably would say the same as an educator, parents are first teachers, whether they're good or bad, they have a huge impact on the lives of a child. And so knowing that you have an impact and that you hold hope within you and you can convey hope to your children or to other people's children is key. 

If all of the adults. were aware of their impact on children and their ability to convey hope to children, I think their experiences as children would be very different, and we underestimate that power as adults. And so I know sometimes it's because we're trying to find hope ourselves, so I don't make light of that, but man, like, you don't have to know math or maybe you're not great at science. You can convey hope. You don't have to be the most brilliant person in the world to do that. And you don't have to be a parent to do that. Any human, any adult can do that. 

And so that's what I hope that, hope no pun intended, people can take away, that they are lights in the world that can make a difference in the life of any child they encounter. And I hope that collectively it will make this world better for children because there's a lot that they have to contend with and we are seeing hopelessness at a rate that we've not seen before in our history. So, uh, now's the time to sort of dig our heels into hope and spread it like wildfire.



Matthew: Thank you to Kali Thorn Ladd, author of A Kids Book About Hope, for joining us today. And special thanks to Jordan and to Kai for lending their voice to this episode.

Jordan: My name is Jordan. I'm nine years old and I live in Maryland. My favorite things are lions.

Kai: Hi, my name's Kai, I'm 11, and my favorite thing to do is football. Football, football, football. 

Matthew: A Kids Book About: The Podcast is written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner. Our executive producer is Jelani Memory. 

And this show was brought to you by A Kids Co. 

Follow the show wherever podcasts are found and check out other podcasts made for kids just like you by visiting akidsco.com.