If you have a young person in your life and are looking to be a good influence who teaches kindness, we have the book list for you!
Children learn largely from the stories they witness, hear, and imagine. Learning kindness is no different! A Mighty Girl has compiled a list of 22 children’s books specifically geared to teach kindness to kids through storytelling. These books are magnificently crafted from the writing to the art. And the best part, they also craft wonderful stories worth reading again and again!
Some titles directly explain their purpose of teaching kindness. “Be Kind” written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Jen Hill or “I Walk With Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness” by Kerascoët are both clear in their message. Other stories may not give kindness away in their titles, but you can count on these books to go deeper than their covers.
These books span reading interest and ability levels from ages 3 to 9, and there are multiple to choose from for each age group! The focus also varies from individuals learning the social consequences of being unkind to collective repayment of good deeds. From kindness to our earth and our environment to kindness to people who aren’t our age or don’t have access to food that we do, these books can cover a wide range of topics within a child’s learning about kindness.
For youngsters, if you’re looking to teach that kindness is repaid with kindness, try “The Snail and the Whale” written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Great for 3-8-year-olds, this story of unlikely friends also shows that we can make a difference and be kind no matter our size!
You can also find the story that has no words and have your young one articulate and express their understanding of a story. “Wolf in the Snow,” as illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Imagination forms an important part of how we learn to interact with the world around us. Another picture book with no words is “Sidewalk Flowers” by JonArno Lawson and illustrator Sydney Smith, which shows how kindness can be a gesture for a dog, a homeless person, a family member, or a neighborhood street.
As adults, we know how kindness can ripple through a community, so for children, “Extra Yarn” is a heartwarming comparison of a compassionate kid and greedy archduke. Written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen, this book is a great reminder of the potential we all have to be kind.
If you have an older child who is beginning to read on their own, there are also some great options for you! In many of these, young children tackle larger than life issues with kindness! Whether it’s a friend’s cancer treatment, unfair news stories, or stopping gossip about a giant dragon that is actually a sweetheart, older kids can see that kindness is the best choice.
There are also two on the list set in the Great Depression. Even when times are tough, it just makes kindness all the more important! If we can’t count on each other when we have to come together to find solutions, then when else can we ever count on one another? Both “The Gardener” (written by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small) and “Hannah’s Way” (written by Linda Glaser and illustrated by Adam Gustavson) deal with creative problem solving despite differences and hardships.
These books give children a vocabulary to discuss their needs for kindness and their desires to share it. Oftentimes, a fable in “Cloud Tea Monkeys” (written by Mal Peet, Elspeth Graham and illustrated by Juan Wijngaard) can best put abstract concepts like kindness into a tangible narrative. It also helps to build out metaphors like “Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids” (written by Carol McCloud and illustrated by David Messing) and “Plant a Kiss” (written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds).
This list is also just the start. A Mighty Girl has an entire Kindness & Compassion Collection if you’ve already read these and are looking for something new.