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Using Books to Teach Kids About Kindness

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

Children absorb the world around them like a sponge, whether positive or negative. They quickly learn acceptable and unacceptable behavior through their parents, peers, educators, and environment. Therefore, it is essential to teach kids kindness by modeling positive skills. In this blog post, I'll start with five tips to help teach kindness to children and then I'll share some of my favorite picture books for discussing kindness

1. Positive role-modeling

According to Kindness for Kids: 7 Ways to Foster Kindness in Children, if you want to raise children who are kind and compassionate, start by modeling these skills. Parents and educators are their child's foundation, and therefore, showing acts of kindness and compassion will teach them to treat others in the same respect. It also allows the other individual to see that they are valued.

2. Good manners

Teaching children good manners isn't always easy in a hurried world, as it can be time-consuming, but it will genuinely benefit the child and those around them. Using words such as please and thank you teaches the value of proper interaction and being considerate, and just those little words can make a big difference to the individual on the receiving end.

3. Showing empathy

It's important for us to foster empathy skills in our children so that they can learn to care about other people's viewpoints, as stated by Berkley in How to Be a Kindness Role Model for Your Kids. As my children grow up we take opportunities to volunteer our time at fundraisers, recycle our clothing to give to charity, or provide items for those who were less fortunate. There are various ways to teach children empathy, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen, sitting with a child at lunch who is all by themselves, or consoling an individual. Learning empathy and seeing its effects on others will also make them feel good about themselves. If you want some ideas for ways to teach perspective-taking or theory of mind skills to kids, which is the cognitive aspect of empathy, be sure to check out this blog post!

4. Sharing with others

Most 2-year-olds are "egocentric" by nature, meaning they can't yet fathom that people may have their own thoughts or concerns outside of them, according to Verywell: Development Milestones for your 2-Year-Old Child. This is a very typical developmental stage for a young child. However, it is also an ideal time to teach children how to share, and it can be as simple as offering a piece of brownie or a lego block.

5. Practicing patience

Teaching a child patience by modeling these same skills will help them both behaviorally and emotionally. In schools, you will observe when children don't want to play with kids who can't wait their turn or become angry if every game doesn't go their way. The result is the child either feels left out or angry. Practicing patience includes having self-control, which then helps build self-esteem. If you are looking for ways to help children with good sportsmanship skills, check out these tips.

If you're looking for videos to teach kids about kindness, be sure to check out this blog post! Looking for a free game to discuss kindness with kids? Read below to learn more about this free kindness dice game! If you want a kindness classroom lesson (that mixes SEL and STEM) check out this fun lesson here! If you want a whole class kindness project, be sure to check out The Creative Kindness Project here. And if you want 9 kindness activities, check that out right here!

A combination of these skills can't be taught or learned all in one setting, but with a steady and continuous progression, it will aid the child into becoming a well-rounded person.

Favorite Picture Books About Caring, Kindness, Inclusion, and Friendship

Books are such a great way to tackle subjects with kids like empathy, kindness, being a good friend, and showing caring to others. Here is a list of some of my favorite picture books to reinforce being kind and start important conversations with your kids.

Kindness Makes Us Strong by Sophie Beer is a board book that provides great examples of what kindness could be. It gives children ideas of how they could express their kindness, and would be excellent for early discussions about kindness.

How Kind by Mary Murphy shows us with examples of how kindness spreads. It all starts when a Hen gives a pig an egg, and then the pig gives a rabbit a carrot. The kindness grows over time, highlighting to children that even one act of kindness can lead to many more. Certainly helpful for any educator looking to create meaningful discussions about kindness.

What Does it Mean to be Kind? by Rana DiOrio gives us many examples of what kindness can be. The story has no narrative, but the theme is about kindness and its nuances, such as treating others the way you would like to be treated and showing kindness even to those who have hurt you.

Tomorrow I’ll be Kind by Jessica Hische gives examples of positive actions like being helpful when someone is in need, being patient and waiting for others, not giving up, being gentle to all creatures big and small, showing tenderness, appreciating what you have, and honesty. My favorite line from this book is “the smallest spark of kindness shines through the darkest night.”

Try a Little Kindness by Henry Cole is a cute rhyming picture book that gives you many ways to be kind like being the last in line, inviting someone to play, sharing, praising someone’s work, holding the door open for someone, and more. It shows you how being kind will make you feel special inside, and is something that children will enjoy.

The Nice Book by David Ezra Stein is an adorable little book with really cute painted illustrations. The pictures in this book will make kids want to pick up their paint brushes and create their own art! There’s some simple advice in this book presented in a fun way like if you get in a disagreement, don’t hit, say how you feel, take time to get away and hear what the other person has to say. One of my favorite lines from the book is “Love was meant to be passed on.”

Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein is another one of my TOP books about kindness and how it spreads. This book shows us Amelia going through her hometown, smiling and bringing positivity to everyone she passes. Her smile influences one woman to do something kind for her grandson, and causes a chain reaction of kindness across the whole world! This story is an incredible example of infectious kindness, and the effects of just one smile. This wonderful story is a must-read for everyone, educators and children alike!

Nerdy Birdy by Aaron Reynolds is an adorable book about inclusion, friendship, and being kind. Nerdy Birdy wants to be cool like some of the other birds but his glasses, love of reading, and video games keeps him out of the cool bird club. He decides to leave the cool birds after he finds out they are mean to a new bird who is a vulture. So nerdy birdy becomes best friends with the vulture and includes him. It’s a fabulous and fun story!!

The Lion and the Mouse by Carol Jones is a story book about a castaway mouse who finds himself in the midst of the King of the Jungle, the lion. They have a fateful encounter where the Lion decides not to eat the mouse, but then the mouse owes the Lion a favor for his generosity. The mouse encounters the Lion caught in his net and he sets him free, securing this story as a great example of a good deed. This story of good deeds and kindness is a nice one for those working with upper elementary aged kids, as there are many words on each page.

The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson is an endearing tale about a snail and a whale, who travel the ocean together after meeting in a dock. Eventually the whale gets lost, and is beached on land. The snail gets people to rescue the whale, returning the favor of kindness to the whale. This book is an excellent example of how one could teach kindness through acts.

The World Needs More Purple People by Kristen Bell and Benjamin Hart is an inspiring and silly guide to becoming a purple person! Purple people ask great questions, laugh a lot, use their voices to give good ideas, share opinions, help others, speak up, listen, work hard and are always themselves! This is a cute book that everyone can enjoy.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney is a classic book. In this story, the grandfather tells Alice she has to do something to make the world a more beautiful place. After many adventures around the world, she decides to scatter lupine seeds all around her community. So then beautiful lupine flowers bloomed everywhere. The story ends as Alice becomes older and then tells her great-niece that she has to go out into the world and do something to make it more beautiful. The little girl doesn’t know what it will be yet. This book is a great conversation starter about kindness and doing something nice for the world.

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Litchfield is a fun and simple story of the friendship between a stick and stone with very cute illustrations. Stick and Stone become friends throughout this story. And when pinecone starts making fun of stone, stick speaks up for him to help him out. Once they become friends they no longer feel alone and continue to help each other out of sticky situations. This book is a wonderful lesson for children to be kind, and a reminder to stand up for one another against bullying.

It Will Be Ok by Lisa Katzenberger is a cute story of a Zebra and a Giraffe, who used to go to a watering hole together but one day the Giraffe could not go. He saw a spider, and he thought the Zebra would leave him to go to the watering hole. The Zebra stuck around to show compassion and kindness to his friend the Giraffe.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud is a CLASSIC must-read story about kindness. The book shows us that each of us has invisible buckets, that we can fill up or empty with acts of kindness. You can fill a bucket by showing love or being kind, but you can also empty someone’s bucket by being rude or making others feel lesser. This book is a very palatable way for students to learn about kindness, and is an entertaining way to think about it as well. If there was only one book you got on kindness - this would be the one! I think this book should have a spot on everyone’s bookshelf!

Bucket Filling from A to Z by Carol McCloud and Caryn Butzke is a companion book to Have You Filled a Bucket Today? that gives examples of the act of being kind to others. It goes through an alphabet of ways you could fill buckets including inviting others to play, or making somebody feel a little extra special. This book is a fun way to engage with students with the ABC’s of bucket filling!

How Full Is Your Bucket? By Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer is the story of a boy named Felix who learns about the invisible buckets everyone has. He has a rough morning where everything seems to drain his bucket, but as the day goes on he experiences kindness from his teachers and classmates. The acts of kindness fill up his bucket, and he realizes that he can fill buckets too. This story is related to the concept in Carol McCloud's book Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

Big Al by Andrew Clements Yoshi tells the story of Big Al, a friendly, scary, misunderstood fish who only wanted a friend. He tries everything in his power to try and fit in, or seem appealing to the other fish but nothing works. It is only when the other fish are captured that he is able to make friends by rescuing them.