Kindness happens around us every day, and anyone, no matter how young, can help make the world a better place through their thoughtful actions.  Kindness, like any other skill, can be learned. To embed kindness as an integral part of life, we have to teach it with intention, practice, and reflection.  

In this article, we’ve collected a variety of books that explore compassion and empathy in children from many perspectives.  We love how these books capture the power of a moment of kindness to change a life and the sense of purpose and pride that can come from helping someone.  Most importantly, these books teach kids that they don’t have to perform a heroic act to make the world a better place: even small acts of kindness ripple across the world in ways that no one can expect.  They’re an excellent way to show young children that their empathy and compassion really can make a difference!

 

1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

What it’s about: A familiar classic book to many children, this book tells the heartfelt story of a boy and a tree who loved each other very much.  The boy later ends up taking parts of the tree until the tree is worn down into a stump. At the end of the book, the boy (now an old man) just needs a place to sit, so he and the stump sit together.

Why it’s important: This book shows the continual generosity and kindness of the tree, and how actions of the boy affected the tree.  It can be used to teach children that kindness is important, and that by giving yourself for others, you can find meaning and purpose in your own life.

Further, even when it appears you might be suffering (for example, when the boy cuts down its branches), you find new ways to be giving.  Through the boy’s actions, even adult readers can also reflect profoundly — just because he can cut down the tree, does it mean the boy should?

Get the book on Fahasa or Amazon

2. Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss

What it’s about: A familiar classic book to many children, this book tells the heartfelt story of a boy and a tree who loved each other very much.  The boy later ends up taking parts of the tree until the tree is worn down into a stump. At the end of the book, the boy (now an old man) just needs a place to sit, so he and the stump sit together.

Why it’s important: Not only is Horton doing the right thing, he is doing the right thing while everyone around him is bullying him to give up.  This teaches an important lesson about standing by what you believe in, no matter what you face. With older children, you can also use this book to discuss the importance of advocating for those who do not have a voice.

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3. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead

What it’s About: This story is about a zookeeper who is a great friend to all of the animals and makes sure he spends a fun day with them everyday.  One day, he is too sick to go to work, and the animals decide to come and visit him.

Why it’s Important: This sweet story shows how kind actions towards others are repaid.  The animals all take care of Amos when he needs a friend, which shows children how important continual kindness towards others is.

Get the book on Tiki or Amazon

 

4. Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

What it’s about: This story is about a new girl at school named Maya and how another girl Chloe reacts when she arrives.  Chloe is not welcoming towards Maya and excludes her from their group. Maya leaves and Chloe is left feeling regretful.

Why it’s important: This story does not have the happy ending that so many books do, but teaches a critical lesson.  Every choice we makes affects others in a positive or negative way, and we do not always have an opportunity to fix our negative actions.  The surprise ending opens the door for parents to have a conversation with their children about how others feel, and leaves a lasting impression.

Get the book on Fahasa or Amazon

5. Wonder by R.J.Palacio

What it’s about: This book follows August, a boy who looks different from other children as he attends a school for the first time among “normal” students.  His story shares the pain of bullying, the happiness of friendship, and the joy of acceptance for who you are inside.

Why it’s important: In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing narrative full of heart and hope.  R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” — indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship.  Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

Get the book on Fahasa or Amazon and watch the movie.

 

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