20 Best Children’s Books About Kindness

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July 2020

Books are some of the most amazing and effective ways to talk to children about how to treat others. We have compiled a list of the 20 best children’s books about kindness that you can read with your child to help promote positive interactions with their peers and support their social-emotional development.

The books on this list dive into what it means to be a friend, what it means to be kind, what to do when you don’t get along with a friend, what impact kindness can have on others, and so much more. They are great ways to begin conversations about how to treat friends, peers, family members, strangers, and everyone in between. These titles will all help your child to understand the importance and the positive impact of being kind to everyone you meet.

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Children’s Books about Kindness to Animals

Make Way for Ducklings
Robert McCloskey
Book Type: Picture

The cars kept speeding by and honking, and Mrs. Mallard and the ducklings kept right on quack-quack-quacking. They made such a noise that Michael came running, waving his arms and blowing his whistle. He planted himself in the center of the road, raised one hand to stop traffic, and then beckoned with the other, the way policemen do, for Mrs. Mallard to crossover.

After searching for a cozy home for she and her eight ducklings to live, Mrs. Mallard decides that the pond in the Boston Public Gardens is the perfect place for her family. The problem, though, is getting there through the busy streets of Boston. With a little help from the Boston police, the ducklings and their mother make it safe and sound to their new home.

This classic picture book, with its beautiful illustrations, sweet sentiments, and amusing storyline is a must-have for any bookshelf. It teaches children to be gentle to animals by showing the challenge these little ducklings face along their journey. It also promotes kindness in general with the message that you should always go out of your way to help others who need it.

Before You Were Mine
Maribeth Boelts
Book Type: Picture

Before you were mine, someone must have let you go… Maybe it was because they forgot that puppies chew stuff and pee on the carpet and bark at birds.

In this book, a little boy imagines what his dog’s life must have been like before he was adopted. Maybe he had another boy who adored him, but he was brought to the shelter because the family had to move away. Or maybe he belonged to someone who didn’t appreciate all the silly messes puppies can get themselves into. The boy wonders about dozens of possibilities, but realizes they don’t matter. Because now his dog is right where he belongs. 

This book illuminates the fact that not all animals are treated with kindness and respect. But it shows the power of love and how much impact a warm and loving home can have. Its central message tells children that animals should always be taken care of, and when they are happy and healthy, they make the best companions you could ever imagine. 

How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Cats?
Jane Yolen

Book Type: Picture

How does a dinosaur play with her cat? Does she throw pillows at it and act like a brat? Is the litter box left while she watches a show?… No, a dinosaur cuddles her cat in her lap. She pets it until it falls into a nap.

How does a dinosaur take care of their cat, you ask? Join a pretty silly band of dinosaurs as they teach children how to properly care for cats. From playing with cat toys to cleaning the litter box to giving a cat lots of attention, this book shows all the ways to keep cats feeling happy, healthy, and loved.

This book is a fantastic one for anyone looking to adopt a cat because it goes through appropriate and inappropriate behavior when interacting with cats. It shows that your pets deserve all the love, respect, and kindness that you have to give. And with a fun rhyme scheme and silly scenarios, this book will bring a lot of laughs to your storytime.

How to Heal a Broken Wing
Bob Graham
Book Type: Picture

High above the city, no one heard the soft thud of feathers against glass. No one saw the bird fall. No one looked down…except Will.

In a city full of people trapped in the hustle and bustle, no one notices a hurt bird lying on the ground. That is, until Will comes along and finds the feathered friend. He takes it home, and, with the help of his mother, helps nurse the bird back to health.

This book demonstrates the power of an act of kindness. When no one else stopped to help the hurt bird, Will stepped up and made a difference. The powerful message of this book will encourage children to develop empathy for creatures, big and small.

Can I Be Your Dog?
Troy Cummings
Book Type: Picture

Woof!! Can I be your dog? I am potty trained, and have my own squeaky bone. Also: I love to play! I see you have a cat, but I am willing to work with you. Whooooooo’s a good dog? I am!! Sincerely, Arfy.

Arfy is a homeless mutt living in a box in an alley who is just looking for a home. He writes to every person on Butternut Street about how he’s an ideal pet–he’s house broken, he has his own squeaky bone, and he even gets along with cats. Sadly, no one responds. Until someone special steps up and offers Arfy a forever home.

This heartwarming and hilarious book shows the importance of giving animals a happy and healthy home. Arfy’s story will touch children and adults alike as he struggles to find a family who will take him in. There is also a lot of humor in this book, so the story stays light and happy, while still conveying these important themes.

Books about Kindness for Read-Alouds

The Last Stop on Market Street
Matt del la Pena
Book Type: Picture

Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.

Every Sunday morning, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town to volunteer at a soup kitchen. Along the way, CJ wonders why they don’t have a car like his friend Colby. He questions why he doesn’t have an iPod like a boy on the bus. His grandmother, however, always comes back with an encouraging answer to help him see the beauty in the world around him. 

CJ’s grandma’s gentle words and optimistic view of the world are positively inspirational. This book promotes not only kindness and empathy, but also an appreciation for life and those around us. It will help children to look for beauty and search for ways to positively impact others in their community. On top of that, the unique writing style and detailed illustrations make this book a fantastic read-aloud and a modern classic. 

The Rainbow Fish
Marcus Pfister
Book Type: Picture

The Rainbow Fish shared his scales left and right. The more he gave away, the more delighted he became. When the water around him filled with glimmering scales, he at last felt at home among the other fish.

The Rainbow fish has the most beautiful scales–blue, green, purple, silver, holographic. One day, after another fish asks if he can have one of his silver scales, the Rainbow Fish responds quite rudely and scares away his other friends with his sour attitude. The once stingy fish discovers through a magical journey that he must learn to be kind and generous to others and share his scales with other fish. 

The main message of this classic picture book is that sharing even our most prized possessions with others will result in happiness, both for others and for ourselves. This book teaches children to share and look for ways to give to those in their community who might not be as fortunate as they are. In addition to these wonderful messages, we love this book because the illustrations are positively captivating for young children. With holographic segments and bright colors,they are sure to draw your child in during any read-aloud. 

Enemy Pie
Derek Munson
Book Type: Picture

It was strange, but I was kind of having fun with my enemy. He almost seemed nice. But of course I couldn’t tell Dad that, since he had worked so hard to make this Enemy Pie.

It was shaping up to be the perfect summer. That is, until Jeremy Ross moved into the neighborhood and became enemy number one. Good thing Dad has a foolproof way to get rid of enemies. The only thing is, part of the secret recipe is spending an entire day playing with the enemy. 

This hilarious book is such a fun and unique way to teach your child about how important it is to be kind to everyone. Although the main character judges a book by its cover, he soon learns how wrong he is and becomes close friends with a boy who was once his enemy. This fantastic and whimsical book will allow you to have impactful conversations about what it means to be kind, while also having an amazing, entertaining reading time.

Pass it On
Sophy Henn
Book Type: Picture

When you see something terrific, smile a smile and pass it on! If you chance upon a chuckle, hee hee hee and pass it on. Should you spot a thing of wonder, jump for joy and pass it on!

Pass it On displays the type of joy and excitement that comes with passing on happiness to others. Read along in this book and discover how wonderful it can be to share the good things in life. After all, if you spread happiness to others, a smile or chuckle might be passed right back onto you when you most need it. 

This whimsical and joyful picture book is sure to brighten you and your child’s day. It promotes the power of kindness and happiness and the profound impact that sharing these positive emotions can have on those around you. With exciting text that begs to be read aloud, you and your child will have such a blast sharing this fantastically happy story with one another. 

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
Patty Lovell
Book Type: Picture

Molly Lou Melon stood just taller than her dog and was the shortest girl in the first grade. She didn’t mind. Her grandmother had told her, ‘Walk as proudly as you can and the world will look up to you.’ So she did.

Molly Lou Melon is short and clumsy, has buck teeth, and has a voice that can only be described as a bullfrog being squeezed by a boa constrictor. But, she doesn’t mind because her grandmother always told her to walk proud, smile big, and sing loud. When she starts a new school, however, a horrible bully tries to bring her down, but no one can keep Molly Lou Melon from standing tall. 

This inspirational picture book shows the power of believing in yourself and helping others along the way. Even though Molly Lou Melon faces bullies left and right, she shows her strength and responds with kindness, managing to change the hearts of a few of her classmates. We love this book because it teaches children not only to stand tall, but also to be kind to others no matter what. 

Children’s Books about Helping Others

A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Phillip C. Stead
Book Type: Picture

Ah-choo!’ Amos awoke with a sneeze. The rhinoceros was ready with a handkerchief. ‘I’m beginning to feel much better, thank you,’ said Amos to his friends.

Friends come in all shapes and sizes. Every day, Amos McGee visits each of his friends at the zoo, keeping the shy penguin company and reading bedtime stories to the owl. One day, however, Amos is too sick to make it to the zoo and visit his friends. So, his friends decide it’s about time they visit him. 

This book is such a sweet example of how impactful small acts of kindness can be. When Amos is sick in bed, he is so delighted to see all his friends gather and visit him. This teaches children to always go out of their way for their friends and give help whenever and wherever it is needed.

My Friend is Sad
Mo Willems
Book Type: Picture

Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can. Gerald worries so Piggie does not have to.

Gerald is feeling kind of sad. Piggie, his best friend, is determined to cheer him up. He decides to dress up as a cowboy, a clown, and even a robot, but nothing will put a smile on Gerald’s face. Discover just what it takes to make a sad elephant happy. 

Although all of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books focus on friendship and kindness, this one in particular stands out among the rest. It teaches children the power of cheering people up and turning their day around. Through its silly humor and exciting storyline, this book promotes positive messages of kindness and helping others. 

Be Kind
Pat Zietlow Miller
Book Type: Picture

Everyone laughed. I almost did, too. But Mom always tells me to be kind, so I tried.

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her dress, she is mortified. Other classmates laugh at her, but one remembers that her mother said to always be kind. This girl desperately wants to help Tanisha and make her feel better, and, along the way, she discovers what it means to be kind.

We love this book because it really explores what it means to be kind and help others. The main character has to try a few different things to try to cheer Tanisha up before she succeeds, allowing the reader to consider what kindness really is. This book is so sweet and wholesome, and it offers real-life situations that children can relate to and put themselves in.

Little Blue Truck
Alice Schertle
Book Type: Board

Everybody heard that ‘Beep! Beep! Beep’ The cow came running with the pig and the sheep. Up at a gallop ran the big brown horse. Goat jumped over the fence of course. The hen came flapping with the chick and the duck, and everybody pushed the Little Blue Truck.

This little blue pickup truck has mastered driving on muddy country roads. One day, however, he manages to get himself stuck while helping a dump truck out of the mud. Luckly, the little blue pickup truck has made plenty of farm animal friends who are willing to do whatever it takes to help their friend get back on the road.

This book shows that it always pays off to be kind, because you never know when you are going to need help yourself! The little blue truck is a friend to everyone, and all his friends are more than willing to come running when he needs a helping hand. In addition to these messages about helping others, this book is great for young readers because it features a lot of animal and truck sounds that you can read aloud together.

Big Al
Andrew Clements
Book Type: Picture

Big Al forgot about being lonely, and he forgot all about being sad. His eyes bulged out bigger and rounder than ever, and with a mighty flip of his tail, he opened his mouth and charged straight at the net!

Big Al is the nicest fish you will ever meet in the whole deep blue sea. But because he is large and a little bit scary-looking, little fish are afraid to get to know him. All Big Al wants is a friend, so he tries everything he can think of, from fashioning a disguise to burrowing under the sand to make himself look smaller. It isn’t until one day, when Big Al saves all the little fish from a giant, scary fishing net that the other fish realize just how amazing of a friend Big Al can be. 

We love this book because it teaches children to be courageous and help others in need like Big Al. We also think that the storyline is incredibly engaging, thrilling, and exciting for young readers. The illustrations, too, are mesmerizing and make you feel like you are in the deep blue sea right alongside all the characters. 

Children’s Books that Teach Kindness and Empathy

The Giving Tree
Shel Silversteen
Book Type: Picture

Once there was a tree, and she loved a little boy. And she loved a boy very, very much–even more than she loved herself.

A timeless classic, this book tells the story of a friendship deep and selfless. The Giving Tree loves a little boy so much that she would give up everything for him. The little boy, in return, comes to visit her every day so that they can play together. The boy over time, however, takes everything that the Giving Tree offers him until his friend has nothing left. In the end, they both learn to appreciate each other and what the other has offered to their friendship.

This book, at its core, warns against taking advantage of other people’s kindness. It encourages readers to develop empathy, like the little boy has at the end of the book when he realizes that he selfishly took his kind friend for granted. The book also, however, applauds the Giving Tree for always providing help and kindness to the boy whenever he needs it, promoting a message of selflessness.

Leonardo the Terrible Monster
Mo Willems
Book Type: Picture

Then Leonardo made a very big decision. Instead of being a terrible monster, he would become a wonderful friend.

Leonardo is a pretty terrible monster, but only because he can’t seem to frighten anyone. He gets to work and, after a lot of training and research, manages to share the tuna salad out of a little boy. He finds, however, that scaring people isn’t quite as satisfying as he thought, and he decides that he would be a much, much better friend than monster.

This sweet and hilarious book shows that being a friend is often the most satisfying thing. Even though Leonardo had the choice to be a monster and scare people, he found that practicing kindness was a much more enjoyable path. We absolutely love this book for its humor and its powerful messages that are sure to inspire children of all ages.

All Are Welcome
Alexandra Penfold
Book Type: Picture

No matter how you start your day. What you wear when you play. Or if you come from far away. All are welcome here.

Join a group of children in their school where all are welcome. Students in patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. Students learn and grow from each other’s traditions, like the Lunar New Year. This book lets young people know that no matter what, they have a place, and they are welcome in their school. 

This powerful book promotes diversity and, as mentioned, assures children that school is a safe space where they can feel welcomed. It also encourages children to accept others who have a different background or who look different from them. This bright, positive, and uplifting picture book might also open up a dialogue about why some people might not feel welcomed and what your child can do to make each and every one of their friends feel like they belong. 

We’re All Wonders
R.J. Palacio
Book Type: Picture

I know I’m not an ordinary kid. Sure, I do ordinary things. I ride a bike. I eat ice cream. I play ball. I just don’t look ordinary. I don’t look like other kids.

Based on R.J. Palacio’s novel “Wonder,” this picture book tells the story of a young boy named Auggie Pullman. Even though he feels like any other kid, he is not always seen that way because of his disabilities. Join him and his dog as this book shows what it is like to live in Augie’s world.

We love this book because its message of empathy and kindness is so powerful. It highlights a handful of different challenges that people with certain disabilities might face, while also demonstrating that just wanting to fit in and to be seen for who you are is a universal desire. It encourages children to be accepting of others and to treat others with respect.

The Day You Begin
Jacqueline Woodson
Book Type: Picture

There are times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.

Everyone feels like an outsider sometimes. Maybe it’s the way that you look or talk, or maybe it’s where you are from, or maybe it’s what you eat. It’s not always easy to enter a place where nobody knows it yet, but it is one of the most courageous things you can do. Because, more often than not, there is someone there to make you feel welcomed after all.

We love this book because it not only reassures children that feeling a little uncomfortable and different in a new place is perfectly normal, but it also reminds them to reach out to others and make them feel welcomed. This book also offers a great opportunity to talk about diversity, the fact that people come from different backgrounds, and the challenges that people might face in certain spaces and situations. In general, the bright colors and wholesome storyline found in this book remind children to always practice empathy and be kind to everyone.

Elephant Books

Elephant Books is a subscription-based book service for kids. In selecting the books to include in our packages, we look for quality illustrations and storylines, of course, but we also seek out books that hold strong messages and help children’s development. We often select books that promote kindness, empathy, love, acceptance, and friendship, and listed below is just one example of one of these amazing titles that we love. Check out our website to learn more about how you can discover new books about kindness to share with your child.

Strictly No Elephants
Lisa Matchev
Book Type: Picture

The trouble with having a tiny elephant for a pet is that you never quite fit in.

The Pet Club invites cats and dogs and fish but has a strict “no elephants allowed” policy. The club doesn’t seem to understand that friends and pets alike come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. A boy and his tiny pet elephant arrive at the meeting to show the club what it means to be a true friend.

We absolutely love this book because it promotes themes of friendship, kindness, and acceptance. The boy and his elephant simply could have found another pet club to join, but, instead, they stayed and were adamant about showing the club that elephants–and all other pets for that matter–really should be allowed. Through an adorable storyline and beautiful illustrations, this book encourages children to stand up for their friends, to demand the acceptance of others, and to never give up in their pursuit of what is right.

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