From modeling empathy to watching mindful media, there are many ways to raise kind kids. Reading—about acceptance, bullying or being an outsider—is one more. After all, when you want to teach little people to look outside themselves, why not show and tell?
15 Books That Teach Kids Kindness
“the Giving Tree” By Shel Silverstein
This classic is basically a Rorschach test for young readers: Project onto it whatever you want to teach. It’s about a mother’s love for her child, selflessness in friendship, environmental preservation. Any way you bite the apple, it’s the literary gift that keeps on giving.
“the Grouchy Ladybug” By Eric Carle
As visually engaging as any of his classics (we’re looking at you, Very Hungry Caterpillar), this board book is about a bitchy bug who’s itching for a fight. Seeing her get put in her place offers a satisfying lesson in schadenfreude and sharing.
“the Lorax” By Dr. Seuss
The powerful tale of greed, corruption and hope, told in Seuss’s singular rhyme schemes, plays on many levels, for all ages. It inspires kids to care about the world—and empowers them to be the change they wish to see in it.
“the Sneetches” By Dr. Seuss
This lesser-known Seuss story is no less entertaining than his best-known books. And its moral—that how we look on the outside doesn’t matter much at all—has never been more meaningful.
“watch Your Tongue, Cecily Beasley” By Lane Fredrickson
This surreal story about a sassy little girl who sprouts a bird’s nest on her sharp tongue may make kids reconsider rudeness.
“last Stop On Market Street” By Matt De La Pena
The Newbery Medal winner follows CJ and his grandma as they spend an afternoon on a city bus, then feed the needy at a shelter. Time seems to slow down as Nana’s wisdom—about envy, altruism and appreciating what we have—sinks in.
“corduroy” By Don Freeman
This 50-year-old book about a bear searching for his lost button elicits nostalgic tears for a reason: As Corduroy finally finds a home with someone who loves him for exactly who he is, we can’t help but hope our kids find the same.
“rainbow Fish” By Marcus Pfister
Selfishness, thy name is Rainbow Fish. This glittering beauty only finds happiness and community once it learns to share.
“pinduli” By Janell Cannon
This beautifully illustrated, haunting book by the author of Stellaluna follows a tiny hyena as she encounters the cruelest bullies on the savanna. When she turns the tables on her tormentors, a lesson is revealed about how kindness—and its opposite—are contagious.
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“a Visitor For Bear” By Bonny Becker
A solitary bear thinks he doesn’t want any friends—until a persistent mouse wins him over. If your kid is an introvert, the lesson of this book—that it takes only one true friend to obliterate loneliness—will hit home.
“rude Cakes” By Rowboat Watkins
Imaginative, unexpected and just sweet enough, this story stars a pugnacious pastry who gets his comeuppance, then changes his ways.
“a Sick Day For Amos Mcgee” By Philip C. Stead
What appears to be a pleasant-enough tale about a steadfast zookeper turns out to be a moving example of what it means to care for those who care for us.
“the Nice Book” By David Ezra Stein
Simple illustrations introduce evergreen concepts of kindness like “Look out for someone little; we are all little.”
"wonder” By Rj Palacio
This best-selling novel about a boy with facial deformities inspired so much empathy, fans are fueling an online movement called “Choose Kind.” In November, it debuts as a movie starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay.
“blubber” By Judy Blume
Originally published in 1974, this tale of brutal tween bullying still resonates—and will be a surefire conversation-starter for middle schoolers and their parents.