As children settle back into the classroom and make new friends this back-to-school season, this is the perfect time to remind them that a little bit of kindness can go a long way. In my experience, the stories we read or have read to us as children play a large part in the development of our own moral compass as we grow older. With bullying, discrimination, and division on the rise in society, reading a book that teaches kindness and empathy can be a great way to foster these principles at a young age.
10 Books that Teach Children Kindness and Empathy
The Scarecrow, by Beth Ferry and Fan Brothers | Available here
In this sweet tale for children ages 4-8, a lonely, quiet old scarecrow comes out of his shell to help a tiny baby crow in need. The friendship that blooms between them is a heartwarming testament to the power of kindness.
Out of Place, by Jennifer Blecher | Available here
In this novel for readers in grades 3-7, a 12-year-old girl becomes the target of cruel bullies at school. At the same time, she has to say goodbye to her best friend that she moves away, leaving her feeling lonely and isolated. The story explores themes of bullying, friendship, and self-reliance.
Everyone Counts, by Judy Sierra and Marc Brown | Available here
In this picture book for little ones, a group of animals join together to build a zoo. But when the insects offer to help, the big, strong rhinos reject their contribution, insisting they’re too small to matter. This story shows the harmful effect of exclusion and bullying, ultimately demonstrating to children how to make amends for their actions and to forgive those that hurt them.
Other Words for Home, by Jasmine Warga | Available here
This middle-grade novel by Arab American author Jasmine Warga tells the powerful and relevant story of a young Syrian girl who leaves her home and family behind and moves to America as a refugee. The novel is written completely in lyrical poetry and is a moving tale about home and identity, sure to instill a sense of empathy in readers’ hearts.
Ping, by Ani Castillo | Available here
In this brilliant, unique picture book for young children, the author uses the metaphor of ping pong to explore the process of emotional exchange and interaction. It teaches children how to ping (to give, act, or speak) and to pong (to receive, interpret, and respond).
Wonder, by R. J. Palacio | Available here
You may have fallen in love with Auggie from the 2017 film Wonder, starring Julia Robers, Owen Wilson, and Jacob Tremblay. If your child hasn’t yet read the book that inspired it, consider this modern classic about a young boy born with a facial difference that begins Grade 5. It inspired the Choose Kind movement and is an absolute must-read for children of all ages—and their parents.
The Kindness Book, by Todd Parr | Available here
In this bright and colourful picture book for little ones, children are shown a variety of ways to be kind to one another, from giving someone a hug to taking care of their community.
The Very, Very Far North, by Dan Bar-El | Available here
In this new illustrated novel for readers age 8-12, which has been compared in style to Winnie the Pooh, a curious little polar bear befriends all the animals that he meets in the far, far north. The story follows his adventures each day, meditating on the beauty of friendship.
The Pink Umbrella, by Amelie Callot and Genevieve Godbout | Available here
In this whimsical picture book, a kind grocer named Lucas, who supplies the flowers Adele uses to decorate her cafeé, finds ways to cheer her up and brighten her day. The soft, beautiful illustrations have a charming feel of nostalgia and the story reads as a timeless tale of love and friendship.
White Bird, by R. J. Palacio | Available here
This new graphic novel for middle-grade readers by R. J. Palacio, the author of Wonder, is set in WWII-era Nazi-occupied France. It tells the story of the friendship between a young Jewish girl and a boy from the village, demonstrating how to build bridges and choose kindness during the most difficult of times.