by Marsha Rakestraw
Kindness seems like such a simple quality, but unless we’re taught to be kind to ourselves, other people, nonhuman animals, and the earth, it won’t become an integral part of our humanity.
Reading and discussing children’s picture books is a great tool for helping children embrace kindness for others as a daily habit.
Here are 14 suggested titles:
1. Please Don’t Tease Tootsie by Margaret Chamberlain
2008. Grades PreK-2.
In rhyming text the narrator entreats readers not to “tease Tootsie” or “madden Mutley” or “disturb Dixie” but rather to show their animal companions kindness. A good springboard for discussing kindness to animals.
2. Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler by Margery Cuyler
2007. Grades K-2.
When her class gets a little out of hand, Mrs. Ruler guides her students in learning to do small acts of kindness at home, at school, and in their communities.
3. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña
2015. Grades PreK-2.
CJ wonders why they have to ride the bus when others have their own cars. He wonders why others have things he doesn’t. He asks why they always have to go somewhere after church when his friends get to go home and play. But when they arrive at their destination (a homeless shelter at which they’ll serve food to those in need), CJ is glad they came.
4. I See Kindness Everywhere by Shelley Frost
2010. Grades PreK-2.
A little girl gives thanks for all the kindness around her, from the people who made her socks, to those who grew her berries.
5. Good People Everywhere by Lynea Gillen
2012. Grades PreK-2.
“Today, millions and millions of people will do very good things.” This lovely book offers numerous reminders of all the people around us doing good things, from the farmers who grow our food to someone helping a friend in need.
6. Nico and Lola: Kindness Shared Between a Dog and a Boy by Meggan Hill
2009. Grades Pre-K-2.
When Nico takes care of his aunt’s dog, he must find ways to be kind to her, and Lola shows kindness in return.
7. Papa Gave Me a Stick by Janice Levy
2015. Grades PreK-2.
Antonio wants a mariachi guitar more than anything. But guitars cost a lot of money, his father explains, and gives him a stick instead. Antonio is not happy about the stick, but when he sees a dog who is cold, he stirs up a fire with the stick, which leads to a series of generous acts that leads Antonio to getting his guitar.
8. If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
2015. Grades PreK-2.
When the seeds rabbit and mouse planted grow into a little bounty and other animals come to call, mouse and rabbit have the opportunity to practice selfishness, or kindness. And as they learn, the seeds of kindness “… are very, very sweet.”
9. Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson
2002. Grades PreK-2.
Mary is just an ordinary girl, but her simple act of kindness – picking a bowlful of blueberries and leaving them for a neighbor – sparks a pay-it-forward bonanza of kind acts, which leads to “… in only fifteen days – love was sent to every person everywhere!”
10. Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
1954. Grades K-4.
A city of Whos on a speck of dust are threatened with destruction until the smallest Who of all helps convince Horton’s friends that Whos really exist.
11. The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Smith
2006. Grades PreK-2.
When Minna’s teacher, Mrs. Bloom, reads the Aesop’s Fable about a mouse and lion being kind to each other, the class is inspired to create a Kindness Project. When Minna presents her project — a kindness quilt — the idea spreads to the entire school, until entire walls are taken up with examples of kindness.
12. Fly Free! by Roseanne Thong
2010. Grades K-3.
“Flyfree, flyfree, in the sky so blue. When you do a good deed, it will come back to you!”
Mai regularly feeds the caged birds at the temple. Her wish to free the birds, and her kindness to another young girl lead to a circle of good deeds that result in freedom for the birds and a realization of the power of kindness and our universal connection.
13. Hunter and His Dog by Brian Wildsmith
2008. Grades K-3.
A hunting dog can’t bear to retrieve the wounded ducks his guardian shoots, so he brings the hunter sticks and takes the ducks to an island to heal.
14. Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
2012. Grades K-3.
New girl, Maya, comes to school and tries to befriend Chloe. But Maya’s clothes are shabby, and Chloe continually rejects Maya’s attempts at friendship. When Ms. Albert teaches a lesson about kindness, Chloe realizes she has been cruel to Maya. But Maya’s family has moved away, and Chloe is left feeling shame and sorrow that she will never have a chance to show Maya kindness.
Check out other resources for teachers in our Solutionary Hub.