One of the first lessons we’re taught as young children is about the importance of sharing. Yet examine our actions as adults—the ways we treat each other, nonhuman animals, and the earth—and it may seem like we’ve forgotten how vital sharing is. An important part of raising compassionate, conscientious citizens is introducing humane values such as generosity, empathy, and sharing to young children and reinforcing those values throughout our whole lives. Children’s books are a great place to start.
Here are 12 titles for sparking discussion about sharing with others and sharing the earth.
1. “Common Ground: The Water, Earth, and Air We Share” by Molly Bang
1997. Grades 2-6.
Using a parable about a village commons, Bang discusses the challenge of sharing our global commons, highlighting how using up all of our resources in the short run affects the health and well-being of our planet in the long run. She ends by encouraging readers to think about the consequences of “using as many natural resources as we can,” emphasizing that, unlike those in the parabled village, “… we don’t have anyplace else to go.”
2. “Shoebox Sam” by Mary Brigid Barrett
2011. Grades 1-4.
Delia and Jessie spend Saturdays with Shoebox Sam, helping him in his small shoe repair shop, where Sam teaches them about making old shoes new again and about sharing with those in need.
3. “On Meadowview Street” by Henry Cole
2007. Grades PreK-3.
Caroline and her family move to a suburb full of lawns and cookie-cutter houses on Meadowview Street. When she discovers a single flower in their lawn, Caroline decides to create a little “wildflower preserve” and cordons off a small area. Eventually she makes additions (a tree, a birdhouse, a pond) that attract more wildlife and turn their yard into a beautiful oasis of nature. A lovely and useful book for discussions about sharing our world with other beings.
4. “The Kingdom of Mine” by Gary Edwards
2012. Grades 1-5.
When a young king inherits his father’s flourishing kingdom, he vows to continue his father’s legacy. But the young king becomes caught up in keeping the beauty of the kingdom—the apples, the deer, the birds, the clouds—to himself: “I must protect the things that are mine!” So he has a wall built around the kingdom, higher and higher, until the sun is blocked, the apples wither, the birds and deer languish. When he realizes what he’s done, the young king seeks to restore the land to its original state and learns the important lesson that the beings and elements of the natural world don’t belong to “any one of us.”
5. “Oh, Brother” by Nikki Grimes
2008. Grades K-3.
When Xavier’s mother remarries and he gains a stepbrother, Chris, Xavier is not excited about sharing his bedroom, his mom, or anything else. Especially when Chris acts like “Mr. Perfect.” But when Xavier gets to know Chris, he realizes how happy he is to share his home, his bedroom, and even his mom with his new family. Xavier and Chris’s story is told in 20 short, connected poems.
6. “The Doorbell Rang” by Pat Hutchins
1986. Grades PreK-2.
Victoria and Sam are excited about eating all the cookies their mom just made: six each! But then the doorbell rings and some friends come over, so they need to share. And the doorbell rings again. And again. Soon there aren’t enough cookies for everyone; will the children decide to eat their cookies, or answer the door and share? A useful springboard for discussing sharing and generosity.
7. “The Man in the Clouds” by Koos Meinderts and Annette Fienieg
2012. Grades 1-4.
Every day, the “man in the clouds,” who lives at the top of a mountain, sits and looks at a painting: “… a landscape so beautiful, so marvelously empty … this is what it must have looked like when the world began.” The man happily shares the painting on the wall with anyone who wants to come and look, and doesn’t ask for anything in return. But, on the day a stranger comes and tells the man that the painting is worth a fortune, the man begins to look at the painting in a different way. He bars people from seeing it. He hides it. He puts locks on his door and windows. It no longer brings him joy; its true value has been ruined. And the man makes a fateful decision.
8. “The Bear Who Shared” by Catherine Rayner
2011. Grades PreK-2.
Wise Norris the bear has been waiting patiently under the plorringe tree for the last fruit to fall. But Tulip and Violet love plorringes too. All three want the plorringe. What happens when it finally falls on Norris’s head? A simple, lovely story for introducing the power and pleasure of sharing.
9. “This is Our House” by Michael Rosen
1996. Grades PreK-2.
Taking control of a cardboard box house, George exclaims, “This house is all for me!” He refuses to share, telling those who try to enter, that the house is not for girls, twins, small people, people with glasses, etc. When George has to run to the bathroom, he returns to find that everyone he excluded has taken over the house. After being excluded himself, George learns that, “This house is for everyone!” A useful springboard for discussions about sharing and prejudice.
10. “Children of the Earth Remember” by Schim Schimmel
1997. Grades K-3.
Trillions of animals and billions of humans live on our “brilliant blue world.” There was a time when humans and animals shared the earth, but “the people forgot.” “They forgot to share Mother Earth’s land and water and sky … They forgot that the animals were their sisters and brothers.” So the animals strive to remind us that we share this one planet, and that when “people remember, they love.” A useful springboard for discussing caring for and sharing of the earth with all of its inhabitants.
11. “If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World’s People” by David Smith
2002. Grades 2-6.
Condensing the world’s population into 100 people, this book explores consciousness-raising facts about religion, nationalities, privilege, water, and more. A useful springboard for discussing issues such as equity, globalization, diversity, and sharing our world in a way that does the most good and least harm for all.
12. “Four Feet, Two Sandals” by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed
2007. Grades 1-5.
When relief workers bring donated clothing to the refugee camp in Peshawar, Lina discovers a sandal just her size. But another girl, Feroza, has claimed the other. Eventually the girls work out a way to share the sandals, each wearing the sandals on alternate days, and their friendship grows. When Lina’s family is finally sent to America, Feroza gives her one of the sandals to keep—to always remember their friendship.
h/t to Kevin McGee for suggesting some of these titles.