9 Books That Teach Kindness to Kids

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Empathy and kindness are akin to muscles, that when used, grow in strength and purpose. Children’s books are beams of light that can help children grow their inner source of kindness and empathy, creating a more positive world for everyone.

A capacity for kindness and empathy appears early in life; children today are often our best role models for how to be compassionate to others. And studies show that having empathy is an important tool for connecting to the world. In her book Unselfie: Why empathetic kids succeed in our all-about-me world, educational psychologist Dr. Michele Borba examines just how important this idea is. “Empathetic people have the ability to connect with others on a deeper level and can lead to individuals being helpful, involved and invested in other people.” The perspective taking involved in empathy and kindness can be displayed through the use of social stories, including the children’s books included in this list. Each turn of the pages nurtures a child’s gift of care for others. Here are nine books teaching kindness to kids that should be on every parent’s wish list.

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

A desire to fit in can be a strong motivator for kids, and in this story, shoes are at the center of this desire. However, Jeremy changes direction, moved by gratitude and a pull to be generous. This story addresses topics of care and kindness, as well as peer pressure and poverty.

You, Me and Empathy by Jayneen Sanders

Empathy and related concepts, such as compassion and emotions are addressed within this book, with attention to prosocial behavior, diversity and bullying awareness. Discussion questions and activities are included, giving adults a place to start an important conversation. You, Me and Empathy calls attention to the dynamic nature of empathy – with practice it can grow and flourish!

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Brian’s quietness is overlooked in a classroom of loud others, and this quietness leads to feeling invisible and left out by his peers. But the arrival of a new student that truly sees Brian means a chance to be included. By the end of the story, you will long to be friends with this Invisible Boy.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

Newberry Honor winning book, Each Kindness, follows a young girl who learns what it feels like to miss an opportunity of sharing kindness with a girl in need of compassion. A story about the rippling effect of kindness, you will be inspired to show any act of kindness, no matter how small.

Be Kind Pat Zietlow Miller

Be Kind explores what it means to really be kind. This story offers children examples of kindness they can find and act out in their everyday lives. Concrete acts of kindness are included to expand a child’s awareness and kind repertoire.

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoet

This wordless picture book tells the story of new girl, Vanessa, and the distress she feels following an encounter with a bully. Based on actual events, one act of kindness leads to an entire community uniting to address bullying. Tips for both children and adults are included to help everyone avoid the bystander effect, instead standing up for one another.

How Kind! by Mary Murphy

A simple sharing of an egg by Hen to Pig begins a kindness contagion all through the barnyard. This story is ideal for early childhood, highlighting how kindness is found in everyday and unassuming actions.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead

Reciprocity of kindness guides this story as Amos McGee, who everyday spends time with his friends at the zoo, finds himself under the weather and missing his daily visit. The animals return Amos’ kindness by traveling to his home and caring for him, just as he does for them.

Unselfie Dr. Michele Borba

This book is intended for parents – understanding empathy, the effects of a lack of empathy and how to promote empathy. Dr. Michele Borba describes a nine-step plan to address the trend of reduced empathy, a plan that is research-based and accessible for any parent.

Looking for other ways to help the kiddos and teens in your life develop empathy and kindness? Check out the Kind Campaign!