35 Children's Books That Teach Kids About Empathy & Kindness by 30Seconds Mom

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3 months ago
35 Children's Books That Teach Kids About Empathy & Kindness

In these changing times, teaching kids about empathy and kindness at a young age has become a mission for many parents. For moms and dads who are looking for resources and a little help, here's a list of books that brilliantly shine a light and demonstrate kindness, empathy, compassion, self-love, acceptance – and so much more. What's your favorite book for kids about empathy and kindness? Tell us in the comments section! 

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Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts $6
All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. Though Jeremy’s grandma says they don’t have room for "want," just "need," when his old shoes fall apart at school, he is more determined than ever to have those shoes, even a thrift-shop pair that are much too small. But sore feet aren’t much fun, and Jeremy soon sees that the things he has – warm boots, a loving grandma and the chance to help a friend – are worth more than the things he wants.
Most People by Michael Leannah
Most People by Michael Leannah $11
The world can be a scary place. Anxious adults want children to be aware of dangers, but shouldn’t kids be aware of kindness, too? Michael Leannah wrote Most People as an antidote to the scary words and images kids hear and see every day. Jennifer Morris’s emotive, diverting characters provide the perfect complement to Leannah’s words, leading us through the crowded streets of an urban day in the company of two pairs of siblings (one of color). We see what they see: the hulking dude with tattoos and chains assisting an elderly lady onto the bus; the Goth teenager with piercings and purple Mohawk returning a lost wallet to its owner; and the myriad interactions of daily existence, most of them well intended. A courageous, constructive response to the dystopian world of the news media.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña $10
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don't own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty – and fun – in their routine and the world around them.
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig $10
Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game or birthday party – until, that is, a new kid comes to class. When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine. This gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish.
Come With Me by Holly M. McGhee
Come With Me by Holly M. McGhee $13
When the news reports are flooded with tales of hatred and fear, a girl asks her papa what she can do to make the world a better place. “Come with me,” he says. Hand in hand, they walk to the subway, tipping their hats to those they meet. The next day, the girl asks her mama what she can do, her mama says, “Come with me,” and together they set out for the grocery, because one person doesn’t represent an entire race or the people of a land. In this lyrical and timely story, author Holly M. McGhee and illustrator Pascal Lemaître champion the power of kindness, bravery and friendship in the face of uncertainty.
Bucket Filling Fairy by Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead
Bucket Filling Fairy by Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead $15
It's an ordinary day at Strawberry Hill Summer Camp until a magical creature arrives and surprises the campers, Trey most of all. Trey has been dipping his friends' buckets. Bucket Filling Fairy (BFF) tries to help Trey see that buckets are for filling, and making people happy can be so thrilling! Will Trey learn this important message, earn his friends' forgiveness and become a Super Bucket Filler? Or is it too late for him to change? Bucket Filling Fairy is the winner of a Santa Choice Award and will teach your child how they can prevent bullying.
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle $8
Beep! Beep! Beep! Meet Blue. A muddy country road is no match for this little pick up – that is, until he gets stuck while pushing a dump truck out of the muck. Luckily, Blue has made a pack of farm animal friends along his route. And they're willing to do whatever it takes to get their pal back on the road. With a text full of truck sounds and animal noises to read aloud, here is a rollicking homage to the power of friendship and the rewards of helping others.
Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks
Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks $6
Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they're both stuck in the same place: school. Joe's lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi's family just moved to America from India, and he's finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. Joe and Ravi don't think they have anything in common -- but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.
Listening With My Heart: A Story of Kindness and Self-compassion by Gabi Garcia
Listening With My Heart: A Story of Kindness and Self-compassion by Gabi Garcia $12
Kindness matters! Especially to ourselves. We talk to kids a lot about how to be friends to others. Not much about how to be friends to themselves. Yet, positive self-talk and self-acceptance help build emotional resilience, happiness and well-being. Along with Esperanza, your child can learn the importance of being a friend to themselves! Listening with my Heart also touches on the universal themes of friendship, empathy and kindness. Includes mindfulness and self-compassion activities.
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller $10
When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate wants to make her feel better, wondering: What does it mean to be kind? From asking the new girl to play to standing up for someone being bullied, this moving story explores what kindness is, and how any act, big or small, can make a difference – or at least help a friend. With a gentle text from the award-winning author of Sophie's Squash, Pat Zietlow Miller, and irresistible art from Jen Hill, Be Kind is an unforgettable story about how two simple words can change the world.
Chocolate Milk, Por Favor: Celebrating Diversity With Empathy by Maria Dismondy
Chocolate Milk, Por Favor: Celebrating Diversity With Empathy by Maria Dismondy $7
It's Gabe's first day of school in America, and he doesn't speak English. This story shows how a simple act of kindness is worth more than a thousand words. Kindness really is a universal language.
You, Me and Empathy by Jayneen Sanders and Sofia Cardoso
You, Me and Empathy by Jayneen Sanders and Sofia Cardoso $9
One of the most important social skills a child can learn is empathy. Being able to understand how another person is feeling and recognizing their needs helps people to connect to one another across race, culture and the diversity that is ever-present and so important to our world. This charming story uses verse, beautiful illustrations and a little person called Quinn to model the meaning of empathy. Throughout the story, Quinn shows an abundance of understanding, compassion and kindness towards others. Showing empathy towards others is a learnt trait, and one to nurture and cherish with the children in our care.
I Am Enough by Grace Byers
I Am Enough by Grace Byers $9
This is a gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another – from Empire actor and activist Grace Byers and talented newcomer artist Keturah A. Bobo. We are all here for a purpose. We are more than enough. We just need to believe it.
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud $6
While using a simple metaphor of a bucket and a dipper, author Carol McCloud illustrates that when we choose to be kind, we not only fill the buckets of those around us, but also fill our OWN bucket! Conversely, when we choose to say or do mean things, we are dipping into buckets. All day long, we are either filling up or dipping into each other's buckets by what we say and what we do. When you're a bucket filler, you make the world a better place to be!
One by Kathryn Otoshi
One by Kathryn Otoshi $14
Blue is a quiet color. Red’s a hothead who likes to pick on Blue. Yellow, Orange, Green and Purple don’t like what they see, but what can they do? When no one speaks up, things get out of hand – until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together and count. As budding young readers learn about numbers, counting, and primary and secondary colors, they also learn about accepting each other's differences and how it sometimes just takes one voice to make everyone count.
If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson $8
A resonant, gently humorous story about the power of even the smallest acts and the rewards of compassion and generosity. With spare text and breathtaking oil paintings, If You Plant a Seed demonstrates not only the process of planting and growing for young children but also how a seed of kindness can bear sweet fruit.
Lovely by Jess Hong
Lovely by Jess Hong $16
Big, small, curly, straight, loud, quiet, smooth, wrinkly. Lovely explores a world of differences that all add up to the same thing: we are all lovely!
We're All Wonders by R. J. Palacio
We're All Wonders by R. J. Palacio $14
Countless fans have asked R. J. Palacio to write a book for younger readers. With We’re All Wonders, she makes her picture-book debut as both author and artist, with a spare, powerful text and striking, richly imagined illustrations. Palacio shows readers what it’s like to live in Auggie’s world — a world in which he feels like any other kid, but he’s not always seen that way.
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson $12
Teach kindness, courtesy, respect and friendship: It was the perfect summer. That is, until Jeremy Ross moved into the house down the street and became neighborhood enemy number one. Luckily Dad had a surefire way to get rid of enemies: Enemy Pie. But part of the secret recipe is spending an entire day playing with the enemy! In this funny yet endearing story one little boy learns an effective recipe for turning a best enemy into a best friend. Accompanied by charming illustrations, Enemy Pie serves up a sweet lesson in the difficulties and ultimate rewards of making new friends.
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold $11
Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs and yarmulkes play side by side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other's traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year. This book lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead $12
Friends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In Amos McGee’s case, all sorts of species, too! Every day he spends a little bit of time with each of his friends at the zoo, running races with the tortoise, keeping the shy penguin company, and even reading bedtime stories to the owl. But when Amos is too sick to make it to the zoo, his animal friends decide it’s time they returned the favor.
I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde
I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde $9
A hopeful meditation on all the great (and challenging) parts of being human, I Am Human shows that it’s OK to make mistakes while also emphasizing the power of good choices by offering a kind word or smile or by saying “I’m sorry.” At its heart, this picture book is a celebration of empathy and compassion that lifts up the flawed fullness of humanity and encourages children to see themselves as part of one big imperfect family — millions strong.
I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët
I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët $14
This simple yet powerful picture book tells the story of one girl who inspires a community to stand up to bullying. Inspired by real events, this book explores the feelings of helplessness and anger that arise in the wake of seeing a classmate treated badly, and shows how a single act of kindness can lead to an entire community joining in to help. By choosing only pictures to tell their story, the creators underscore the idea that someone can be an ally without having to say a word. With themes of acceptance, kindness and strength in numbers, this timeless and profound feel-good story will resonate with readers young and old.
The Monster Who Lost His Mean by Tiffany Strelitz Haber
The Monster Who Lost His Mean by Tiffany Strelitz Haber $12
Everyone knows that the M in "monster" stands for MEAN. But what happens when a monster can't be mean any more? Is he still a monster at all? One young monster's attempts to live up to his name go hilariously awry as he discovers — with a little help from new friends — that it's not what you're called but who you are that counts.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson $10
Chloe and her friends won't play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe's teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she'd shown a little kindness toward Maya.
The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld $14
When something sad happens, Taylor doesn't know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn't feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that's not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to act, and one by one they fail to offer comfort. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen, which is just what Taylor needs. With its spare, poignant text and irresistibly sweet illustration, The Rabbit Listened is about how to comfort and heal the people in your life, by taking the time to carefully, lovingly, gently listen.
Otis and the Scarecrow by Loren Long
Otis and the Scarecrow by Loren Long $14
On the farm where Otis the tractor lives, the farmer has introduced someone new — a scarecrow to shoo away the pesky crows. But when Otis and the animals greet the scarecrow with friendly smiles, the scarecrow’s frown never leaves his face. So everyone leaves him alone. Then one day, when a cold autumn rain sets in, Otis and the animals snuggle close and play Otis’s favorite game: the quiet game. Otis knows the puppy and ducks can’t sit still for long, and soon the farm friends begin to giggle and squirm, feeling warmed by one another’s friendship, but on this day, Otis can't seem to take his eyes off the lonely figure in the cornfield. A deeply resonant book about subtle acts of compassion and standing up for others, featuring everyone's favorite tractor, Otis.
Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt
Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt $17
Presented as a thoughtful, poetic exchange between two characters – who don't realize they are thinking and asking the very same questions – this beautiful celebration of our humanity and diversity invites readers of all ages to imagine a world where there is no you or me, only we. If the first step toward healing the world is to build bridges of empathy and celebrate rather than discriminate, Why Am I Me? helps foster a much-needed sense of connection, compassion and love.
How Kind! by Mary Murphy
How Kind! by Mary Murphy $7
Hen gives Pig an unexpected present. "How kind!" says Pig. Pig is so touched, in fact, that he decides to do something kind too. So Pig gives Rabbit a gift. "How kind!" says Rabbit, who does something kind for Cow, who is kind to Cat, who wants to be kind in turn. Where will all of this kindness lead?
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts $14
Hardly anyone noticed young Sally McCabe. She was the smallest girl in the smallest grade. But Sally notices everything – from the 27 keys on the janitor’s ring to the bullying happening on the playground. One day, Sally has had enough and decides to make herself heard. And when she takes a chance and stands up to the bullies, she finds that one small girl can make a big difference.
Hey, Little Ant by Phillip M. Hoose
Hey, Little Ant by Phillip M. Hoose $10
What would you do if the ant you were about to step on looked up and started talking? Would you stop and listen? What if your friends saw you hesitate? That’s what happens in this funny, thought-provoking book. Originally a song by a father-daughter team, this conversation between two creatures, large and small, is bound to inspire important discussions. It might even answer that classic childhood question: To squish or not to squish?
Pass It On by Sophy Henn
Pass It On by Sophy Henn $8
When you see something terrific, smile a smile and pass it on! If you chance upon a chuckle, hee hee hee and pass it on. Should you spot a thing of wonder, jump for joy and pass it on! So begins Sophy Henn's ode to the excitement of sharing happiness with others. This heartwarming, upbeat book is the perfect way to bring a warm ray of sunshine into every reader's life.
Just Feel: How to Be Stronger, Happier, Healthier and More by Mallika Chopra
Just Feel: How to Be Stronger, Happier, Healthier and More by Mallika Chopra $10
An engaging and easy-to-read guide that introduces kids to the building blocks of resilience and grit. The U.S. and other nations are quickly becoming aware of the importance of children's ability to be independent and meet challenges head on; parents are eager for resources that help kids learn how to navigate life on their own. Just Feel is one of the very few books on social and emotional health that speaks directly to kids. Designed specifically with kids ages 8-12 in mind, the book clearly addresses important topics such as flexibility, responsibility, communication, creativity and self-knowledge.
Emma and the Whale by Julie Case
Emma and the Whale by Julie Case $13
In this lyrical picture book with subtle conservation themes, a girl helps rescue a whale who has washed ashore. Here is a beautifully written, moving story that will appeal to all animal lovers, and to those interested in protecting our oceans and marine life.
What's Wrong With Timmy? by Maria Shriver
What's Wrong With Timmy? by Maria Shriver $16
What is the response when a child points out that a disabled child or adult looks "different'?" Maria Shriver tells the story of Kate, who finds that making friends with a mentally retarded boy helps her learn that the two of them have a lot in common.

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Elisa All Schmitz 30Seconds
Reading books with kids is such a good way to bring life lessons to the forefront without being too "in their face." I love this list of books, especially "Bucket Filling Fairy" by our very own Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead ! One of my all-time fave books to cultivate kindness and empathy!

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