The Best Children’s Books to Foster Kindness

With my own two children now being 5 and almost 8 years old, there is no doubt about the very real impact that reading has on their lives – not only for developing their minds and learning, but also for exploring new themes, problems, situations, characteristics and so much more. It is because of children’s books that we have had some tremendously beneficial conversations about different places, people, abilities, ideas.

I’ve shared previously about our family’s favorite books about differences in general and about disabilities, and today, I’ve rounded up our favorites that focus on a theme we could probably all use a little more: kindness!

With such a variety of books out there that highlight empathy, understanding and kindness, I try to avoid the ones in which the characters complain or constantly throw tantrums or call each other unkind names…Unless there is a very important lesson at the end, and we can talk through some of those issues. But there are so many wonderful children’s books that highlight compassion, empowering others, positivity and being kind – and reading these is a great way to reinforce these behaviors in young kids!

Here are some of our family’s favorite books with themes of kindness…children's books kindness and being kindA Girl with a Cape by Amy Logan. I met Amy when we both spoke at the Hearts at Home conference in 2015, and she is such a wonderful person to be around! We all love her book and its great message – and Brenna also love the leopard-print scarf it comes with 🙂

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy. A reader recommended this book to me, so I grabbed it from the library, and my kids loved it. The little girl in the book showcases what forgiveness looks like – as well as doing the right thing – and what it means to treat others well. This book could open up lots of conversations about how we treat others – definitely a great one for all ages!

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud. In this book, the author writes about how, with all of our words and actions, we have the opportunity to fill or take away from someone’s “bucket.” When we use kind words, or do something nice, or even simply smile at someone, we fill their buckets up. And so the book challenges kids to always try to fill someone’s bucket.

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts. The little boy Jeremy finds the shoes he wants but they’re too small. So he makes the tough decision to give his pair to a friend who needs them. A sweet story about selflessness and giving.

children's books kindness and being kind

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig. Brian is a student that no one pays attention to – he feels invisible. Until a new student comes to school, and they connect. And as this new little boy includes Brian, it changes Brian’s world. The illustrations do a wonderful job showcasing his feelings, with Brian starting out black and white, and color emerging like the rest of his classmates as this little boy interacts with him, until he is fully colored at the end.

Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace by James Proimos. A silly story with a good lesson, about the impact that we can make when we treat people well and give of ourselves.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. Maya is new to school, but Chloe and her friends won’t play with her. One day, Maya is suddenly gone and Chloe realizes that her chance to be kind – like a pebble in water spreading ripples – is now gone. A good opener to conversation about how we can try to right a wrong and try again to be nice to someone.

Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson. I absolutely LOVED this one, with its core message about how much impact ONE action can make and spread across the globe!

children's books kindness and being kindBloom With Mi by Amy Kavelaris. This book by my friend Amy is purely delightful. A sweet girl named Mi figures out how to spread kindness and love through giving.

What Does It Mean To Be Kind? by Rana DiOrio. This book outlines different ways to show kindness, from holding the door open for someone to forgiving someone who has hurt you. And the culminating message is that we can all make the world a more loving place to live when we are kind to each other.

Good People Everywhere by Lynea Gillen. This one contains endearing examples to inspire children to grow into grateful, caring, and giving people, and also includes activity pages to help kids practice skills for creating gratitude, compassion, and beauty in daily life.

How Kind! by Mary Murphy. The storyline of this book includes farm animals who each do one nice thing for each other and each recognize those kind acts provided by someone else, encouraging them to keep the chain of kindness going. It’s simple and positive.

children's books kindness and being kind

Anything else you would add to the list?

When A Little Boy Completely Surprised Me With His Reaction to My Daughter’s Appearance

It was a lively family party, in preparation for a wedding weekend, and the house was full of family members from all over the country – some of whom I hadn’t even met yet or at least hadn’t seen in years.

We exchanged hugs over and over as new people arrived to help celebrate. The kids ran around gleefully outside while the adults loaded up their plates and caught up.

I kept seeing a little boy pass by, probably around 10 or 11 years old. He was a big kid, not much shorter than I am, definitely athletic. And while the other kids paid no attention to me and Brenna, this boy would hesitate at my daughter, wrinkle his nose slightly and furrow his brow a bit, as if he was trying to figure out Brenna’s appearance and wasn’t sure what to make of her skin.

Finally, by the fourth time he passed by, he slowed down until he was standing right in front of her. And I admit – I braced myself for what I thought was coming: a question perhaps, or maybe even a not-so-nice comment about her appearance. I felt a little swelling of annoyance start build up in me, threatening to spill over into upset.

But then he knelt down so that he was eye level with Brenna. And this tough-looking preteen all but cooed at her: “Well, aren’t you just the PRETTIEST little girl? I LOVE your pretty dress! Are you having fun?”

Oh. My. Heart.

My expectation of needing to come to Brenna’s defense melted away in an instant. I was absolutely, completely wrong about this child’s intent – and joyfully so.

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Defensiveness can turn our insides ugly – fast. Defensiveness prepares us for a battle before an actual battle cry. It finds us ready to fight, ready to defend, ready to hurt in return for the hurt we are anticipating or experiencing.

Maybe most importantly, defensiveness turns off our ability to listen well. We don’t care what someone else is saying, what they’re feeling or where they’re coming from – because we’re already upset, ready to fight back at the perceived offense. Fight or flight has kicked in, and it doesn’t matter if the threat is real or in our minds.

Pushing back against my tendency to rush to the line of defense turns my focus outward, instead of inward. It has helped me to try listening beyond what others are saying in order to better understand what they are feeling. When I remind myself that I am not necessarily under attack when someone is expressing a differing view or asking for more information, I can usually see that person is hurt or proud or many other feelings that actually have very little to do with me.

I won’t pretend it doesn’t hurt when a rude comment is made or another child uses an unkind adjective to describe our sweet girl. But we have been surprised by the good of people too, again and again. And just as we don’t want anyone to make assumptions about Brenna’s story, our story, we try not to assume negatively about the reactions of others before giving them a chance.

On most days, I would love to experience an outing without pointing or questions because in all honesty, it does begin to feel intrusive. While I want others to be educated about Brenna’s skin, what I desire even more is for people to squelch their own curiosity and offer a hello or tell me how cute my kids are. I can only dream of a world where we could all learn to extend a little more kindness instead of judgment – a world in which we stood more assured and didn’t have need to question others, or ourselves.

Defensiveness can lead to a growing anger and resentment deep within ourselves. But through offering grace, kindness can be mustered up. And I’ve found that when kindness is extended instead of anger, it builds self-confidence and contentment…and even connection.cIMG_1495

A while ago, there was an older gentleman behind us at McDonald’s, and he started speaking to me before I was paying attention. I caught something about “keeping a hat on” Brenna, and my face started to get hotter, thinking it was the beginning of a lecture about keeping a hat on my kid when out in the sun so that she doesn’t get sunburned (not the first time this has happened.)

“What was that?” I asked him, pushing back against my rising defensiveness.

He repeated his comment: “I was just saying that I don’t know how you get her to keep a hat on. My grandkids just pull them right off!”

He smiled at us. “She’s sure a cutie.”