Picture books that show kindness are important, especially as a teaching tool. They can prompt important conversations about relationships with other people in the world. Even people we don’t know. Or don’t like.
Because these conversations are important to develop empathy and understanding about other people. As long as we listen with curiosity, open-heartedness, and kindness, that is…
Picture Books About Kindness
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jen Hill
A little girl ponders one of life’s big questions: what is kindness? She wants to show kindness to Tanisha, who spilled grape juice on her dress and seems embarrassed. This little girl brainstorms ideas about being kind to other people in her life, then finds a sweet way to show Tanisha that she is not alone and that she has a friend. The girl finds concrete ideas of kindness in action — using people’s names, sticking up for someone, listening, putting dirty dishes in the sink, and so on. Lovely illustrations gently illustrate this important concept.
I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
If a book could be like a delicious scoop of Neopolitan ice cream, this would be it– rich, filling, colorful, and sweet. Verde and Reynolds beautifully show readers what love is… Love is acting with tenderness when you see someone stuck in the rain and you bring them an umbrella. Love is being present, not saying a word when someone needs to talk. “I can hug and hold and say, “Everything will be alright.” Love is comfort.” In fact, love is many things writes Verde — gratitude, taking care of me, creative, understanding, effort, remembering, and more. Read the few sentences on each page and gain further insight into their meaning with the mini-story in the illustrations. . Verde writes, “I can do my best to make things better when something is wrong. Love is effort.” The picture on this page is a girl planting flowers and another girl helping to water them.
What Is Given From the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by April Harrison
James Otis and his Mama are struggling financially but when their church asks everyone to give a family in need, they both find something meaningful to give. After giving, they return home with their hearts full of happiness only to find a “love box” on their porch that is help for them. It is a powerful, heartfelt story about giving from the heart; showing that you can be kind and generous no matter how rich or poor you are. Also, this picture book has the most incredible, scrumptious illustrations I have ever seen in a children’s picture book that just pops off the page!
How to Two by David Soman
The minimal text shows the richness that happens when you add more kids into your playful adventures at the park. “How to two” shows two kids on a teetertotter. “How to three” shows three kids playing jump rope. “How to four” shows four kids playing four-square. And so on and so forth all the way to ten. It’s inclusivity, it’s diverse, it’s wonderful.
The Thank You Book by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Reading this book makes me happy. The lyrical text connects our gratitude to the small moments in life— glitter and glue, buzz and bloom, and hands that we hold. “Thank you is for laps / and books.” Appealing, diverse illustrations of animals and people show the spirit of thankfulness in everything including parades and pajamas. I couldn’t agree more!
I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët
When a classmate is being bullied, what can you do? This wordless picture book shows that sometimes it’s about showing someone that they are not alone. You can do what this girl does: show kindness and walk home with a lonely, hurting person.
Twig by Aura Parker
My daughter and I love this story about kindness. No one notices the new student named Heidi who is a stick insect. Kids will have to look closely at the brilliant illustrations to see where Heidi is, too. You’ll feel so sad for Heidi who watches the other kids playing. Eventually, Heidi is discovered (on accident by a ladybug) and the teacher has a wonderful idea…all the students will knit a square for Heidi’s new scarf. This new scarf will help everyone see her. Now she always finds friends on the playground!
Superbuns! by Diane Kredensor
Superbuns! is a story that shows the power of kindness towards all people, even your know-it-all sister or a predatory fox. (Gasp!) Because kindness is a superpower which helps the bunnies when a scary fox follows them home… I absolutely love the character development and illustrations.
Get Up, Stand Up by Bob Marley & Cedella Marley, illustrated by John Jay Cabuay
Using the lyrics of Bob Marley’s famous song, this picture book shows a brave girl who stands up for what’s right. As the song says, “Be a good neighbor and cherish your sisters and brothers. Practice being kind to yourself and one another.” Bold, colorful illustrations illuminate the song’s message in a compelling, kid-friendly way showing a little girl being kind to kids who have been teased or getting a ball back from someone who took it.
Peace Is an Offering by Annette LeBox, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Simple but powerful truths show children being kind to each other, listening, laughing, being together. . . “It’s a safe place to live. It’s the freedom from fear. // It’s a kiss or a hug When you’ve lost someone dear.”
Wilfrid Gordon MacDonald Partridge by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas
Wilfrid isn’t sure what a memory is but he wants to help Miss Nancy find new ones since she can’t remember her own. His earnest desire and thoughtfulness model respect for elderly people. Plus, we learn that even the youngest of us can make a difference in the lives of others.
Come With Me by Holly M. McGhee, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre
The little girl wants to make the world a better place. Her parents show her how they do by treating people with respect and kindness. So the girl asks if she can do something herself like walking the dog. She invites a friend because two is better than one. The message is that we can all be brave, gentle, strong, and kind because what we do matters. “Because as small as it may seem, your part matters to the world.”
We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio
Aggie is just like everyone else even if he doesn’t look like other people. It hurts his feelings when people point and laugh. His strategy is to put on his helmet, blast off into space, and get a bigger perspective. He sees that the Earth is full of lots of different people, all of them wonders. He is a wonder, too. We all are. The lesson Aggie teaches us is this: “Look with kindness and you will always find wonder.“
The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowsk
Recently re-released, this luminously illustrated book is a conversation between a grandfather and grandson about The Golden Rule. As the boy seeks to understand, he asks questions of his grandfather. His grandfather shares similar rules in many different religions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddism. Then, he explains that the boy gets to use his imagination to imagine how a new child would feel at school. He asks, what would make that new child feel better if they were scared? As the story and conversation continue, be prepared to stop and discuss how you can apply the Golden Rule to your own life.
If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
Lush illustrations show a rabbit and mouse growing tomatoes, carrots, and cabbage from seeds. As the friends wait for the plants to grow, the pictures show birds arriving in the background who want to eat, too. The friends must make a decision. Will the friends also plant kindness with their reaction to the birds? A perfect lesson for young readers.
May All People and Pigs Be Happy by Micki Fine Pavlicek, illustrated by John Pavlicek
Use this sweet picture book to introduce children to the ideas of lovingkindness and that we can choose to shift our mindsets, or how we look at things. When Claire’s friend got mad at her, Claire’s stuffed animal named Pigalina says, “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you feel love.” She shows Claire how Claire can say these loving wishes to herself which does help Claire to feel better. And soon, Claire beings to silently say this for other people she doesn’t even know.
Harry the Happy Mouse by NGK illustrated by Janelle Dimmett
After Harry helps a frog, he simply asks the frog to show kindness to someone else. One good deed prompts many more becoming a chain reaction. Children will read how kind deeds help the animals feel happiness and joy.
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
Jerry Pinkney’s stunning illustrations and lovely retelling of Aesop’s fable deftly illuminates this timeless story for kids with the lesson: be kind, for that act may just save your life one day.
Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson, illustrated by Fumi Kosaka
An ordinary girl picks blueberries for her neighbor. Her neighbor makes blueberry muffins that she shares with others. Each person in this story shares kindness with more people showing how much one good deed can change the lives of many people.
Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein
You make a difference in the world! Because Amelia smiles as she skips down the street, her neighbor Mrs. Higgins smiles, too and decides to send a care package of cookies to her grandson Lionel in Mexico. The cookies give Lionel an idea, and his idea inspires a student, who in turn inspires a ballet troupe in England! David Ezra Stein’s charmingly illustrated story reminds us that adding even a small dose of kindness into the world is sure to spur more and more kindness, which could eventually make its way back to you.
Dragon Night by J.R. Krause
This is a sweet story of friendship about two new friends who help each other make scary things better. Because Georgie is afraid of the night and the dragon is afraid of the knight. They find a creative solution to both their fears — Georgie writes a new book with a friendly knight. At bedtime, they take a flight, read their new favorite book, and fall fast asleep.
The Boy and the Giant by David Litchfield
The message of this beautifully illustrated oversized book is being kind to people who are different than you are. Billy’s Grandad tells stories about a Secret Giant who has to hide because people are scared. Billy thinks it’s just a silly story until he meets the Giant one morning. The Giant is finishing the up part of a big mural on the town’s wall. He’s scared and runs. But with the help of Grandad, Billy figures out a way to welcome the Giant into their town of Gableiew.
Farmer Falgu Goes to the Kumbh Mela by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Kanika Nair
In this story, even when you are sacrificing to be kind, your good deeds are repaid. Farmer Falgu is excited to go to the Kumbh Mela festival. When he reaches the river, he helps an old woman and misses the procession. Instead of watching the parade of elephants, he helps a lost little girl. He misses more after he helps a man on crutches. “Maybe next time,” he says again. But in a rewarding ending, when his train is late, Farmer Falgu gets to see everything he missed.
Who Is My Neighbor? by Amy-Jill Levine and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, illustrated by Denise Turu
This is a good Samaritan story that encourages readers to let go of judgments and to be kind to others, in particular, those who are different. Blues and Yellows don’t mix. But one day, Midnight Blue falls off his bike. No other Blues stop to help him but a Yellow does. That is the beginning of bridging the divide between the two groups.
Kindness is Cooler by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa
Mrs. Ruler motivates her kindergarten class to perform good deeds — their goal is 100 deeds in all. Can they do it? The book includes a list of ideas for your own kids to do.
Have You Filled a Bucket Today by Carol McCloud, illustrated by David Messing
We all have a metaphorical “bucket” that can either be emptied by unkindness or filled with kindness. This book challenges children to fill other people’s buckets with kindness — either in words or actions.
Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners by Laurie Keller
Kids will giggle at Mr. Rabbit worries about his new Otter neighbors — will they be nice? He’s not sure. The author skillfully shows how Mr. Rabbit uses the Golden Rule to be friendly and neighborly to the Otters. You’ll even learn how to say polite phrases like please and excuse me in French, Spanish, Pig Latin, German, and Japanese.
The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
After reading The Lion and the Mouse with her class, Minna is excited to do the assigned kindness project. She does so many small acts, photographing each one, that she’s not sure which one to pick for the project. Eventually, she puts all her photos into a collage of pictures. Sure to inspire your own similar projects.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Chloe and her group of friends are mean to a new girl named Maya who eventually stops coming to school. The teacher shares a lesson about kindness (ripples a stone makes in the water) making Chloe wish she’d been kinder to Maya.
Otis and the Scarecrow by Loren Long
The familiar characters on the farm where Otis the tractor lives get a lesson in kindness. They mistakenly think the new scarecrow doesn’t want to be friends since he always has a frown. When they’re proven wrong, we all learn a valuable lesson on making assumptions about others.
The Thank You Dish by Trace Balla
Cavekid Birthday by Cathy Breisacher, illustrated by Roland Garrigue
Best friends Caveboy and Cavegirl each decide to sacrifice something special in order to be able to buy a birthday gift for the other one. Their gifts to each other are thoughtful yet now not quite what they were planning. Then they use their imagination to play with their gifts and find a clever solution to getting back their special things. The characters speak in “caveman” which most likely will charm young readers.
Find more books that facilitate empathy:
Children’s Books About Poverty
Children’s Books About Learning Differences
Children’s Books That Develop Empathy Towards Physical Disabilities
Children’s Books about Immigration (and Migration)