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 like. And those conversations are important.
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 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 absolutely adore this story about kindness. Bug school is starting and no one notices the new girl, Heidi, a stick insect, not even the teacher. Here’s where the brilliant artwork comes in because kids will have to look closely to see where Heidi is — can you notice where she is? You’ll feel so sad for Heidi who watches the other kids playing. Why won’t someone play with her? When Heidi is finally discovered (on accident by a ladybug), the teacher has a wonderful idea — all the students will knit a square for a scarf. The scarf will help everyone be able to see her. Now she always finds friends in the playground!
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 ernest desire and thoughtfulness model a 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.“
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.
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 a 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 do 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.
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
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)
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