When we teach manners to young children, I think we have to be both explicit as well as demonstrative, meaning we also must give examples that show what we mean about manners. These children’s picture books are both.
Some picture books about manners are preachy. Kids don’t like books like that. Neither do I.
That’s why this list contains picture books that are narrative stories that teach the lesson in manners through examples and often, humor.
As you know, the big concepts we want our kids to learn about manners are:
- Saying please and thank you
- Having patience
- Being polite and kind to others
- Cooperating with others
Helpful Children’s Books About Manners
How to Apologize by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Use this gentle, instructive guidebook to teach children about apologizing. It talks about how hard it can be but that it’s important because it makes both you and the other person feel better. It gives readers examples of what not to do (don’t make excuses) and what to do (be sincere). The examples show animals acting out apologies and because most of them aren’t good apologies, end up being quite funny. (One not-sincere example is, “Mom told me I had to apologize for putting your doll in the fishbowl or I can’t go outside and play baseball. So I’m sorry.“) Excellent.
Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins
Rude Cakes have no manners. One particular rude cake is mistaken for a hat by a giant cyclops who thinks he is a hat. Rude Cake will have to learn to say please or he’ll be a cyclops hat forever. My daughter thought this was hilarious and I liked the valuable life lesson!
The Magic Word by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Elise Parsley
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
You are going to read this picture book multiple times — it’s so funny while being profound. After a rough first day at school where she eats her classmates, gets scolded by the teacher, spits them out, and doesn’t make any friends, Penelope’s dad explains that “children are the same as us on the inside. Just tastier.” HA. The next day, Penelope eats her classmates again. She just can’t stop herself! However, when the class goldfish chomps on Penelope’s finger and it HURTS, she realizes that it’s no fun to be someone else’s snack. It hurts. She’s learning EMPATHY!! 🙂 So even when her classmates look delicious, Penelope learns to resist eating them. This means now she has friends and playmates at school. And better manners, too.
My Little Gifts: A Book of Sharing by Jo Witek, illustrated by Christine Roussey
Lift-the-flap to reveal presents that come in a box or a suitcase, gifts that are shared with a sister or handmade, and gifts of imagination. The swirly crayon drawings are so much fun! Clearly, the little girl narrator clearly loves her friends, sister, and family. It’s a very sweet picture book about manners and generosity that you can use to teach these values.
The Thank You Dish by Trace Balla
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim, illustrated by Grace Zong
My daughter says this picture book is SO MUCH better than the original Goldilocks and the Three Bears because in this story of a young Chinese girl named Goldy, Goldy returns to the scene of her crime to apologize and help fix the mess she made. This is a better ending, don’t you think? As you will see, good manners include apologizing for mess-ups.
One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail
Sophia really wants a pet giraffe for her birthday. She sets out to convince her family. She starts with her mother, a judge, and presents her case. Mother says that Sophia’s argument is too verbose. Sophia tries fewer words with Father. But he says her presentation is too effusive. As Sophia continues with each family member, ultimately she reaches her last-ditch attempt and finally says one word that works: PLEASE.
Thankyouplease by Pierre Winters and Barbara Ortelli
Teach your kids about manners with this picture book! Six-year-old Nina wears her hair in braids, is often grumpy, and talks back to her mommy. One day, when Nina is outside calming down, she hears a voice calling to her from a hole in a tree. She peers in and discovers the Circus of Good Manners led by a Ringmaster named Thankyouplease. She watches as the performers turn somersaults and says, “Good morning!“, “Good afternoon!“, and “Goodnight!” When Nina joins the performers, she must use the same polite words, too. Ultimately, Nina watches more performers, eats cotton candy, and learns valuable lessons in manners that she’ll use with her mommy and her dog, Hugo when she returns home.
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