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 books are close to being a bit preachy. But I think these books actually serve a purpose in setting specific, clear behavior expectations. In addition, I’ve included other books that are narrative stories which teach the lesson in manners through examples.
Both types of books have their place. You know your children best so use your best judgment as to which book, if not all, belong on your bookshelf.
As you know, the big concepts we want our kids to learn about manners are:
Saying please and thank you
Being polite and kind to others
Cooperating with others
Helpful Children’s Books About Manners
Superheros Say Please by Morris Katz
Learn about manners with superhero examples! Specific examples are used for each page as well as questions that involve the reader. For example, “When you ask for help, you should always say ‘PLEASE” just like Robin does. If you want someone to give you a cookie, what should you say?” Bright colors, a cool, graphic style layout, a comic panel on each page, and plenty of good life lessons make this an appealing read, particularly for fans of superheroes. To sum up, kids will learn about sharing, taking turns, saying sorry, please, and thank you, shaking hands, asking how someone else is as well as introducing themselves.
Superman Is Cooperative by Christopher Harbo, illustrated by Gregg Schigiel
In this generalized book about cooperation, read how to fight bad guys by working together… Superman lends a hand and works with a team when people need help. Superman cooperates by compromising, listening, telling the truth, and so on. It’s basic but gets the point across using a superhero kids already know and love.
Supergirl is Patient by Christopher Harbo, illustrated by Gregg Schigiel
This DC superhero book shows how Supergirl’s actions reflect her patience. “When Supergirl stands in line, she calmly waits her turn. // Supergirl is patient because she never cuts ahead.”
Wonder Woman Perseveres by Christopher Harbo, illustrated by Gregg Schigiel
Perseverance is a huge part of having a growth mindset. “When the Amazon warrior hits a roadblock, she figures out a way around it. // Wonder Woman perseveres by thinking up creative ways to solve problems.”
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 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. Which 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 show 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 story of generosity.
The Thank You Dish by Trace Balla
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim, illustrated by Grace Zong
My daughter says this 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
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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