Teaching Children Kindness, Tolerance and Compassion

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Guest post by Jeanette Larson, librarian, writer and children’s literature expert.

Infants and young children are pretty self-centered; the world revolves around their needs and desires. As we begin to interact with others, we hopefully develop compassion, tolerance, sympathy, and kindness. Teaching kindness is so important. And you can use picture books to help.

Research has shown that children who don’t develop these characteristics may, at best, have limited opportunities for social interaction and, at worst, come to believe that they are not responsible for their own actions.

Parents can help children develop these traits by being good role models and by providing opportunities for children to experience compassion and responsibility. Children’s books can be great tools for enhancing the development of these social development skills. Here are some of my favorites.

teaching kindness

Hey, Little Ant by Phillip Hoose

This parable asks the reader to consider life from an insect’s point of view. Through a rhyming song, we consider the consequences of squishing an ant that is doing no harm to anyone. The open-ended conclusion provides an opportunity to discuss the right of all creatures to live.

teaching kindness

Ryan and Jimmy And the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together by Herb Shoveller

This is the true story of a 6-year old boy who saved, did chores, and built community support to help give an African village the life changing gift of clean water. Readers not only build compassion for children who live in less fortunate circumstances, but also discover how to set goals and make them a reality. The book provides great inspiration for participating in local charitable activities.

teaching kindness

The Mine-o-saur by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

A young dinosaur does not like to share but quickly learns that selfish behavior is isolating. When his playmates ignore him because he won’t share, the message comes through without heavy-handed preaching.

teaching kindness

When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry… by Molly Bang

When Sophie gets angry she really loses her temper, sparks fly, and she goes into a rage. While everyone gets angry sometimes, readers watch as Sophie learns how to deal with her emotions without hurting anyone else.

teaching kindness

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

Everyone says that 96-year-old Miss Nancy has lost her memory. At four years old, Wilfrid isn’t sure what memory is but he demonstrates great compassion and empathy as he helps Miss Nancy find some new memories.

What are some of your favorites books to teach kindness?

BIO: Jeanette Larson is a librarian and children’s literature expert. Her first children’s book, Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore From the Americas, will be published in February 2011.


KEEP READING: 16 Picture Books About Kindness

teaching kids kindness, tolerance and compassion

Melissa’s Note: These are some of my favorites, and a few new ideas, too. Thanks so much, Jeanette and congratulations on your upcoming book!

Picture Books About Kindness

Letter Writing Books and Examples

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  1. Hey Little Ant is a great book that I loved to use with my students! I just thought about it today when talking to my 4 year old, and reading this post is confirmation that I need to get it for her!

  2. A favorite when my boys were young was PUPPIES FOR SALE. I love that book!

  3. Hi! My name is Sharon Cramer. I have written and illustrated a book that very subtly engages, for the young audience, (ages 0-8) the concepts of tolerance and acceptance, especially regarding physical disability and appearance. The book has won the MCA gold medal for best picture book dealing with family values.

    I feel it might be a great book to list with your many wonderful books regarding acceptance and tolerance. I would love for you to review the book, and/or list the book with your recommended reads. You can actually see and hear me narrate the book at http://www.talkingbirdbooks.com/videos/ (It is the first book, Cougar Cub Tales: I’m Just Like You) or I would be thrilled to send you a copy. It also available as a free e-book download on amazon.

    Anyway, your site is awesome. What you do it wonderful!



    1. I am going to teach a group of second grade girls about getting along and treating each other with kindness.. Do you think your book would be appropriate?

  4. As a Children’s Librarian I am always on the lookout for titles focusing on kindness, tolerance + compassion. I continually get teachers requesting books for ‘character education’.
    As a grandmother raising her grandchild I am particularly sensitive to promoting an awareness of different family dynamics. Let me offer a new title for your bookshelf – a picture book featuring a GRANDFAMILY, written from the point of view of a child living with her grandparents.
    Gayle Byrne
    Abbeville Press, Oct. 2009

  5. I absolutely love your post — what a great wrap up of books that teach tolerance. Thank you so much for putting all of these fantastic resources in one place.