As we enter the holiday season, our minds are on family and helping others and spreading kindness and joy. Today, I am sharing a popular post that features our family’s favorite books to inspire kindness and flex those empathy muscles!
If I had to choose one word to sum up this week it would be kindness.
For starters, a long-awaited and much-anticipated book arrived on our doorstep this week. Have you heard Tim McGraw’s hit song Humble and Kind? The song is written by my favorite songwriter, Lori McKenna, and the lyrics are so wonderful that they have made them into a book. The song is simple and beautiful and important. It has become our family anthem and whenever it comes on the radio, we stop what we are doing and sing along.
Yes, it’s that good.
If you haven’t heard this song, please watch the video. I promise you won’t regret a second! Go ahead, I’ll be right here.
So, anyway… the Humble and Kind book arrived this week and I’ve read it about eighty gazillion times already. My children have the words committed to memory and that makes me smile. We have been talking a lot about what it means to be kind and humble and sharing examples, both in real life and in books (more on that last bit in a minute).
And then something fantastic happened. Last week, I shared a story of kindness over on The Mighty. It is a story about a crappy day during a challenging season of motherhood and how one person’s choice to be kind changed my day and my behavior. The story has been well-received and it has been amazing to read all of the comments on the article itself and on this Scary Mommy thread. The latter thread brought me to tears multiple times as I read stories of kindness from one parent to another. If you need a pick-me-up, head over to Scary Mommy and read the comments. They will restore your faith in humanity. They will demonstrate the power of a kind word or action. The thread is the epitome of humble and kind.
Here’s the thing: All day long, we make choices. What we don’t realize is that we have countless opportunities to choose kindness. These acts need not be extravagant. They can be as simple as a smile or kind word given to a stranger. These simple acts have the power to change someone’s life.
So, how do we inspire kindness and grow empathy in our children? One easy way is through books. There is a great deal of kindness related books on the market. Today, I’m sharing our family’s favorites. When you are finished reading, I’d love for you to share your family’s favorites!
10+ Children’s Books to Inspire Kindness
Our Favorite Books to Inspire Kindness
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
A Chair for My Mother, winner of the 1983 Caldecott Honor, is a heart-warming story about a family trying to rebuild following a fire. Together, a grandmother, mother, and daughter work hard to save money to buy a comfortable chair for their home. It is such a simple story but one that emphasizes the importance of family, love, cooperation, and hard work.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead
A Sick Day for Amos McGee is a Caldecott-winning book about kindness. Amos McGee works at the zoo and takes care of the animals day in and day out. One day, Amos wakes up and is too ill to go to work. Later in the day, Amos receives a fantastic surprise when all of his animal friends surprise him with a visit. The tables are turned when Amos is cared for by his friends.
The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime by Dharmachari Nagaraja
I love this series! This book is filled with short bedtime stories that not only teach your children a bit about Buddhism but also explore important topics. Who doesn’t want to fall asleep with thoughts of being still and kind to others? I keep saying that I’m going to read this book over breakfast because I think it would be a great conversation starter and beginning to our day.
Don’t Laugh at Me by Steve Seskin
I cannot get through this book, or the song on the accompanying CD, without crying. In fact, I have tears in my eyes just typing about this heartfelt story and song. This title will help your child not only to think about others but also to feel what others might be feeling. Don’t Laugh at Me is being utilized as an anti-bullying campaign across the country. You can read more about the Don’t Laugh at Me movement here.
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
It was going to be a fun-filled summer… until Jeremy moved into the neighborhood. Fortunately, Dad has a plan. He’s going to make enemy pie! The only caveat is that his son must play with Jeremy while he bakes the pie. You can guess what happens next: the little boy realizes that Jeremy isn’t so terrible after all. In fact, he’s pretty fun! This book is a perfect addition to your family bookshelf, as it sparks important conversations about conflict resolution and kindness.
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud
In this award-winning book, McCloud provides a metaphor for kindness that children will grasp immediately. The book explains that all people carry with them an invisible bucket and that we have the choice to be bucket fillers (those people that make other feel good with their kindness), or bucket dippers (those individuals who make others feel cruddy). My children loved the symbolism and grasped the concept quickly. I saw an almost instant change in my children’s behavior. Now, really, how often can you say that happens?
Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss
My children adore both Horton Hatches the Egg and Horton Hears a Who! and so do I! In this timeless Seuss classic, Horton stands up for his new friends who cannot be seen by others. Throughout the story, he declares, “A person’s a person, no matter how small!” What a wonderful message to share with the children in your life!
How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath
In the spirit of Have You Filled a Bucket Today?, How Full is Your Bucket teaches children that behavior is a choice and you can always choose to be kind. This book follows Felix through his day, as he makes decisions to fill the buckets of those around him. The simple concept of bucket filling and bucket dipping is one that children will understand quickly.
Humble and Kind by Tim McGraw
Here is the book that inspired this entire post! Written by Lori McKenna, Humble and Kind is a hit song by Tim McGraw. The song has been such a success that the lyrics were published as a book. The words speak to what is most important in this life. The book would be a perfect gift for anyone, but especially for high school and college graduates!
Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children by Sarah Conover
This is the sweetest collection of Buddhist tales. Each story is only a couple of pages long, so it’s super easy to sneak into your daily routine. I like to read a story over breakfast and then talk about the message. This book provides wonderful conversation starters about important life topics, including how important it is to be kind to others.
Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson
In our home, we often talk about the ripple effect and how one small, kind act can spread. Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed is the perfect example of paying it forward and spreading kindness. This story will help your children to see that, even though they are young, they have the power to change the world.
Ordinary People Change the World by Brad Meltzer (series)
And, while we are on the topic of ordinary people changing the world, I must mention these books by Brad Meltzer. I adore this biography series for kids and have written about it both here and here. These picture books are a wonderful introduction to biographies and they carry an important message: ordinary people can do extraordinary things!
The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper
In this beautifully illustrated picture book, a boy and his grandfather walk by a sign that says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This leads to a discussion about the golden rule, what it means, and examples from life. This book is a perfect discussion starter for parents and teachers alike.
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
This is one of those books that will haunt you after you read it… in a good way. It tells the story of Brian, a boy who is invisible to all. No one seems to notice him and he is excluded from activities and conversation. Then, one day, a new boy comes to school and Brian finds a way to make him feel welcome and included. I’m going to leave it at that because I want you to read the book and experience it for yourself. It is the perfect addition to a family bookshelf and would be wonderful to use in schools and counseling sessions.
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
I cannot tell you how many times I have given this book as a gift. The Lion and the Mouse is a wordless book featuring one of Aesop’s most treasured fables. This gorgeously illustrated wordless picture book won the Caldecott in 2010. Pinkney’s illustrations are so beautifully rendered that no words are needed! Even the youngest children will understand the story and its important message of compassion and kindness.
Stay tuned for a post on this amazing toy:
I am working on a post about this amazing kindness-inspiring doll, so please stay tuned! To learn more, visit The Doll Kind.
Here are some kindness-inspired posts:
Now, it’s your turn. Tell me: Do you use children’s books to inspire kindness and grow empathy? Share here!
Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you’re goin’
Don’t forget turn back around
And help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind.
~ Lori McKenna
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool and GeekMom. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, and Scary Mommy. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram