Inside: Children’s books about gratitude are important to read not just during the Thanksgiving season, but all year round. These are some of our favorite gratitude books for kids that teach appreciation and generosity.
Gratitude can be instilled in our youngest readers
He handed it to me after school, his face glowing as if lit by a hundred lanterns. “Fankful,” he said. I looked at the orange construction paper, his turkey hand print, and his teacher’s handwriting, my heart instantly flooding the floor:
I am thankful for mommy, daddy, my brother and Daniel Tiger.
Yep. That about nailed the things my sweet boy loved and needed more than anything else in the world: his mommy for snuggles, his daddy for safety, his brother for laughter, and Daniel Tiger to teach him, well, pretty much everything.
I can’t bear to take his picture off the pantry door where I taped it so long ago. To me, this simple, sweet list is perfection. As my son grows, I know his “thankful” list will morph and change, but I want to continually remind him that the things we should be most grateful for are our relationships and the necessities, not those shiny toys and cool gadgets that clutter up our lives.
Use children’s books about gratitude to nurture appreciation and generosity.
I aim to model an attitude of gratitude for my children. I try to frequently express my appreciation for the things we have, and I like to talk about how we can give to others who may be in need as well.
Children’s books about gratitude provide rich examples of how we can appreciate and help others. Our family loves reading them together to see how the characters in these stories similarly model attitudes of gratitude.
I know I’m not alone in seeking a way to encourage my boys to have grateful hearts all year round and not simply when Thanksgiving approaches. I’m confident that if I can instill a feeling of gratitude in my kids at these impressionable ages, the more likely they will be inspired to help those who may not be able to help themselves.
Of course, I want my children to become intelligent young men. But if they grow up to be compassionate, grateful and directed by a strong moral compass that encourages them to give back to their community, whenever possible, I will feel like I have succeeded as their mom.
Kids’ gratitude stories also serve as wonderful “window” books
Perhaps even more importantly, the following list of children’s books about gratitude can serve as “window” books for our kids — books that remind us that the things we take for granted are missing from many homes around the country.
So many people face daily challenges while simply trying to provide for their families. As thankful as we may be for what we have, these stories open our children’s eyes to the struggles challenging the community around them and the myriad ways they can give back.
It’s a good reminder for us grown-ups as well.
Below are some of my favorite children’s books about gratitude to get both my students and my own kids talking about the things for which they are thankful.
RELATED: Happily Ever Elephants features more than 100 phenomenal children’s book lists. Be sure to check out this link!
Frequently Asked Questions
Teach kids that gratitude is more than saying a simple “thank you.” It is an awareness of and focus on the wonderful things in our lives, and being thankful for those things we are fortunate to have, from the big to the very small.
Model it as frequently as you can! Simple things like talking about what you are grateful for, saying “thank you” to anyone and everyone who helps you in some way, and reading children’s books about gratitude are all great things to do! Make sure to discuss that appreciation extends beyond the material things we possess and to acts of kindness offered to us as well.
Eileen Vickers’ and Samantha Cotterill’s Thankful is one of my favorite children’s books about gratitude, as it is stunning both in word and illustration. Through beautifully collaged illustrations, we watch as one little girl makes a paper chain to highlight everything she is grateful for in a year. It’s a special story and makes for a fantastic read-aloud, lending itself to many activities you can do at home or in a classroom, too.
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Our Favorite Children’s Books About Gratitude to Read from January to December!
We are absolutely loving this beautiful collaged book that celebrates all the wonderful things in the world for which we are thankful. The little girl follows through with her family tradition, making a paper chain to highlight everything she is grateful for in a year. As one idea leads to another, her chain grows longer and longer. From homes to poems, this tender story reminds children that wonder is all around us, and there is so much to be thankful for every day. Hands down, this is one of our favorite children’s books about gratitude!
Sallie is so thrilled with the gift she gets in the mail from her grandmother, she can’t wait to text her to say thank you. Mom’s on the phone, so Sallie starts to write out her thank you text instead. When mom tells Sallie her “text” is actually a thank you note, Sallie can’t wait to get another gift so she can write another thank you! The next day, there is no additional present. Yet Sallie starts to realize that she has things to be grateful for every day. I love this story about appreciating – and showing appreciation for – others, and how it teaches kids to write the perfect thank you note!
This is such an amazing book to help children learn to show appreciation for our community helpers! We love the way this simple story shows us to have gratitude for all of the people who make our neighborhoods special, from the mail carriers to the firemen and women to the sanitation workers. This children’s book about gratitude is a gem for young kids!
In this simple yet beautiful gratitude book for kids, a young girl says thank you for all the gifts nature provides. From hedges to trees, flowers to bees, the child explores nature’s wonder and how it comes together to provide ingredients for the delicious food we eat – like apple cake! Rhythmic prose and delightful illustrations make this a winner, especially for young children. And if you are working on an apple study with young readers, this sweet book even includes a recipe for delicious apple cake.
What a fabulous book celebrating gratitude, set in a vibrant Cherokee community. This Native American picture book travels through the seasons, giving readers a glimpse of the Native American community at rest and play. The word “ostaliheliga” is used by the members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude and is sprinkled throughout the pages. We simply LOVE this one!
Jeremy wants nothing more than the same pair of shoes that the other kids at school wear. But, according to his grandma, Jeremy’s “wants” are not nearly as important as his “needs.” This is such a special children’s book about gratitude, one I read to my students every year around Thanksgiving because it masterfully sparks a discussion about wants and needs, as well as the fulfillment that can be found in helping others. It is a lovely story to celebrate kindness and compassion. For our full review of Those Shoes, CLICK HERE!
A stunning debut! Everyone in the neighborhood follows the delicious scent of stew to Omu’s doorstep, where Omu (meaning “queen” in the Igbo language of the author’s parents) dishes her meal out with love. But when it comes time for Omu to sit down for dinner, she realizes she left no stew for herself! This is a gorgeous, timeless story of generosity and community, beautifully conveying that one good deed deserves another — and sharing is everything. Hands down one of my very favorite gratitude books for kids! For our full review of Thank You, Omu, including a fun activity, click the link! For more fantastic children’s books about food, click here.
As a boy and his grandmother ride the bus one afternoon, the child continually asks his grandma about various luxuries they don’t have. His grandmother helps open the boy’s eyes to all of the ways in which they are rich, even though they may not have certain gadgets and gizmos. When their bus ride ends, the reader learns the two will volunteer at a soup kitchen. A surprise ending to a marvelous, remarkable book.
I can’t get enough of this series of books. They are pure perfection when talking about manners with little kids, and this one, Thank You, Mr. Panda, shows us how we can graciously accept gifts even if they aren’t quite what we were hoping for. This is a great children’s book about gratitude to help children understand that the simple act of being given a present is something to be thankful for, even if the present itself may not be our favorite.
“The heart that gives thanks is a happy one, for we cannot feel thankful and unhappy at the same time. The more we say thanks, the more we find to be thankful for. And the more we find to be thankful for, the happier we become.” Need I say more? This is such a beautiful and lyrical children’s book about gratitude!
This is such a perfect children’s book about gratitude to read with toddlers and young children! The Thankful Book, with its vibrant, childlike illustrations, encourages kids to recognize the everyday things in their lives for which they should be grateful. We love Todd Parr’s books for preschoolers, especially the Kindness Book which is another one of our favorites!
I just adore this Yiddish folk tale, the story of an unfortunate man who lived with his mother, six kids, and his wife in a one-bedroom hut. When the man seeks advice from a wise rabbi because the home is crowded and the family is bickering, the rabbi tells the man on several different occasions to bring his animals into the hut– first his chickens, then his goat, then his cow. When the man eventually tells the rabbi he can’t take it anymore, the rabbi tells him to let all the animals back outside. What ensues? The man ends up exactly where he started – but now he is so grateful for the serenity!
Who better to teach young kids about gratitude than our dear friends Elephant and Piggie? Join the two animals in the last book of this hit series as they go on a thank-o-rama and show their appreciation for everyone who helped make their stories a hit. If your little ones love Piggie and Gerald like my kids and students, this is one not to miss. For our full review of The Thank You Book, CLICK HERE!
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RELATED: We’ve got a fabulous list of kindergarten read-alouds for you on Happily Ever Elephants, so be sure to check them out!