Raising good kids — it’s a priority, right? If your viewpoint is anything like mine, raising successful children means teaching kids to be kind (and, of course, the importance of using kind words), teaching them about empathy and acts of generosity, and helping them learn how to be honest. Sound good? Keep on reading!
Raising Good Kids, and How Books Can Help
So many of us parents and educators want the same things for our kids: we want to make story time not just magical, but meaningful too. And we want nothing more than to read stories with our little ones that will do one thing and one thing only: teach our children what it means to be good human beings. We all want to raise good kids. Every parent and every teacher knows this is no easy feat. Yet, books are one heck of a dynamic tool. Books bring those values we want to instill in our children to life. Stories place kids - even animals - into situations that require them to be helpers, act with integrity, and summon their own courage. How will this help you raise good kids? Because when we read about these tough situations, they give us incredible opportunities to spark discussion with our children. Books give us an “in.” And that’s when the magic happens.
Reading is powerful, and story time can create fundamental learning and emotional experiences when you choose the right books. So for those of you who frequently find yourself asking what to read with your children to help them grow up to be good and kind, here are some quick picture book picks for you. Enjoy!
TWO CHILDREN’S BOOKS ABOUT KINDNESS
Be Kind, by Pat Zeitlow Miller and illustrated by Jen Hill: A young girl is in despair after spilling grape juice on her new dress. Seeing her sadness, one of the girl’s classmates wonders what it means to be kind- even when others aren’t. This book explores acts of kindness big and small and beautifully imparts that even our youngest children have the power to make an impactful difference simply by making kind choices. For our full review of Be Kind, click here!
I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness, by Kerascoet: This stunning wordless book explores how a single act of kindness by one upstander can be a change agent for an entire community. The illustrations are simple enough that even your youngest readers will be able to work out what is happening on each page. Even better? Because it is wordless, you may find your kids writing their own experiences of bullying and subsequent acts of kindness into the story. A truly brilliant work.
TWO CHILDREN’S BOOKS ABOUT EMPATHY
Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse, by Marcy Campbell and illustrated by Corinna Luyken: Adrian Simcox tells his classmates he has a horse - the best and most beautiful horse in all the world. But Chloe knows Adrian is lying. After all, Adrian Simcox lives in a tiny house and has holes in his shoes, so there’s no way he has a horse in his backyard. The more Adrian talks about this beautiful horse, the angrier Chloe gets... and the more she wants to prove him wrong. Will vindication give Chloe the satisfaction she so desires? This is one of our very favorite children’s books about empathy! For our full review of Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse, click here!
A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip Stead and illustrated by Erin Stead: This is the story of Amos McGee, a zookeeper, who spends time every day with all of his animal pals at the zoo. Amos delights in being a friend to each of the animals, and when he wakes up one morning too sick to get to the zoo, his friends decide it may just be time to return the favor. There is no better children’s book about empathy, no more perfect story to help kids comprehend the value of identifying with another's feelings and then channel that recognition into generous, helpful behaviors. For our full review of A Sick Day of Amos McGee, click here!
TWO PICTURE BOOKS ABOUT ACTS OF GENEROSITY
Thank You, Omu!, by Oge Mara: 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 to eat her own dinner, she realizes she left no stew for herself! This is a gorgeous, timeless story about acts of generosity and community. For our full review of Thank You, Omu!, click here!
A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love, by Michelle Edwards and illustrated by G. Brian Karas: Mrs. Goldman is known for knitting hats for everyone in the neighborhood and helps so many people stay warm during winter’s chill. So when winter arrives and Mrs. Goldman has no hat of her own because she is so busy knitting for all her neighbors, Sophia decides to make something special for a special friend. A wonderful story of paying it forward that describes how small acts of generosity make the largest impacts on people’s lives!
TWO CHILDREN’S BOOKS ABOUT HONESTY
The Empty Pot, by Demi: Telling the truth can be downright scary -- especially when you fear it will result in grave consequences. But this beautiful story masterfully illuminates how telling the truth can be the most courageous action one can possibly take -- and it can result in great, great rewards. This is the story of Ping, a young boy hoping to grow the most beautiful flowers and become heir to the emperor. When the seeds given to him by the emperor fail to grow, he faces two tough options: exchange his failed plant for a beautiful new one and lie, or tell the emperor that despite his best efforts, his seeds did not bloom. So in love with this stellar story!
A Bike Like Sergios, by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones: Finders keepers, right? When Ruben finds a hundred dollar bill that has fallen out of someone’s purse, he seems to have the answer to his prayers. After all, he is the only kid without a bike, and with one hundred dollars in his pocket, he can buy new wheels just like Sergios. But what about the groceries Ruben’s family needs? And, more importantly, what about the woman who lost the money? A thought-provoking book that places kids squarely in the middle of a dilemma and will have them debating what they would do if they were faced with the same situation,
TWO CHILDREN’S BOOKS ABOUT INCLUSIVENESS
Be A Friend, by Salina Yoon: In this sweet story we are introduced to Dennis, a young mime, who never uses words to convey his emotions. He is lonely- going through his days in solitude- until he is befriended by a little girl who catches his make-believe ball. The beauty of this story lies in the fact that Dennis's new friend does not try to make Dennis speak. Instead, the readers see that their newfound friendship transcends words. Even without talking, the children find ways to communicate and easily establish a special connection with one another. For our full review of Be A Friend, click here!
Strictly No Elephants, by Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo: A little boy and his pet elephant are banned from the local Pet Club Day meeting via a crude sign hanging on the door: Strictly No Elephants. When the boy meets another child who has also been turned away from the club with her pet skunk, the two decide to make a club of their own. They go to the park, draw up a sign, and open their gathering to all, inviting everyone - no matter what kind of animals they choose as pets - via the most beautiful sign. What does it say? Three simple words: "All are welcome." For our full review of Strictly No Elephants, click here!
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If you like this post, make sure to check the following articles too - we think you’ll love them!
Favorite Picture Books About Gratitude: Teach your kids an attitude of gratitude not just at Thanksgiving, but all year round! We love this list about acts of generosity, one that perfectly complements this post about raising good kids!
Favorite Books About Being a Good Friend: What do I want my boys to be when they grow up? The answer is simple. I want them to grow up to be whatever makes them happy, of course. But, in all honesty, I want them to be good friends. These wonderful children’s books about love and friendship can help.
Kind Hands, Kind Words, Kind Hearts: 21 Picture Books to Promote Kindness, Inclusiveness and Equality: When turning on the news is tough, these books, for children of all ages, can help. Each of these stories convey unique messages of kindness, inclusiveness, equality, as well as the power of voice to make a change.