This is when kids’ innate kindness is put to a real-life test.
Here’s the Good News
As a parent, you can bolster your child’s innate kindness. In fact, when your child is between ages 4 and 7, that’s a critical developmental window when their brain is especially open to developing a lifelong kindness habit.
Why It’s So Important to Read Children’s Books About Kindness
When we read children’s books about being kind and talk to our kids about the stories, this is what happens:
We deliver the message that kindness is important,
We give our kids a chance to practice flexing their kindness muscle, and
We give them an opportunity to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
In other words, reading books about kindness takes care of every one of those three essentials for raising kind kids.
Plus, reading books works way better than lecturing kids on the virtues of kindness.
Lectures typically go in one ear and out the other. But when you read fiction, research shows that the brain reacts the same way as if you were living the story in real life. In other words, reading children’s books about kindness is akin to setting up a virtual reality simulation where your child can fully enter the experience and understand different perspectives.
A while ago, my kids and I spent months putting together a list of the best children’s books about friendship, and parents wrote back with sweet notes of gratitude. But they also had another request: What are the best picture books about kindness?
And so my family set out on another months-long research project to find children’s books about kindness that both kids and parents will enjoy. (If kids are going to ask us to read it again and again, it may as well be something we’ll get a kick out of, too!)
Every week, I put 25 books on hold at the library, plus at every visit I browsed the shelves for even more picture books about kindness. All told, my kids and I read hundreds of picture books on the topic of kindness.
The list below is the cream of the crop from those hundreds of books: the books I loved reading, and the books my kids couldn’t get enough of. Read these picture books about kindness, and you’ll be priming your child’s brain to grow into a kind, compassionate soul. We all know the world could use more of those!
Note: indicates my family’s absolute top favorites on the list. These are the books my kids can’t get enough of!
Books to Inspire Your Kid to Be an Includer And Upstander†
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When you’re looking for books about kindness for preschoolers and early grade schoolers, it’s important to tackle the subject of including and standing up for others. The preschool or grade school environment may be their first experience dealing with exclusion and relational aggression.
At first glance, you might see this as a counting book and colors book rolled into one. But it also opens the door to countless valuable conversations, like the importance of embracing each other’s differences, the diversity of human moods, and what to do when someone is unkind. If you like this book, be sure to check out Zero and Two as well.
For a child who witnesses someone bullying another person, it’s hard to know what to do. You know you should choose kindness, but how? This book shows kids exactly what it looks like to choose kindness.
This is a classic children’s book about kindness, but it’s a little wordy for younger kids. With that said, my kids couldn’t get enough of it starting around 3.5 years old. They’ve loved the display of kindness from the community in this story, and the book has been a jumping off point for great conversations about how to show kindness to others in need.
I never get tired of reading this story to my kids. It’s so simple and such a beautiful example of how to be there for someone who’s struggling, without trying to jump right into fixing it. My kids ask for this one at least once a day. A must have!
This picture book does an excellent job of teaching kids how to assume the best in others – while also making you giggle. Because of this awesome little book, any time one of my kids does something helpful or sweet, we say, “You’re a sweet bear!”
This book kicked off some great conversations with my kids about what it means to be “good” or “bad.” My favorite line explains how “there is a seed of goodness inside” each of us that’s “waiting to sprout.”
This book is all about the Earth and our place in the world, but it comes with a message about kindness too: With lots of people on the Earth, we’re all different but we’re all still people, so be kind to others…and there’s no reason not to be nice to animals, too.
Books About Being Kind, Even When It’s Hard
Sometimes making the choice to be kind isn’t easy, and children’s books about kindness should acknowledge that.
You can’t go wrong with the Elephant and Piggie series. For a kid, the decision to be kind doesn’t get more difficult than deciding whether to share your ice cream with a friend. My favorite line is when Gerald rationalizes his decision: “Sharing a flavor Piggie does not like would be wrong.”
Full disclosure: This is a wordless picture book, and I haven’t always seen the beauty in that style of book. But one of my kids fell in love with this one at the age of 3, and that made me give it a second chance. In this beautiful story, the child makes the difficult decision to give her lovey to a young fox cub, and the cub returns her kindness.
Since the day I saw the light on wordless picture books, I discovered this gem about a girl who saves up for something she wants but then decides instead to use that money on a kindness for her little brother. The perfect fit for kids who have sisters or brothers.
My whole family has this book memorized (even the toddler’s got most of it down). This is a powerful message of putting out kindness into the world and expecting nothing in return. The world lost an amazing gift when author Amy Krouse Rosenthal left us.
In this story, a dinosaur starts kindergarten, and she has trouble making friends with her human classmates. Kids just eat this book up. It’s hilarious, plus it delivers a powerful message about treating others how we’d like to be treated in return.
When you share and work together, good things happen. This is an adorable story about the power of an abundance mindset.
Books That Show Real-Life Examples of How to Be Kind
When teaching kids about the concept of kindness, they’ll learn it much better if you give them real-life, tangible examples of what it means to be kind – which is where these children’s books about kindness shine.
On the surface, this book is about an ordinary slice of life as a boy and his grandma take the bus together through town. Ultimately, where they’re traveling to delivers a powerful message about choosing kindness, but to me, how the grandma and the boy approach their journey is the bigger message of choosing kindness in those small, everyday moments. So many great conversations with this one!
Bonus! 5 Chapter Books About Kindness
My oldest still loves when I read picture books out loud, but she also devours chapter books any chance she gets. Which means we’ve read a lot of chapter books about kindness too.
You can’t go wrong with these chapter books that have a powerful message of kindness for kids.
This is a classic chapter book about kindness. First published in 1944, this quiet book tells the story of a girl named Maddie who stands by as her best friend teases another girl. For the best experience, read this aloud to your child so you can talk after each chapter, and you’ll have powerful conversations about empathy, compassion, and standing up for others.
A powerful book about kindness and acceptance. If you read this aloud with your child, you’ll end up having so many important conversations. If your child loves this one, check out the companion books next: Auggie & Me and White Bird.
Ally has trouble reading, but she doesn’t realize it’s because she’s struggling with dyslexia. Because of her frustration, she acts out at school, which in turn frustrates her teachers and opens her up to bullying from other kids. She can’t seem to do anything right, even when she tries to. Read this important story to your child to foster empathy for those with learning differences.
What are your favorite books about kindness for kids? Share in a comment below!
Kelly Holmes, Certified Parent Educator
I'm a mom of four, a Certified Parent Educator, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. I believe if you want a loving parent-child relationship that will last into the teenage years and beyond, the time for nurturing that kind of relationship is now. The good news? All you need is 10 minutes a day. Start here »