• Helping Kids Rise

Kindness Matters: 13 Diverse Children's Books that Teach Kindness and Empathy


Kindness: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

One small act of kindness can change the world and one book can be the spark that ignites that act of kindness. Kindness and empathy are one of the greatest needs in our world and thankfully these skills can be taught. These amazing books featuring diverse characters, teach children how being kind can really change the world.

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud." ~Dr. Maya Angelou

Those Shoes

by Maribeth Boelts

All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. Though Jeremy’s grandma says they don’t have room for "want," just "need," when his old shoes fall apart at school, he is more determined than ever to have those shoes, even a thrift-shop pair that are much too small.

But sore feet aren’t much fun, and Jeremy soon sees that the things he has — warm boots, a loving grandma, and the chance to help a friend — are worth more than the things he wants.

You, Me, and Empathy: Teaching children about empathy, feelings, kindness, compassion, tolerance and recognizing bullying behaviors

by Jayneen Sanders

One of the most important social skills a child can learn is empathy. Being able to understand how another person is feeling and recognizing their needs helps people to connect to one another across race, culture and the diversity that is ever-present and so important to our world. This charming story uses verse, beautiful illustrations and a little person called Quinn to model the meaning of empathy. Throughout the story, Quinn shows an abundance of understanding, compassion and kindness towards others. Showing empathy towards others is a learnt trait, and one to nurture and cherish with the children in our care. Also included are Discussion Questions for parents, caregivers and educators, and suggested activities to promote empathy and kindness.

Never Say A Mean Word Word Again

by Jacqueline Jules

No one ignores the grand vizier. The most important advisor in the royal court, he was considered the wisest man in the kingdom. He was also Samuel’s father. “Make sure Hamza never says a mean word to you again,” he had ordered Samuel.

What should Samuel do? He couldn’t disobey his father. But how would he make sure that Hamza never insulted him again? Perhaps train a monkey to hold Hamza’s lips closed, or give him some lemon juice to make his mouth pucker?

Inspired by a powerful legend of conflict resolution in Muslim Spain, Never Say a Mean Word Again is the compelling story of a boy who is given permission to punish an enemy. What will he do?

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon

by Patty Lovell

Be yourself like Molly Lou Melon no matter what a bully may do. Molly Lou Melon is short and clumsy, has buck teeth, and has a voice that sounds like a bullfrog being squeezed by a boa constrictor. She doesn't mind. Her grandmother has always told her to walk proud, smile big, and sing loud, and she takes that advice to heart. But then Molly Lou has to start in a new school. A horrible bully picks on her on the very first day, but Molly Lou Melon knows just what to do about that.

The Invisible Boy

by Trudy Ludwig

A simple act of kindness can transform an invisible boy into a friend... Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party . . . until, that is, a new kid comes to class. When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine. From esteemed author and speaker Trudy Ludwig and acclaimed illustrator Patrice Barton, this gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish. Any parent, teacher, or counselor looking for material that sensitively addresses the needs of quieter children will find The Invisible Boy a valuable and important resource. Includes back matter with discussion questions and resources for further reading.

Sumi's First Day of School Ever

by Soyung Pak

The first day of school can be lonely and scary, especially when you don't speak the same language as everyone else. Sumi only knows one phrase in English, "Hello, my name is Sumi." This doesn't seem nearly enough to prepare her for a big school with wide stairs, noisy children, and a mean classmate.

From the author of the Ezra Jack Keats Award winner Dear Juno comes this thoughtful picture book about a young Korean girl on her first day of school. Beautiful, expressive illustrations show how a considerate teacher and even a new friend help Sumi discover that school might not be so lonely after all.

Each Kindness

by Jacqueline Woodson

Each kindness makes the world a little better This unforgettable book is written and illustrated by the award-winning team that created The Other Sideand the Caldecott Honor winner Coming On Home Soon. With its powerful anti-bullying message and striking art, it will resonate with readers long after they've put it down. Chloe and her friends won't play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe's teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she'd shown a little kindness toward Maya.

Lost and Found Cat

by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes

This heartwarming true story about one lost cat's journey to be reunited with his refugee family gently introduces children to a difficult topic and shows how ordinary people can help with compassion and hope. When an Iraqi family is forced to flee their home, they can’t bear to leave their beloved cat, Kunkush, behind. So they carry him with them from Iraq to Greece, keeping their secret passenger hidden away. But during the crowded boat crossing to Greece, his carrier breaks and the frightened cat runs from the chaos. In one moment, he is gone. After an unsuccessful search, his family has to continue their journey, leaving brokenhearted. A few days later, aid workers in Greece find the lost cat. Knowing how much his family has sacrificed already, they are desperate to reunite them with the cat they love so much. A worldwide community comes together to spread the word on the Internet and in the news media, and after several months the impossible happens—Kunkush’s family is found, and they finally get their happy ending in their new home. This remarkable true story is told by the real people involved, with the full cooperation of Kunkush’s family.

Wonder

by R.J. Palacio

"I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid--but his new classmates can't get past Auggie's extraordinary face.

WONDER, now a #1 "New York Times" bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie's point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community's struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel "a meditation on kindness" --indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can't blend in when you were born to stand out.

Save Me A Seat

by Sarah Weeks and Git Varadarajan

Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they're both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL. Joe's lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own.

Ravi's family just moved to America from India, and he's finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. Joe and Ravi don't think they have anything in common -- but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.

Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories

by R.J. Palacio

These stories are an extra peek at Auggie before he started at Beecher Prep and during his first year there. Listeners get to see him through the eyes of Julian, the bully; Christopher, Auggie’s oldest friend; and Charlotte, Auggie’s new friend at school. Together, these three stories are a treasure for listeners who don’t want to leave Auggie behind when they finish Wonder.

Out of My Mind

by Sharon Draper

Eleven-year-old Melody is not like most people. She can’t walk. She can’t talk. She can’t write. All because she has cerebral palsy. But she also has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school, but NO ONE knows it. Most people—her teachers, her doctors, her classmates—dismiss her as mentally challenged because she can’t tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by her disability. And she’s determined to let everyone know it…somehow.

From multiple award-winning author Sharon Draper comes a story that will forever change how we all look at anyone with a disability, perfect for fans of RJ Palacio’s Wonder.

Wishtree

by Katherine Applegate

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"―people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

Funny, deep, warm, and nuanced, Wishtree is Newbery Medalist and New York Times–bestselling author Katherine Applegate at her very best―writing from the heart, and from a completely unexpected point of view.

UnSelfie

by Dr. Michele Borba

This one is for parents.

Teens today are forty percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago.

Why is a lack of empathy—which goes hand-in-hand with the self-absorption epidemic Dr. Michele Borba calls the Selfie Syndrome—so dangerous? First, it hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, a lack of empathy hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate, and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy.In UnSelfie Dr. Borba pinpoints the forces causing the empathy crisis and shares a revolutionary, researched-based, nine-step plan for reversing it.

Know of any other diverse books that we should add to our list? We'd love to hear about them!

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