Our Favorite 52 Books to Read With Your Kids About Kindness

Updated Mar. 27, 2019

Kindness is contagious and beautiful. It can make the most gloomy day sunny, dry tears and change the world. It's a powerful force that we learn how to use, but it's also innate. Little children are kind by nature, and as we nurture it, by modeling kindness, pointing out kindness where we can, and complimenting it when we see it in action. Being kind can be easy, like giving a smile, but it can also be hard, like standing up to bullies wherever they are found. Here are some of our very favorite books to help with being kind in any situation!

To the Sea book
#1
To the Sea
Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Sometimes Tim feels invisible at school-until one day, when Tim meets Sam. But Sam isn't just any new friend: he's a blue whale, and he can't find his way home! Returning Sam to the sea is hard work, but Tim is determined to help. After all, it's not every day you meet a new friend! This picture book about the power of friendship by new talent Cale Atkinson is brought to life by charming, dynamic illustrations.

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse book
#2
Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse
Written by Marcy Campbell and illustrated by Corinna Luyken
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This book is just beautiful: the story itself, the message, and of course the illustrations! The way that Adrian Simcox's white horse with the golden mane emerges from the white space, again and again, is amazing and truly captures the power and reality of imagination. Reminiscent of the oft-posed question of which is better—a lie that brings a smile or a truth that brings a tear—this story lands soundly on the side of the beauty of imagination and kindness, and the power they give us to create our own world.

A classic in the making, this heartwarming story about empathy and imagination is one that families will treasure for years to come. Adrian Simcox tells anyone who will listen that he has a horse--the best and most beautiful horse anywhere. But Chloe does NOT believe him. Adrian Simcox lives in a tiny house. Where would he keep a horse? He has holes in his shoes. How would he pay for a horse? The more Adrian talks about his horse, the angrier Chloe gets. But when she calls him out at school and even complains about him to her mom, Chloe doesn't get the vindication she craves. She gets something far more important. Written with tenderness and poignancy and gorgeously illustrated, this book will show readers that kindness is always rewarding, understanding is sweeter than judgment, and friendship is the best gift one can give.

The Nice Book book
#3
The Nice Book
Written and illustrated by David Stein
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This book is one of my very favorite board books or all time, almost despite the illustrations which are finger-painty, child-like, edgy and not quite my style. It's a delightfully fun read aloud with the perfect blend of quirkiness and charm as it goes through various scenarios and instructions for how to be nice—"Giggle, pat, scratch, but don't stomp flat!...When you get in a snit, don't hit." The illustrations add another level of story and context to each scenario and instruction, which makes it humorous as well as very real.

A perfect introduction to manners and playing nice, by David Ezra Stein—author of Caldecott Honor winner Interrupting Chicken, Pouch! (a Charlotte Zolotow Honor book) and Leaves (recipient of the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award). From cuddling koalas to friendly penguins, an array of animals illustrates fun, sweet, and silly examples of “how to be nice,” showing simple ways young children can show they care for those around them. The lyrical text, funny illustrations and upbeat friendship message make this a great gift and a wonderful introduction to manners.

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon book
#4
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
Written by Patty Lovell and illustrated by David Catrow
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

The vibrant, whimsical illustrations make this surprisingly light-hearted book about bullying and being proud to be yourself extra enjoyable. The positive influence of Molly Lou Melon's grandma and how it helps her overcome with the teasing of one Ronald Durkin with kindness and genuine sense of self is fantastic and makes both Molly Lou Melon and her grandma worth emulating.

Even when the class bully at her new school makes fun of her, Molly remembers what her grandmother told her and she feels good about herself.

Bernice Gets Carried Away book
#5
Bernice Gets Carried Away
Written and illustrated by Hannah Harrison
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Having missed out on the other treats at a friend's birthday party, a grumpy cat grabs all of the balloons and floats into the sky, where she sees that her problems are not so big, after all.

Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch book
#6
Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch
Written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Paul Yalowitz
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Thoughts from Grammy

This book has such a powerful message about the difference a simple act of kindness can make. There are so many of these small, simple acts in the story and they each affect the receiver in profound ways, but none more profoundly than Mr. Hatch, a lonely old man at the beginning of the story, and someone entirely different at the end. Mr. Hatch's loneliness is relatable to people of all ages; we see ourselves in his shyness and the difficulty he has in reaching out to others. When he receives a gift and a cryptic love note, it gives him confidence and motivates him to connect with the people around him. Empathy is another strong theme in the book. Not only do we feel for Mr. Hatch in his loneliness, but, along with Mr. Hatch, we feel for the newsstand man and the butcher in their difficulties. Reading this story together can facilitate conversations about who we might know that could use a little lift, or maybe some brownies!

One wintry day, a postman delivers a mysterious package with a big pink bow to a lonely man named Mr. Hatch. "Somebody loves you," the note says. "Somebody loves me!" Mr. Hatch sings as he dusts his living room. "Somebody loves me!" Mr. Hatch whistles as he does his errands in town. "But who," Mr. Hatch wonders, "could that somebody be?" After some time, Mr. Hatch discovers just who his secret admirer is and, in doing so, enjoys the biggest surprise of his life!

We're All Wonders book
#7
We're All Wonders
Written and illustrated by R. J. Palacio
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This book is a picture book based off of the chapter book, "Wonder." I love the message of this book, that when we look with kindness, we will notice we are all wonders. I think this is a fantastic book to use to talk about people that are different than us, whether that be because of a disability, race, color, religion, or personality, and how everyone is unique and special. This book also talks about bullying, and how it can be hurtful.

Auggie knows he is a wonder, but he wants everybody to realize they are all wonders, too.

The Hundred Dresses book
#8
The Hundred Dresses
Written by Eleanor Estes and illustrated by Louis Slobodkin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

Eleanor Estes’s The Hundred Dresses won a Newbery Honor in 1945 and has never been out of print since. At the heart of the story is Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl in a Connecticut school who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t and bullies her mercilessly. The class feels terrible when Wanda is pulled out of the school, but by that time it’s too late for apologies. Maddie, one of Wanda’s classmates, ultimately decides that she is "never going to stand by and say nothing again." This powerful, timeless story has been reissued with a new letter from the author’s daughter Helena Estes, and with the Caldecott artist Louis Slobodkin’s original artwork in beautifully restored color.

Enemy Pie book
#9
Enemy Pie
Written by Derek Munson and illustrated by Tara Calahan King
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

It was the perfect summer. That is, until Jeremy Ross moved into the house down the street and became neighborhood enemy number one. Luckily Dad had a surefire way to get rid of enemies: Enemy Pie. But part of the secret recipe is spending an entire day playing with the enemy! In this funny yet endearing story, one little boy learns an effective recipe for turning your best enemy into your best friend. Accompanied by charming illustrations, Enemy Pie serves up a sweet lesson in the difficulties and ultimate rewards of making new friends.

The Storybook Knight book
#10
The Storybook Knight
Written by Helen Docherty and illustrated by Thomas Docherty
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

Told in perfect rhyme and gorgeously illustrated, this is a fantastic book about a young knight who draws on street smarts, common courtesy, books and a little kindness to brave the monsters he encounters, rather than fighting. I really like that he goes about what his parents ask him to do (even though it's not to his taste!) with his own unique style and that his parents, in turn, are able to embrace his preferences as he demonstrates their true value.

Even dragons love a good story... Leo was a gentle knight in thought and word and deed. While other knights liked fighting, Leo liked to sit and read... When Leo's mom and dad pack him off to fight a dragon, he takes a shield, a sword―and a pile of his favorite books. But can a story be as mighty as a sword?

The Rabbit Listened book
#11
The Rabbit Listened
Written and illustrated by Cori Doerffeld
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

When Taylor's block castle is destroyed, all the animals think they know just what to do, but only the rabbit quietly listens to how Taylor is feeling

Baby Be Kind book
#12
Baby Be Kind
Written and illustrated by Jane Cowen-Fletcher
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

I love the gentle rhyme scheme of this book and the beautiful lesson it teaches of what kindness really is. While the message of the words is broadly applicable across ages and situations, the illustrations help bring this book to board book level in a way that is understandable for little reader's everyday situations.

Easy-to-read, rhyming text provides examples of how to show kindness that even a baby will want to try.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee book
#13
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-6

THE BEST SICK DAY EVER and the animals in the zoo feature in this striking picture book debut. Friends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In Amos McGee's case, all sorts of species, too! Every day he spends a little bit of time with each of his friends at the zoo, running races with the tortoise, keeping the shy penguin company, and even reading bedtime stories to the owl. But when Amos is too sick to make it to the zoo, his animal friends decide it's time they returned the favor. A Sick Day for Amos McGee is a 2011 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year and the winner of the 2011 Caldecott Medal. This title has Common Core connections.

The Monster Who Lost His Mean book
#14
The Monster Who Lost His Mean
Written by Tiffany Strelitz Haber and illustrated by Kirstie Edmunds
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

While initially, the Monster turned "Onster" is quite distraught that he lost his "M"ean (especially because now the other monsters are nothing but mean to him!) he soon discovers other friends who love him for his kindness and his new true self. The illustrations are funny and bright and it's a delightful twist on the concept of having kindness thrust upon you... and what you should do with it.

Teased by the other monsters for being nice instead of mean, Onster prefers playing with children and helping them with their chores to frightening them.

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade book
#15
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade
Written by Justin Roberts and illustrated by Christian Robinson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Sally McCabe is a very little girl, and nobody notices her, although she notices everything that goes on around her--but when she speaks out about the unkindness she sees, people start to pay attention.

You're Here for a Reason book
#16
You're Here for a Reason
Written and illustrated by Nancy Tillman
board book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Now available in board book, You're Here for a Reason, from national-bestselling and beloved author Nancy Tillman, takes a universal truth and makes it accessible for readers young and old. Not only are we loved, but we also matter. In this tender and timeless read-along book, Tillman reminds us of this message in beautiful illustrations as children and animals interact with acts of kindness. You're here for a reason. If you think you're not I would just say that perhaps you forgot . . . a piece of the world that is precious and dear would surely be missing if you weren't here. If not for your smile and your laugh and your heart this place we call home would be minus a part. Thank goodness you're here! Thank goodness times two! I just can't imagine a world without you. Not only are we loved, but we also matter. Once again, NancyTillman takes a universal truth and makes it accessible forreaders young and old, as children and animals interact withacts of kindness.

The Invisible Boy book
#17
The Invisible Boy
Written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

The book is gorgeously and emotionally illustrated, letting the colors speak to the emotions of Brian —the invisible boy— in this story. A powerful reminder that bullying takes many forms and that one person and one act of kindness can truly make a difference, even if they're the only one.

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.

Oliver's Tree book
#18
Oliver's Tree
Written and illustrated by Kit Chase
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from Lemony Snickers

The illustrations for Oliver's Tree are warm and homey with an older, Winnie the Pooh feel to them. The book teaches a valuable lesson about helping friends. Oliver is sad that he can't play in the trees like his friends. While he walks away pouting and disappointed, his friends rally to build a tree house where they can all play together. The book really is quite reminiscent of a Winnie the Pooh story. It's simple and sweet. Oliver's emotions get the best of him, but that happens to most of us at some time or another, and it sure makes a difference when we have good friends to help us through.

A board book about three adorable best friends! Oliver, Charlie, and Lulu love to play outside together. Their favorite game is hide-and-seek, but it’s not fun for Oliver when his friends hide in the trees—he can’t reach them! So the friends set off to find a tree that Oliver can play in. But there’s a reason we don’t see elephants in trees, and just when Oliver is ready to give up the search, Charlie and Lulu surprise him with the perfect tree for them all to play in together!

Be Kind book
#19
Be Kind
Written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Jen Hill
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

A thoughtful picture book illustrating the power of small acts of kindness, from the award-winning author of Sophie's Squash.

Nerdy Birdy book
#20
Nerdy Birdy
Written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Matt Davies
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This book reminds me of one of my favorite Dumbledore quotes: "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends." While initially Nerdy Birdy feels put down and isolated by the "cool" birds who think he's too nerdy to be around them, he's overjoyed when a whole group of "Nerdy Birdies" open their wings to him in friendship and bring him into the fold. After all, there's always room for another Nerdy Birdy! While in my book, the story could have ended there with the lesson that you can always find friends and people like you who will treat you well, this book reaches an entirely different level when Nerdy Birdy learns that his new friends aren't as inclusive as he thought... in fact... they're the same as the "cool" birds in that they'll only be kind to people like them. Nerdy Birdies. Nerdy Birdy knows what it's like to feel isolated, and so he bravely proffers the wing of friendship to the new vulture who isn't just like him and that's ok.

Nerdy Birdy likes reading, video games, and reading about video games, which immediately disqualifies him for membership in the cool crowd. One thing is clear: being a nerdy birdy is a lonely lifestyle. When he's at his lowest point, Nerdy Birdy meets a flock just like him. He has friends and discovers that there are far more nerdy birdies than cool birdies in the sky.

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman book
#21
A Hat for Mrs. Goldman
Written by Michelle Edwards and illustrated by G Brian Karas
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Sophia knits a special hat for her elderly neighbor and knitting teacher, Mrs. Goldman.

Horton Hears a Who! book
#22
Horton Hears a Who!
Written by Dr. Seuss
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

A city of Whos on a speck of dust are threatened with destruction until the smallest Who of all helps convince Horton's friends that Whos really exist. Reissue.

Lily and Bear book
#23
Lily and Bear
Written and illustrated by Lisa Stubbs
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Lily loves to draw, but when she draws Bear they quickly become friends, first doing all of the things that Lily enjoys, and then doing Bear's favorite things.

How Kind! book
#24
How Kind!
Written and illustrated by Mary Murphy
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

Hen gives Pig an unexpected present. "How kind!" says Pig. Pig is so touched, in fact, that he decides to do something kind too. So Pig gives Rabbit a gift. "How kind!" says Rabbit, who does something kind for Cow, who is kind to Cat, who wants to be kind in turn. Where will all of this kindness lead?

Each Kindness book
#25
Each Kindness
Written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

WINNER OF A CORETTA SCOTT KING HONOR AND THE JANE ADDAMS PEACE AWARD! Each kindness makes the world a little better This unforgettable book is written and illustrated by the award-winning team that created The Other Side and 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.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected]!