Best Kids Books About Kindness

Our Favorite 31 Books to Read With Your Kids About Kindness

Updated Feb. 19, 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.

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon book
#3
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
#4
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
#5
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!

The Hundred Dresses book
#6
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.

The Storybook Knight book
#7
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?

Enemy Pie book
#8
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 Rabbit Listened book
#9
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

The Monster Who Lost His Mean book
#10
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
#11
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.

The Invisible Boy book
#12
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.

Nerdy Birdy book
#13
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
#14
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.

Be Kind book
#15
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.

Each Kindness book
#16
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.

Sidewalk Flowers book
#17
Sidewalk Flowers
Written by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

A little girl collects wildflowers while walking through town with her father.

Those Shoes book
#18
Those Shoes
Written by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from Lemony Snickers

Those Shoes has a great lesson about sharing, even when we have very little ourselves. Jeremy lives with his grandma and they don't have a lot of money for extra things, even though Jeremy really wants a special pair of shoes. Eventually, Jeremy finds the shoes he wants at a thrift shop and purchases them even though they are a bit too small. Later, he notices that Antonio, another boy at school, has shoes that are held together with tape. What Jeremy decides to do next is a great example of kindness and empathy. The message isn't at all subtle, but it's valuable and a great opportunity to talk with young readers about having an outward-looking perspective.

Jeremy, who longs to have the black high tops that everyone at school seems to have but his grandmother cannot afford, is excited when he sees them for sale in a thrift shop and decides to buy them even though they are the wrong size.

Extra Yarn book
#19
Extra Yarn
Written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

From bestselling and award-winning author Mac Barnett and illustrator Jon Klassen comes Extra Yarn, a Caldecott Honor Book, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner, and a New York Times bestseller. A young girl and her box of magical yarn transform a community in this stunning picture book. With spare, gently humorous illustrations and a palette that moves from black-and-white to a range of color, this modern fairy tale has the feel of a new classic. Fans of Oliver Jeffers and Peter Brown will love this book.

My Heart book
#20
My Heart
Written and illustrated by Corinna Luyken
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

From the author-illustrator of The Book of Mistakes comes a gorgeous picture book about caring for your own heart and living with kindness and empathy. My heart is a window. My heart is a slide. My heart can be closed…or opened up wide. Some days your heart is a puddle or a fence to keep the world out. But some days it is wide open to the love that surrounds you. With lyrical text and breathtaking art, My Heart, My Heart empowers all readers to listen to the guide within in this ode to love and self-acceptance.

We're All Wonders book
#21
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.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? book
#22
Have You Filled a Bucket Today?
Written by Carol McCloud and illustrated by David Messing
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-9

"Children are not the only ones that need to learn how to be truly happy. It's all in the bucket, that invisible bucket that follows you everywhere... teaches young readers valuable lessons about giving, sharing, and caring. This guide to daily happiness, though, is not just for kids. We all need reminders of the benefits of positive thinking and positive behavior. It's an important lesson to teach and remind us all . . . that showing kindness and appreciation of others goes a long way to making this world a happier place for everyone, including ourselves. A classic tale, beautifully told and beautifully shared." —Emily-Jane Hills Orford, Readers' Favorite Book Reviews While using a simple metaphor of a bucket and a dipper, author Carol McCloud illustrates that when we choose to be kind, we not only fill the buckets of those around us, but also fill our OWN bucket! Conversely, when we choose to say or do mean things, we are dipping into buckets. All day long, we are either filling up or dipping into each other's buckets by what we say and what we do. When you're a bucket filler, you make the world a better place to be! This 32-page picture book is perfect for children, parents, grandparents, teachers and people that want to teach empathy, nurture kindness and create a positive environment in their home, classroom, workplace and community.

That's Not How You Do It! book
#23
That's Not How You Do It!
Written and illustrated by Ariane Hofmann-Maniyar
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Lucy knows how to do everything. All her friends ask her for help if they need to know the right way to do something. When Toshi arrives, Lucy thinks he can't do anything properly at all. She can barely hide her frustration. When she finally tries to teach Toshi the right way to do things, she learns a very important lesson herself.

Strictly No Elephants book
#24
Strictly No Elephants
Written by Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

When the local Pet Club won’t admit a boy’s tiny pet elephant, he finds a solution—one that involves all kinds of unusual animals in this sweet and adorable picture book. Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend. Imaginative and lyrical, this sweet story captures the magic of friendship and the joy of having a pet.

Stand in My Shoes book
#25
Stand in My Shoes
Written and illustrated by Bob Sornson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-9

After her sister explains the meaning of empathy to her, Emily decides to pay closer attention to the struggles those closest to her endure.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.