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The Ultimate List of the Best Children’s Books About Kindness

Inside: Reading these children’s books about kindness will teach your child to be a kind and compassionate person. Add these titles to your collection of the best picture books.

As parents, we want to raise kids who grow up to be kind and compassionate and maybe even thoughtful enough to return their grocery store cart to the parking lot corral.

Thankfully, research shows that kids act with kindness and compassion from a very early age – before we ever try to teach them to be kind. For example:

Babies as young as six months old show a clear preference for kind and helpful behavior as opposed to mean behavior.
3-year-olds can actually be great about sharing prized toys with their friends.
When given the opportunity to be kind to others, kids feel happier than if they’re doing something that just benefits them alone.

Bonus: Download these free conversation starters that will help raise your kids to be kind.

But Then, Something Happens…

Between the time we see our toddlers’ first sprout of compassion and the time we send our sweet kiddos off to school:

“Research shows that as they enter school around age five or so, children shift away from their innate altruism toward selfishness.”
Washington Post

But…why five? Why do parents and teachers tend to see a change in kids’ behavior around this timeframe?

Because that’s when your child is thrown into a big group with other kids, and herd mentality isn’t always a pretty sight. Kids start teasing other kids. Showing aggression. Bullying.

This is when kids’ innate kindness is put to a real-life test.

Related: The Only Thing You Need for Raising Smart Kids (And Kind Kids, Too)

How books about kindness can bolster your child's innate kindness
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.

How? According to a report by Harvard researchers:

Kids need to hear from us that kindness is important,
Kids need daily opportunities to practice caring for others, and
We need to encourage kids to consider the perspective and struggles of others.

That may sound like a lot, but we’re lucky to have one powerful parenting tool that will knock out all three of those in one fell swoop: children’s books about kindness.

Related: 40 Questions That Will Teach Your Kid to Be Kind to Others {Printable}

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.

Related: The Ultimate List of the Best Picture Books, Endorsed by Kids And Parents

Children's books about kindness are like a virtual reality simulation for kids
40 Best Children’s Books About Kindness

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

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.

Stick and Stone – This is an adorable story about the power of standing up for others, and the puns are fun for parents. This book is in our regular bedtime story rotation because the kids love it, and so do we!
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon – The bully in this story shows how kindness is a choice. And you can’t help but smile at Molly Lou Melon’s quiet confidence through it all.
One – 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.
Strictly No Elephants – This cute book helps kids think about the ramifications of excluding others and how that makes others feel. The perfect way to teach your child to be an includer! My whole family adores this book.

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I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness – 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.
Nerdy Birdy – This book shows that everyone deserves to be treated with kindness, even if they’re different from you. Kids who feel like they don’t quite fit in tend to especially love this story.
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade – Even if you’re small or young (or both), you can always speak up for what’s right. Kids often feel powerless in this big world, so they love cheering on little Sally in this story.
The Big Umbrella – This is a beautifully simple book to show that there’s always room for including everyone and taking care of each other, no matter who they are.

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Related: The Ultimate List of the Best Children’s Books About Friendship

Books About Being There for Others

No list of books that teach kindness would be complete without showing how to be there for others.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee – Being kind means showing up for others in need, and no other picture book demonstrates that as beautifully as this story does. So, so good!
A Chair for My Mother – This is a classic children’s book about kindness, but it’s a little wordy for younger kids. With that said, my preschooler can’t get enough of it. She loves 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.
The Rabbit Listened – 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!
Grumpy Goat – How do you help a friend who’s feeling grumpy? This book shows the power of simply sitting with a friend who’s upset – something even many adults struggle to do.

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Books About Seeing the Good in Others

When you’re looking for children’s books about being kind, make sure to include stories that inspire kids to see the good in others.

Good People Everywhere – Such a sweet book! With all the bad news in the world dragging us down, this beautiful little book shows kids examples of the good that people are doing right at this moment.
Horrible Bear – 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!”
Ribbit! – This is a great story to teach the power of assigning positive intent when someone else’s behavior doesn’t immediately make sense to you.
Dragon Was Terrible – This is one of the best stories I’ve seen that helps kids assign positive intent to someone they’re not getting along with. Plus, it’s hilarious.

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The Story Book Knight – The main character Leo doesn’t want to solve problems by fighting, even though he’s a knight, so he gets creative. Such a heartwarming little story.
Most People – 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.”
We’re All Wonders – This is a picture book by the author of Wonder, and the message here is the same but for the younger crowd: Everyone deserves kindness, no matter what.
Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth – 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.

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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.

Should I Share My Ice Cream? – 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.”
Knuffle Bunny Free – This is the third and final book in the Knuffle Bunny series. Trixie is growing up and has a golden opportunity to be kind to a younger child…and I dare you not to get choked up at the end.
Little Fox in the Forest – Full disclosure: This is a wordless picture book, and I haven’t always seen the beauty in that style of book. But my preschooler fell in love with this one, 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.
The Girl and the Bicycle – 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.

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A Hat for Mrs. Goldman – So sweet! My kids love this story of doing something kind for someone even when it’s hard. Bonus: This story also shows kids the power of perseverance and a growth mindset.
Enemy Pie – This story sends the message that it’s important to choose kindness, even when you’re dealing with an “enemy.” So clever!
The Fox Wish – This one sparked a great discussion about why you might decide to give away something you love, simply to make someone else happy.
Leonardo, the Terrible Monster – Another awesome creation from Mo Willems. This picture book shows kids the power of choosing empathy and kindness even when you’re “supposed to” exclude someone.

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Books About the Karma of Being Kind

These picture books about kindness show kids that what goes around, comes around.

Plant a Kiss – 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.
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates – 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.
The Lion & The Mouse – This wordless interpretation of one of Aesop’s fables introduces the idea of karma and shows why you should treat others how you would expect to be treated.

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Extra Yarn – This is a quirky, lovely story about what happens when you throw kindness around like confetti. We read this nearly every day!
Sidewalk Flowers – Another wordless picture book, this one shows how even the smallest of kindnesses can brighten people’s days.
Ivy Loves to Give – Toddlers love this story because sometimes when they try to do what’s “right,” it still ends up being “wrong.” But kindness prevails.
If You Plant a Seed – When you share and work together, good things happen. This is an adorable story about the power of an abundance mindset.

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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.

Baby Be Kind – This board book is the perfect introduction to kindness for infants and young toddlers because it steps through simple ways to be kind.
Peace Is an Offering – This is a lovely collection of ideas for being kind to others and how being kind can bring you peace.
Be Kind – My kids loved the pictures of different ways to show kindness. This book gives you a great way to put “kindness” in tangible terms kids can wrap their heads around by showing real-life examples.
Come With Me – This simple, sweet text gives lots of kid-friendly examples of how to be kind.

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Last Stop on Market Street – 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!

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Bonus! 5 Chapter Books About Kindness

My 10-year-old 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:

The Hundred Dresses
Wishtree
Wonder
Fish in a Tree
Ghost

Before You Go: Get This Free Printable for Raising Kind Kids

One of the best ways to raise kind kids according to experts is to talk through ethical dilemmas with your child or ask your child about dilemmas they’ve faced.

Children’s books about kindness are a great tool for fostering those conversations, but you can also start powerful conversations about kindness at the dinner table or in the car while driving to school.

So I made a free printable version of 40 conversation starters for you to use with your family.

The Secret to Raising Your Kids to Be Kind

Download and print these “What Would You Do?” cards and then at dinner or in the car, pick a card and ask your kids how they’d handle a situation. You might be surprised by their answers!

For tips on keeping these conversations open, friendly, and positive, check out 40 Questions That Will Teach Your Kid to Be Kind to Others.

Download the cards. You’ll get the printable, plus join my weekly newsletter! Just click here to download and subscribe.
Print. I designed them to print on Avery business cards for inkjet or laser printers. Or you can just print them on regular paper or card stock. (If you go the business card route and the lines don’t PERFECTLY line up, please don’t sue me. That would be unkind.)
Cut. Or if you’re like me and you can’t cut a straight line to save your life, fold and tear to get a charmingly casual look.
Pop the cards into an empty bowl or mason jar, put it on your dining room table, and you’re DONE.

Download my FREE cheat sheet as a bonus for joining my newsletter: 16 Miracle Phrases to Help You Reconnect With Your Child
Your Turn

What are your favorite books about kindness? Share in a comment below!


Author informationKellyKelly

I’m a mom of four, a recovering perfectionist, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. Parenting is hard enough without all the guilt we heap on top of ourselves. So let’s stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. Sound good? Join my mailing list and as a bonus, you’ll get 25+ incredibly helpful cheat sheets that will ease your parenting struggles.

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