As teachers, we want our students to be kind. One of the best ways that I know how to teach them that is with picture book read-alouds! Kindness books are an invaluable tool for discussion.
Books help send that message by introducing students to engaging, kind characters and story lines that demonstrate kindness in action. Kindness books help kids understand and empathize with different perspectives.
Want to watch or listen to this information? I’ve got a video for you! On my channel, you can learn about my 5 favorite kindness books.
I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoet
In this simple, yet powerful, story we learn about Vanessa, who is new to school. On her way home, a boy is mean to Vanessa. One of her classmates observes this, but doesn’t know how to help. She is up all night, feeling helpless about the situation. In the morning, the young girl goes to Vanessa’s house and walks with her to school.
Her simple act of kindness inspires the other students and, in the end, they all end up walking with her.
This is a wordless picture book, which makes the story more powerful. It shows that kids can be an ally without having to say a word. I Walk with Vanessa demonstrates how one person’s actions can encourage others to stand up for what is right.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
Similar to the previous book, this story is about a new student. Maya is new school and wants to be friends with Chloe. Chloe, however, rejects Maya’s attempts at friendship. Maya tries multiple times to talk and play with Chloe, to no avail.
One day, their teacher shares a lesson on kindness. She explains that it is similar to throwing a rock into water. One act of kindness can have a ripple effect and lead to many other acts of kindness.
Chloe reflects on the way she has treated Maya and decides that she is going to be kind to her. Maya, however, never returns to their class. Chloe realizes that she has missed out on an opportunity for a new friendship. It is a moving reminder to show kindness every chance that we get.
The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates
The Big Umbrella is a simple story, but one that students will resonate with. A young child grabs an umbrella on the way out the door on a rainy day. As they walk along the sidewalk, they invite more people to join them under the umbrella to stay dry.
It doesn’t matter if they are tall, short or hairy, there is room for everyone! The umbrella grows in size as more people are invited in and no one is left out in the rain.
This provides a great opportunity for discussion with your students. We never run out of kindness, there is always more to go around!
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
In The Invisible Boy, no one seems to notice Brian. He is very quiet and shy and doesn’t cause any trouble. So much so that he isn’t invited to birthday parties or to join in the game. No one wants to be his partner. Looking at the illustrations, he is even drawn in black and white, while everything else is in color.
When a new student arrives, Brian is the first to welcome Justin to the class. Justin, in turn, notices Brian. He talks to him and wants to work with him on a class project. Brian starts to fill with color and really shine in his class.
This simple act of engaging in conversation with someone or inviting them to work together can make a big difference!
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller
Tanisha spills grape juice on herself at lunchtime and everyone laughs at her. She is so embarrassed! One student, however, does not laugh and reaches out to make Tanisha feel better. But it doesn’t work.
This child then ponders what it really means to be kind. The story then goes on to talk about how kindness can mean giving something to another person, helping others, listening or even just saying someone’s name.
What I like about this story is that it explores what kindness really is, with concrete examples. Students often overthink the concept and feel as though it needs to be a grand gesture. Be Kind shares that simply saying “thank you” is a way to be kind. It provides take-aways that students can put into action right away.
What kindness books do you use in your classroom?