Kindness and Community

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Kindness and Community

Building Empathetic and Kind Readers through Picture Books

The world always needs a dose of kindness. In these books, ordered from books appropriate for babies and toddlers to older elementary school children, explore how being kind, including others and learning about other people can make our world a better place.

How Kind! by Mary Murphy
A colorful board book for babies and toddlers, Mary Murphy’s story of how one act of kindness sets off a chain of events throughout the farm is bright and engaging for even the youngest reader. One of my favorite books to share during my Baby Lap Time story times, How Kind! Is a wonderful way to talk about kindness with your youngest readers.
 
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
Lyrically written and gorgeously illustrated by Brendan Wenzel, this book explores the ways different creatures see a cat as it passes them by. Wenzel, who describes himself as an “ardent conservationalist,” weaves a sparse text with rich illustrations. While primarily featuring animals and their unique perspectives on the world, this book is a wonderful way to talk about how different people can see the same thing in different ways.
 
The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates
Just how big can an umbrella get? Co-written by Amy June Bates and her eleven year old daughter, Juniper Bates, The Big Umbrella presents a beautiful metaphor for a more diverse and inclusive world. A poetic text tells of a smiling umbrella that is more than happy to shelter anyone and everyone that comes along. The narrator warns “Some people worry that there won’t be enough room under the big umbrella,” but promptly rebuts by positively stating “the amazing thing is...there is.”
 
Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon
When Penguin finds a lonely Pinecone in the snows of his home, he takes it upon himself to protect it. Journeying north, Penguin brings Pinecone to a place where it can thrive knowing that sometimes to show the most love, you have to say goodbye. With clear language and bright graphic illustrations, Penguin and Pinecone truly shows that “When you give love...it grows.”
 
The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee
A picture book for the moment, Jon Agee’s The Wall in the Middle of this Book is a pertinent reminder of how walls both physical and metaphoric keep us from understanding the world around us. As trouble grows on the unnamed knight’s side of the wall, he steadfastly states that his brick wall is keeping him safe from the creatures of the other side of the wall. Only when he needs help from the other side, he comes to reconsider what the wall actually accomplishes. A subtle, pastel palette underscores this beautiful book of tolerance and understanding.
 
Be Kind by Pam Zietlow Miller
When Tanisha spills grape juice all over new dress, her friend thinks about the best ways she can be kind to her. A book that wears its heart on its sleeve, what follows is a beautiful exploration about all the small ways we can choose to be in our everyday lives. This is a great way to introduce the concept of empathy as you challenge a child to put themselves into the shoes of Tanisha and her friend.
  
Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex
As all the fruits gather to celebrate themselves in rhyme, the rhyme-less Orange feels left out. But when Apple notices how Orange is feeling about its predicament, Apple joyfully brings Orange into the fold. Fancifully illustrated with real pictures of fruit, the rhyming text makes this picture book a joy to read aloud with its themes of inclusion and the celebration of our differences.
 
Giraffe Problems by Jory John
A companion to Jory John and Lane Smith’s previous collaboration, Penguin Problems, Giraffe Problems is another exploration of where we are, who we are, and what we look like is always just fine. Giraffe is frustrated and self-conscious of his long neck, until Turtle comes along to help him see his neck in a different light. A great book to talk about our physical differences, and how those differences can be wonderful.

Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña
In their follow-up collaboration to Last Stop on Market Street, Newberry Medalist Matt de la Peña and Caldecott Honoree Christian Robinson's, Carmela Full of Wishes is a touching picture book about a girl who just wants to make her world a more beautiful place. Carmela follows her brother through their day of errands, past the neighborhood pandería, past workers in fields, past street vendors, and to the sea, all the while wondering what how best to spend her birthday wish for the people she loves. Carmela Full of Wishes can be a vibrant window into a world of others’ lives.

Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
What list of books about thinking about others can be made without Dr. Seuss’s classic, Horton Hears a Who? Horton’s mantra, “A person’s a person, no matter how small” rings as abundantly clear as it did in 1954. Thought of as crazy for wanting to protect Whoville, an entire civilization contained in a tiny speck, Horton works tirelessly to protect and defend his smaller than small friends from the other denizens of the Jungle of Nool. A children’s classic for all the right reasons, Horton Hears a Who is always worth a reread.