I have always loved finding new books for my classroom library! There's no greater joy than sharing a favorite story with students. I try to keep a wide range of subjects in my library so every kid can find something interesting to read. But no matter what, I always include books about the power of kindness. It's a simple way for kids to learn the importance of kind words and kind deeds.
Here is a list of my favorite books about kindness for kids. (This blog post may contain affiliate links.) This list isn't just for primary grades. Even 4th and 5th graders enjoy a good picture book if the topic is relevant to their lives.
Favorite Picture Books About Kindness For Kids
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
This one is a classic and there are a lot of different interpretations out there. It is a beautiful story about selflessness and giving to others, even when you don't get anything in return. I love this book for older kids (3rd grade and up). The minimal text and simple illustrations deliver a powerful punch as students realize that the tree is only happy when it can give of itself to the boy. This story really demonstrates that true happiness comes from serving others. It was published in 1964 and has withstood the test of time for a very good reason.
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
I love this book because it's one of the few the gently focuses on the quiet kids; the ones the rest of the class overlooks. In this story, the main character is Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or include him in their group or birthday parties or even sit with him at lunch. But then a new kid comes to class and Brain goes out of his way to make the new boy feel welcome. This small act of kindness opens the door for Brian to make new friends and feel accepted. This book demonstrates the power of inclusion.
Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli
This very entertaining story shows young readers how feeling loved can make a big difference in someone's life. Mr. Hatch leads a lonely, unhappy life. But when he accidentally receives a Valentine meant for someone else, Mr. Hatch suddenly feels loved. He proceeds to spread that love to everyone around town and discovers that small acts of kindness can have a big impact.
Your students can watch a read-aloud of Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch on Storyline Online
One Smile by Cindy McKinley
This is the perfect book to show kids how one little kindness can start a chain reaction of kind acts. Katie is walking through the park with her mother and simply smiles at a sad-looking man. The smiles brings joy to the man who then helps a woman change her tire. Feeling thankful, the woman leaves a large tip for a waitress who uses the money to buy treats for her children, which they share with a lonely girl. And so it goes, until Katie's simple act of kindness comes full circle.
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
This very entertaining book has been a favorite of my students' for years. The main character, Jeremy, thinks he has an enemy. But then he discovers that one good deed can turn an enemy into a friend. This story can also be viewed on Storyline Online: Enemy Pie
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
This book sends a powerful message by forgoing the happy ending in most other children's books. It's the story of a young girl named Maya who is new at school. She's different than the other students and they all view her as weird. They say mean things about her and refuse to play with her. Eventually, Maya stops coming to school and the children learn a lesson from their teacher that every act creates a ripple effect, just like a pebble dropped in water. Chloe realizes the mistake she made and can’t wait for Maya to come back to school to show her kindness. However, Maya never returns. The message? Our choices matter. Sometimes we don't get a do-over. Sometimes opportunities are lost and mistakes can't be corrected. Choose kindness the first time. This story is reminiscent of the classic book The Hundred Dresses.
Bloom by Anne Booth
I love this sweet story about a flower - a flower that is visited every day by a little girl. But then the flower's owner yells at the girl and sends her away. Soon the flower stops blooming and the angry old man doesn't understand why. Eventually, he asks the girl and she explains that he should talk to the flower kindly. As he does, his heart fills with love and the flower blooms once again. A simple story that demonstrates the power of our words - the power to either build up or tear down.
I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët
This is a wordless picture book based on real events. Vanessa is a young girl who is being bullied by a boy who lives on her street. Another girl in the neighborhood decides that she wants to do something about it. She meets Vanessa before school in the morning so they can walk together. Soon others join in to form a united front. It's a touching story about standing up for other people.
The Soup Movement by Ben Davies
This is the only chapter book on my list. It is heartwarming, emotional, and teaches about empathy. It touches on some difficult topics such as cancer and homelessness, so definitely more appropriate for upper elementary kids. It's the story of a boy named Jordan who is dealing with a lot of challenges in his young life. But then in a single act of kindness, he gives his soup to a homeless man. It's the beginning of an unlikely friendship and the start of a movement to spread kindness through the entire community.
I hope this list of books gives you a good starting point for teaching your students about the power in simple acts of kindness and how to be a good friend, even when it isn't easy.