Here's a list of heartwarming books for kids that teach empathy and kindness. Add them to your personal library today! Find more books on bullying, feelings, and other tough topics in our Book Finder.
If You Plant Seed
In this picture book, a rabbit and a mouse plant vegetable seeds and relax as they wait for the seeds to grow. To their dismay, some birds wish to steal their bounty. The rabbit, mouse and the birds come to an agreement about who gets the food; solidifying friendships while learning about sharing along the way. "Some of the greatest lessons we can pass on to children are inclusion, acceptance and love," says Christina Nemphos, Youth Services Coordinator, Burlington County Library System, New Jersey. "What better way to help foster promoting unity than through books? If You Plant a Seed is written for preschoolers and designed to teach them compassion through a unique story about planting seeds of kindness with others." Reading Level: 4 – 8
"Written for older children, El Deafo is a graphic novel which chronicles the author's personal experience with her own hearing loss. Through her story, Bell captures the importance of acceptance and friendships," explains Nemphos. Readers meet Cece, a child coming-of-age in the 1970s, whose bout with meningitis leads to her hearing loss. She worries that people will treat her differently once they see her hearing aid. Cece takes readers through her journey to lip-read, decipher sounds through her hearing aid, appreciate American sign language, and search for a true friend. Her hearing aid is large, bulky, and strapped to her chest, but it gives Cece "superpowers", such as eavesdropping on adult's conversations, which, in turn, boosts her social confidence. Our heroine turns her weakness into her strength, meets new friends, and even harbors a secret crush. Reading level: 8 - 12
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress
"Reading stories gives kids opportunities to imagine in advance how they'll respond in a situation they haven't encountered yet," says Thealyn Ploetz, Children's Librarian, Boston Public Library—Honan-Allston Branch. She recommends Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress. "Morris is an imaginative little boy who likes painting, puzzles, and wearing the tangerine dress in his classroom's dress-up center. Although Morris is put in the unfair position of having to befriend classmates who were unkind to him, this book gives some great openings for conversations about being kind even upon encountering someone whose appearance challenges what we're accustomed to, whether that's related to gender, race, visible disability, religion or so on." Reading Level: 4 – 7
A young narrator is not at all pleased when Jeremy Ross moves into the neighborhood. He decides the new kid is not going to be his friend. Thankfully, the narrator's father has a secret pie recipe that helps keep enemies away. While Dad mixes the ingredients and begins baking the pie, he explains the 'pie' rules to his son: Spend the day with your enemy; and be kind to him, before eating the pie. It sounds tough, but the boy decides to give it a go. Together, the narrator and Jeremy joke around with girls, play basketball, and hide out in a tree house. The narrator decides that Jeremy isn't so bad after all. But what about that pie? The boys are wary when the storyteller's dad serves them the pie. However, all is fine when the boys take a bite, and the pie is delicious. This book has a clever and effective message about how to handle conflict. Reading level: 5 - 8
One of the most popular books for kids; this is about two boys—one black, one white—who engage in small talk, which leads to an immediate bond. Raschka's beautiful watercolor and charcoal pencil illustrations help enhance the story; reitering the message that you don't need to exchange many words with someone to be kind. This book reinforces that friendship is colorblind, and that kids have a beautifully uncanny knack for interacting with another child they meet, with no judgement. Which, in a world of social media and bullying, is a message that just never gets old. Reading level: 3 - 6.
Same, Same But Different
This is a beautiful story about two pen pals: Elliot lives in America, and Kailash lives in India. They both love climbing trees, pets, and school. Their worlds might look different, but they are actually similar. Hence, Same, same. But different! Enchanced with colorful, vivid illustrations, this story shows how two boys living on oposite sides of the world, can be best buddies. Additionally, both boys come from supportive families: Elliot, lives with his parents and baby sister in a brick row house, while Kailash shares a farm with 23 members of his extended family. This book is a great way to teach kids that there are millions of other children around the world just like you; who share the same core values and interests. Reading level: 4 - 7.
The Happiest Book Ever
In this meta-tale, the book encourages its readers to make it 'the happiest book ever.' Despite the appearance of happy characters, such as a dancing cake and whale with good news, the presence of a perpetually frowning frog thwarts attempts for perfect happiness. Eventually the book ejects the frog from the book entirely, only for all the other, happy characters to demand frog's return. "Not only is it incredibly funny, it shows that happiness is expressed in different ways ("Frog was just being frog") and the positive effect of the other characters all uniting on frog's behalf," explains Ploetz. Reading level: 4 - 8