“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
― Henry James
Small acts of kindness can have ripple effects that change the lives of others around us. Kindness is one of the most important values for children and young people to learn, and reading books that inspire, can help children develop compassion and kindness and how to treat others with love.
Below we’ve listed 10 books that encourage children and young people about the importance of kindness.
1. “A Sick Day for Amos McGee”
Recommend age: 4+
Every day, Amos McGee the zookeeper visits his animal friends and makes sure they’re doing okay. When Amos’s case of the sniffles keeps him away from the zoo, he receives some unexpected—but much needed—guests. This book shows children the difference a friend can make to those in need.
2. "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?"
Recommend age: 4-8
Have You Filled a Bucket Today encourages kindness towards others by encouraging positive behaviour by using the concept of an 'invisible bucket' that holds your good thoughts and feelings. This book focuses on how our social interactions positively or negatively affect others and encourages all to be kind.
3. “I Walk With Vanessa”
Recommended age: 4-8
Vanessa's first day at a new school is lonely and on the way home, things get worse. A boy is mean to her, and she runs home upset — and one of her classmates sees the whole thing. Both girls are heartbroken, but the bystander realises that she can help and the next morning, she invites Vanessa to walk to school alongside her. This picture book's expressive images capture the helplessness that children can feel when they see someone being bullied, as well as the power of simple acts of kindness and the strength that comes from standing together.
4. “Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed”
Recommended age: 4-8
The most amazing thing about kindness is how it ripples out beyond the original act. This story is about an average girl who decides to pick some blueberries for her neighbour. The neighbour bakes blueberry muffins and gives plates of them to five other people. This good deed turns into a chain of strangers doing kind things for other strangers. All of the kind actions can be traced back to Mary’s blueberry picking and good deed.
5. “Those Shoes”
Recommended age: 5-8
In this book, we see a young boy dreaming about getting a pair of really cool shoes. Unfortunately, his family does not have the money for the new shoes so he eventually finds the shoes in a thrift shop in near perfect condition and buys them, even though they don’t quite fit. Another student in his class can't afford new shoes either whose feet would fit in the cool shoes, so the young boy decides to give them away. This book highlights the importance of making difficult decisions and how the two boys end up happier than they were before due to an act of kindness.
6. “Each Kindness”
Recommended age: 5-9
Chloe and her friends won’t play with Maya, who wears hand-me-down clothes and plays with old toys. Maya stops asking and moves away shortly after. But when Chloe’s teacher invites her students to think about how small kindnesses might affect the world in unexpected ways, Chloe realises that she can’t think of a single time that she was kind to Maya, and now that Maya is gone, the opportunity is gone. The book leaves a positive note: if everyone resolves to show kindness to everyone they meet, the ripples will extend around the world.
7. “Horton Hears a Who”
Recommended age: 5-9
Horton Hears a Who is a book about an elephant who discovers an entire community living on a speck of dust. Horton is the only animal in the jungle who is able to hear the Whos. Despite being made fun of by the other animals, Horton stands by Whoville because he knows it is the right thing to do. Not only is Horton doing the right thing, he is doing the right thing while everyone around him is bullying him to give up. This teaches an important lesson about standing by what you believe in, no matter what you face.
Recommended age: 8-12
August is starting school after being home schooled for his entire life, but because of a facial deformity that he’s had since birth, his parents worry that other students will tease him. Auggie is determined to attend school and wants nothing more than for his classmates to treat him as normal. As he navigates making new friends, adjusting to school life, and responding to bullies with bravery and grace, he and his peers learn important lessons about compassion
Recommended age: 11+
Stargirl is about a formerly home-schooled student who shows up one day at a new high school and baffles her classmates with her unique acts of kindness. That is, until it's time for her to be "normal." Stargirl's effect on others in the novel has inspired real life schools to start Stargirl Societies, where her brand of kindness is celebrated and developed. This book encourages young people to embrace individuality, promote tolerance, and help everyone to be more sensitive to others.
10. “Lord of the Flies”
Recommended age: 13+
A group of English schoolboys become stranded on a desert island during a nuclear war. Gradually throughout the ordeal their character transforms from “civilised” and “proper” into cruel, greedy savages without an ounce of kindness. This is a book is a great insight into life without kindness and the possible consequences.
Let us know if you have any more recommendations!