Whenever change looms in the air, be it returning to school or moving, children (like adults) tend to feel a mix of excitement and trepidation. As parents, we all long for our children to be included and form friendships at school, which usually come and go as a natural part of development. With more and more schools adopting year-long themes that focus on kindness, these 14 books were carefully selected to imbue youngsters with a sense of just how powerful kindness truly is.
And if you’re looking to start the school year off on a high note, consider donating one or two of these books to your child’s classroom.
1 | A FRIEND FOR HENRY BY JENN BAILEY
In a new classroom at the beginning of a new year, Henry is on the lookout for a friend. The goldfish or his teacher won’t do, and boisterous classmates make Henry nervous. Henry needs someone who will listen and understand him. Told with incredibly expressive and empathic images, readers learn about a boy on the autism spectrum and how each person processes the world differently. Ages 4-7.
2 | ALL THE WAYS TO BE SMART BY DAVINA BELL
“I can’t wait to share with you how smart you are the whole day through.” Thus begins this lyrical look at how children demonstrate acumen in daily acts. From doing crazy dances, and matching pairs, to picking what to wear, children learn by doing and imagining, or by merely sitting and observing. Celebrate the myriad of ways smart exists in this affirming and whimsically detailed book. We honestly can’t recommend it enough. Ages 3-6.
3 | BABY BE KIND BY JANE COWEN-FLETCHER
Round-cheeked babies take center stage in this charming board book. With a focus on simple life skills, like greeting others, sharing, being kind to animals, and navigating emotions, it’s one of those books that feels wise beyond its years. Ages 0-3.
4 | BE KIND BY PAT ZIETLOW MILLER
When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her dress, all the kids laugh. All but one. Follow a precocious young girl as she ponders how she could have helped Tanisha in that situation and what exactly it means to be kind. With thoughtful text and welcoming images, this is one of those rare books I feel deserves a spot in every home library. Ages 4-8.
5 | GOOD PEOPLE EVERYWHERE BY LYNEA GILLEN
At the start of the day, we see good people going about everyday tasks. A mother and father preparing food for their family. A studious child trying to do well on her science test. People planting seeds, while others harvest crops to feed people they’ll never meet. Millions of people across the globe, doing their best and making small contributions in their sphere of influence. Ages 4-7.
6 | I LIKE MYSELF! BY KAREN BEAUMONT
This rhyming romp of a story about a young girl who exudes confidence about herself (both her physical appearance and shifting moods), focuses on instilling a growth mindset with young readers. The resounding universal message being: You have to like/love yourself before you can spread that energy to others. Ages 2-6.
7 | KINDNESS RULES! BY EUNICE MOYLE AND SABRINA MOYLE
Magic Manners, an elephant sporting a superhero cape, saves the day in this bold board book. Follow him as he provides polite tips for navigating interactions with others. Little ones will appreciate the rhyming text and vibrant colors, while adults will welcome the positive message that never feels didactic. Ages 1-4.
8 | MOST PEOPLE BY MICHAEL LEANNAH
“Most people love to smile. Most people love to laugh. Most people are good people.” With such optimistic opening sentences, this book follows two families as they interact with neighbors and strangers throughout their day. While it acknowledges that “some people do bad things,” the message of hope is showcased throughout its pages with a diverse array of characters providing daily acts of kindness and empathy to and for others. With a thoughtful author’s note, this book is one we can’t recommend enough. Ages 3+.
9 | ORDINARY MARY’S EXTRAORDINARY DEED BY EMILY PEARSON
Ordinary Mary comes home from school one ordinary day and picks some blueberries from an ordinary neighborhood lot. She gifts them to a neighbor who turns the berries into muffins and passes on the kindness to other neighbors. Each person, in turn, does something nice for a stranger or loved one. A pay-it-forward book that closes with a math lesson about the infinite possibilities of one kind gesture. Ages 5-8.
10 | PAULIE PASTRAMI ACHIEVES WORLD PEACE BY JAMES PROIMOS
A pizza-loving, pet-racing protagonist Paulie Pastrami (who could not yet whistle) achieved world peace by first being kind to small animals. From there, he started caring for the earth and sat quietly in order to perfect his listening skills. After that, he turned his attention to caring for humankind (making peace with his sister) and sharing his lunch with a kid who forgot his at school. Eventually, he offered compassion to all and discovered the power of cupcakes along the way. An endearing read for slightly older kids. Ages 4-7.
11 | STRICTLY NO ELEPHANTS BY LISA MANTCHEV
Owning an elephant can be tricky. When a young boy is turned away from a neighborhood playdate because of his elephant pet, he finds another estranged child (the owner of a skunk), and together they create a new playgroup. A timely message of inclusion that resonates with readers of all ages. Ages 4-8.
12 | SUPERBUNS!: KINDNESS IS HER SUPERPOWER BY DIANE KREDENSOR
Superbuns is a kind rabbit who helps others throughout her day. However, her older know-it-all sister, Blossom, doesn’t believe for a single second that kindness is a superpower. When the two go on an errand to deliver cobbler, Superbuns notices a little fox following them. Blossom is certain the fox means harm, however Superbuns takes a more humane approach to the situation. The twist ending demonstrates how kindness (in a myriad of forms) really is the universal answer. Ages 4-7.
13 | THE BUDDY BENCH BY PATTY BROZO
A classroom races outside for recess, and while numerous children begin playing, a handful of kids stay on the sidelines—watching and feeling left out. When a stray kite descends on one such newcomer, the group grows bigger not by one but by all the other outsiders. Once the children return to their classroom, together with their teacher, they decide to build a bench where anyone can sit when they feel like they need a friend during recess. Based on schools around the world that have adopted such benches, this rhyming feel-good book leaves a lasting impression. Ages 5-10.
14 | TINY ACTS OF KINDNESS BY THUY HA
A rhythmic ode to the numerous ways small acts of kindness spread figurative sunshine into the lives of others. We especially like the list of 52 Acts of Kindness at the end of the book that encourages children to flex their kindness muscles all year long. Ages 3-7.