#LiteracyFun: 9 Children’s Books to Spark Conversations about Kindness & Empathy

The following are beautifully written and illustrated books that offer lessons about friendship, understanding, thoughtfulness and compassion. These books capture the power of kindness, the ability to see outward, as well as the sense of purpose and pride that can come from helping someone. They also teach children that you don’t have to perform a heroic act to make the world a better place, but that even the smallest act of kindness can make a huge difference.

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld (Author & Illustrator)
When something sad happens, Taylor doesn’t know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn’t feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that’s not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to act, and one by one they fail to offer comfort. Then the rabbit arrives, and all the rabbit does is listen, which is just what Taylor needs. With its spare, poignant text and irresistibly sweet illustration, this book is about how to comfort and heal the people in your life, by taking the time to carefully, lovingly, gently listen.

Image result for The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld (Author & Illustrator)
Image from The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld (Author & Illustrator)


Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña (author) and Christian Robinson (illustrator)
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty, and fun, in their routine and the world around them. This energetic ride through a bustling city highlights the wonderful perspective only grandparent and grandchild can share and that comes to life vibrant text and radiant illustrations.

Last Stop On Market Street
Image from Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña (author) and Christian Robinson (illustrator)


Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev (Author), Taeeun Yoo (Illustrator)
When the local Pet Club won’t admit a boy’s tiny pet elephant, he finds a solution: one that involves all kinds of unusual animals in this sweet and adorable picture book. Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend. Imaginative and lyrical, this sweet story captures the magic of friendship and the joy of having a pet.

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle (Author), Jill McElmurry (Illustrator)
This is a cute board book that the littlest one’s will love. Meet Blue. A muddy country road is no match for this little pick up- that is, until he gets stuck while pushing a dump truck out of the muck. Luckily, Blue has made a pack of farm animal friends along his route. And they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get their pal back on the road. With a text full of truck sounds and animals noises to read aloud, here is a rollicking homage to the power of friendship and the rewards of helping others.

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry (Author), Tom Lichtenheld (Illustrator)
Lonely Stick and solitary Stone become friends in this sing-song picture-book about friendship and loyalty. After Stick stands up for Stone against Pinecone the bully, the two become an inseparable pair. Then a storm sends Stick flying, and it is Stone’s turn to come to the rescue. This warm, rhyming text highlights kindness and friendship and even includes a subtle anti-bullying message that even the youngest reader will understand.

Be Kind by Zietlow Miller, Pat (Author), Jen Hill (Illustrator)
When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate wants to make her feel better, wondering: What does it mean to be kind? From asking the new girl to play to standing up for someone being bullied, this moving story explores what kindness is, and how any act, big or small, can make a difference, or at least help a friend. With a gentle text and irresistible art, this book is an unforgettable story about how two simple words can change the world.

Image result for Be Kind by Zietlow Miller, Pat (Author), Jen Hill (Illustrator)
Image from Be Kind by Zietlow Miller, Pat (Author), Jen Hill (Illustrator)


One by Kathryn Otoshi (Author)
Blue is a quiet color. Red’s a hothead who likes to pick on Blue. Yellow, Orange, Green, and Purple don’t like what they see, but what can they do? When no one speaks up, things get out of hand, until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count. As budding young readers learn about numbers, counting, and primary and secondary colors, they also learn about accepting each other’s differences and how it sometimes just takes one voice to make everyone count.

Emma and the Whale by Julie Case (Author), Lee White (Illustrator)
Emma lives in a crooked house in an old whaling town, and often takes her dog, Nemo, to the beach. On their walks, they find amazing treasures, like shells and stones and sea glass, and even a loggerhead turtle. But one day, they find something completely unexpected: a baby whale, washed ashore. Emma empathizes with the animal’s suffering, imagining what the whale is thinking and feeling. When the tide starts to come in, Emma pushes as the water swirls and rises, and eventually the whale swims free, back to her mother.

Image result for Emma and the Whale by Julie Case (Author), Lee White (Illustrator)
Image from Emma and the Whale by Julie Case (Author), Lee White (Illustrator)


Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell (Author) and Corinna Luyken (Illustrator)
Adrian Simcox tells anyone who will listen that he has a horse- the best and most beautiful horse anywhere. But Chloe does NOT believe him. Adrian Simcox lives in a tiny house. Where would he keep a horse? He has holes in his shoes. How would he pay for a horse? The more Adrian talks about his horse, the angrier Chloe gets. But when she calls him out at school and even complains about him to her mom, Chloe doesn’t get the vindication she craves. She gets something far more important. Written with tenderness and poignancy and gorgeously illustrated, this book will show readers that kindness is always rewarding, understanding is sweeter than judgment, and friendship is the best gift one can give.

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