Ah, the holiday season is upon us, and so is the ever-growing Wish List. I blame the one-too-many Kit-Kats post-Halloween for switching on the “I want” button in my brain for the next two months. Frenzy to buy gifts—my 6-year-old and 2-year-old boys share this sentiment on every Target visit—I forget that ‘Tis [also] the Season for giving things that are not actually Batman-shaped things. Kindness is one, I remind myself.
Perhaps because I write for a living (and recently wrote a children’s book, Little Feminist Picture Book, books are my alternative to Xanax when my brain goes on the fritz. My love for children’s books is mostly appreciation that the to-the-point narratives and illustrations teach life lessons in a far superior way than my attempts to reel off morals to my backseat audience.
And so, I turn to colorful pages to keep my children (ok, myself) mindful through this holiday hoopla. Kindness is multifaceted and I can’t always delve into all the paradigms.
Yet, half-an-hour with a stack of books sends a message of mindfulness toward what it means to be kind. Books work because they help children learn about experiences they may not experience in their day-to-day lives from picture-based scenarios. Research further backs these book-to-real life transfers. According to Developmental Science, 4 and 6-year-olds who read books about human characters who shared were more likely to part with their stickers after such a story.
A study in Frontiers in Psychology also demonstrated that when children read books about feelings for about two months, they (particularly boys) showed significant improvements in their emotion-centric vocabulary and better recognized masked emotions. What’s more, books that address emotional intelligence, not only help boost academic prowess, they help kids make more friends, research shows.
If, like me, you’re itching to start your holiday shopping, here, a preschooler and kindergartener-vetted list of books about kindness that will continue to give after the holiday season is over.
Little Feminist Picture Book by Yelena Moroz Alpert
Yes, I wrote this book, but I also saw first-hand effects of how my 6-year-old son started thinking about justice and equality after reading about the challenges women like Josephine Baker and Marie Curie faced. The book introduces kids to 25 amazing woman—from Cleopatra to Misty Copeland—and how they broke race and gender barriers.
Duck & Goose: Goose Needs a Hug by Tad Hills
Goose teaches preschoolers (and parents) a valuable lesson that comes with listening to others. Goose is sad and his friends think they know how to fix his melancholy, when in reality, Goose has the answer all along. Parents take note: we don’t always know the needs of our little ones.
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
The tale of the friendly blue engine is a classic for a reason. Making time to assist someone in trouble is something we all want our children to learn. The triumph of this tale does just that: it teaches kids that we should never be too good, or too busy, to help others.
I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët
This wordless picture book is worth a thousand words. Kids make up their own narratives to an illustrated story about a new girl who faced a bully and the victorious outcome thanks to the kindness of one stranger.
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
A boy’s dream about coveted black high tops takes the reader on a journey of what it’s like to really, really want something. Likewise, it gives young audiences a glimpse into a world where “need” trumps “want.” The protagonist of this heartfelt story allows kids to walk in other people’s shoes, if only a few pages at a time.
Twig by Aura Parker
How exciting or intimidating is the first day of school? Twig is a story about Heidi, the stick insect who resembles a twig of a tree. This whimsical picture book takes us through how she prepares for her first day of school with lessons on making new friends.
Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor
Let a Supreme Court Justice teach your kids about acceptance. Sotomayor takes a page out of her own story (she is diabetic) to educate children that not all differences are easy to see. Kids with a medical condition, like asthma, autism or dyslexia, may do things their own way—and that’s just fine. (Also available in Spanish.)
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
We know robots don’t have feelings—or do they? An unlikely story of a robot that was stranded on an uninhabited island and learned to truly understood what it means to be kind thanks to her wild animal neighbors. While not a picture book, listening to this novel in the car is an ideal replacement to endless renditions of Baby Shark.
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller
Elementary school comes with its own social challenges, and the heroine of this story ponders how kindness can make a difference not just in school, but in the world. Don’t be surprised if your kids start reflecting on how they can take steps to better a sticky situation.
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
Inspiration and creativity doesn’t always strike right away. At least it didn’t for Vashti, the reluctant character in this story, who needed a bit of encouragement to see her full potential as a dot-painting aficionado. See how she gains confidence, and then passes it on. Think of it as an introduction to paying it forward for the junior set.
So Close by Natalia Colombo
Hello. Simple words can make all the difference, as Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Duck can attest in this whimsical book about friendship. The message here: making an effort to reach out to people around us is crucial in this digitally-saturated age. Psychologist Sherry Turkle, famous for her TED Talks and book, Alone Together, would approve.
Since you asked..
The book case in this article was from Crate & Kids. Note: This is not a sponsored post.