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Anyone, no matter how young, can help make the world a better place through their thoughtful actions. It’s never too early to set a good example for children by modeling simple acts of kindness. When children are encouraged to see things from another’s point of view and be shown how their actions can help uplift others, they often grow up to be more caring, responsible, and compassionate members of a global community. Books can teach children that they don’t have to perform a heroic act to make the world a better place because even the smallest acts of kindness ripple across the world in ways that no one could imagine.
Preschool, Kindergarten, First Grade
Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler by Margery Cuyler
Mrs. Ruler is an unconventional teacher who decides to teach her unruly students that kindness is cool. Each kindergartner must perform five acts of kindness, and while most of the kids catch on, there is one student who needs a rescue of the class gerbils to get in a last-minute act of kindness. Parents and teachers will appreciate the list of 100 acts of kindness at the back of the book to inspire kids with ways to put kindness into action.
Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry
When Stick rescues Stone from a prickly situation with a Pinecone, the pair becomes fast friends. But when Stick gets stuck, can Stone return the favor?
Written with a warm, rhyming text that includes a subtle anti-bullying message even the youngest reader will understand. New York Times bestselling illustrator Tom Lichtenheld imbues Stick and Stone with energy, emotion, and personality to spare.
Second & Third Grade
The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
The children in this book are inspired by Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse after their teacher, Mrs. Bloom, reads the story in class. She then instructs each student to perform an act of kindness and present it to the class. Minna cannot choose just one and decides to make a quilt with all of them. Other classmates add theirs to the quilt, and it soon takes over the school. The unique cut-paper illustrations present a variety of ways in which the important lesson of kindness can be shared, and displayed.
Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein
Amelia smiles as she skips down the street, so her neighbor Mrs. Higgins smiles too, and decides to send a care package of cookies to her grandson Lionel in Mexico. The cookies give Lionel an idea, and his idea inspires a student, who in turn inspires a ballet troupe in England! And so the good feelings that started with Amelia’s smile make their way around the world, from a goodwill recital in Israel to an impromptu rumba concert in Paris, to a long-awaited marriage proposal in Italy, to a knitted scarf for a beloved niece back in New York. Putting a unique spin on “What goes around comes around,” David Ezra Stein’s charmingly illustrated story reminds us that adding even a small dose of kindness into the world is sure to spur more and more kindness, which could eventually make its way back to you!
Fourth & Fifth Grade
El Deafo by Cece Bell
After a serious illness at the age of four, CeCe discovers that she’s no longer able to hear. Hearing aids and lip-reading involve unexpected challenges, and as she goes out into the wider world she realizes how little people understand what it’s like to live with hearing loss. To succeed in school, she gets a bulky device called a Phonic Ear that allows her to hear her teachers—even when they forget she’s listening. This delightful autobiographical graphic novel provides an uplifting and humorous glimpse into the life of a hard-of-hearing child. A great novel for raising awareness and promoting understanding.
New Kid by Jerry Kraft
A wonderful choice by the 2020 Newberry Award committee as the first graphic novel to win the prestigious award. Seventh-grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. Instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds. Jordan is not really fitting into either one. This book allows readers to learn about different sides of the tensions that children and adults face every single day, yet have few opportunities to really discuss.
Rise Up: Ordinary Kids with Extraordinary Stories by Amanda Li
From surviving a plane crash in the jungle to striking against climate change, you won’t believe the incredible stories of the challenges these brave kids from around the world have overcome! This book features 29 tales of amazing young girls and boys who have achieved the unimaginable. The stories range from triumphing over illness and injury to overcoming bullying. Entries include Sweden’s Greta Thunberg, whose youth climate activism sparked a global movement, and Pakistan’s Ayesha Farooq, who became Pakistan’s first female fighter pilot at age 25. Each section gives advice on how young people can participate in activities similar to the ones in the accompanying biography.
Pay It Forward: Young Readers Edition by Catherine Ryan Hyde
A moving and uplifting novel about Trevor McKinney, a twelve-year-old boy in a small California town who accepts his teacher’s challenge to earn extra credit by coming up with a plan to change the world. Trevor’s idea is simple: do a good deed for three people, and instead of asking them to return the favor, ask them to “pay it forward” to three others who need help. A heart-melting story of a boy who shows how each of us can make a difference. If your family enjoys this book, watch the movie together afterward.