Teaching kids about compassion is vital because a child who learns empathy and compassion will become an adult who is a better leader, parent, and friend. In order to teach compassion, I use books as a gateway for opening up discussions in the learning environment. Whether you are a teacher, counselor, or parent, using books to help illustrate a topic is a great way for kids to learn. As you are reading, ask questions and engage the reader. Keep reading below for children's books about compassion.
I often cover being compassionate in my lessons, I use this Character Education Compassion Curriculum that includes everything you need to teach compassion in your classroom. Looking for more ideas on how to teach kindness and compassion in the classroom? Check out this blog post on Teaching Kindness in the Classroom. Here is a list of some of the awesome children’s books about compassion out there that I use to help teach this topic to students.
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Title of Book and Author: I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde
A short summary of the book: Throughout this story, a young child with blue and pink hair notices different challenging situations and ponders what can be done to help. The reader finds many explanations of what love is and ways to apply each of these characteristics in real life. The book ends by the child noting that love is connection.
Why I like the book: This book uses practical concepts to encourage young readers to learn how to be aware of their emotions and the emotions of those around them.
The moral of the story: We should be mindful of others and their unique situations as we choose to show love to them.
Topics covered: Love; Compassion; Gratitude; Kindness; Emotional Presence; Mindfulness
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): I am Love on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët
A short summary of the book: I Walk with Vanessa is a wordless book. From the pictures, it is seen that Vanessa is new at her elementary school and appears to feel lonely on her first day there. She is bullied by a boy on her street and a classmate sees the act but is unsure of how to respond. The bystander decides to walk with Vanessa to school the next day and other children join in as well.
This story examines the feelings that the classmate experiences as a bystander to the bullying such as helplessness and anger. One act of kindness from the classmate leads the entire community of students to decide to help.
Why I like the book: Discussion points focusing on empathy and bullying are included in the back of this book for adults and children to explore together. Because the story does not include any words, the reader must interpret some unclear topics, thus allowing for more conversation about the book and the perspectives of the bully, bystander, and victim.
The moral of the story: Small acts of kindness can have great impacts!
Topics covered: Helplessness; Anger; Kindness; Isolation; Acceptance; Community; Inclusion
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): I walk with Vanessa on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
A short summary of the book: This book is written like a biography of the Dalai Lama’s life while he also addresses children through life lessons and encourages them to grow compassion each day. The Dalai Lama was raised by a father who was a farmer and a compassionate mother and was chosen at a young age to be the Dalai Lama. Throughout the book, he highlights different points in his life and explains how they each helped teach and shape him into the compassionate and kind person that he is today.
Why I like the book: This book focuses on planting the seeds of compassion each day and these lessons can easily be applied to everyone, not just persons following the Dalai Lama, who is a religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism. This book is also displayed beautifully with multiethnic children highlighted throughout.
The moral of the story: Learning to be compassionate takes time and perseverance.
Topics covered: Peace; Compassion; Wisdom; Kindness
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The seed of compassion on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The Jelly Donut Difference by Maria Dismondy
A short summary of the book: The Jelly Donut Difference is about twins, Leah and Dexter, who argue and fight over almost everything, just like most siblings do. Despite their usual sibling rivalry, they extend kindness to their neighbor by picking up eggs for her; while doing so, they notice that she lives alone. Dexter suggests that his parents invite their neighbor over for dinner. During dinner, their neighbor shares stores of her childhood, including making jelly donuts with her family in Poland. Leah and Dexter’s dad help them make a batch, and they deliver the jelly donuts to their neighbor. She responds by writing them a long thank-you note. Throughout the story, the twins learn that small acts of kindness really can change someone’s entire day. Leah and Dexter also learn to be thankful for each other.
Why I like the book: This story provides a relatable narrative for students to follow along with while showing that paying attention to small details in others’ lives can lead to generous acts of kindness that make a huge impact. It also teaches them to be grateful for one another.
The moral of the story: Putting aside our differences can help us unite forces for good.
Topics covered: Kindness; Generosity; Positive Relationships; Working Together; Caring
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The Jelly Donut difference on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: One Drop of Kindness by Jeff Kubiak
A short summary of the book: Gus, once an orphan, goes throughout his life believing that using hurtful words and actions are the only ways to communicate with others. Things continue to be difficult for Gus, and he struggles to make good decisions. That is, until a world changer appears and shows him that there truly is a more kind and beautiful way to approach each day. Gus begins to change the climate of his environment by choosing to make small changes within himself.
Why I like the book: Gus can be seen as representative of real children who experience real issues. The story shows the intentionality required by Gus to make a change within himself as well as the fruits of his efforts.
The morale of the story: Even one drop of kindness can have a large ripple effect.
Topics covered: Kindness; Transformation; Power; Intentionality
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): One drop of Kindness on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Have You Filled a Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud
A short summary of the book: Carol McCloud writes this book as a guide to happiness for kids. She explains that everyone carries an invisible bucket. Positive choices we make, such as saying nice words or sharing, help us fill others’ buckets. On the contrary, by choosing to say or do mean things, we are dipping out of others’ buckets. Bucket fillers make the world a better place to be!
Why I like the book: This book helps teach children about the consequences of their actions through the metaphor of a bucket. The book also helps build empathy in young children by addressing bullies. Carol McCloud describes bullies in an easy to understand way by explaining that those who act mean usually have an empty bucket and deep down their own feelings are hurt.
The moral of the story: Being kind to others helps make us happy, but being mean makes everyone feel bad.
Topics covered: Happiness; Kindness; Bullying; Self-Regulation; Empathy
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Have you filled a Bucket today? on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
A short summary of the book: Brian feels like an invisible boy. No one ever seems to notice him or choose to include him in their events or groups. All of this changes when a new boy joins the class. Brian is the first student to welcome Justin, and they soon begin to work together on assignments. Brian begins to stand out for his act of kindness.
Why I like the book: This book highlights the small ways that kindness can impact others and help them feel included. It is a great book to have one hand to address the needs of quieter children in your classroom or school.
The moral of the story: Don’t overlook the potential of a simple act of kindness.
Topics covered: Kindness; Isolation; Loneliness; Acceptance; Friendship
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The Invisible Boy on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Kindness Rocks by Sonica Ellis
A short summary of the book: Clara is a rock collector. She paints messages of kindness on rocks and leaves the rocks in front of her home for others to read. A turtle named Sheldon finds one of Clara’s rocks on a day that he is feeling sad, and it makes him happy. Sheldon tells all of his friends about the exciting rock he found. By the end of the story, Clara’s small act of kindness has positively impacted and motivated others to share kindness as well.
Why I like the book: Young readers can learn that they don’t need recognition for their kind words. Our acts of kindness can impact the world around us exponentially, in ways that we cannot imagine.
The moral of the story: Our acts of kindness are powerful and never wasted.
Topics covered: Kindness; Motivation; Empathy; Love
Title of Book and Author: Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller
A short summary of the book: A thoughtful girl explores the meaning of kindness after her classmate spills purple grape juice on her outfit. She wonders what being kind really means. Is it baking cookies for an elderly neighbor? Is it paying attention? Is it complimenting classmates? The young girl recognizes that being kind can also be difficult and scary, like when you stand up for a classmate who is being bullied. Her exploration of kindness leads to a heartwarming lesson about how we can all be kind.
Why I like the book: One of the best parts of this book is how sweet, thoughtful, and inquisitive the main character is! She has a heart of gold that will make you and your students smile. This book has all of the elements of a great read aloud: diverse characters, beautiful illustrations, and a heartwarming message about small acts of kindness.
The moral of the story: Our small acts of kindness can collectively become something wonderful.
Topics covered: Kindness; School Community
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Be Kind on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The World Needs More Purple People by Kristen Bell and Benjamin Hart
A short summary of the book: Penny Purple wants to help children learn the steps to becoming a purple person like she is. She explains that purple people ask great questions. They unify others and speak up for what is right in their community and the world. Purple people are hardworking, kind, and like to laugh. At the end of the day, purple people are really just the superheroes of everyday life!
Why I like the book: The authors seek to inspire children to embrace common ground, instead of the political differences of the red and blue, to make the world a better place by becoming purple people. Although children are unlikely to understand the political mentions of red and blue throughout the story, parents and teachers can also relate and learn from The World Needs More Purple People. Wonderful examples are provided throughout the book to help adults lead children into thoughtful conversations about acceptance and diversity.
The moral of the story: You can control your mind and your behavior.
Topics covered: Emotions; Impulse Control; Anger; Self-Control
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The world needs more purple people on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: A Beginner's Guide to Being Human by Matt Forrest Esenwine
A short summary of the book: A Beginner's Guide to Being Human is a great addition to your classroom library or counseling office. Like the book says, "Welcome to Humanity! We hope you enjoy your humanness. And we love that you're here." Being a human is a lot of work, there is so much to remember and do. We need a guide to help us get the most out of our human experience. Here is a little cheat sheet of what is included in the Beginner's Guide to being human: Family, Kindness, Smiling, Empathy, Compassion, Patience, Self-control, Disappointment, Forgiveness, Apologizing, Friends, Love.
Why I like the book: There is so much I love about this book, the diverse illustrations and the representation of all types of families. The way it is written is very kid friendly and kids will get a kick out of the "guide" aspect of it. A great follow up activity would be for kids to create a human experience that they can add to the guide. Examples could be adding in the experience of going to school, playing soccer, getting a sibling, having a pet, etc. It is a great way for kids to see how we are all connected through the human experience and through love. As is says in the book, "Love connects all of us. It helps us grow. And keeps us going."
The moral of the story: Love is an essential part of being human.
Topics covered: Emotions; Compassion; Empathy; Kindness; Family; Love
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): A Beginner's Guide to being Human on Amazon
Resources about Compassion
Check out these Compassion-themed activities for the perfect class lesson!