Teaching our kids to be generous is such an important character trait that contributes to a culture of giving within the classroom and community. I use children’s books about generosity 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.
I often cover being generous in my lessons, I use this Character Education Generosity Curriculum that includes everything you need to teach generosity in your classroom. Kids who practice gratitude are also more likely to be generous. Check out this blog post on Teaching Gratitude in the Classroom. Here is a list of some of the awesome children’s books about generosity out there that I use to help teach this topic to students.
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Title of Book and Author: Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett
A short summary of the book: Annabelle is the main character in Extra Yarn. She finds a box filled with yarn of all colors and decides to knit sweaters for everyone in her town. She has leftover yarn and keeps knitting; she knits sweaters for cars and trees and buildings. Annabelle never runs out of yarn. An archduke hears about Annabelle’s box of endless yarn and offers to buy it from her for ten million dollars. She does not want to sell it to him, but in the night, the greedy archduke steals the box. When he opens the box, he finds no yarn. Eventually, the box finds its way back to Annabelle, where it is full of yarn once again!
Why I like the book: This book is a fun spin on the traditional good versus evil storyline with good winning out in the end. There are touches of magic throughout as the box has endless yarn, then none, and then is filled again. The illustrations transform from dark to vibrant as Annabelle knits more and more.
The moral of the story: We can find happiness from giving generously to others!
Topics covered: Generosity; Determination; Happiness; Magic
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Extra Yarn on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: My Magical Gifts by Becky Cummings
A short summary of the book: This is the fourth book in Becky Cummings’ “The Magic of Me” series focusing on empowering young minds to think big and with positivity. In My Magical Gifts, children learn that giving is not just buying something from a store. This story sheds light to the more simple ways to give to others like using kind words, helping others, and smiling. It is made evident that joy can be given to everyone if one is intentional with giving. Many examples are given of ways to give without spending money and demonstrate many different people who can receive the gifts.
Why I like the book: It is easy for adults to brainstorm ideas with children on how to give generously to others as one reads through this book. This book helps children learn that they have positive things to share with others and help them recognize the value within themselves. The pictures are also engaging and help keep children interested throughout the book.
The moral of the story: We can make a difference in the world around us through giving! We can also share our gifts with others in ways that do not include spending money.
Topics covered: Kindness; Generosity; Gratitude; Joy; Compassion; Self-Confidence
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): My magical gifts on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Thank you, Omu! by Oge Mora
A short summary of the book: A woman named Omu makes scrumptious stew in her home. The smell wafts out the window and down the streets of her neighborhood. One by one, neighbors begin to come asking for some of her stew. Soon, all of Omu’s stew is gone, and she has not even eaten any yet! Omu hears a knock on her door and is surprised to see that her neighbors have returned with a potluck meal to share with her.
Why I like the book: The characters found in this book are of different races and genders. They have many different types of jobs and all live together in an urban community. The story also includes many expressive sounds such as “Mmmm” and “Oooo” which are engaging to young children as they listen to or read this book.
The moral of the story: Great joy can be found by generously sharing with those around us.
Topics covered: Generosity; Sharing; Friendship; Kindness; Community; Togetherness; Diversity
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Thank you Omu on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The Red Bicycle by Jude Isabella and Simone Shin
A short summary of the book: Leo is a boy living in North America who saves his money diligently in order to buy an 18-speed bicycle. He names his shiny new bicycle Big Red. After he outgrows his beloved bicycle, he decides to donate it. Big Red is later given to Alisetta, a child living in West Africa. Alisetta uses Big Red to travel to the sorghum fields where she works and to take goods to the market. Big Red is passed along one more time and is refurbished as an ambulance for a local medical clinic.
Why I like the book: This story helps children understand the long-lasting effects a choice to be generous can have. It is interesting for children to see the “life” of the bicycle as they follow it through three different owners. Jude Isabella also highlights the economic benefits that a single bicycle can bring to a community.
The moral of the story: We can all take action to generously serve others near and far away from us.
Topics covered: Generosity; Social Awareness; Responsibility; Cause & Effect; Pay It Forward
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The red Bicycle on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: A Little Spot of Giving by Diane Alber
A short summary of the book: Little Spot teaches the reader how to give the best gifts. Many examples are shared throughout this book such as giving the gift of sharing to someone who has less than you. Little Spot highlights that gifts do not have to cost money or even be physical objects. Giving amazing gifts like Little Spot demonstrates also creates the power to share kindness with others.
Why I like the book: The examples in this book are simple enough for young children to understand and apply. Diane Alber includes a fun activity for readers to complete at the end of the book to help the carry over and further the understanding of giving.
The moral of the story: The best kind of giving often comes from the heart!
Topics covered: Sharing; Generosity; Social Emotional Learning
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): A little spot of giving on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
A short summary of the book: Shel Silverstein writes of a boy who develops a friendship with an apple tree. The boy loves to play under and around the tree, and the tree is happy for his company. The boy grows into a teenager, middle-aged man, and eventually an old man, but the tree continues to call him “boy” throughout the story. The tree willingly gives to him as he grows and has different “needs” such as money, a house, and a boat. The tree continues to give to the boy but always seems left feeling “happy… but not really”. Finally, the tree states that she is happy as the old man sits on her stump, and she is there for him in a time of need.
Why I like the book: The vague descriptions allow the reader to focus on the main point of the story instead of the small details such as the exact location of the tree. This book encourages deep thoughts about our actions and reactions while in relationships.
The moral of the story: There are several potential morals found in The Giving Tree. Some readers interpret this story as the importance of selflessly giving of your resources to others when they are in need. Others interpret it as happiness always demands sacrifice or even that one should avoid one-sided relationships.
Topics covered: Transformations; Generosity; Selflessness; Selfishness; Friendship; Love; Happiness
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The giving tree on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The Smile That Went Around The World by Patrice Karst
A short summary of the book: Justin and his mother are on their way to a party where they are taking Justin’s favorite cookies. On their way there, they encounter a group of homeless people who they ended up giving all of the cookies to. This single act of kindness spurs Justin to smile throughout the party which led to several others smiling. Finally, a pilot flew back home and shared the smile back to Justin again, exactly when he really needed it.
Why I like the book: There are many forms of diversity found in this book’s illustrations. It can also be a great resource to teach children about treating others the way they want to be treated and highlighting the importance of being kind.
The moral of the story: A smile can be extremely contagious and meaningful.
Topics covered: Kindness; Happiness; Generosity
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The smile that went around the world on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau
A short summary of the book: The Quiltmaker works tirelessly to make beautiful quilts. Many people try to buy the quilts from her, but she prefers to discreetly give each one away to others in need. A powerful, rich king comes and demands one of the Quiltmaker’s quilts. She tells the king that she will only give him one if he will agree to give away all that he has. Finally, the king agrees and then receives one of the Quiltmaker’s stunning quilts. He becomes the “giver of quilts”.
Why I like the book: The Quiltmaker is an excellent model for children of what it truly means to give to others without expecting anything in return. The illustrations in this book are extremely colorful and full of detail, making this story a joy to read.
The moral of the story: Possessing lots of “things” does not provide true happiness.
Topics covered: Generosity; Economic Differences; Sacrifice; Happiness; Greed; Joy
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The Quiltmaker's gift on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The Gift Inside the Box by Adam Grant and Allison Sweet Grant
A short summary of the book: In this book, a cardboard package is looking for a worthy recipient. The box makes several different stops in an attempt to find a child who will make the perfect fit, and he starts to get discouraged as he continues to find several selfish children and others who are just not the right fit. He bids each of these a farewell and continues on sadly. The package eventually finds a match in an open-hearted child who welcomes the package without knowing what is inside. The worthy recipient ends up not actually wanting the gift for herself but rather to give it to another person.
Why I like the book: This book helps teach children to be generous gift-givers and joyful receivers. This concept transitions easily to the classroom as children encounter classmates with different abilities (aka “gifts”). Teachers can use this book to help students examine their attitudes towards unexpected gifts others possess as well as think of ways to be more giving towards their classmates and others.
The moral of the story: It is important to be generous and think of others’ happiness.
Topics covered: Generosity; Kindness; Acceptance; Selflessness
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The gift inside the box on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Dozens of Doughnuts by Carrie Finison and Brianne Farley
A short summary of the book: LouAnn is a black bear who is making doughnuts in preparation for her winter hibernation. LouAnn’s friend Woodrow, a woodchuck, stops by just as she is about to begin to eat her first doughnut. She gladly shares with him. One by one, other friends begin to show up at her home. LouAnn continues to make more and more doughnuts so that her friends have plenty to eat, but she realizes that she made a mistake. She did not save any doughnuts for herself and winter is approaching fast! LouAnn’s friends recognize what has happened and leave, only to return later with supplies to help LouAnn finally be prepared for her long winter’s nap.
Why I like the book: This is a fun book of rhyme and counting and is sure to keep young students engaged as they read and enjoy the fun pictures! These young readers can also likely relate to LouAnn’s sadness and meltdown towards the end of the story and learn from the friendships of all of the woodland animals.
The moral of the story: Sharing with others is always worth the effort.
Topics covered: Sharing; Friendship; Counting; Kindness; Generosity
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Dozens of Doughnuts on Amazon
Resources about Generosity
Pair your favorite children’s books about generosity with these Character Education activities to make the perfect classroom lessons.