Explore empathy and thoughtfulness through picture books that highlight acts of kindness.

Explore Empathy and Thoughtfulness with Picture Books About Kindness

If you’ve ever wondered how to instil empathy and understanding in your students, look no further than these picture books about kindness. These visual narratives help your students grasp the true essence of being kind. From classroom discussions to real-world applications, this blog post will show you the impactful role that stories about kindness can play in shaping more compassionate children.

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What is Kindness and Why It's Important in the Elementary Classroom

Kindness is a tendency towards understanding, caring, and helping others. Instilling this quality in children early on can make a difference in their lives and the world around them.

In our rapidly changing world, teaching kindness is more critical than ever. Stories about kindness, particularly picture books, can play a crucial role in shaping a child’s understanding and practice of kindness.

Acts of kindness help children interact and engage with the world around them in compassionate and empathetic ways

Kindness is a simple but powerful action. If we want children to show unprompted kindness, adults need to model kindness for them to learn from.

Two asian children laying on the floor and drawing.

Why Read Picture Books About Kindness

Stories about kindness combine visual and textual storytelling, offering a comprehensive and engaging method to teach kindness. They allow children to see acts of kindness in action, visually making them more relatable and understandable.

Help your students imagine how others feel during intolerant or difficult situations. The suggested picture books about kindness promote caring, thoughtful and respectful behaviour. 

The stories are great discussion starters on what it means to be kind. They can inspire acts of kindness by sharing stories of generosity, sharing, and kindness.

Character Traits in Picture Books About Kindness

In these stories about kindness, characters exhibit varied attitudes and actions, many of which can be geared towards kindness:

  • Displaying empathy towards others
  • Helping someone in need
  • Expressing gratitude
  • Sharing with others
  • Demonstrating patience and understanding


Contrasting characters also offer valuable lessons about unkindness by:

  • Acting selfishly or boastfully
  • Being ungrateful or disrespectful
  • Ignoring someone’s feelings or needs
  • Reacting impatiently or angrily
Two children working on a piece of paper in a classroom.

Discussing Sensitive Issues Related to Kindness

Discussing kindness can be challenging, but these tips can help:

  • Encourage open and respectful conversation
  • Validate all feelings and perspectives
  • Use relatable examples and scenarios

Questions to Pair With Picture Books About Kindness

Use these questions to facilitate thoughtful discussions about kindness in the classroom:

  • How did the main character show kindness?
  • Can you think of an alternative ending to the story where kindness prevails?
  • How would the story change if the main character was unkind?
  • Can you identify moments where a small act of kindness made a big difference?
  • How would you feel if you were the character who was treated unkindly?
  • Can you suggest ways the unkind characters could have acted differently?
  • What could be the long-term effects of the main character’s kindness?
  • How might the story influence your actions in your real life?
  • Do you think the characters learned anything about kindness?
  • How does the story help you understand the importance of kindness?
  • How do you feel when someone is kind/unkind to you?
  • What could you do to be kinder in the future?
  • How can you make a new student feel welcome to our classroom?
  • What were the consequences of the kind/unkind actions in the book?
  • What did it take for the character to realise they were being unkind?

Picture Books About Kindness

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

All Are Welcome sets the tone of acceptance on the first day of school and sends a powerful message that every student, regardless of race, religion, gender, culture, and background, is welcome in your classroom.

Reading All Are Welcome fosters discussions around the importance of inclusion, empathy, being oneself, acceptance, and nurturing a sense of community and belonging.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, she’s embarrassed and upset. Her friend, the narrator, wants to help her feel better but is unsure how.

Be Kind emphasises that being kind is not always easy; even small acts of kindness can have a significant impact. It promotes conversations around empathy and kindness in everyday interactions.

Bibi: A Flamingo's Tale by Jo Weaver

Bibi is a wise and old flamingo. The adult flamingos leave their offspring behind when the lake dries up to find water. Bibi leads the young flamingos across the harsh salt flats to reunite them with their parents. When a baby flamingo begins to lag, Bibi shares a crucial lesson about community support and helping one another during challenging times.

Bibi: A Flamingo’s Tale brings to life the themes of community, intergenerational links, kindness, courage, and responsibility.

The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates

A cheerful red umbrella stands by the front door, ready to provide shelter. No matter how many people (or even a dog) come under it, the big umbrella can cover them all because “there is always room.” 

The Big Umbrella inspires conversations on empathy, acceptance and the limitless nature of kindness and inclusivity.

Bloom by Anne Booth

A young girl teaches a man, lost in jealousy and anger, about the transformative power of words and their impact on the world around him. The book reminds us that our language can be as nurturing or damaging as we allow it and teaches empathy, respect, and self-awareness.

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair by Jarvis

David has flowers in his hair and is sweet and gentle, and everyone likes him. David comes to school with a hat covering the flowers, which have turned bare and prickly. His classmates make flowers for David, which helps him feel like himself again.

Read The Boy with Flowers in His Hair to promote discussions on friendship, being yourself, kindness, acceptance, coping strategies, compassion, thoughtfulness, and understanding others.

The Cat Man of Aleppo by Irene Latham & Karim Shamsi-Basha

Alaa, an ambulance driver in war-torn Aleppo, chose to stay and aid the wounded. He began caring for the city’s abandoned cats, involving his neighbours. When his deeds gained global attention online, donations poured in, allowing him to create a sanctuary for Aleppo’s displaced cats.

The Cat Man of Aleppo sparks conversations on kindness, compassion, and the power of community, even in the face of hardship.

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams

A Chair for My Mother illuminates the power of love, family, and community even in the most challenging times. Rosa, her mother, and her grandmother lose their home to a devastating fire.

The book gives us a glimpse into poverty, the importance of saving money, the impact of community kindness and generosity, and the power of perseverance, even in the face of adversity.

The Coat by Séverine Vidal

When Elise finally gets to wear her big sister’s cherished red coat, a meaningful encounter with a homeless mother and daughter makes her see the world—and the coat—in a new light.

The Coat ignites discussions around homelessness, poverty, empathy, compassion, the joy of helping others, the power of self-reflection and how even the smallest act of kindness can make a big difference.

The Crane Girl by Curtis Manley

Yasuhiro finds an injured crane. He helps the bird and watches it fly away. The next night, a mysterious young girl named Hiroko appears at his house. She offers to weave silk fabric to help Yasuhiro’s father, who is struggling to earn money. After selling the silk, her father wants more, and his greed affects their lives. 

The Crane Girl teaches us about friendship, generosity, kindness, greed and how our actions can change lives.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

The first of two picture books about kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. The Day You Begin sheds light on the importance of sharing our personal stories, expressing that we sometimes feel like outsiders. Yet, it’s this courage to be ourselves that truly connects us.

This book facilitates discussions on empathy, identity, a sense of belonging, a growth mindset, open-mindedness, self-awareness, and self-esteem.

Dear Street by Lindsay Zier-Vogel

Alice loves her neighbourhood despite the grumbles from others about the ongoing construction. She writes a letter to her street, which begins to change the perspective of her neighbours, reminding them of the beauty in their surroundings.

Dear Street presents an opportunity to discuss how our attitude can influence our perceptions and how small acts of kindness can create a ripple effect.