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These engaging stories teach your students the importance of respect and empathy in the classroom. Cultivate a culture of acceptance, understanding, and kindness with these inspiring picture books about respect.
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These engaging stories teach your students the importance of respect and empathy in the classroom. Cultivate a culture of acceptance, understanding, and kindness with these inspiring picture books about respect.

These engaging stories teach your students the importance of respect and empathy in the classroom. Cultivate a culture of acceptance, understanding, and kindness with these inspiring picture books about respect.

Why Read Picture Books About Respect?

It is crucial to teach children to respect themselves, other people, and the world around them. We need to model a respectful attitude for children to learn. Using picture books is a great way to teach respecting ourselves, accepting differences, using respectful words and respecting the environment.

Respect is one of the most important values children can learn, and picture books are a great way to teach this important lesson. Here are some reasons why reading picture books about respect in the classroom is so important:

  • Respect is a foundational value that helps children build positive relationships with others.
  • picture books about respect can help children learn to identify and manage their own emotions.
  • Reading picture books about respect can help children understand and empathise with the feelings of others.
  • picture books about respect can help children learn to resolve conflict peacefully.
  • Reading picture books about respect can help create a positive classroom environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

Picture books can help your students understand the concept of respect, how to recognise and appreciate the differences in one another, and how to respond to challenging situations without reacting negatively. They provide context and a visual representation which helps young learners better understand abstract concepts like respect.

Picture books about respecting ourselves and others also provide important lessons about self-worth, self-care, self-respect and personal boundaries. For example, a book might show characters being kind or gentle with themselves or others when dealing with difficult feelings. This teaches children that everyone has the right to be respected. 

On top of that, picture books about respecting ourselves and others promote positive social skills such as active listening, empathy, cooperation, communication and problem-solving.

Picture Books to Boost Respect and Empathy in the Classroom

Questions to Ask When Reading Picture Books About Respect

  • How does being respectful/disrespectful affect relationships with others?
  • How do you feel when other people respect/disrespect you?
  • What are some characteristics of respectful behaviour?
  • What does it mean to respect ourselves?
  • How do you show respect to others?
  • Do we deserve respect, or do we have to earn it?
  • Should you show respect to others even if you don’t like them? Explain your answer.
  • Was [character] respectful/disrespectful? What is your evidence?
  • How did [character] earn other people’s respect?
  • How were [character’s] actions towards the environment respectful?
  • Why was it important that [character] felt respected?
  • Why was it important that [character] showed respect?
  • In what ways did [character] show respect?
  • How did [character] feel when disrespected by [character]?
  • How should [character] have responded when disrespected?
  • Why do you think [character] was disrespectful?
  • When [character] was rude, they said they were only joking. Does this make their behaviour okay? Explain.

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Picture Books About Respect

These picture books illustrate respectful behaviour and help children look at situations from the perspective of others. They show characters who are:

  • polite and use their manners
  • considerate
  • respectful of their environment
  • respectful of the property of others
  • good listeners
  • helpful and kind
  • able to put themselves in the shoes of others
  • willing to reflect on how their actions affect others

Of course, some books show disrespectful characters and the consequences of their negative behaviour.

The Bad Seed by Jory John

When a “bad seed’ overhears negative comments, he decides to change his ways. He doesn’t change his behaviour overnight but takes it one day at a time.

Promotes a growth mindset, self-management, self-awareness and social awareness.

The Bad Seed Activities and Comprehension Questions

Be a Tree by Maria Gianferrari

Learn about the interconnectedness of trees and humans. And learn how we can support and help those around us, just like a forest.

Read Be a Tree to promote discussions on nature, compare & contrast, respect, interconnectedness and conservation.

Be a Tree by Maria Gianferrari

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum loves her name, but she gets teased for its uniqueness on her first day of school. When her music teacher reveals she is naming her baby Chrysanthemum, everyone wants to change their name to a flower.

Promotes identity, friendships and self-management.

Chrysanthemum Activities and Comprehension Questions

The Coat by Séverine Vidal

Elise loves her big sister’s beautiful red coat and can’t wait to wear it when she is big enough. On that day, she proudly wears the coat to school. A chance encounter with a homeless mother and daughter shivering in the show makes Elise look at the coat differently and discover the joy of helping others.

Read The Coat to promote discussions about homelessness, poverty, compassion, respect, acts of kindness and self-reflection.

The Coat by Séverine Vidal

Don’t Touch My Hair! by Sharee Miller

Aria gets assertive when people touch her hair wherever she goes. Help children understand the need to ask permission and not cross personal boundaries.

Use to discuss respect, confidence, self-esteem, and assertiveness.

Don't Touch My Hair! by Sharee Miller

Flat Rabbit by Bárður Oskarsson

A dog and a rat find a dead rabbit in the street. Wanting to honour her life, they fasten her to a kite and let her fly free, wondering if she is having a good time. Unsure of the answer, they watch as the rabbit flies away over the city. This book will not be suitable for all children. Promotes compassion, respect, questioning and well-being.

Flat Rabbit by Bárður Oskarsson

For Pete’s Sake by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Pete the alligator thinks he is a flamingo, like his friends. He worries about the differences between him and his friends, but he learns that his appearance doesn’t matter to his flamingo friends.

For Pete's Sake by Ellen Stoll Walsh

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Over the course of a boy’s life, he asks a tree to help him, and she gives him everything she has. As an old man, it is only on reflection that he feels gratitude and thankfulness towards the tree.

The Giving Tree Activities and Comprehension Questions

The Grizzly Bear Who Lost His GRRRRR! by Rob Biddulph

Fred the Bear is training for the Best Bear in the Woods competition. When Boris the Bear steals Fred’s roar, his friends rally around. He realises it is best to forgive Boris, who soon sees the errors of his ways.

The Grizzly Bear Who Lost His GRRRRR! promotes discussions on forgiveness, integrity, honesty and respect.

The Grizzly Bear Who Lost His Grrrrr! by Rob Biddulph

Horton Hears a Who! by Dr Seuss

Horton the elephant shows compassion, persistence, respect and community spirit for a tiny community no one else can hear. Read to promote social awareness, compassion, community, perspectives and tolerance.

Horton Hears a Who! by Dr Seuss

I, Doko: The Tale of a Basket by Ed Young

This is the first of two books teaching students about respect by Ed Young. A doko, a Nepalese basket, tells tales of three generations of the same family. From the birth of a baby to the death of the family matriarch and the son who must stand up for his beliefs. Use this folktale to discuss respect, intergenerational relationships and different perspectives.

I, Doko: The Tale of a Basket by Ed Young

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

A chicken begs her father to read a fairy tale book at bedtime. As he reads a new story, the excited chicken keeps interrupting. The tired father suggests she writes her own story. As she reads her story “Bedtime for Papa”, she is interrupted by his snoring.

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg

Walter couldn’t be bothered to sort out the rubbish. He had better things to do. That is until he dreams of a nightmare future. Reformed, Walter understands everyone needs to respect the environment for a more positive future.

Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

A lion visits a library every day, to the delight of the children. But the lion breaks the noise rules when it roars to help the head librarian in an emergency. What will happen to the lion now?

Promotes integrity, being principled, respect, reflection and the joy of reading.

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

Lon Po Po by Ed Young

This is the second of two books teaching students about respect by Ed Young. A mother leaves her three daughters at home while she visits her mother, Po Po. A wolf visits the sisters, and the younger one lets it in. The two older sisters have to devise a plan to escape and kill the wolf. Compare and contrast this Chinese version of Little Red Riding Hood with other versions.

Lon Po Po by Ed Young

The Lumberjack’s Beard by Duncan Beedie

Jim chops down trees with no thought for the consequences. He lets homeless animals live in his beard while reflecting on his actions and replants the trees.

Reinforces themes of caring, cause & effect, forgiveness, problem-solving and respect.

The Lumberjack’s Beard by Duncan Beedie

Martha Doesn’t Say Sorry by Samantha Berger

Martha does not apologise, ever. She soon learns that if she wants others to cooperate, she must apologise for her behaviour.

Promotes themes of balance, cooperation, forgiveness, honesty, manners and reflection.

Martha Doesn’t Say Sorry by Samantha Berger

My Hair by Hannah Lee

A young black girl is excited about an upcoming celebration. She thinks of her family and friends as inspiration as she decides how to style her hair. Should she choose dreadlocks, Bantu knots, high-top fade, braids, twist-out, cornrows or short and cropped? She goes her own way and wears her natural hair as an afro.

Promotes self-esteem, individuality, inclusion, identity, self-awareness and first-person narration.

My Hair by Hannah Lee

Noisy Night by Mac Barnett

A young boy is trying to sleep in a tall apartment block. He wonders what the noise is above him. Each neighbour is wondering who is making the noise. There are dancers, cheerleaders, sheep, and many other noisemakers on the floors in between. On the top floor, a grumpy old man is trying to sleep.

Read Noisy Night to promote discussions on curiosity, respect, frustration, neighbours and city living.

Noisy Night by Mac Barnett

Not Done Yet: Shirley Chisholm’s Fight for Change by Tameka Fryer Brown

Shirley Chisholm was the first woman to run for the President of America, though she is much more than that. She was a pioneering politician for her constituency, for women, for fairness and her fighting spirit to be a trailblazing politician who always said she was not done yet when discussing her legacy.

Read Not Done Yet to promote discussions on black history, equality, respect, perseverance, making a difference, fairness, discrimination, courage and gender roles.

Not Done Yet: Shirley Chisholm's Fight for Change by Tameka Fryer Brown

Oh No! George! by Chris Haughton

George may look innocent, but looks can be deceiving! He tries hard to behave, but when Harry, his owner, leaves the house, George encounters too many temptations to resist.

Reinforces themes of behaviour, self-management and respect.

Oh No! George! by Chris Haughton

One by Kathryn Otoshi

Quiet Blue sometimes wishes he could be more sunny, bright or regal like his friends because bully Red picked on shy Blue. One unites all the colours and shows them how to stand up to Red and be counted.

Read to discuss tolerance, cause & effect, bullying, being principled, respect and conflict resolution.

One by Kathryn Otoshi

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson addresses race relations with two young girls, one black and one white. A fence segregates their homes, but they slowly get to know each other by sitting on this barrier. 

Promotes tolerance, communication, friendship and open-mindedness.

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

Piggybook by Anthony Browne

The Piggott men are chauvinistic and unappreciative of the fed-up Mrs. Piggott. She goes on strike, but the father and two boys live like pigs. They plead with her to return, and things are very different when she returns.

Use in the classroom to discuss appreciation, gender roles, fairness, respect, responsibility and cooperation.

Piggybook by Anthony Browne

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall

Red’s label says red, but he can only create blue no matter how hard he tries. Red’s new friend, Berry, suggests he casts aside his label, opening a whole new world to Red.

Promotes discussions on adaptability, identity, self-awareness and acceptance.

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall

The Sandwich Swap by Kelly DiPucchio

Best friends Lily and Salma do everything together but disagree when they don’t understand their cultural lunch choices. When they taste each other’s food, they realise friendship is more important than their differences.

The Sandwich Swap by Kelly DiPuccho

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts

Observant Sally notices everything, particularly bullying in the playground. Despite being small, she makes a big difference by standing up to the bullies.

Read during back to school to discuss bullying, compassion, principled, respect, tolerance and character traits.

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts

Smoky Night by Eve Bunting

Daniel and his mother watch the LA riots happening in their neighbourhood. After going to bed, they learn their building is on fire. Daniel hesitates as they evacuate because he cannot find his cat, but a firefighter later finds it.

Use to discuss racism, communities, conflict, synthesising, inferring and perspectives.

Smoky Night by Eve Bunting

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev

A local Pet Club won’t allow a young boy to join with his pet elephant. Together, they help the club members understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends.

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

This is the second of two children’s books about honesty by Jon Klassen. A small fish wearing a hat admits, “this is not my hat”. He stole it from a big fish. A fish is soon hunting for his hat and the dishonest fish. Sure it will get away with the crime; the fish is unaware that the big fish is searching for his hat. The last we hear of the little fish is him swimming into the reeds with the big fish following behind.

Promotes honesty, integrity, conflict and responsible decision-making.

This is Not My Hat Activities and Read-Aloud Questions

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

Thunder Boy Smith Jr. is named after his father, Thunder Boy Smith, but he wants his own identity. He wants a Native American name that will celebrate what he has done, not his father. After talking with his father, he gets the perfect name for him!

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race by James Thorp

Six animals race through their respective homes and deceive, trick and cheat. All except for the unicorn. A snail witnessed the cheating, and the unicorn was rewarded for its integrity.

Promotes responsible decision-making, being principled and sportsmanship.

The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race by James Thorp

What Happened to You by James Catchpole

Joe loves playing pirates while dodging sharks and crocodiles. He doesn’t like answering questions about what happened to his leg. While the other children focus on his missing leg, Sonia realises this upsets Joe. She approached him and started playing pirates with him. Soon the other children join in their game.

Promotes discussions on disability, asking questions, friendships, kindness, respect, and representation.

What Happened to You by James Catchpole

Yoon and the Jade Bracelet by Helen Recorvits

Yoon gets a book from her mother and her grandmother’s jade bracelet for her birthday. When a classmate borrows the jade bracelet, she lies and says it is hers. Yoon uses the lessons she learnt from her birthday book to get this precious gift back.

Yoon and the Jade Bracelet by Helen Recorvits

You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith

You Hold Me Up illustrates the love and respect between intergeneration First Nations communities in Canada.

Use to discuss relationship skills, respect, a sense of community, empathy and resilience.

You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith

In Conclusion

Introducing picture books into the classroom that teach about respecting ourselves and others can lead to remarkable outcomes. These books help cultivate a positive classroom environment and allow students to embrace differences and choose kindness. Picture books can also be a great way to start a conversation with students about respecting themselves and others. 

After reading picture books about respect, you could look at these lesson plans from Learning for Justice – Treat Others the Way You Want to be Treated and Brush Up on Respect. Here are a couple of short videos you can use in your classroom.

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35 Picture Books to Boost Respect and Empathy in the Classroom

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