While teaching young children, it's important to instil values such as love and compassion in them at a young age. What better way to do that than by reading picture books about love, kindness and empathy? These feelings can be expressed through many different kinds of stories, and picture books are a great way to introduce them to children.
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Picture Books about Love and Compassion
Babu's Song by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
Bernardi lives in Tanzania with his mute grandfather, Babu, who makes toys. He gives Bernardi a handmade music box. Sadly, when a tourist offers a lot of money for the box, he sells it. Bernardi hands over the money to his grandfather, who uses the money for his grandson to attend school.
Promotes compassion, empathy and responsible decision-making.
Big Hid by Roisin Swales
Big and Little do everything together, but one day Big hid! Little doesn’t understand why Big won’t come out of his shell. Little gave Big a great big hug and Big didn’t feel like hiding anymore.
Promotes self-management, wellbeing, friendship and compassion.
A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams
Rosa, her mother and her grandmother, are devastated when their home is destroyed by fire. The community helps them by donating items they will need.
Promotes community, generosity, responsible decision-making and perseverance.
Dad By My Side by Soosh
Take a look at all the fun things you can do with your dad; playing make-believe, banishing under-the-bed monsters and always being there when you need him.
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho
A young Asian girl notices her eyes kiss in the corners, just like her mother, grandmother and little sister. She feels empowered by this connection to her family and is filled with love and appreciation for her own identity and beauty.
Promotes self-affirmation, identity, empowerment, self-esteem, intergenerational relationships and making connections.
A Gift by Yong Chen
Amy receives a surprise Chinese New Year gift from her aunt and uncles in China. The parcel contains a carved, jade pendant shaped like a dragon. This symbol of China expresses love for their family.
Grandad's Camper by Harry Woodgate
A girl listens to her grandad reminiscing about his life with gramps in their camper van. He no longer feels like travelling since gramps died. So his granddaughter plans to fix up the old camper van and take grandad out on the road again.
Promotes discussions on LGBTQ+ characters, grief, intergenerational relationships, love, enthusiasm, and memories.
Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! by Mem Fox
This is the first of two picture books about love by Mem Fox. Harriet has a series of naughty mishaps that tests her mother’s patience. But Harriet and her mum know that they love each other no matter what.
Promotes forgiveness, self-management and manners.
The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
Unsure of how to cope with her grandfather's death, a girl puts her heart in a bottle. She loses all her curiosity and wonders until she meets a small child filled with the wonder she once had. She places her heart back, rediscovering her curiosity and love of the world.
Reinforces themes of wellbeing, grief and reflection.
I Need a Hug by Aaron Blabey
A little porcupine needs a hug, but with her prickly spikes, she gets rebuffed by the other animals. The despondent porcupine sees these animals running back towards her, only to find they are escaping from a snake. The unappreciated porcupine and snake hug each other, finally feeling some love.
If All the World Were … by Joseph Coelho
A young girl and her ailing grandfather admire the beauty of their environment and use their imagination to create special memories of their time together. One day when the girl visits her Grandad his chair is empty. She helps gather his belongings, finding objects reminding her of their time together.
Reinforces themes of love, bereavement, family and reflection.
Joy by Corrinne Averiss
Fern decides to bring joy back to her Nanna’s life. She attempts to capture the joy she finds in her neighbourhood, but Fern learns that it is herself that brings joy to her Nanna.
Reinforces themes of empathy, love, thoughtfulness and kindness.
Koala Lou by Mem Fox
This is the second of two picture books about love by Mem Fox. Koala Lou worries when her busy mother forgets to tell her how much she loves her. She sets out to win the Bush Olympics to win back her mother's love. She doesn't win but realises she had never lost her mother's love.
Love by Matt de la Peña
Matt de la Pena’s prose and Loren Long’s illustrations define love in multiple and varied scenarios.
Reinforces themes of family, love and wellbeing.
Love in the Library by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
Tama is sent to an internment camp after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. She worked in the camp's small library to keep her mind off her previous life. She noticed she wasn't the only one who took comfort in the library and its books. George visited the library every day to check out piles of books, and their friendship turned into love.
Love in the Library is based on the true story of the author's grandparents. It promotes discussions on internment camps, libraries, love, and hope.
Love Is by Diane Adams
A young girl describes love while she learns how to care for a duckling she found, but she learns love also means knowing when it is time to let it go.
Love Is Powerful by Heather Dean Brewer
Mari prepares for the Women’s March in New York City in 2017 with her mother. As she makes her sign she ask her whether the world will hear their message. Her mama responds “They’ll hear because love is powerful.”
Promotes equality, curiosity, tolerance and fighting for change.
My Grandma and Me by Mina Javaherbin
Growing up in Iran, Mina does everything with her grandmother. They go to the mosque for midnight prayers during Ramadan, visit their Christain neighbours and take imaginary trips together.
Read to promote discussions on personal narratives, communities, love, and Ramadan.
My Heart by Corinna Luyken
In this poetic book full of metaphors, a young girl describes how her feelings change day by day, and she gets to decide how she feels.
My Shadow is Pink by Scott Stuart
A boy with a pink shadow is born into a family of men with blue shadows. He wants to be like his big, strong father, but he loves things that are ‘not for boys’. His loving father supports his son with self-acceptance and helps him embrace his gender identity.
The Night Is Yours by Abdul-Razak Zachariah
Amani’s father tells the readers about his daughter’s evening game of hide-and-seek with her friends. Suffering from self-doubt, he tells her about the beauty of her skin and how she should work with the moon. She believes in herself when the moon helps her find her last friend.
Promotes themes of identity, joy, love, self-acceptance, self-esteem, self-confidence, representation and overcoming self-doubt.
Perfect by Nicola Davies
A young boy learns to accept and embrace his baby sister’s disability when caring for an injured bird. A story of love, acceptance and disappointment.
The Perfect Shelter by Clare Helen Welsh
Two sisters love playing together and building shelters. One day, the older sister gets sick, and they can no longer play together. Despite her enthusiasm, the older sister needs to rest, and the puzzled younger sister feels confused. As the sister heals, she encourages the family to help her make a perfect shelter together.
Read to promote discussions on resilience, love, empathy and compassion.
Phileas's Fortune: A Story about Self-Expression by Agnes de Lestrade
Large factories churn out beautiful, ugly and funny words. People purchase, and then swallow the words to communicate. Not all words are equal and the cost of each word varies. Phileas catches three discarded, random words to express his love for Cybele.
Reinforces themes of communication, perseverance, problem-solving, risk-taking and creative thinking.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead
Zookeeper Amos McGee always found time to visit his good friends in unique and compassionate ways. One day, Amos wakes up with a cold and can’t make it to work. His friends, the tortoise, penguin and owl, return his kindness by visiting him.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o
Sulwe’s skin is darker than everyone in her family and at school. She wants to lighten her skin, the colour of midnight, so she is no longer teased. Her mama empowers Sulwe by telling her a story that helps her love and accept who she is, and dismisses the negative opinions of others.
Under the Love Umbrella by Davina Bell
Four children share their lives under the umbrella of love. It is a reminder that our loved ones will always be there for us no matter the distance. The umbrella is a metaphor for love, acceptance, comfort, and safety.
Your Name Is a Song by J Thompkins-Bigelow
A young girl leaves school frustrated after a day of her classmates and teacher mispronouncing her name. On their walk home she tells her mother she doesn’t want to go back, who in turn tells her daughter “your name is a song.” She returns to school empowered and shares what she has learned.
Promotes themes of identity, respect, individuality, empowerment, love, confidence, and self-esteem.
You can, of course, read some of these children's books for Valentine's Day. Find out more about the history of Valentine's Day at History.com. Learning for Justice also has an engaging lesson plan on the background of Valentine's Day.
What are your favourite picture books about love and compassion? Do you have any favourite children's books for Valentine's Day? Let me know in the comments.