Scientific studies seem to roll in daily, confirming that kindness increases oxytocin and dopamine in the brain, making us happier.
But really, we all know it on a fundamental level—being kind feels good and it’s a wonderful antidote to our everyday burdens. Think of these books as a way to bring a little light and warmth into our lives with our littles as the nights get longer and the days grow colder. All of them celebrate everyday kindnesses for what they really are: little acts of heroism, reminding us, as David Bowie might say, that we can be heroes.
Sally McCabe’s superpower is paying “Super extra special attention.” As the titular smallest girl in the smallest grade, Sally watches little injuries amongst her schoolmates pile up, until she can stand it no longer. Dramatically, she steps out of the lunch line to make a stand for kindness. Sally’s size is a wonderful reminder of everyone’s ability to make a difference by paying attention and speaking their truth. Author (and Grammy nominated singer-songwriter) Justin Roberts’ musical rhyme scheme propels little readers forward with the message that awareness, coupled with action is a superpower we can all share.
Also great: What Does it Mean to Be Kind, Daniel’s Good Day, Seeds and Trees
Sometimes our innate desire to be kind outweighs our skill set. In Pat Zietlow Miller’s Be Kind, the sometimes awkward, one-step-up-and-two-steps-back nature of helping others is viewed through the eyes of a kindly narrator, who questions how she can best support an embarrassed friend, and muses philosophically on the very nature of kindness. Be Kind gives kids practical, real world examples that celebrate the small ways we can weave a web of caring and giving adults the opportunity to encourage acts of kindness of all sizes.
Also Great: Sir Pete the Cat, Have You Filled a Bucket Today, The Word Collector
Quirky to its core, Extra Yarn hides messages about kindness in a hilarious fable about a girl who finds a magic box of yarn that never runs out. Annabelle knits a sweater for herself, for her dog, and ultimately for every person, animal and building in her whole colorless town. When a greedy archduke will stop at nothing to possess the yarn, its journey back to its rightful owner reminds us that the most precious things in life can’t be bought and that real treasure is only available to those who open their hearts to others. Author Mac Barnett won the Caldecott for this gem—it’s a spoonful of sugar that makes the medicinal messages about caring, giving and community go down in the MOST delightful way.
Also Great: The Invisible Boy, Enemy Pie, The Ant Bully, Horton Hears A Who
“Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world,” says Ms. Albert, the teacher in Each Kindness, which explores the many ways in which good kids can behave unkindly in a group. When misfit Maya joins their class, Chloe and friends band together against her. Writer Jaqueline Woodson masterfully sets the reader up as a witness and brings home the tragedy of lost opportunities for kindness, reminding us that negative energy can be just as alluring as positive, but when we take time to reflect, we can make better choices. It’s a great book for kicking off a discussion about standing up for others and its gentle power has earned both the Coretta Scott King Honor Award and the Jane Addams Peace Award.
Also Great: The Hundred Dresses, Charlotte’s Web, Ida B, The Sneeches
“Why don’t you go on and tell me everything about yourself, so as I can see you with my heart,” says Gloria Dump, one of the many classic Southern characters that fill Kate DiCamillo’s award-winning masterpiece, Because of Winn-Dixie. Moving and brilliantly relatable, the book follows India Opal’s journey from wounded new kid in town awash in grief to thriving survivor, the creator of a community built on acts of kindness. Its peculiar magic has turned many casual chapter book readers into devoted book lovers.
Also Great: Wish, Mockingbird, Mood
When You Reach Me is the literary equivalent of having someone whisper a long and very wonderful secret into your ear. Brilliantly original, Rebecca Stead’s Newberry Award winning second book is a winner on the kindness front because really, nothing says kindness more than traveling through time to sacrifice yourself for another. It’s nearly impossible to describe—a girl loses her best friend, makes two others, solves a mystery and helps her mom to compete on The 20,000 Pyramid, but the real draw is the way the characters support one another and the slow, perfect unfurling of the mystery at its core. It’s an especially delicious read aloud for children of the 70s, with vivid details from the era.
Also Great: Counting By Sevens, Inside Out and Back Again, Restart
Great Choices for Teens: Finding Audrey, The Book Thief, The Hunger Games, Stargirl, The Crossover