World Kindness Day is approaching, and what could be more important to remember and celebrate than acts of kindness and compassion? For special inspiration, you might turn to the World Kindness Day website. And then, settle down with our list of picture books for all the members of your family and community to enjoy–and to take to heart.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
A picture book to spark deep conversations among a whole classroom or family. In this poignant tale, a new girl to school, Maya, is introduced to the class, but she is not welcomed or talked to. The story is told through the lens of Chloe, who is part of a clique who not only refuse to accept Maya, but call her “Never New” because of her hand-me-down clothes. Maya is cheerful and independent, but her offers to play are rebuffed by Chloe and her friends. The writing is subtle and provocative, rather than stereotypical bullying and good and bad guys. No judgement is stated. At the end of the book, the teacher invites the class to throw a pebble in the water and watch the ripples to symbolize an act of kindness they have shared wth the class. It is then that Chloe realizes that Maya is no longer there as her family has had to move again, and she ponders if she had ever been kind to the new girl.The watercolor illustrations are a perfect complement to the writing, and show a rural diverse classroom. I appreciate the attention to detail, especially the expressions on the faces of the children.
Most People by Michael Leannah, illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris
The central theme of this book is an important one: most people are kind. Yes, it’s important to teach children to be careful in a sometimes scary world, but it’s also vital to believe in the kindness that most people harbor for others. The book follows two families through their day, interacting with people in their community who show simple acts of kindness. The sense of community and messages of kindness embedded in the story are well-expressssed and never preachy. The book also explains with simple reasoning that people who do bad things can change ― “there is a seed of goodness inside [each person] waiting to sprout.” The author’s note acknowledges that while children need to be careful of strangers, they also need to know that most people are good, kind, and helpful. Our children don’t deserve to be overly fearful of the world despite what they may see in the media. The illustrations celebrate a diversity of race, religion, gender, and class.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
This is one you probably know since it is a “new” classic and winner of the Caldecott Award. But it’s worth returning to on World Kindness Day. Amos is such a caring zookeeper, truly friends with all the animals, showing them care and compassion. When he is sick, they return the favor. A lovely and heart-warming book of compassion, empathy, and the power of kind gestures of friendship. The text is one kids are drawn to, noting patterns, and recurring objects and characters. Some of the best artwork you’ll see, too.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson
We love this book and have declared it one of the very best picture books that came out in 2015. Oh, and so did a lot of other people:
Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal
A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book
A 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2015
A Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2015
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg of this fine book’s medals and awards. While it’s a simple plot line, it is so lyrically written and beautifully illustrated, I guarantee you’ll get goosebumps. A young boy and his grandmother take the bus after church each week. At the stops along the way, they meet people of different cultures and talk about noticing the world around and being thankful. I really love that it talks about looking closely at what you have and opportunities to give to others in a world where it easy to focus on what we don’t have.