Kindness is a lesson that should be taught over and over again throughout the lifespan. However, the best time to start is right at the beginning. Preschoolers are at an impressionable age where simple lessons about helping, teamwork, and empathy can make all the difference in their future development.
This guide offers some of the best preschool age-appropriate books that impart the important lesson of kindness toward others. These 25 books make great gifts for little ones, or are ideal for stocking a Pre-K classroom.
Kindheart (Kind Heart Series)
Kelly and Evelyn Oberheiden, illustrated by Tasya Nabiella
A sweet tale about a rainbow-hued unicorn that shares kindness through communication. When a shy new friend shows up, Kindheart the unicorn is quick to take action through actions and verse to make them feel more at home. With charming illustrations and a simple yet engaging story, Kindheart is sure to win over little one’s hearts while teaching values that will never grow old. You can buy the book from here.
The Jelly Donut Difference: Sharing Kindness With the World
Twin siblings Leah and Dexter have their share of differences. It’s not always easy to get along, but with the help of some gooey jelly donuts and generous hearts, these two learn the secret of reciprocity while sharing with their elderly neighbor.
Horton Hears a Who
An old classic but never stale, the story of Horton and his gang of tiny friends teaches little ones that a “person is a person, no matter how small”. With charming verse and silly illustrations, this book is always a hit with kiddos.
A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love
This sweet story follows Sophia, a girl who wants desperately to help a helper. Her neighbor Mrs. Goldman knits hats for everybody in the neighborhood…but who will make a hat for her? Knitting is really hard, and Sophia isn’t sure she can make a hat all on her own. Adorable illustrations and a knitting pattern make this book a must-have for anyone 4 to 8 years old.
I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness
Written by a husband and wife team, and based on true events, this book is simple yet enchanting. When a classmate is teased, one girl makes the choice to demonstrate a simple act of kindness that inspires a whole community. Told entirely in lovely watercolor pictures, there are no words needed for this story.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Philip C. Stead
Amos McGee spends every day visiting his friends at the zoo. One day he is too sick to come see his animal friends, and they decide to turn the tables. A sweet book that explains the importance of reciprocal acts of kindness between friends.
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
Molly Lou Lemon is teased by a bully at her new school, but she remembers her grandmother’s words: “Walk proud, smile big, and sing loud”. Molly Lou demonstrates strength and endurance through kindness, changing some of her classmates for the better.
The Lion and the Mouse
In this pictorial adaptation of the classic Aesop tale, beautifully rendered illustrations take you through the story of a lion and a mouse exchanging acts of mercy. Children 2-4 will be enchanted with the pictures, and learn about kindness through a purely visual medium.
You, Me, and Empathy
Jayneen Sanders, illustrated by Sofia Cardoso
A straightforward lesson in empathy, this book uses a likable little one named Quinn to model the behaviors that it’s teaching. Lovely watercolor illustrations help tell the story, and a list of discussion questions offer parents and educators a way to process the information.
Come With Me
Holly McGhee, illustrated by Pascal Lamaitre
When a little girl is confronted with news reports of anger and sadness, she asks her parents what she can do. Both take her on journeys to demonstrate that people come in all shapes and sizes, and that most are friendly to meet. One step at a time, she finds out that the world is a pretty good place, after all.
Save Me a Seat
Sarah Weeks, illustrated by Gita Varadarajan
Joe’s best friend has just moved away and left him on his own. Ravi has just moved from India and isn’t yet sure where he fits in. Over a week, these two find out that they have more in common than they initially thought. A lovely message of friendship and diversity. Find it here.
All Are Welcome
Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman
Bold, colorful illustrations accompany this story of a diverse and inclusive school. Everyone is different, and everyone is welcome. Children learn from each other’s traditions, and celebrate together. This book models the world as it should be.
I Am Enough
Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
Sometimes the most important kindness is the grace that you offer yourself. This book through lyrical prose and gorgeous detailed illustrations affirms the importance of loving who you are as well as respecting others.
The Invisible Boy
Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Patrice Barton
Brian is a quiet boy that no one seems to ever notice. Then Justin moves to town, and Brian reaches out to make him feel welcome. Working together on a class project, Brian finally finds a way to make himself seen. This book models ways to make a stranger into a friend through acts of kindness.
If You Plant a Seed
This beautifully illustrated book shares how you can plant the seeds of kindness or selfishness just as you plant garden seeds. Whichever you plant will grow, so think about what fruits you want to see.
Quirky and fun, Enemy Pie follows the story of a little boy who is having a great summer until a new kid moves into the neighborhood and becomes Enemy Number One. Fortunately, the boy’s father knows just how to fix it…with Enemy Pie. Only, part of the recipe involves spending a whole day with your enemy. A lovely recipe for how to turn an enemy into a friend.
Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids
Carol McCloud, illustrated by David Messing
Filled with whimsical illustrations and practical advice, this book teaches children to use an invisible bucket to collect daily acts of kindness and appreciation toward others.
I Am Human: A Book of Empathy (I Am Books)
Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
This book is an affirmation to children that being human means that we can make mistakes and be sad or afraid. But it also means that we learn, dream, and wonder, and are in fact valuable–each and every one of us. With engaging artwork and a positive message, this is sure to be a hit for kids and their adults alike.
The Monster Who Lost His Mean
Tiffany Strelitz Haber, Illustrated by Kirstie Edmunds
This zany book follows the story of a monster who believes that he needs to live up to his name–after all, the “M” in monster stands for Mean! However, with the help of some new friends, he finds out that he can live up to his name however he chooses.
Hey, Little Ant
Phillip M. Hoose, Hannah Hoose, Debbie Tilley
This classic picture book teaches children to consider the age-old question as it applies to ants: “to smoosh, or not to smoosh?” The fun illustrations highlight a conversation between a little girl and an ant, forcing little ones to consider just how important all creatures are.
Listening With My Heart: A Story of Kindness and Self-Compassion
Gabi Garcia, Illustrated by Ying Hui Tang
Esperanza is eager to show kindness and spread love throughout the world. But when things don’t go her way, will she show the same grace to herself? This book is a good reminder to children that it’s just as important to have compassion towards oneself as it is to have toward others.
Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler
Margery Cuyler, Illustrated by Sachico Yoshikawa
A whimsical story about a classroom that takes on a kindness challenge…can they make their way to 100 acts of kindness? Illustrated with funny and engaging artwork, this book will inspire kids to work to change the world for the better.
Make Way for Ducklings
This classic children’s book will be recognizable to both parents and grandparents alike. It tells the story of Mrs. Mallard and her babies crossing traffic to get to the Boston Public Gardens, and the help she receives along the way. The story builds empathy as children identify with the duck family, and also models kindness as the Boston police go out of their way to help the ducklings get to their new home.
How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Cats?
Jane Yolen, Illustrated by Mark Tegue
This book demonstrates kindness toward pets through the story of dinosaurs and their cats. Silly, fun, and full of great messages, this is a great choice for any family that may be thinking of bringing a new pet into the fold.
The Rainbow Fish
Another classic, this beautifully illustrated book has an array of colors and holographic bits that will enchant any child. The story of the proud Rainbow Fish learning to share his beautiful scales with the other fish teaches the consequences of selfishness, and how to be a good friend to others.