10 Kindness Picture Books for Elementary Teachers – 2024

Reading aloud children’s picture books to your elementary students is a great way to introduce and teach kindness. Below is a list of our favorite picture books to teach this social emotional learning topic. They all lend themselves well to facilitating rich classroom discussions around kindness. Have You Filled a Bucket Today?, Listening With My Heart, A Sick Day for Amos McGee and Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed are part of our kindness SEL Unit, which includes interactive read aloud lesson plans among tons of other resources for teaching kindness. Learn all about these kindness picture books below and how you can use them to teach kindness!

kindness read alouds

10 Kindness Picture Books

Below are 10 quality kindness children’s books for elementary teachers. Your kids will love these read alouds! They are great for teaching kindness, as well as many other concepts and skills.

1. Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud

This story begins with the metaphor of each person having an invisible bucket on top of their heads. We can fill each others’ buckets with kindness, or dump their buckets by saying mean things. This story is a great resource for teaching students about expected and unexpected behaviors in regards to kindness! My Kindness SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!

Have You Filled a Bucket Today book cover Listening with my Heart book cover

2. Listening with my Heart by Gabi Garcia

Esperanza finds a heart-shaped rock and tells herself to listen with this heart for everything she does. Using the rock, she rescues a kitten and is friendly to others. When her rock breaks, Esperanza is forced to give herself some compassion as well. This story reminds us that kindness to others is important, but being kind to ourselves is vital! My Kindness SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!

3. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip C. Stead

Each morning, Amos McGee wakes up and gets ready for work. He takes the bus to the zoo, where he has many friends waiting to see him. One day, Amos wakes up feeling too sick to go to work. The animals are anxiously waiting for him and start to worry. Amos is surprised to see his animal friends at his house! They have come to take care of him! This story reminds students that when we are kind to others, they want to be kind back. My Kindness SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!

A Sick Day for Amos McGee book and activity Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed

4. Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson

One day, an ordinary girl named Mary walked by a bush filled with blueberries. She decided to pick them and leave a bowl full of berries on her neighbor Mrs. Bishop’s porch. This act of kindness inspired Mrs. Bishop and others in the neighborhood to spread kindness. Her aunt, who had been treated with kindness, surprised Mary with a necklace. Everyone was thankful that one ordinary girl was able to change the world. This story lends itself to teaching about how acts of kindness are contagious! My Kindness SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!

5. The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

The fifth book on this list of kindness picture books is The Word Collector. In this story, Jerome loves collecting words. Jerome collects all different kinds of words: big, small and words he sees or hears. He puts the words he collects into a scrapbook. One day, Jerome decides to bring his collection of words to the top of a hill. He lets the words go and they float down to the world below. Children see the words and start picking them up. It leaves Jerome speechless to see how much joy his collection brings others. This beautiful book shows students about the importance of spreading kindness, even if it is just with words! Check out these The Word Collector activities!

The Word Collector book cover Jelly Donut Difference book cover

6. The Jelly Donut Difference by Maria Dismondy

A family invites over their neighbor, Ms. Marvis, for dinner. While eating, Ms. Marvis tells everyone stories about her family tradition of making jelly donuts. The next day, the twins decide to make donuts and leave a bag at Ms. Marvis’s house. They also create a family of snowmen outside her house. Ms. Marvis is so appreciative of the twins’ kindness that she writes them a thank you note. The twins are happy that they have a family and learned new traditions from their neighbor. This story shows that showing kindness can make others feel included, special, and appreciated! Check out these The Jelly Donut Difference activities!

7. The Donkey Egg by Janet Stevens & Susan Stevens Crummel

While Bear was taking care of a Donkey egg (which was actually a watermelon), Hare was spending his time training for a big race against Tortoise. When Hare heard Bear crying for help, he took off running trying to help catch the egg. After the watermelon split open and Bear saw seeds everywhere, he realized he had work to do. Hare was about to leave for his race when he had a change of heart. He decided to stay and help Bear plant the seeds. The two friends spent months taking care of the seeds, watering the soil, and growing the watermelon. This beautiful story of kindness blossoms into quite a great friendship! Check out these The Donkey Egg activities!

The Donkey Egg book cover Officer Buckle and Gloria book cover

8. Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

Officer Buckle comes to Napville School to share safety tips with the students. When he tries to teach the students, they are not interested, some of them even fall asleep. That is, until Gloria the police dog comes! In the story, a student writes a note to Officer Buckle to cheer him up when he is upset. This makes Officer Buckle feel better and he returns to the school for more safety presentations. This story reminds us that kindness can just be shown in a card! These simple acts can make a difference in someone’s life. Check out these Officer Buckle and Gloria activities!

9. Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour

Lubna shares about her family, about her home, and even about the war to her pebble. One day, she meets a little boy all alone. She realized that he needs the pebble more than she does. This beautiful story teaches children to be mindful of others, to show kindness to others in need, and to remember the power of empathy. Check out these Lubna and Pebble activities!

Lubna and Pebble book cover Chocolate Milk Por Favor book and activity

10. Chocolate Milk, Por Favor by Maria Dismondy

The last book on this list of kindness picture books is Chocolate Milk, Por Favor. One day, a boy named Gabe shows Johnny how to do a tricky soccer move that Johnny had been struggling to learn. Johnny realizes that his frustration must be similar to how Gabe felt trying to learn English. The next day he decides to bring Gabe chocolate milk, and learns how important it is to have a friend. Students will learn that this act of kindness was a way for Johnny to apologize and offer friendship. Check out these Chocolate Milk, Por Favor activities!

Integrated SEL and Literacy Activities

Below are some integrated SEL and literacy resources for elementary teachers.

SEL Unit

Our Kindness Unit, which is available individually or as part of a year-long SEL bundle, includes lessons for the first four books on this list. This unit is packed with lesson plans, teaching resources, games, and activities. Click an image below to either get this individual kindness unit or get ALL 30 SEL units!

Kindness SEL Unit Social Emotional Learning Units Bundle
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SEL Book Companions

As I mentioned earlier, I love teaching SEL skills using picture books. That’s why I created the Starts With a Story Collection. High quality children’s literature supports elementary teachers in delivering meaningful and accessible SEL lessons. Many of the read alouds on this list are part of this book companion collection. Check out the book companions below!

Listening with my Heart A Sick Day for Amos McGee Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed
The Word Collector The Jelly Donut Difference The Donkey Egg
Officer Buckle and Gloria Lubna and Pebble Chocolate Milk Por Favor

In closing, we hope you found this list of kindness picture books helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in these posts:

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