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Teaching Kindness and Respect with Literature

October 10th, 2017

"Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together."

~ Goethe

It's a new month, so that means a new character trait book list! As you may recall, this year on the blog we will be looking at ways to use literature to reinforce character growth. October brings two traits to focus on:

Kindness: Showing high regard, value and appreciation for authority, others, self and property.

Catch phrase: You don't have to like or agree with everyone, but you do need to treat them with respect.

Respect: Recognizing that relationships are core to who we are becoming, and therefore being tender, courteous, helpful, forgiving and compassionate towards others and self. Looking for the goodness in all. Being unselfish and generous.

Catch phrase: Be nice.

Our guest blogging librarian, Emily Ferrarini, is back today and she's gathered a list of 15 Books about Kindness and Respect. Approximate ages are given for each book, but all ages really can enjoy these sweet stories. (Titles with a star are available to purchase in the school store):


How Kind! by Mary Murphy – In this sweet little board book, Hen gives her friend Pig an unexpected gift. Pig decides to do something kind, too, and gives a gift to Rabbit. The cycle continues as all of the barnyard animals give gifts to one another. This simple story about how kindness is contagious is just right for a preschool child. (Ages 3-5)
* If You Plant a Seed, by Kadir Nelson – This is a simple, wonderful book about the benefits of loving-kindness, easily understood by the youngest of children. The illustrations of birds and other animals are realistic and endearing. Author and illustrator Kadir Nelson is a favorite at SLOCA; we have used some of his other titles as curriculum. (Ages 3-8)

* The Lion and the Mouse, originally by Aesop, retold by artist Jerry Pinkney – This classic fable is part of the core curriculum for our Little Wonders program, for good reason. An expressive, gorgeous book for young children with a timeless message: no act of kindness is ever wasted. This award-winning version of the story is a treasure. (Ages 3-8)

The Kindness Quilt, by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace – Minna and her classmates are asked by their teacher to do something kind for another person, and make a picture about it. The teacher then puts these pictures together to make a quilt, which grows larger as more and more students begin to participate. This is another simple, sweet story about how kindness begets kindness. For crafty types, it may inspire a fun project! (Ages 5-8)

Rude Cakes, by Rowboat Watkins – This is the only book to my recollection in which a Cyclops turns a disrespectful cake into a hat! This is a quirky book that nevertheless manages to impart a lesson: we should all do our best to think of others. This book about good manners touches on both kindness and respect. (Ages 3-7)

Manners, by Aliki – I love the cheerful style of author and illustrator Aliki! This book contains many different scenarios of how to behave and how not to behave. It emphasizes that we use good manners to show respect for one another, and that how we behave influences how others think about and treat us. Young children may particularly like the examples of how not to behave! (Ages 4-8)

My Name is Elizabeth! by Annika Dunklee – This cute book about an assertive little girl named Elizabeth – Not Lizzy! Not Beth! – is a great introduction to the concept of respecting others’ wishes regarding nicknames. (Ages 3-7)

* A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip Stead – Here’s another picture book used in our Little Wonders program. This is a soft and lovely story about Amos, a very devoted zookeeper, whose friends pitch in to return his care and attention in the sweetest way. Look for Philip and Erin Stead’s other titles, which share the same warmth as this one. (Ages 3-7)

Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Pena – This book won Caldecott and Newbery awards last year when it came out. Riding the bus through a bustling city with his grandmother, little CJ feels envious of other people who seem to have more than he has – phones, cars, and nicer neighborhoods. His grandma points out all that they have to appreciate in life. A twist comes at the end. While not specifically about kindness or respect, this book is about observing closely the world and people around us, and not rushing to judgment. This is a beautiful book in every way, and well deserving of its awards. (Ages 3-7)

Emily, by Michael Bedard – This is another story about observing those around us with kindness instead of judgment, and respecting those of different temperaments. A young girl whose family has recently moved into a new neighborhood wonders about her reclusive neighbor across the street, who turns out to be the poet Emily Dickinson. I love the quiet kinship that develops between the girl and the poet. Although fictional, it is certain to ignite curiosity about the poetry of Emily Dickinson. (Ages 5-8)

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness, by Donna Janell Bowman – This book will be particularly meaningful for SLOCA students who remember learning about American history last year. Doc Key, born a slave, became successful after the Civil War by training a horse named Jim to spell and do simple math problems. This is a great story from history about kindness and gentleness toward animals. (Ages 7-12)

Protecting Your Home: A Book About Firefighters, by Ann Owen – This is just one example of a book about community helpers. Read about firefighters, police officers, mail carriers, dentists, teachers, and others who help the world with their work, and nurture a respect for people doing all sorts of jobs in our communities. Preschoolers are particularly drawn to these types of books. (Ages 4-9)

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman, by Michelle Edwards – Here is another heartwarming story about acts of kindness for others. This one is also great for encouraging a growth mindset when it comes to art and other projects. Sometimes small mistakes add to the charm of the finished work! (Ages 3-8)

* The Giant of Jum, by Elli Woollard – This fun book begs to be read again and again! This giant starts out in search of a snack, but finds his quest intercepted by one child after another, needing help with various chores. This is a silly book with a thoughtful message. (Ages 3-8)

The Golden Rule, by Ilene Cooper – This is an excellent addition to a home library. It isn’t so much a story as an explanation of the Golden Rule and how it crops up in stories from various cultures. The illustrations are dreamy. School-age children will appreciate this story best. (Ages 3-10)


Thank you again, Emily! We appreciate your ongoing dedication to all things literary and for sharing these treasures with us. These books look incredible – can I have them all, please? 

Parents, here are downloadable images you can print for this month's character traits, if you'd like – click on each image for the full-size PDFs: