As we rush through making dinner, baths, and bedtime, I often have to stop myself and take it all in. I’m really lucky. I’m grateful for my beautiful family, the roof over my head, the meaningful work I accomplish at my job, and a community of friends. That sense of gratitude is something that I strive to impart in my children, but I’m not always sure that I’m taking the right steps. My kids are young, so beyond enforcing polite language (with the 2-year-old — the 9-month-old isn’t quite there yet), I want to make sure I provide context for why we should be thankful.
Books are often my go-to solution, and this situation is no different. Thanksgiving is a great time to start introducing books about gratitude and kindness, and will help give some meaning to the holiday. Here are some of my favorites. Share your own favorites in the comments!
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig is the classic story about a young donkey, Sylvester, who finds a magical red pebble that grants him any wish he desires. After a terrifying run-in with a lion, he accidentally wishes himself into the form of a rock. With nothing but time to think and remember, Sylvester realizes that he only wants what he had before he found the pebble. This simple, sweet story will be a great conversation starter for your preschool or early elementary age kid.
I’m a huge fan of Erin E. Stead’s illustrations and her collaboration with Philip C. Stead on A Sick Day for Amos McGee, might just be my favorite of all of her work. This is the story of Amos McGee, a gentle zookeeper who comes down with a cold. All of the animals who he kindly cares for each day worry when he doesn’t show up to work. They join him in his home and care for him as he selflessly cares for them each day. I regularly share this story with my animal loving 2-year-old. We discuss what kind things others do for her and how she could impart her own acts of goodness.
In One Hen Katie Smith Milway and Eugenie Fernandes tell the story of Kojo, a poor boy from a small town in Ghana. With the help of a small loan, Kojo is able to take a great idea and make it into a story of success. Kojo never forgets where he came from and works hard to make the lives of those around him better. The beautiful, bright illustrations alone are conversation-starters. This is a great story to share with an elementary age kid, and could easily lead to talks about difference, privilege, and gratitude.
You may have met Mr. Panda before. Steve Antony’s politeness obsessed panda has been featured in Please, Mr. Panda, I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda, and the latest, Goodnight, Mr. Panda. With Thank You, Mr. Panda, Antony introduces a slew of ungrateful animals (and one thankful one!) While most of the books on this list are pretty heavy, this simple, lighthearted read is a great one to share with kids of all ages.
The Three Questions by Jon J Muth is the beautiful story of Nikolai, a young boy who “sometimes felt uncertain about the right way to act”. He has three questions that he wants answered, so he can figure out how to be a good person. Based on Leo Tolstoy’s short story by the same name, this is about as profound as picture books come. This would be a great book to discuss as a family around the dinner table, as we could all probably use a reminder to live in the here and now.
I can’t read Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney without crying. Seriously, it has never happened. This elegant story captures something we should all strive for — to make the world a more beautiful place. I can’t wait until I can share this book with my girls and help them discover how they will leave the world a more beautiful place when they are old enough to understand. Preschool age and older kids will appreciate Miss Rumphius and her flowers.
Eileen Spinelli’s Thankful (illustrated by Archie Preston) is a great Thanksgiving read for all ages. The story is a relatable, straightforward expression of gratitude. There are cute tongue-in-cheek jokes throughout the book that make this a really fun great lap read.
The First Forest by John Gile and Tom Heflin is amazing. In this lyrical fable, about the first trees ever made, Gile has captured how much gratitude, forgiveness, kindness, respect, peace, and happiness are all connected. You will want to share this book with your kids of all ages. Today! Go check it out.