In a time of commercial-free kids’ shows and Amazon Prime, teaching gratitude to your kids is no easy task. It is more than reminding your children to say “thanks” or to write a thank-you note. It is instilling in them a mindful heart for others and an ability to recognize beauty and blessings in the day-to-day. Gratitude is also the lesson of looking at life from someone’s point of view.
In our home, we turn to books. Here are some books that help remind us to be grateful for all we have.
Books for Preschoolers
Thankful by Eileen Spinelli (read-aloud, picture book). This bright and cheery picture book follows two creative children as they find things to be grateful for within their day and family. This is a light-hearted, simple read that will bring a smile to you face. It is the perfect way to introduce the concept of gratitude to toddlers and early readers.
The Thankful Book by Todd Parr (read-aloud, early reader). As a mother of a preschooler, I could not recommend this author enough, and I was thrilled to find he had devoted a book to being thankful. This book is a bright display of joyful art and has simple but meaningful concepts. I particularly loved that the author wrote about being thankful for feelings as well as silly things.
An Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton (read-aloud, early reader, elementary, picture book). This might be my favorite on the list! This whimsical and eclectic picture book has amazing art and a straight forward message of gratitude for the earth, nature, imagination, and the ups and downs of life. It is heartwarming without being overly wordy and can be appreciated and inspiring to any age group.
Gracias, Thanks by Pat Mora (read-aloud, early elementary, picture book). This book is truly unique and is worth the read (and re-read). It is a bilingual book, told in both Spanish and English, about being thankful for the smallest details of the day. The understated wording — along with the detailed, culturally-inspired illustrations — make this book a quiet force. You may find yourself staring at the artwork and being grateful for the beauty in your own day.
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams (lower-level elementary reader). This is from our own family book collection. It is a story told through the eyes of a young girl who has lost everything in a fire and does her part to help buy a chair for her mother. The story brilliantly shows the anticipation and appreciation for something that most people take for granted each day, like sitting in a chair after a long day of hard work. Another subtle but powerful theme in the story is community. The author does well to show that giving by others in the community makes it possible for this family to rebuild, and even the smallest kindness truly matters.
The Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson (read-aloud upper elementary readers). A bus ride with his grandmother allows a young boy to come to appreciate the culture, beauty, and magic that surrounds him without material possessions. This story teaches both gratitude and act of giving back to the community. It is a great conversation starter for children and would be a great book to revisit as children grow.
Beyond Elementary School
Refugee by Alan Gratz (middle school reader, young adult). This historical fiction leads the reader into the lives of three young people as they flee their homeland looking for sanctuary from war and unrest. The author is unapologetic in describing the persecution and hopelessness the characters endure. This is a fast-paced but emotional read. It leaves the reader with overwhelming empathy for real individuals who have made such journeys. I would recommend reading this book along with your middle-schooler, as it allows for great teachable moments for personal responsibility and sacrifice.
What’s your favorite book — for any reading level — on gratitude or gratefulness? Let us know in the comments below!