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Best Books And Movies To Teach Kids About Kindness And Compassion

Being kind is crucial for establishing and maintaining good friendships. Here's our top picks for books and movies you can use to teach kids about kindness.
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A little bit of kindness goes a long way and it’s the foundation of everlasting friendships. Photo Credit: Eren Li from Pexels
By Seraphina Khoo
September 28, 2021

Books and movies are a great tools for character development. They can explain important life lessons and help reinforce messages we’re trying to teach our children. One of the most important character strength is kindness. It can be learned like any other skill, but unless we teach our children to be kind, it won’t become an integral part of their being. What’s more, being kind is crucial for establishing and maintaining good friendships. Reading stories and watching movies about kindness together with our kids can also lead to important discussions about respect, trust, and how our actions can affect other people. Start them off young and you’ll have them set for life. Here’s our list of the best books and movies with characters who demonstrate kindness, empathy, and good friendship.

BOOKS

The Kindness Book by Todd Parr: Ages 2 and up

This book is perfect for the youngest of tots as it uses bright, bold illustrations and simple text to give a short definition and examples of kindness. From small acts such as saying hello to someone to larger ones including helping take care of a community, little ones can identify lots of practical ways they can be kind.

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Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal: Ages 3 and up

Simple, direct, and emotive, Words and Your Heart’s message is that words have extraordinary power–to harm and to heal, to create and to destroy, and to spread love. It encourages kids to use kind words to look after each other’s hearts.

When Charley Met Emma, by Amy Webb and illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard: Ages 3 and up

This delightful book will help kids think about disability, kindness, and how to behave when they meet someone who is entirely different from them. When Charley goes to the playground and sees Emma, a girl with limb differences who gets around in a wheelchair, he doesn’t know how to react at first. But after he and Emma start talking, he learns that different isn’t bad, sad, or strange–different is just different, and different is great!

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Jen Hill, 2018: Ages 4 and up

This is an unforgettable story about how two simple words can change the world. When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate thinks about how to make her feel better. From asking the new girl to play to standing up for someone being bullied, this moving and thoughtful story explores what a child can do to be kind, and how each act, big or small, can make a difference – or at least help a friend.

Age-appropriate books are excellent tools to develop your child’s character and teach them about important traits like empathy and compassion. Photo Credit: cottonbro from Pexels

My Best Friend, by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki: Ages 4 and up

This delightful story celebrates new friendships like the times when you meet someone and you can instantly click. What is a best friend, if not someone who laughs with you the whole entire day, especially when you pretend to be a pickle? This pitch-perfect picture book is a sweetly earnest, visually stunning celebration of the magic of friendship.

A Friend for Henry, by Jenn Bailey and illustrated by Mika Song: Ages 4 and up

One of the best books to teach kids about those who are on the autism spectrum. This heartfelt story is from the perspective of a boy on the autism spectrum and who celebrates the everyday magic of friendship. In Classroom Six, second left down the hall, Henry has been on the lookout for a friend. A friend who shares. A friend who listens. Maybe even a friend who likes things to stay the same and all in order, as Henry does. But on a day full of too close and too loud, when nothing seems to go right, will Henry ever find a friend—or will a friend find him?

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale, by Josh Funk and Rodolfo Montalvo: Ages 4 and up

Georgie and Blaise are pen pals, and they write each other about everything under the sun. They get along so well and cannot wait to meet in real life. But when they do they are very different than anticipated. Why? Because Georgie is a person, and Blaise is a dragon! We love this story about looking beyond differences to appreciate what lies inside each of us.

I Walk With Vanessa: A story about a simple act of kindness by Kerascoet: Ages 5 and up

Centred around themes of kindness, courage, and anti-bullying, I Walk With Vanessa is a must-have for your bookshelf. The most powerful part of this book is its lack of text and that it’s inspired by real events follows the actions of a little girl who inspires her community to stand up to bullying when a classmate is treated badly. The girl chooses to stand by her friend’s side, an act of kindness that leads to greater acceptance, understanding and the discovery of strength in numbers.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson; illustrated by E.B. Lewis: Ages 6 and up

This thought-provoking, beautifully illustrated picture book focuses on the powerful message of anti-bullying. Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya. Whenever Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her, to the point where eventually Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she’d shown a little kindness toward Maya.

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt: Ages 9 and up

Another compelling take and this time, about dyslexia. Hiding the truth about her inability to read from a highly motivated new teacher, Ally eventually discovers that her dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of and gains new confidence as she finds alternative ways to learn. Mr. Daniels sees the smart kid underneath the troublemaking tendencies, and slowly teaches her that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of and that there’s a lot more to her than a label.

MOVIES

My Little Pony: A New Generation Movie. Photo Credit: Netflix

My Little Pony: A New Generation: Ages 5 and up

The newest My Little Pony movie has very positive messages about accepting others and rejecting stereotypes and intolerance. It is centred around friendship, kindness, determination, and self-expression. In the movie, Earth Ponies, Unicorns, and Pegasi are no longer friends and now live separated by species, but idealistic Earth Pony Sunny is determined to find a way to bring enchantment and unity back to their world. Teaming up with open-hearted Unicorn Izzy, the pair travel to faraway lands where they encounter the likes of charismatic and brave Pegasi Pipp, Zipp, and the ever-responsible fellow Earth Pony Hitch. Their mission is full of misadventures, but these new best friends each possess their own unique and special gifts that may be just what this ponyverse needs to restore magic and prove that even little ponies can make a big difference. Now available on Netflix and cinemas islandwide.

Finding Dory: Ages 5 and up

The friendly and forgetful blue tang fish, Dory, gets separated from her parents as a child. She is living happily in the reef with Nemo and Marlin when she suddenly remembers she has a family who may be looking for her! The trio set off on a life-changing adventure to find them. This movie shows that Dory may be a little silly, but she is a great friend and has an incredible support system in her friends. Finding Dory shows you how important friendships can actually be.

Inside Out: Ages 6 and up

Imagine if all of your emotions were actually little characters with minds of their own living inside your head! This movie teaches the importance of expressing all emotions, whether sad or happy. It also highlights how to cope up with feelings and how to regain control of them. Inside Out helps kids and even adults understand their moods and the moods of others, as well as learn how to cope up with major life changes.

Sometimes all you is a good movie for kids to act as the gateway to opening their hearts to kindness and compassion. Photo Credit: Monstera from Pexels

Up: Ages 6 and up

Up is the story of Carl Fredricksen and Russell the Boy Scout as they venture in a balloon-covered house to Paradise Falls, South America. After Carl’s wife passes away, he vows to take the trip they always planned. On their journey, they make many new friends including, a talking dog. An old man and a little kid aren’t likely friends, but this movie is a great way to teach your children about compassion. It also shows that sometimes friendship and acceptance comes in unlikely forms.

Lilo & Stitch: Ages 6 and up

A lovely movie and a classic tale, this movie tells of Lilo, hailing from Hawaii, who adopts an unusual pet named Stitch, an alien who got a little lost. Without a greater purpose in life, family, or any memories, Stitch does a little soul searching and begins to understand the meaning of love and friendship alongside Lilo.

The BFG: Ages 7 and up

Based on Roald Dahl’s classic story, the BFG follows the story of Sophie, a ten-year-old girl, who meets the Big Friendly Giant. Soon, she realizes that her colossal friend is actually quite gentle and charming. As their friendship grows, Sophie’s presence attracts the unwanted attention of other giants. After traveling to London, Sophie and the BFG must convince Queen Elizabeth to help them get rid of all the bad giants once and for all.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Ages 8 and up

The Chronicle of Narnia is an adaptation of a famous novel by C. S. Lewis The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and more suitable for older kids. It follows the magical journey of four movie characters who are on a mission to find the King of Narnia, Aslan the Lion. The characters Lucy, Peter, Edmund, and Susan experience the kindness of several inhabitants of Narnia. However, Aslan depicts the biggest act of kindness of all when he forgave Edmund who betrayed him.

Charlotte’s Web: Ages 8 and up

Definitely a classic that is must-watch for the whole family, Charlotte’s Web features a young girl named Fern who rescues a runt piglet, raises it as her own, and names him Wilbur. However, as Wilbur grows into an adult pig, she is compelled to sell him to her Uncle Homer Zuckerman. At Zuckerman’s barn, Wilbur meets a host of animals and later learns from them that once winter arrives, he will be slaughtered for food. Fearing for his life, Charlotte, a gentle and wise spider who befriended the lonely Wilbur, vows to save his life!

Of course, raising kind children takes a lot more than reading a good book together or showing them good movies, but these tools can spark conversations about kindness and why it’s crucial. From learning to appreciate differences to seeing the importance of friendship, acceptance, and tolerance, these books and movies above might inspire random acts of kindness in your kids.