Tween

9 Books About Kindness for Tweens

by Jennifer Garry

Photo credit: Klaus Vedfelt, DigitalVision/Getty Images

Teaching my kids kindness and empathy is one of the most important jobs I have as a parent. Smart and well-behaved are great qualities, but what I really hope to do is raise kind, caring humans.

When kids get to that oh-so-tricky tween age, it can be a little bit harder to get that point across. You can model it, but this is the age where they are less interested in what you think is a good idea and more interested in figuring it out for themselves. Sharing stories that feature kids their age modeling or encountering kindness is a great way to sneak lessons in there — kind of like slipping veggies into their brownies when they were toddlers.

These nine books are a great place to start with 9- to 12-year-olds.

  • Wolf Hollow

    by Lauren Wolk

    It's 1940s Pennsylvania. A cruel, manipulative bully moves in with her grandparents and sets her sights on destroying a reclusive World War I veteran. She quickly turns the community against him. While others see his strangeness, Anabelle knows only his kindness, and must find the courage to stand up to the crowd and make sure he's treated fairly.

  • Count Me In

    by Varsha Bajaj

    Karina Chopra had no interest in becoming friends with Chris, but when her grandpa starts tutoring him she realizes he is nothing at all like the mean boys he hangs out with. One day, while her grandpa walks them home from school, a stranger assaults the group because of the way Karina and her Indian-American grandfather look. Determined not to let hate win, Karina posts photos on social media that go viral and brings the community together as others post their own images that celebrate the beauty of diversity.

  • Who Was Mister Rogers?

    by Diane Bailey and Who HQ, illustrated by Dede Putra

    Follow Fred Rogers, everyone's favorite neighbor and the king of kindness, on his journey from a puppet-making, music-loving child to one of America's most beloved television personalities.

  • Fish in a Tree

    by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

    Ally is a middle schooler who has learned to hide her inability to read by creating clever, disruptive distractions. But when she starts at a new school and finds herself with a particularly attentive teacher, she can no longer hide it. 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.

  • White Bird

    by R.J. Palacio

    In R.J. Palacio's graphic novel debut, she expands the universe of her previous hits, Wonder and Auggie & Me. Readers learn the story of Julian's grandmother, Grandmère, who was hidden by a family in a Nazi-occupied French village during World War II. Through this act of kindness, the boy she and her classmates shunned became her savior and best friend.

  • Because of Mr. Terupt

    by Rob Buyea

    Seven very different students who have never really gotten along find themselves together in Mr. Terupt's fifth grade class. While each of the characters are imperfect, Mr. Terupt helps them find strength in themselves and in each other. When he suffers from a terrible accident, will they be able to remember what he's taught them?

  • Confessions of a Former Bully

    by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Beth Adams

    This information-packed picture book looks at bullying from the point of view of the bully. When Katie is mean to her friend Monica, she has to meet with the school counselor to learn how to be a better friend. Katie soon realizes that being a bully hasn't just hurt her friends, it's hurt her too.

  • Sincerely, You

    by Savannah Maddison

    A simple letter has the power to brighten a day, change a life, and even unite the world. This book is filled with tips that will inspire readers to use their stories, art, and ideas to connect, feel heard, and make a difference.

  • Kiki and Jacques

    by Susan Ross

    A lot of things in Jacques' life are difficult right now, but one thing is for sure: he'll be captain of the soccer team. At least it seems sure until an influx of Somali refugees shakes up his town and brings Mohamed, who is at least as good as Jacques is. Everything about life is suddenly different, and Jacques is surprised when he begins to strike up a friendship with Kiki, a Somali Muslim girl. But not everyone is happy about it. Can they be friends or are they just too different?