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Pre-K

Growing Reader

Caring, Sharing, and Growing: Books to Show Kids How to Be a Friend

by Janssen Bradshaw

books-that-show-kids-how-to-be-a-friend
Illustration: Penelope Dullaghan

One of the most exciting and nerve-wracking parts of a new school year is friendship. Which friends will be in your class? Will you make new friends? Who do you sit by?

These books are a perfect way to bring up the topic of friendship with your children as you prepare for that big first day and the various issues that can come up, from friends that look different, to adding new friends to old friendships, to solving conflict together.

  • The Rabbit Listened

    by Cori Doerrfeld

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    This sweet book on emotional responses to grief is helpful both for children experiencing grief, and children who have a friend going through something difficult and aren’t quite sure what to say. When Taylor is sad, all of the animals tell her how to act — but the rabbit just listens, which is the best gift of all.

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  • Words to Make a Friend

    by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Naoko Stoop

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    There are some things, like friendship and love, that are universal no matter where you’re from or what language you speak. In this book, a Japanese girl moves to America and is excited when she sees a girl playing outside in the snow. The only problem is that the Japanese girl and the American girl don’t speak the same language. This clever and adorable book illustrates that you don’t need to speak the same language to understand one another.

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  • Oliver’s Tree

    by Kit Chase

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    These sweet books about a trio of friends are some of my favorites, and I love this one where Oliver, an elephant, can’t find a tree to hide in for hide-and-seek, so his friends help him find the perfect tree for an elephant.

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  • Absolutely Alfie and the Worst Best Sleepover

    by Sally Warner, illustrated by Shearry Malone

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    The prospect of getting invited to social events can be tough on kids, as Alfie discovers when her former BFF, Lulu, tells her second grade class that she’s throwing an awesome sleepover — but she can only invite six girls. As the girls compete for an invite, Alfie wonders if there’s a more inclusive solution.

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  • Llama Llama Time to Share

    by Anna Dewdney

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    One of the hardest things about going to school can be learning to share — you’re introduced to a whole bunch of fun new toys, games, and books, and then you’re expected to share them with kids you’ve never met before. I love that this book acknowledges that difficulty and then demonstrates how to deal with it.

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  • EllRay Jakes the Recess King!

    by Sally Warner, illustrated by Brian Biggs

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    EllRay is auditioning classmates for the role of Spare Best Friend. To drum up interest, he embarks on a mission to become the Recess King. After all, who doesn’t want to be Spare Best Friend to royalty? An amusing read about the right — and wrong — ways to make friends.

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  • Can I Play Too?

    by Samantha Cotterill

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    Kids are taught from a young age to share their toys, but what about sharing their ideas? In this story, two young kids are building a train set, when one of the children insists on doing things his way. Can I Play Too? tackles big ideas like compromising and paying attention to other people’s feelings. With gentle guidance, and charming illustrations, this book will help little ones stay on track in their friendships.

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  • My Friend Maggie

    by Hannah E. Harrison

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    It’s never easy to know how to deal with a mean girl, especially when that mean girl starts picking on your best friend. Do you stick up for your friend or join the mean girl team? Most kids know what they should do, but actually doing it is a lot more difficult and this book deftly demonstrates how that plays out. This book is a great conversation starter for parents and children.

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  • How to Grow a Friend

    by Sara Gillingham

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    Perfect for the littlest of readers, How to Grow a Friend is a cheerful and accessible metaphor about seeding, growing, and maintaining friendships. I love its gentle reminder that relationships, like gardening, require nurturing and tender care.

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  • Dust Bunny Wants a Friend

    by Amy Hevron

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    Sometimes it takes a while to find our truest friends. So it goes for lonely Dust Bunny, who tries to bond with a bug, a cat, and other critters before finally stumbling on a whole den of dust bunnies under the bed.

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  • Bird, Balloon, Bear

    by Il Sung Na

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    Making friends isn’t easy and can be intimidating, even when you really want a new friend. Bird is new in the forest and wants a friend — Bear looks like the PERFECT choice, but Bird is too shy to say hello and by the time he does, Bear’s made friends with a big bright balloon. Is there any way for Bird to still be his friend?

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  • I Got A New Friend

    by Karl Newsom Edwards

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    I Got a New Friend follows the budding friendship between a girl and her new puppy. Slowly but surely, the two get to know each other — their quirks, habits, and individual affinities for mischief — in this joyful story of new companionship.

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  • Amanda Pig, Schoolgirl

    by Jean Van Leeuwen, illustrated by Ann Schweninger

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    Amanda Pig couldn’t be more excited about school. But on the bus she meets a little girl from her class who is so shy she won’t speak, not even to tell Amanda her name. I love that this book demonstrates how some kids love the excitement of school while others are very nervous. I also appreciate how patient and non-pushy the teacher is as Lollipop acclimates to her new surroundings.

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  • The Monster Next Door

    by David Soman

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    A boy and his neighboring monster make fast friends when they create a pulley line between their tree houses. But before long, the monster’s rowdiness become too much for the boy, so he cuts the pulley line. Will they be able to patch up their friendship? This one offers a valuable lesson about accepting others and mending fences.

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  • Ladybug Girl and the Best Ever Playdate

    by Jacky Davis, illustrated by David Soman

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    We’ve all experienced going to someone’s house to play (or having them to ours) and being completely captivated by a new toy and wanting to play with that way more than the friend we actually came to play with. In this one, the toy in question is the Rolly-Roo and it starts to come between Finny and Lulu. Until the Rolly-Roo gets broken.

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  • The Name Jar

    by Yangsook Choi

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    It’s hard to be the new kid, especially when no one can pronounce your name. Unhei is from Korea and, anxious to make new friends, she announces that she will choose a new American name. Fortunately, by the time the week is up, she’s decided to stick with her own unfamiliar name and help her new friends learn to say it correctly.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2017 and updated in 2021.