Growing Reader

11 Picture Books to Teach Children About Giving to Others

by Iva-Marie Palmer

Generosity is one of those simple-but-big concepts that manifests itself in many ways — explaining to children that it goes way beyond gifting big material presents can be a challenge, particularly during the holiday season. Children’s books are fantastic resources when talking to kids about the importance of giving. To facilitate conversations with your little ones about being generous, pick up one of these children’s books, which showcase different ways to give the best of ourselves — every day and every way we can.

  • It’s Mine!

    by Leo Lionni

    Lionni is the master of picture books with simple, inspiring messages that never feel preachy. And a lesson on sharing is the first one kids need on their way to generosity. In this one, three selfish frogs spend their days arguing with the same refrain: “It’s mine!” Then a bad storm (and a big brown toad) teach them that sharing is indeed more rewarding than trying to lay claim to everything for ourselves.

  • The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need

    by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain

    This charming family of bears is an excellent go-to for teaching kids a life lesson or two. In this book, the Berenstain Bears realize they have too much stuff and decide to donate their unneeded items to those in need. The Bear family feels doubly good donating not just their hand-me-downs, but also their time and energy to help others in the community.

  • Strega Nona’s Harvest

    by Tomie dePaola

    Strega Nona tries to show Big Anthony the importance of order in gardening, but he has other ideas. He plants his own garden that quickly grows out of control, producing more vegetables than he could possibly eat. Anthony secretly leaves piles of veggies at his grandmother’s doorstep each night and she, in turn, decides to share the bountiful harvest by hosting a feast for the villagers. This book is a great lesson in sharing one’s blessings with others.

  • The Spiffiest Giant in Town

    by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler

    Sure, new clothes can be great, especially if you’re a giant who can’t often find a look you like. But in this tale, George the formerly scruffy gets all suited up and becomes the most smartly attired giant. It’s on a walk through town, encountering creatures in need, that he realizes each of his new purchases could really help others. If you’re trying to teach children the reason to donate toys or clothing they no longer need, this is a good place to start. (Note: This book is also sold under the title The Smartest Giant in Town.)

  • What Is Given from the Heart

    by Patricia C. McKissak, illustrated by April Harrison

    This final book by the late McKissack is a sweet and poignant story about a poor boy who doesn’t realize how much he has to give. James Otis and his mama have fallen on hard times, but that doesn’t stop Mama from turning her cherished tablecloth into an apron for a family that has lost everything in a fire. What does James Otis have that’s worth giving? It just needs to come from the heart.

  • Harold Loves His Wooly Hat

    by Vern Kousky

    When a crow snatches Harold’s prized woolly hat off his head, he offers worms, berries, and shiny objects in a desperate attempt to win it back. Harold then climbs the crow’s tree intent on taking back his hat and instead discovers others who need it more.

  • The Invisible Boy

    by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Patrice Barton

    Kids are perhaps not caught up on the writing of Simone Weil, but she was spot-on when she said that attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. It’s all too easy for kids to overlook a shy classmate, like the book’s main character Justin. There’s a sweet but not cloying message at hand when Brian extends a hand of friendship and helps Justin shine during a class project.

  • The Gift Inside the Box

    by Adam Grant and Allison Sweet Grant, illustrated by Diana Schoenbrun

    Adam Grant is the author of a bestselling grown-up read on generosity, Give and Take, and now he and his wife, Allison, bring that message to young readers with the clever story of a gift box looking for the perfect recipient. So far, the gift box has only come across greedy would-be recipients, but what the box really needs is a generous person who sees an opportunity to give rather than take.

  • Pass It On

    by Sophy Henn

    In this delightfully upbeat picture book, author-illustrator Sophy Henn shows children that passing along a smile or sharing a moment of joy is often the best gift of all. Perfect for read-aloud sessions, the story will have kids excitedly reciting the refrain of “pass it on!” at every turn of the page — and in real life, too.

  • You Won’t Like This Present as Much as I Do!

    by Lauren Child

    Who among us hasn’t picked out a gift and then (momentarily, of course!) coveted that gift for ourselves? This scenario can be a toughie for children, including Lola. After much debate, Lola finally found the perfect present for Lotta, but now she wants to keep it! Eventually, Lola discovers the joy of giving — and that when you give a gift to a generous friend, odds are, your friend will share.

  • The Thank You Letter

    by Jane Cabrera

    After Grace receives a bounty of birthday gifts from friends and family, she sits down to write each of them a note of thanks. Soon, Grace discovers that expressing gratitude feels pretty wonderful, so she starts to write thank you letters to everyone in her community. Grace’s gratitude snowballs into a thankful town in this sweet picture book about giving and receiving.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2016 and updated in 2019.