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 Giving Tree

    by Shel Silverstein

    If you’re looking for a children’s book that teaches generosity or unselfishness, most people will point you right to The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein’s lovely story of a tree that will do anything for the boy it loves — and for good reason. This classic is always a good place to start.

  • 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 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.

  • The Gift of Nothing

    by Patrick McDonnell

    Okay, this first kids book from McDonnell, featuring characters from his popular comic strip Mutts, is a bit of a flip on the notion of giving, because ultimately Mooch the cat decides to give his pal Earl the gift of nothing. But there’s an important message in this picture book about knowing how to recognize when you have enough — and Earl, in fact, has everything he needs. Turns out a gift of nothing — save friendship — is just right, and often giving our friendship is everything.

  • 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.

  • One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference

    by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

    This inspired-by-a-true-story picture book from Citizen Kid tells the tale of Kojo, a boy who has to quit school after his father dies and, with his mother, uses a tiny loan from his village to buy a hen. Within a year he has a flock of 25 and eventually has the largest farm in Ghana, then in West Africa. Kojo repays the generosity by making small loans to other families. It’s a great way to teach kids about paying it forward, and the book contains resources about microloans and other ways to reach across the globe to help those in need.

  • The Man in the Clouds

    by Koos Meinderts, illustrations by Annette Fienieg

    The man in the clouds creates a special painting — one of a landscape so simple, he thinks it’s what the world looked like right when it began. He shares the painting with everyone who wants to see it, asking nothing in return, until one day he finds out it’s worth a lot of money. He locks it away from onlookers, and starts to learn that he no longer is enjoying the work like he once did. This is a lovely parable about recognizing the true value of things and sharing joy with others.

  • 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.