No kid wants to hear a lecture from their parents that they "shouldn't be so selfish." It's much more effective to teach our children by modeling the values we want them to emulate. Reading picture books about being thankful can also help start a conversation the meaning of gratitude.
These diverse books share stories about how being grateful is more than just saying, "thank you." They are tales of learning what it means to think of others, to recognize abundance in all its forms, and how sharing with others contributes to feelings of happiness.
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Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora
I adore the wonderful cut-paper collage illustrations in this timeless tale about the community value of generosity. Omu is making stew and its delicious smell enchants the neighborhood. One by one, a diverse group of visitors, drawn in by the scent of Omu's stew, knock on her door and ask for a bowl. Omu generously shares with others but eventually realizes that she no longer has any left for herself. Not to worry! Her neighbors don't forget her kindness and they all join together to return the favor.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac
In Cherokee, otsaliheliga expresses gratitude. Author Sorell, a member of the Cherokee nation, takes readers on a journey through the seasons, narrating experiences to be grateful for. The journey is both delightful and peaceful, and the illustrations depict contemporary Cherokee life. Accompanying the English text are occasional words written in Cherokee syllabary, along with a phonetic spelling. A glossary and complete Cherokee syllabary make up the end notes.
Gracias\Thanks by Pat Mora, illustrated by John Parra
In this joyful book, a biracial boy narrates all the things he is thankful for, from the expected to the surprising. The illustrations include a range of multicultural children, so kids of all colors will see themselves represented.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson
A boy and his grandma catch the bus. We don't yet know where they are headed, but along the way the boy asks questions about why they don't have certain luxuries. He wants to know why they don't have a car or an ipod. The grandma has a ready answer about the advantages of what they do have and encourages him to think of positive aspects of lacking material goods. When they reach their destination we find out that they were traveling to help out at a soup kitchen.
It Could Always Be Worse by Margot Zemach
Who said reading about gratitude had to be serious! Read this very funny tale. A poor man lives in an overcrowded house and the noise and activity is driving him crazy! He seeks out advice from the local rabbi who tells him to bring the barn animals into his house, which turns the place into utter chaos. The illustrations are so much fun to sift through, with their funny little vignettes inside the house. When the farmer finally removes the excess animals and people from the house he declares everything to finally be peaceful...only... it is exactly as it was when he started out.
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup
The text of this beautiful book is based on the Thanksgiving Address of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois, Six Nations). It is a message of peace an appreciation of nature. Traditionally, the message is spoken in the morning and at ceremonial gatherings. Reading this book is a great way to start the day! The author also included the message in the Mohawk language.
May We Have Enough to Share by Richard Van Camp
This adorable board book may be intended for babies and toddlers, but the sentiment rings true for all ages. Photographs of happy children and their caregivers grace the pages next to words meant to inspire readers to invite abundance into their lives, not for its own sake, but as a way to share with others.
The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor, illustrated by Peter Parnall
Mountain Girl, as she is nicknamed, lives in the desert with her family. Her parents work outdoors and they have few belongings. Mountain Girl wonders what it would be like to earn money so she could buy material possessions. After talking with her parents who invite her to ponder the value of the natural world, she learns how to appreciate what she has and the beauty around her.
Why The Sky Is Far Away: A Nigerian Folktale by Mary-Joan Gerson, illustrated by Carla Golembe
Long ago, anyone who was hungry could pluck what they needed from the sky but the sky gets tired and angry at the people who are wasting his bounty. The story has a positive message about the importance of not taking things for granted and good stewardship of the planet. This gorgeous book was also a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year.
My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett
This book makes me so happy. It is a super sweet and wonderful board book perfect for your baby or toddler. The text celebrates finding happiness and gratitude in the everyday events and joyful, colorful illustrations.
Bagels from Benny by Aubrey Davis, illustrated by Dušan Petričić
Find it: Amazon
I love the message in this book. Benny loves to help his grandfather in his bagel shop. One day Benny's grandfather says "Don't thank me," to a customer and Benny wants to know why. His grandfather explains that it is God who provided the ability to make the bagels. Benny decides to thank God by leaving bagels in the synagogue. The bagels start disappearing and Benny wonders if it is God who is eating them. Instead, he finds out that a hungry man has been taking the bagels to feed his family. At first Benny is upset that it wasn't God who had been eating the bagels, but his grandfather teaches him that his gift did thank God since it made the world a little better.
Before We Eat: From Farm to Table by Pat Brisson, illustrated by Mary Azarian
If you are specifically looking for a book to read before Thanksgiving dinner, this is a great choice. Colorful woodblock print illustrations accompany spare text acknowledging the contributions of everyone who participated in the process of bringing food to the table, including the growing, transporting, selling and more.
What Is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by April Harrison
A pastor announces to the congregation that they will be making "love boxes" for those in need, for “what is given from the heart reaches the heart.” At first, James Otis, a boy with very little himself, has trouble seeing what he can possibly give a family that lost everything in a fire. His mama turns their tablecloth into an apron and James Otis searches his heart and discovers there is always something you can give someone else.
Thanks to the Animals by Allen Sockabasin
During his Passamaquoddy family's move to their winter home in what is now rural Maine, Little Zoo Sap falls off the sled. The local animals care for the frightened boy and keep him warm. When his father, Joo Tum, notices his son is missing, he determinedly searches for the boy. When he finds Little Zoo Sap he takes the time to thank each animal for their protection. That was perhaps my favorite part—that the father didn't just pick up his kid and go—he was mindful and grateful to the animals!
Willa and the Bear by Philomena O'Neill
Find it: Amazon
Willa is crushed after she loses her beloved rag doll in the snow, and not ever her grandmother can console her. One day Willa finds her doll on the doorstep, placed there by the bear who found it. Willa wants to show gratitude for the bear's kindness and so she makes the bear a companion for her very own.
Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
Of course I must include a book of poetry! This is a collection of sixteen poems that remind us how it feels great to be thankful and express our gratitude to others. I love the variety of poems—from haiku to riddle to couplets, and more. Read one every day!
Beautiful Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Jill Pinkwater
Find it: Amazon
In this hilarious tale told in multiple languages (including English, Yiddish and Spanish), an adventurous chicken, on the way to the butcher shop, escapes to Brooklyn. She is homesick for the farm but after she saves a young parrot from certain death, the parrot colony expresses its gratitude by teaching her how to live in the city. Be sure to read it in all the silly voices!!