A few years ago my older kids and I were working our way through the Little House series. As we read through The Long Winter we realized how thankful we were for our lives. We had access to basic things like heat, electricity, and food that they didn’t. What a great life lesson for my kids (and reminder for me) of all we have to be grateful for! It was also a reminder that books are a great way to teach gratitude. Humans are wired to learn through stories. That’s why my Journey Through the USA curriculum and Journey Around the World curriculum are literature based! Here are 12 fabulous books that can help teach gratitude to your kids to help get you started!
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Fiction Books for Younger Kids
I’m a big fan of picture books for all ages because often they have great storylines written without too much extra ‘fluff’. That said, the pictures tend to make them especially appealing to younger children. Here are 4 picture books that can help teach gratitude.
- The Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena: This is a sweet story about a young boy and his grandmother taking the bus home. The boy starts to complain about things that others have that he doesn’t and his grandmother points out the beauty and blessings around them. He learns to be thankful for what they have instead of focusing on what they don’t have.
- The Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco: If you’re looking for a heartwarming holiday story, this is it. A pastor and his family move to a new church and his children feel disappointed by their struggles and what they’ve lost. Eventually they see that they were put in that place and time for a very special reason. They learn to see the blessings in their new life and how it allows them to bless others.
- What Is Given from the Heart by Patricia McKissack: This beautiful story is about a family who is struggling through hard times. In it they work to focus on giving back to another family in need. The young boy practices thinking of what others want and need. He learns how thankful people are when we give to them from our hearts.
- Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett: This is a lovely picture book about generosity vs. greed. In it a young girl finds a magic box of yarn. As she continues to make things for others, the yarn never runs out. When someone greedily takes the box for himself he finds it empty. The generosity in this book helps to show the connection between gratitude and giving.
Fiction Books for Older Kids
Novels and plays are another good source of fiction. These books are often especially appealing to older kids, but many can work well as read-aloud options for younger kids. If your kids are ready to step up to something more in-depth, try these 4 books.
- Our Town by Thornton Wilder: Our Town is a play about small town life, but it’s about so much more than that. The characters are so busy focusing on the ‘big things’ in their lives that they miss out on the beauty of every day life. This is a great story to remind your kids to pay attention to, and be grateful for, even ordinary things.
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Through various life circumstances the sisters learn to be thankful for the everyday people and events in their lives. The book shows them going through the highs and lows of life and learning to be thankful for what they have. This is a lesson that can benefit our children immensely.
- The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder: In The Long Winter the Wilder family and their community face a brutal winter where they run out of many basic necessities. They must learn to make-do with whatever they find and struggle to stay content at times. This book helped my kids learn to be thankful for basic parts of our lives that they often take for granted.
- Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter: This is the ultimate gratitude book. A young, orphaned girl goes to live with her aunt and teaches everyone how to be thankful in all circumstances. While some kids may find Pollyanna overly cheery, she is a good example of trying to find the positive part of everything we face.
Non-fiction books can be a fascinating peek into people’s lives. Seeing how actual people lived and learned to be thankful in their circumstances can inspire your children to do the same. These 4 non-fiction books are a great way to get started.
- An Invisible Thread Christmas Story by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski: This is a beautiful Christmas story about a woman who chooses to help a young boy, and how it changes both of their lives. It can teach your kids to be thankful for what they have and how generosity can bless everyone.
- Who Is Malala Yousafzai by Dinah Brown: Malala Yousafzai is a courageous young woman who was so thankful for her education that she fought to continue it. She faced horrible circumstances with strength and grace, setting an amazing example for children of all ages.
- The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and Elizabeth Sherrill: Corrie Ten Boom was an amazing example of being grateful in all circumstances. Even while in a Nazi concentration camp she found things to be thankful for! The story of her life will make a great example for your children in how to be thankful in spite of terrible circumstances.
- Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco: Author Patricia Polacco wrote this book about her gratitude toward her teacher. He recognized her strengths and her need for help. This book can help your kids see how they can be thankful for the people in their lives, and the importance of expressing it!
Using Books to Teach Gratitude
There are so many fabulous books out there that can teach gratitude and generosity (the byproduct of gratitude) to your children. They are hardwired to learn from stories. Use that nature and choose books to help your children see the importance of being thankful and how it blesses us and those around us!