8 Favorite Books to Teach Compassion to Kiddos

A young mother reading a book to her daughter

Recently on the television show SuperSoul Sunday, Oprah Winfrey and Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, discussed the importance of teaching compassion in schools. They both stressed that compassion should be part of a schools’ curriculum, saying it’s more important than math or reading.

Why? Because compassionate behaviors promote greater well-being for students and will create a more peaceful world.

Since compassion is not yet a standard subject in schools, we can each do our part to teach the children of our world about compassion. One way to introduce compassion to children of all ages is through books.

Here are eight books that can help you teach compassion to the children and teenagers in your life. I’ve included some discussion questions to help prompt meaningful conversations about the books.

1. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

A beautifully written and illustrated story of a boy who is often ignored in school, this book fosters empathy within the reader. A compassionate child comes to the rescue, showing us the importance of inclusion. Buy The Invisible Boy

Discussion questions:

  • How did the boy feel?
  • Who was compassionate in this story, and what did he do that was compassionate?

2. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

This famous book was first published in 1964 and stands the test of time. It tells the story of a special relationship between a boy and a tree as the boy moves through life. The tree continues to give to the boy throughout his life, and the act of giving makes the tree happy. Buy The Giving Tree

Discussion questions:

  • Why was the tree happy even when it was a stump?
  • How can you be more like the tree?
  • How did the boy feel?

3. The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss

I love reading this story to kids and adults to illustrate the concept of common humanity. A story of “haves” versus “have nots,” this book points out that we’re all the same on the inside. Buy The Sneetches and Other Stories

Discussion questions:

  • Why were the star-bellied Sneetches mean?
  • How did the plain-bellied Sneetches feel when they were left out?
  • What did all of the Sneetches learn by the end of the book?

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This well-known book first published in 1960 is ideal for teens and is my all-time favorite read. Told from the perspective of 6-year-old Scout growing up in racially divided Alabama, this story of compassion is, sadly, relevant today and may influence the reader’s view of the world.

A famous line by one of the main characters, Atticus Finch: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." Buy To Kill a Mockinbird

Discussion questions:

  • What did Scout learn from her father?
  • How did Atticus exemplify compassion?
  • How did this book make you feel?

5. Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss

King Yertle the Turtle decides to increase the size of his kingdom at the expense of his turtle citizens. This whimsical tale teaches us what can happen when a leader does not practice compassion. Buy Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories

Discussion questions:

  • Was Yertle a compassionate king? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • How did Mack feel and why?
  • What would you do differently if you were Yertle?

6. My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig

The author wrote this book after her own daughter was the target of bullying friends, and she could find few books that dealt with the topic of “relational aggression.” The story reminds us that bullying does not always look aggressive and it teaches children how to handle this type of bullying when it occurs.  It reminds us that, “real friends like you just the way you are.” Buy My Secret Bully

Discussion questions:

  • What did Katie do, and how did it make Monica feel?
  • What did Monica say to Katie to stop the bullying?
  • Who was compassionate in this story?

7. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Great for teens, this #1 New York Times bestseller tells the story of what happens within a community when the main character, August (who was born with a severe facial difference), joins a mainstream school. Each chapter is brilliantly told from a different person’s perspective, so the reader empathizes with August, his classmates, August’s sister, her boyfriend, and others. Buy Wonder

Discussion questions:

  • How did August feel in the beginning of the book compared to the end? What changed?
  • Who showed compassion?
  • What could you do to offer kindness when someone like August joins your class?

8. Zen Ties by Jon J. Muth

Another book with lovely illustrations, a panda named Stillwater encourages his young Haiku-speaking nephew, Koo, and Koo’s friends to help a grumpy and elderly neighbor. Their compassion results in an unexpected reward. Buy Zen Ties

Discussion questions:

  • Who was compassionate in this story?
  • What did Koo and his friends do to include the neighbor?
  • How was Michael rewarded?

Teaching yourself compassion is essential before teaching it to your child. By practicing meditation daily, you can strengthen your practice of compassion for your children and those around you.  Click here to learn about our Primordial Sound Meditation online course that can help you take your practice to the next level. 


 

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About the Author
Sara Schairer is the founder and executive director of COMPASSION IT , a start-up nonprofit organization and global social movement whose mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions and attitudes. She created the one-of-a-kind reversible COMPASSION IT wristband prompting compassionate actions on six continents, 48 countries, and all 50 states. Wristband sales fund compassion education programs for youth, teens, and adults. As a public speaker, Sara encourages her audiences to “compassion it” in their daily lives. A Stanford-certified instructor of Compassion Cultivation...Read more