Teach kids about compassion

Teach kids about compassion

Family Best Books:

By Sonja Meyer Duntley

Books are a wonderful medium to help children open up, express their emotions and safely explore the worlds and feelings of others. They can also be a good way to consider values such as compassion, kindness and caring.

If you would like to touch on these ideas with your child, pick up these titles and settle down for a meaningful read. (Editor's Note: Click on each title for more information on each book.)

"Hunter's Best Friend At School," by Laura Malone Elliott (HarperCollins Publishers, 2002, 32 pages, ages 4-7). It's never too early to talk about peer pressure and this book does so without preaching. Hunter loves playing with Stripe, his fellow Raccoon, and enjoys mimicking his entertaining antics. But one day Stripe's escapades aren't just fun and games: the mischievous boy acts up in class, disrupting story time, destroying his art project and causing general mayhem. Hunter joins in, but soon learns copying his friend's behavior has unpleasant consequences. The next day he decides whether to lead or to follow.

"Farfallina and Marcel," by Holly Keller (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins Publishers, 2002, 32 pages, ages 4 and up.). This heartwarming story shows how true friendship transcends the changes we all encounter in life. Farfallina the caterpillar and Marcel the gosling enjoy each other's company by playing hide and seek among the ferns and taking rides across the pond. They accommodate each other's challenges and grow fond of one another. Then, they are separated when they each reach their own rite of passage, only to find each other again, different now but still the same.

"The Rainbow Fish," by Marcus Pfister (North-South Books Inc., 2002, 26 pages, ages 4-8). This beautifully illustrated book that teaches children about friendship and sharing has been republished this year in a wonderful 10-anniversary edition. The Rainbow Fish won't give away any of his sparkling silver scales because they make him more beautiful than any other fish. He's too arrogant to play with the ordinary fish and when he refuses to share they decide they want nothing to do with him. All alone, he is faced with a choice about riches and friendship.

"Rainbow Fish To The Rescue," by Marcus Pfister (North-South Books Inc., 1995, 26 pages, ages 4-8). In this sequel to the best-selling first Rainbow Fish story, our protagonist passes on what he's learned about sharing friendship and reaching out to others outside your circle. Freshly decorated with flashing scales, the friends don't want to play with the plain-looking striped fish. Rainbow is proud to swim with the "in" crowd, but he remembers what it was like being on the outside. When a shark threatens the plain little fish, Rainbow leads the other sparkly fish to help.

"The Giving Tree," by Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins Publishers, 1964 and 1999, 55 pages, ages 4-8). The quintessential book on compassion, this moving story relates the tale of an apple tree that loves a boy so deeply she literally gives of herself everything she can to meet his needs and make him happy. The story refreshes your belief in the depth and selfless power of love, and offers a chance to talk about the need to reciprocate another's sacrifice.

"The Brand New Kid," by Katie Couric(Doubleday/Random House Inc., 2000, 32 pages, ages 3-8). Kids can be cruel. But they can also learn to change if someone is daring, and caring, enough to break from the peer group and give a new kid a chance. This story explores elementary school kids' ostracizing a new boy who looks different, doing all the things bullies do, and the turning point of one girl who crosses the line to offer a hand of friendship. Although the rhyme is awkward at times, you can use this book to talk to your child about how they treat others who are different at their school.

"Horton Hears A Who!" by Dr. Seuss (Random House Inc., 1954, 62 pages, ages 4-8). If you want a story that teaches compassion by example and entertains as well, look up this classic. It's just as effective today as it was when it was first published in 1954. The familiar tale describes what happens when Horton hears a tiny voice one day and discovers a whole other world existing on a small speck of dust. Despite incredulous kangaroos, jungle monkeys and an eagle named Vlad Vladikoff, Horton saves his microscopic friends and helps them get the respect they deserve. "Because, after all, a person's a person, no matter how small."

"I Love You, Little One," by Nancy Tafuri (Cartwheel Books, 2000, 32 pages, ages 3-6). The ability to give to others and show kindness and caring starts when children receive this kind of love first. This special story uses poetic narrative to describe how deeply mothers in their burrows, meadows and log homes each love their little ones. Enjoy extra cuddle time with this tale.

About the Author

Sonja Meyer is a freelance writer/editor and the owner of CoventryParkCommunications. She is also the Children's Books host at BellaOnline.


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