Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I can really get behind a day of feasting, relaxing and visiting with family and friends, and remembering all the things we have to be thankful for. Gratitude is such an important factor in our lives. Practicing gratitude can relieve stress, lower blood pressure, create contentment, improve our relationships, and even further our career. And here we are, right in the middle of National Gratitude Month. Could there be a more appropriate time to teach our children about gratitude?
Unfortunately, it often seems that Thanksgiving is overshadowed by the big commercial push of the holiday season. On November first (if not before), my local grocery store, big box store, and even pet store had Christmas displays up. More and more stores are opening on Thanksgiving Thursday for Black Friday sales. Isn’t it called Black Friday because it is supposed to happen on Friday? The anticipation of Christmas morning can turn even the most giving child into a “I want it now” kind of kid. So since it’s really the season of giving thanks, how about giving a child in your life a book to teach them more about gratitude?
15 Books to Teach Kids About Gratitude
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1. The Thank You Book – Mo Willems
Elephant and Piggie are two of my absolute favorite children’s book characters. Mo Willems writes with such humor and fun. It’s been years since my children were of an age to read this series, but I still keep all the books in a safe place. I’ll never get rid of them and I recommend them to everyone. These books are fun to read no matter what your age.
2. The Berenstain Bears Thanksgiving Blessings – Mike Berenstain
The Berenstain Bears were part of my childhood and my kids’ childhoods. These classic characters and books tell stories with a message. There are several Berenstain books about Thanksgiving and gratitude, but this one is my favorite.
3. Ten Thankful Turkeys – Angela Muse
This is a fun read with entertaining illustrations. The story teaches about gratitude as the ten turkeys get ready for their own Thanksgiving celebration. It also has some fun facts about turkeys.
4. The Thankful Book – Todd Parr
Parr’s bright and colorful illustration style is fun and his words are simple, but meaningful. This book is great for toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary school aged children. It’s a great sit together book that can start important conversations about the many things we have to be thankful for. This isn’t just a book for the holidays, it’ll be a favorite year round.
5. Buddha Doodles Gratitude Journal: Shinning Your Light – Molly Hahn
This is one of the more expensive gratitude journals on the market. It might seem pricey compared to some of the others, but it is really beautiful inside. Each page has color illustrations instead of a just a writing prompt or just a place to enter the date. There are several gratitude journals in this line and all of them are lovely. They make a great gift for children and adults. I can’t think of a better way to instill an attitude of gratitude in a child than helping them discover the joys of keeping a gratitude journal.
6. Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? – Dr. Seuss
Doesn’t it seem like Dr. Seuss taught us all a little about everything? The narrator of this story is a wise old man in the Desert of Drize. He proceeds to tell us how lucky we are, even when it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. A fun, rhyming romp of a read, it’s sure to please any Dr. Seuss fan, young or old.
7. You Get What You Get – Julie Glassman
My family uses this phrase from time to time and I think most kids can relate. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. This book is a lesson on being thankful, even when what we get is not what we might really want. It’s an important lesson to learn, especially with the holidays coming up.
8. ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving – Dav Pilkey
The author creates a fun twist on the Clement Moore’s classic “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” In this story, a group of children go on a field trip to a turkey farm and decide to rescue the turkeys from their Thanksgiving fate. A fun read, but don’t read it too close to Thanksgiving or you might have some instant vegetarians at your table.
9. Bear Says Thanks – Karma Wilson
Bear invites all his woodland friends to have a Thanksgiving feast, but there is a problem. Bear’s cupboards are bare! What can he do to prepare for his guests? The story is one of family, friendship and sharing what we have. This is a great book for younger kids. The illustrations are warm and inviting.
10. Look and Be Grateful – Tomie de Paola
If you’re a fan of the classic Strega Nona, you’ll love this book by Tomie de Paola. It teaches that ” Today is today and it is a gift.” It’s probably best suited for a pre-k to 1st grade audience.
11. The Giving Book: Open the Door to a Lifetime of Giving – Ellen Sabin
This is a great book for older kids. It’s part activity book, part journal, and part scrapbook. It encourages charity, volunteerism, and gratitude. The ideas in this book are a great starting point for discussions and activities for the whole family.
12. It Could Always Be Worse – Margot Zemach
This is a fun Yiddish folktale about a poor man that lives in a one-room house with his wife and six children. He is frustrated with his situation and goes to his rabbi for help. As he follows the rabbi’s advice, the situation gets worse and worse. The illustrations are fun and colorful and match the silliness of the story. It also teaches a great lesson on being thankful for what we have.
13. Thanks a Million – Nikki Grimes
Want to introduce poetry to your kids? Nikki Grimes created 16 poems in multiple writing formats that all focus on being thankful. This book is recommended for kindergarteners to fourth graders. It makes you think “what am I thankful for?” and “how can I show I am thankful?” Another great read to share together. It will start conversations.
14. I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up For Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition)– Malala Yousafzai
For readers age 10+, this is the true story of a Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for trying to get an education. The story will inspire and educate older kids and teens. It will help them see beyond their own problems and see the world in a different way. Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work. She continues to be a force for positive change in the world.
15. Refugee – Alan Gratz
Another recommendation for older kids (10+), Gratz’s novel tells the stories of 3 different young refugees. The first is a Jewish child in Nazi Germany. The second is a Cuban girl fleeing on a raft with her family to the United States. And the third is a modern day Syrian boy fleeing the civil war in his country. This book covers some heavy topics, but sheds light on the harrowing journeys that child refugees undertake. You can’t read it being more grateful what you have.
In creating this list, I tried to include a little something for everyone. There are lots of books that teach kids gratitude, but many of them are aimed at younger readers. I think that a good picture book can be appreciated by any one at any age, but I also wanted to include a couple of books for older kids. We live in a world that often encourages a sense of entitlement in our kids. I think it is so important to give them opportunities to serve others, to see how good we really have things, and to be grateful.
All of these books are meant to be shared. Read with your kids or grandchildren. Have discussions about what you’ve read. Point out when they show gratitude and praise them for it. Share with them the things that you are grateful for every day. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude in your home and see what blessings come into your life and the lives of your children.
As always, thank you for reading. I love to hear what you think of my posts. Please share your comments below.