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Friendship, Empathy, and Kindness Books


Making new friends is so important-it can be rewarding and exciting, but it can also be scary, prickly, and intimidating. Friendship looks different for everyone - it doesn’t always mean liking the same things, having the same interests in common, or participating in the same kinds of play all the time. Young children especially may be reluctant to enter into play and build friendships when they don’t yet know what friendship is all about. Children can learn a lot from their friends - not just about others, but about themselves too. Through friendship, children are given countless opportunities to practice empathy, perspective-taking, kindness, inclusion, sharing, prosocial behavior… all while figuring out their own interests, perspectives, and ideas. Building the critical social skills children need to relate to others, understand and respect differences, learn to work and play together, and develop empathy all start from the beginning.

At Housman Institute, we understand that children learn within the context of relationships through observing and through the modeling, guidance, and responsive feedback of trusted adults. One of our favorite ways to introduce young children to feelings and emotions is through reading and storytelling. Reading together gives children the opportunity to relate to characters in a story - how they are feeling and what they are experiencing - and connect those feelings and experiences to their own. They learn to identify, understand, and express their own emotions from recognizing the feelings and experiences in the stories that are being told and in the books that are read to them. Books open a world where children can learn about the importance of having a friend and being a friend. They learn what it means to be kind, to share with others, to be compassionate, giving, understanding, inclusive, and empathetic. 

Summertime is always the perfect time to share great books and stories on friendship.  This summer seems especially important to build the bridge to new social worlds and to start having big conversations about meeting new friends and making new friends before the journey back to school begins.

Let's get started with some of our favorite books for ages 2-5 to share the joys, and sometimes obstacles of friendship, along with a great list from our friends at Big Heart World and First Book. 

Books About Kindness

More Great Books on Friendship from First Book and Big Heart World

Eligible teachers can follow the links to find discounted versions of the books on the First Book Marketplace. Parents and other caregivers can find the book at First Book’s shop.  



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