Friendship, Empathy, and Kindness for Your Littlest Learners-Our Summer Read-to-Me Book List

Each new friendship can make you a new person, because it opens up new doors inside of you.” 

~Kate DiCamillo

This back-to-school season will be like no other after over a year of disruption and uncertainty. It really will be a new beginning that brings opportunities for meeting new people, experiencing new routines, and exploring new interests - both exciting and daunting. While any new school year can come with feelings of stress and anxiety, especially for young children, this year will be a different experience filled with BIG feelings. Young children entering preschool for the first time have now spent nearly half of their lives at home with fewer opportunities to develop critical social-emotional skills. In fact, for many, this school year will be the very first social experience outside of their family unit. Whether children are heading back to school to reunite with friends or finally getting the opportunity to make new ones, children will no doubt experience the highs and lows as relationships develop, grow, and change. 

Following more than a year of social distancing and online learning, the majority of US parents (72%) are worried their kids have lost valuable social skills... Specifically, parents worry that their child will have trouble in these areas: making conversation with friends (41%); meeting new people (40%); sharing (35%); staying quiet for long periods (34%); waiting their turn (31%)” *

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. 

Share this list with others, and let us know about your favorite books on friendship! Let’s read together and discover the importance of building relationships, sharing and learning from one another, and working together to help each other in our world.  

  • Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry
  • My Friends by Tarō Gomi
  • The Best Friends Book by Todd Parr
  • The Caring Me I Want to Be! By Mary DiPalerm
  • Finding Kindness by Deborah Underwood
  • Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller
  • Will You Be My Friend? By Sam McBratney
  • What if, Pig? By Linzie Hunter 
  • Counting Kindness by Hollis Kurman
  • Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev
  • You Are Friendly by Todd Snow
  • A Rainbow of Friends by P.K.Hallinan
  • We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio 
  • Best Friend in the Whole World by Sandra Salisbury
  • What is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack 
  • Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
  • The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

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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