Good Books about Being Good

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Can reading books make us “good?”  I think maybe it can. Reading provides a window into people’s lives that makes us more empathetic and certainly more open to the views of others.

I was recently asked for a list of children’s books on the topics of kindness and generosity.  There are many books out there—many of them dull and preachy.  However, there are gems as well.  This list is not complete, but they are a good place to start.

Books for Children ages 3-6

Mama Panya’s Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya by Mary and Rich Chamberlin

Giving by Shirley Hughes

The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter

Books for Children ages 7-10

The Runaway Rice Cake by Ying Chang Compestine

Brother Juniper by Diane Gibfried

Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier

One Hen by Katie Smith Milway

Listen to the Wind by Susan Roth

And the best book of all about generosity and friendship:

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White


Don’t Leave Home Without Them…


charlottes-webAs a teacher and librarian, I am often asked for book suggestions. Recently, a parent of a 6th grade student asked me for a top 10 of sorts—a list of books that most kids should read at some point.

Of course, that is a nearly impossible task. Fortunately, there are lots of different books for lots of different readers. But I did not want her to leave empty handed, so if push comes to shove, here are 10 books no child should miss:

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

The Giver by Lois Lowry (this one is generally best appreciated by 12 and 13 year olds)

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Holes by Louis Sachar

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Why I Don’t Like to Choose Favorites…

The modern cover of a classic book -
The modern cover of a classic book – I prefer the old one!

Truthfully, my favorite book changes all of the time.

I know that a person who loves reading as much as I do, should be able to hold tight to one book that stands above all others.  But it’s just too hard.

Like today, for example.  I saw this wonderful new poetry book titled Red Sings from the Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman.  It is so beautiful that I was afraid to put it down because I wanted to somehow “hold onto” all of that color and beauty.  So, that could really be a new favorite.  However, that doesn’t mean it will replace Charlotte’s Web or The Great Gatsby or The Book Thief or so many others that I consider favorites.

There is a shelf in my room that is just for my most treasured books.  If a friend were to look at them, they may have some questions.  Included is a book called The Trouble with Jenny’s Ear by Oliver Butterworth that I absolutely loved as a young girl, but re-reading it a few years ago made me squirm.

Written in 1960, it includes gems like this: “His sister laughed at him.  That’s just like you, Harold.  You were always forgetting us girls.  When you were a kid you used to go around trailing wires and buzzers and things, and all the boys would follow you around, but you never understand why girls weren’t interested in your doorbells and clock springs.   Uncle Harold rubbed his chin.  ‘I guess you’re right, Sis.  Probably that’s why I’m not married yet.  Do you suppose it’s too late? I’m almost twenty-eight.'”   So much for my early feminist education.

Less embarrassing, my shelf holds a special gift from my husband—a first edition of Charlotte’s Web, a book that is always on my top five list, no matter what the day has brought.  And a book of poems by the late Jane Kenyon.

The most recent addition to the collection is a book that I found while shelving at the Inly Library.  It was quite dated, and I put it aside to see if it was a book that should “retire” from service.  I opened it up, and saw that it had first been discarded from my hometown library, the Dayton and Montgomery County Public Library.

I stared at that book for the longest time thinking that somehow we might recognize one another.  At that point, I figured if it followed me that far, it deserved a place on my shelf.