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November 19, 2018

Reading List: Feeling Grateful

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Books about gratitude recommended by the Brighter Readers Book Crew.

“Thank you” are not just the words we say to be polite whenever some one gives us something. They are words that can represent feelings of genuine gratitude. According to scientists at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the gratitude experience has four parts:

  • What we notice in our lives for which we can be grateful
  • How we think about why we have been given those things
  • How we feel about the things we have been given
  • What we do to express appreciation in turn

To help you foster feelings of appreciation and kindness in your little learner this Thanksgiving, we asked members of our Brighter Readers Book Crew to share their favorite books about gratitude with us. Check our list out and share your favorite reads with us in the comments!

Shirley Mullin is a teacher and librarian. She owns and operates Kids Ink, Children’s Bookstore. These are her picks:

Thank You, Mr. Panda
Thank You, Mr. Panda
by Steve Antony
Best for: three-year-olds, four-year-olds

Generous Mr. Panda is giving away presents to all his animal friends, including a mouse, an octopus, an elephant and a lemur. But they aren’t being very grateful about the gifts they receive. It may be because the presents aren’t quite right. Mouse receives a sweater that’s too big. And Octopus gets six colorful socks even though he has eight legs. Fortunately, thoughtful little Lemur knows that even if the present isn’t perfect, it’s the thought that counts most of all.

After you read: ask your child, “how do you feel when you get a present you don’t like?” “Do you still say thank you after being given a strange gift?”

Written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola
Best for: one-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, reading along with pre-school and pre-k learners

This gentle story is all about appreciating the small things in life. Through beautiful illustrations, dePaola’s story teaches us that being quiet can be special.

Everything is in such a hurry, busy as busy can be.
The birds are flying so fast, the dragonfly is zooming over the water—even the trees are waving their leaves.

So what if we sit here, you next to me…and we can just be?”

After you read: ask your child, “what simple things are you grateful for?” “Is there something you appreciate that other people don’t notice?”

The Thank You Book
written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Stephanie Graegin.
Best for: infants, one-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

This story explores the many ways we can be thankful for the pleasures great and small that await us every day. Tender and poetic, it reflects on the role gratitude can play in our lives and celebrates the powerful impact it can have on us.

Thank you isn’t just for learning manners.
It’s also for when something wakes a
little hum
a little happy huminside you
and you want to answer back.”

After you read: make a list or sit and draw everything you are grateful for today. Then share with each other and say “thank you.”

Thread of Love
written by Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal, illustrated by Zara Gonzalez Hoang
Best for: two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds, reading along with pre-school and pre-k learners

It’s time for the Indian festival of Raksha Bandhan, the celebration of the special lifelong relationship shared by brothers and sisters everywhere. Join two sisters as they lovingly make rakhi—thread bracelets adorned with beads, sequins, sparkles, and tassels—for their brother. And then see their brother present them with toys and sweets and special gifts!

After you read: ask your child, “who do you want to give a present to?” “What gifts say ‘I love you’ to the person who gets them?”

Vicci Rydzinski is a wife and the mom of a spunky two-year-old boy! Vicci is also the manager of family child care support at Early Learning Indiana. These are her picks:

Bear Says Thanks
by Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman
Best for: two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

Bear has come up with the perfect way to say thanks—a nice big dinner! When Bear decides to throw a feast, his friends show up one by one with different platters of delicious food to share. There’s just one problem: Bear’s cupboards are bare! What is he to do?

“I love the simplicity of this book. It shows that no matter how small or large the gift, we should give thanks. I love that it also teaches about coming together and sharing!” — Vicci Rydzinski

After you read: ask, “who would you invite to a dinner feast?” “What food would you bring to a feast?”

Allyson Hischemiller loves art, nature and books. She also works at Indy Reads Books. These are her picks:

The Giving Tree
by Shel Silverstein
Best for: three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

“The Giving Tree is a classic that every child and adult should know and read. There are many interpretations of the book, but I believe there is a lesson of gratitude in it. The boy that takes from the Giving Tree often does so without thought of being grateful for all the tree is providing. But the story is about the tree, not the boy. By giving the tree a voice, you realize that what you receive from others is often given at the expense of the giver. To take without gratitude, awareness and respect is selfish and discourteous.” — Allyson Hischemiller

After you read: ask, “how do you feel when you give someone a present?” “How do you feel when you share something that is special to you, like a favorite toy?”

Brittany Fortman is a mom of two and the manager of communications and engagement at Early Learning Indiana. These are her picks:

Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book
by Richard Scarry
Best for: three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

Richard Scarry’s beloved characters Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm and more, learn about the importance of manners. From how to behave at school, to sharing, to important safety rules. With this story, young children can gain an understanding of what to do in a variety of situations.

After you read: ask, “what do you say when someone gives you something you really like?” “What do you say when someone gives you something you don’t like?”

May I Please Have a Cookie?
by Jennifer Morris
Best for: kids just starting to read

Alligator Alfie loves his mommy’s cookies, and he wants one more than anything! But grabbing for one, fishing for one and dressing up as a cookie inspector don’t seem to work. His mommy says there is a better way: the best way to get a delicious cookie is to say please!

After you read: ask, “why do you think it’s important to say please and thank you?” “What do you think would happen if you didn’t say please and thank you?” “How would you feel if someone didn’t say please or thank you to you?”

Brighter Readers Book Crew is a group of early education professionals, child advocates, parents and book-loving experts that want to share their love of stories and books with families all across the state. Want to share the books you love and why you think they are great? Send a message to with the subject line Book Crew.

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