Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Picture books to teach gratitude for kids

Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, and I don't know about you, but I feel like the big holiday season has tip toed up on me this year. Trying to be proactive, I looked for some books to help instill the idea of thankfulness at our local library. I also asked some of my friends for their favorite children's books that promote gratitude. There are plenty of books about the first thanksgiving, but I know my boys are getting the Pilgrim and Indian history at school. So it's also important to read books that celebrate the essence of our November holiday. Here's my short list (a literal short list, not a best of the best list) of books we've been reading this season to jump start conversations about thankfulness:

The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell
Empty nesters Ed and Ann are set to eat a quiet Thanksgiving supper, until Ann accidentally burns the entire meal. Though Ann feels crushed by her mistake, Ed coaxes his wife out the door to see if they can find a restaurant that's open. When they inadvertently crash a large family's party, their Thanksgiving could become even worse... but I won't spoil the story. My 3-year-old, Rockam, really got a kick out of the conga line. You'll just have to read it to see it. This colorful holiday treat gives young readers an introduction to how Thanksgiving is celebrated by a Bulgarian immigrant family while also showing that the best part of the holiday is not the feast but the people with whom you eat it. The wording is simple enough for preschoolers, but the story is interesting enough for adults to enjoy too. Sadly, the hard copy of this book is out of print. But if you live where I do, you can pick it up at the library (after I return it ;)

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman
We got our little copy of this book in a Chik-fil-A happy meal, and I'd been carrying it around in my purse as emergency distraction for the boys. In this installation of the Bear series, our learns to be genuinely grateful for his friends, even though he frets about not having anything to feed them as they arrive, one after another, at the door to his empty cave. My 1-year-old enjoys the soft illustrations of bear and his host of woodland friends. My 3-year-old also enjoys the story of Bear, who is poor in possessions, but is rich in generous friends who love him for who he is rather than what he has. My 6-year-old was distracted by the details, wanting to know how a mouse-sized pie could be split among so many animals. Either way, this book allowed me to talk about why Bear's friends were thankful for him even though he seemed to have nothing to give them.

Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell 
When I was growing up, Mutts was my favorite cartoon strip in the Chicago Tribune comics section. I'm so glad McDonnell branched out to create several whimsical children's books, such as Hug Time, which tells the story of a little kitten's journey to show his love for all the creatures of the world. Of these three books, this is the least overtly related to thanksgiving, though the idea of appreciation, from which thankfulness can stem, is prominent. I used the book to talk about how we can be thankful to God for his wonderful creation.

What are your favorite picture books for Thanksgiving or gratitude all year round?

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