Winter is the perfect time for families to sit in a cozy spot at home with a great book. The holidays often prompt parents to try to find meaningful books about gratitude. At Stratford School, we have found a group of books that not only have gratitude as a theme, but implore the reader to reflect on their own appreciativeness and empathy.

Chose a book that best suits your child’s grade level and read it first. Then either read it with your child or let them read the book alone and be ready for a discussion about how the book makes them feel. Talk about how they’d like to show their own kindness and thankfulness daily. Below are some books to help you continue the conversation about gratitude in a unique way. 

Preschool & Kindergarten: Thank You Mr. Panda 

Written and Illustrated by Steve Antony. Brightly illustrated Mr. Panda and his friend Lemur are just right for the holidays. As Mr. Panda travels to visit all of his not so thankful friends with gifts, Lemur keeps reminding the friends that, “It’s the thought that counts!” This silly but thought-provoking book is the most recent of a series by the author that covers manners for youngsters and can be read over and over again.  

First & Second Grades: A Sick Day for Amos McGee 

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Written by Philip Christian Stead, Illustrated by Erin Stead. Amos McGee is a kind, selfless zookeeper who makes time for all of his diverse animal friends at the zoo. One day he is sick and does not go to work. Children will laugh as the animals hilariously ride the city bus to go visit him at his home. The mutual love and caring beams through the exceptional art and words in this Caldecott Medal winning picture book. It teaches the importance of relationships and that the most simple acts of kindness and understanding are often the most sustaining. Amos gives to each of his friends, but what he does give them is not shallow or meaningless, it is well thought out and exactly what they need. There are details in the elegant illustrations that will have your children asking you to read this to them over and over again.

Third & Fourth Grades: Last Stop on Market Street 

Written by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson. A remarkable story of a young boy named CJ and his wise grandmother spending an afternoon together in a city. CJ asks the questions our own children ask all the time and Nana’s answers are ones that we would do well to remember. Nana teaches the at first reluctant boy to celebrate life, music, friendship and the joy of service. “He wondered how his nana always found beautiful where he never even thought to look.” Winner of the 2016 Newberry Medal and Caldecott Honor awards. This is an excellent picture book that highlights the importance of volunteering, appreciation and thankfulness.

Fourth & Fifth Grades – Crenshaw 

Written by Katherine Applegate. Newberry Medalist Katherine Applegate delivers a magical story about friendship, forgiveness, empathy and resilience. As a family deals with a stressful circumstance, young Jackson copes by spending time with his friend Crenshaw, an imaginary cat. This book has a serious tone and enlightens readers to the fact that some kids lead a not-so-perfect life. Jackson’s friendship with Crenshaw allows him to weather the storms of this difficult time for him. This book will build compassion in a thought-provoking way.

Sixth Grade: Counting by 7s 

Written by Holly Goldberg Sloan. A realistic, engaging story of six people brought together by an event that will change their lives. It will fill the reader with laughter, hope and light. Willow is an unforgettable character who is represented on the cover as a lone red fish, swimming against the sea of green fish as she has temporarily lost her sense of meaning and direction. Readers will not want to put the book down as we learn how she counts on her friends to redirect her to find her own place in the world. This is a story of how one person can change the lives of those around her and how family isn’t always the one we’re born into.

Seventh & Eighth Grades: A Long Walk to Water 

Written by Linda Sue Park. Told from two viewpoints from Sudan, a young girl named Nya in 2008 and a young man Salva in 1985. Salva is a “Lost Boy” and continues through the story with hope and perseverance. Nya walks every day to get water, a commodity that we often take for granted. The two stories come together in an upbeat ending meant to inspire the reader to make a better world and to appreciate what they have. After reading the book, watch the Newberry Award-winning author’s inspirational TED Talk as a family.

Happy reading!  

This post originally appeared on Stratford School Blog.