25 Multicultural Children’s Books teaching Kindness & Empathy

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Multicultural Children's Books Kindness & Empathy


“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.
Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
Dalai Lama XIV



Kindness and empathy are two of the most important social skills we can teach our children.

Now more than ever, the world needs compassionate people who want to understand and help each other in order to bridge any racial, cultural and socioeconomic divides.

And not only do empathy and kindness help others, they also make the person who practices them happier. To say it with another great quote from the Dalai Lama:

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

The multicultural children’s books on this list are a great way of inspiring children to be kind and empathetic towards others, be it a friend, a homeless person, a refugee, or a person with an illness or a disability, for example.

25 Multicultural Children’s Books teaching Kindness & Empathy


Good People Everywhere
by Lynea Gillen

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: Good People Everywhere

With engaging illustrations, Good People Everywhere shows people around the world doing good things, from cooking for the poor to comforting a friend. This award-winning picture book is a good start to inspire young children to be kind and caring. The only disappointment is the page about a child studying hard for a science test. To me, this isn’t a helpful example for kindness and adds to the unhealthy academic pressure children experience from a young age. Apart from this, it’s a great book. Includes activity pages to help children practice kindness and empathy.  ~ Diverse – Preschool

You Hold Me Up
by Monique Gray Smith

“You hold me up. I hold you up. We hold each other up.” Award-winning Native American author Monique Gray Smith encourages children to show love and support for each other in this wonderfully simple and vibrantly illustrated book. Little readers will adore You Hold Me Up~ Diverse – Preschool

Related: 32 Native American Children’s Books

Sumi’s First Day of School Ever
by Joung Un Kim

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: Sumi's First Day of School Ever

It is Sumi’s first day at school in the U.S. The young Korean girl doesn’t understand English and experiences school as a scary, lonely and even mean place. But with the help of an understanding teacher and a friendly classmate, Sumi soon discovers that school isn’t so scary after all. Sumi’s First Day of School Ever is a thoughtful picture book, beautifully illustrated with soft oil crayon drawings. ~ Asian – Preschool

Related: 20 Multicultural Children’s Books about school

Sam and the Lucky Money
by Karen Chinn

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: Sam and the Lucky Money

Sam visits Chinatown with his mother to spend his Chinese New Year money.  As they walk through the streets bustling with festive activity, Sam accidentally steps on a homeless man’s foot and starts to think about his “lucky money” in a new light. Sam and The Lucky Money is a touching, timeless story about kindness and empathy. ~ Asian – Preschool

Related: 16 Children’s Books about the Chinese New Year // 30 Asian & Asian American Children’ Books

Two White Rabbits
by Jairo Buitrago

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: Two White Rabbits

Told from the child’s perspective, Two White Rabbits follows a little girl and her father as they travel north toward the US border. The girl counts everything she sees along the way, from animals by the road to the clouds in the sky. This poignant picture book with its expressive illustrations introduces young children to the struggles of immigrants on their challenging journey. ~ Hispanic – Preschool

Related: 24 Children’s Books set in Mexico


The Big Umbrella
by Amy June Bates

“By the front door… there is an umbrella. It is a big, friendly umbrella.” It is in fact so big that there is room for everyone underneath, no matter if you are tall, plaid or hairy. With lush illustrations and simple, lyrical text, The Big Umbrella is an inspiring story about the spirit of kindness and inclusion. ~ Diverse – Preschool, Elementary School

Related: 15 Multicultural Children’s Books about Rain

Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey
by Doug Kuntz

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: Lost and Found Cat

When an Iraqi family is forced to flee their home, they secretly take their beloved cat, Kunkush, with them. When they lose him in Greece, his family has to continue their journey, leaving broken-hearted. Greek aid workers find the cat later and mobilise a worldwide community on the internet and in the news media to find his family. Incredibly, they do find them and are able to reunite them with Kunkush. Lost and Found Cat is a remarkable and touching true story about kindness, empathy, community and hope. ~ Asian – Preschool, Elementary School

Related: 12 Multicultural Children’s Books about the Power of Community

You, Me and Empathy
by Jayneen Sanders

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: You, Me and Empathy

Written in verse, You, Me and Empathy follows little Quinn as he explores the meaning of kindness and empathy. This charming picture is a new release that gently promotes these important social skills without being preachy. Includes discussion questions and activities. ~ Diverse – Preschool, Elementary School

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness
by Kerascoët

Inspired by real events, I Walk with Vanessa explores the feelings of helplessness and anger that arise when seeing a classmate treated badly, and shows how a single act of kindness can inspire a whole community to stand up to bullying. Voted “2018 Best Book that Champions Kindness” by Parents Magazine! ~ Diverse – Preschool, Elementary School

Related: 20 Multicultural Children’s Books about Bullying

Those Shoes
by Maribeth Boelts

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: Those Shoes

Everyone at school has these cool new shoes, and all Jeremy wants is a pair, too. But his grandma says they don’t have room for “want,” just “need”. When he finds a pair at a thrift shop, he is determined to wear them even though they are way too small. With the loving support of his grandma, Jeremy learns that sore feet aren’t fun and that there are things that matter a lot more, for example helping a friend. Those Shoes is a heartfelt and realistic story that teaches about kindness and compassion. ~ African – Preschool, Elementary School

The One Day House
by Julia Durango

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: The One Day House

Wilson tells his elderly friend Gigi that one day he will paint her house “orange and yellow like the sun.” Although Gigi assures him that him being there is more important to her, Wilson is determined to make his vision come true and tells everyone in the neighbourhood about it. And then one day, volunteers from the community come and help make Gigi’s house warm, comfortable and pretty. Inspired by the Labor of Love movement, The One Day House is a warm-hearted story about empathy and community. ~ Hispanic – Preschool, Elementary School

Related: 12 Multicultural Children’s Books about the Power of Community

What Does It Mean to Be Kind?
by Rana DiOrio

When the girl in the red hat finds the courage to be kind to her new classmate, her kindness spreads. What does it mean to be kind? is a charmingly illustrated book that shows young readers that small acts of kindness can lead to positive change. ~ Diverse – Preschool, Elementary School

Yuko-chan and the Daruma Doll
by Sunny Seki

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll

Adventurous blind orphan Yuko-Chan crosses treacherous Japanese mountain passes to deliver food to hungry people. One day, she falls down a snowy cliff. As she waits for help, she notices that her frozen tea gourd always lands right-side-up. Inspired by this, she creates the famous Daruma doll, which rights itself when tipped. By selling the dolls, the villagers can earn a living and feed themselves. Award-winning bilingual Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll is a charming story about empathy, perseverance and resilience. ~ Asian – PreschoolElementary School

Related: 8 Multicultural Children’s Books Featuring Blind Children

Be Kind
by Pat Zietlow Miller

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate wants to make her feel better and wonders what it means to be kind? From asking the new girl to play to standing up for someone being bullied, New York Times bestseller Be Kind gently explores what kindness is, and how any act, big or small, can make a difference. ~ Diverse – Preschool, Elementary School

The Face at the Window
by Regina Hanson

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: The Face At The Window

“Any time Miss Nella show her face at her window, something terrible goin’ to happen.” In a small Jamaican village, people believe the strange elderly neighbour is a witch who can turn children into two-headed chickens and rides a three-legged horse. But Dora’s parents explain to her that Miss Nella suffers from a mental illness and that “some people are afraid of what they don’t understand.” Dora learns to overcome her fear and befriends Miss Nella. The Face At The Window is a gentle, compassionate story about the rift that prejudices and myths around mental illness create and how kindness can bridge this rift. ~ African – PreschoolElementary School

Related: 5 Multicultural Picture Books about Mental Illness

Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book
by Celeste Shally

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: Since We're Friends

Matt’s autism doesn’t stop him from having fun! When he struggles to navigate social situations, his friend is there to help him out. The two boys enjoy playing sports, watching movies, reading books, and talking about animals. With colourful illustrations and simple text, Since We’re Friends is a touching story of friendship, compassion, and understanding. ~ Diverse – PreschoolElementary School

Related: 9 Multicultural Children’s Books about Autism

Apt. 3
by Ezra Jack Keats

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: Apt.3 by Ezra Jack Keats

Brothers Sam and Ben live in a rundown apartment building with other families of diverse ethnic backgrounds. One rainy day the sounds of a harmonica intrigue the two brothers and send them off in search of the musician. They find a blind man and begin a friendship, discovering the miracle of music and the beauty of compassion. The muted illustrations of Apt.3 add to the mysterious feel of this touching story. ~ Hispanic – Preschool, Elementary School

Related: Author Spotlight: Ezra Jack Keats

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy
by Susan Verde

“I am human. But being human means I am not perfect. I make mistakes.” Instant #1 New York Times bestseller I Am Human encourages children to see themselves as part of one big imperfect family and to make good choices by having compassion and empathy. ~ Diverse – PreschoolElementary School

Related: I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness // I Am Yoga



Elementary School

Chocolate Milk, Por Favor
by Maria Dismondy

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: Chocolate Milk, Por Favor!

Gabe cries when his mother drops him off for his first day of school in America. He doesn’t speak English and does not understand the mean things Johnny says to him (“crybaby”). With the help of his other classmates, Gabe soon becomes part of the school community. And with his kindness, he also eventually wins over Johnny. Chocolate Milk, Por favor! shows the challenges a young immigrant faces and the positive effects of kindness.  ~ Hispanic – Elementary School

Related: 20 Multicultural Children’s Books about school

The Can Man
by Laura E.Williams

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: The Can Man

Tim (a biracial Asian/African American boy) desperately wants a skateboard for his birthday but money is tight for his family. When he sees a homeless man collection empty cans, he decides to do the same. By the end of the week, he has almost reached his goal but then a few encounters with the can man change everything. Expressively illustrated The Can Man is a touching story that encourages children to think beyond themselves and make a difference in people’s lives. ~ Diverse – Elementary School

The Journey
by Francesca Sanna

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: The Journey

Released earlier this year, The Journey is a stunningly illustrated picture book that follows a family as they leave their war-torn home country. The touching story gives young readers an insight into the unimaginable decisions and tragedies refugees are facing and is sure to spark empathy for their terrifying journeys. ~ Asian – Elementary School

Related: 30 Multicultural Picture Books about Immigration

That’s Not Fair! / ¡No Es Justo!: Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice
by Carmen Tafolla

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: That's Not Fair!

That’s Not Fair! tells the true story of Emma Tenayuca, a courageous and compassionate young Mexican-American girl in San Antonio in the 1920’s. Emma cared deeply about poverty and hunger during a time when many Mexican Americans were exploited in the city’s pecan-shelling factories. At the age of 21, Emma led 12,000 workers in the first significant historical action in the Mexican-American struggle for justice. ~ Hispanic – Elementary School

Related: 32 Multicultural Picture Books About Strong Female Role Models

I’m New Here
by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: I'm New Here

Jin from Korea, Maria from Guatemala, and Fatima from Somalia are all new at their American elementary school. Each of them struggles to speak and write in English. With determination and the encouragement from peers and teachers, the three children feel more and more at home, whilst staying connected to their roots and cultures. I’m New Here shows how school communities can help immigrant children feel at home. ~ Diverse – Elementary School

Related: 30 Multicultural Picture Books about Immigration

Desmond and the Very Mean Word
by Desmond Tutu

Multicultural Children's Books teaching Kindness & Empathy: Desmond and the very mean word

Desmond’s pride and joy about his new bicycle turn to hurt and anger when some boys shout a very mean word at him. Responding with an insult, Desmond soon realises that fighting mean with mean doesn’t make him feel any better. Based on Desmond Tutu’s childhood experiences, Desmond and the Very Mean Word is a heartfelt story about compassion and forgiveness. ~ African – Elementary School

Related: 9 Children’s Books about Nelson Mandela & Desmond Tutu // 23 Children’s Books set in South Africa

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10 Responses

  1. Alicia
    | Reply

    Kindness and empathy are the very 2 skills we need to learn and practice throughout our lives. Thank you so much for sharing this list! I’ve got a book of my own that you might consider worthy: https://aliciaortego.com/kindness-is-my-superpower/
    Thank you!!

  2. Patricia Nozell
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing this list on such an important topic!

  3. Sandy Wallick
    | Reply

    May I recommend a new picture book by Rosemary McCarney—Where will I live? It’s a beautiful, photographic depiction of refugee children around the world who have that one burning question.

    • Colours of Us

      Thanks for the tip! I will definitely check it out.

  4. Mia Wenjen
    | Reply

    Did you know that Matt de la Pena has been accused of sexual misconduct by three different women? https://www.pragmaticmom.com/2018/07/sexual-misconduct-in-childrens-book-publishing-metoo-timesup/

    • Colours of Us

      Hi Mia, thanks for reminding me. I took his books off in other posts but didn’t check this one. Will take his book off this one, too.

  5. PJ LaRue
    | Reply

    I have been discussing the need for tolerance toward others on my personal Facebook page recently. This post gives me an idea I’d like to share. I hope to make it through each of these books on my blog by January 27th. I’m afraid that might be a large order considering my schedule, but I will give it a shot. If I don’t finish by MCCBD, I will still complete the 19 books on my blog.

    We need to make a change in how we treat each other. And as Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” There’s no better place for me to start working on me than with these children’s books.

    Is there anyone else out there that would like to link with me in this challenge?

  6. Claudia Conti
    | Reply

    Patches is our recently published multicultural children’s book. A quote from the book, “I am like you, you are like me, patches of color in Earth’s family.”

  7. Kellee (@kelleemoye)
    | Reply

    Thank you for this list! At the beginning of the year, I preach kindness and empathy, and I am always looking for PBs to share.

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