picture books to read aloud to your 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students to help teach kindness and empathy

Picture Books to Help Teach Kindness and Empathy in Upper Elementary

picture books to read aloud to your 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students to help teach kindness and empathy

There are so many good books that teach kindness and empathy to read aloud to your 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students.  Sometimes it can be hard to choose.

But kindness and empathy are themes that upper elementary students need to be reminded of all year long.  You don't have to choose just one book!

Below, find some kindness and empathy read aloud suggestions that are appropriate for third, fourth, and fifth grade students.  The book links are affiliate links, so if you choose to click the link and buy I might get a small compensation at no cost to you.

Also, these before, during, and after questions and activity ideas can be used with any of the books below and are a great way to make sure your students are thinking more carefully about kindness.

Read Aloud Ideas for Teaching Kindness to 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade Students

This book is a favorite among teachers.  The basic premise is that everyone is carrying an invisible bucket.  Our words and actions either add to someone's bucket, or take away from their bucket.  And by adding to someone else's bucket, you add to your own bucket!

Since this is a popular book, there are a lot of resources available to use in your classroom.  This kindness compliments book has sentence starters to help your students give compliments to their classmates and help "fill their buckets."

These instructions can help your students make their own origami bucket.

This website from the author of Have You Filled A Bucket Today has all sorts of resources for you to use as well - and tells a little bit about the version of this book that might be more appropriate for older students.

This book is a personal favorite of mine.  It's about a boy that is embarrassed by his shoes and really wants an expensive pair that a lot of the boys in his class have.  He finds a used pair and buys them, even though they are way too small for his feet.

When he notices that another boy in his class - a boy with smaller feet - is in need of shoes, he struggles with whether or not he should do the kind thing and give the boy "those shoes."  Eventually he does.

Many of your students will find this story relatable.

This book shows how simple acts can make some one feel excluded or make someone feel included.  It tells the story of a boy who feels invisible.  When a new boy comes to class and is laughed at, the "invisible" boy boldly leaves a kind note for the new student.  This leads to the beginning of a friendship, and the "invisible" boy becomes more visible.

There are themes in this book that will help teach your more popular 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students empathy, and your more isolated students how a simple act of kindness can lead to friendship.  It's a great book for helping encourage a culture of kindness in your classroom.  

Rukhsana Khan, the author of Big Red Lollipop, was born in Pakistan.  This story is based on an experience she and her sister had after leaving Pakistan.  It covers themes of kindness, culture, sibling rivalry and more.

The main character in this story decides to show compassion and empathy towards her sister, even after her sister showed a lack of understanding for her.

You can hear Rukhsana tell the story from her own perspective here.  

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch is a great book for showing students that when you treat others kindly, they are more likely to treat you with kindness.  The story starts on Valentine's Day, but it can be read any time of year.

Mr. Hatch is a quiet man that doesn't smile or talk to others.  On Valentine's Day, he receives a special package and note that says, "Somebody Loves You."  This note encourages him, and he starts talking to other people and helping them out when they need help.

He later comes to find out that the package was sent to him by mistake, and that saddens him.  But because of all the kindness he has been showing others, he discovers he now has people in his life that love him!

You can listen to this book online here.

This is another book with the theme that being kind to others encourages others to be kind to you.

Omu is making stew - the best dinner she has ever had - when people from around the neighborhood come to see what the delicious smell is.

Omu shares the stew with everyone who comes to her door.  When it is time for her to have dinner, there is no more stew.  But her neighbors return the favor to Omu, and she still ends up having the best dinner she has ever had.

This is a wordless book that tells the story of a student that is lonely and bullied, and a classmate that stands by and watches.  Eventually the classmate decides to befriend the bullied student, and that inspires many others to join in and show kindness.

The illustrations are thoughtful, although small.  It might be difficult for your 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students to see the detail in the illustrations if "reading" this whole class.  But wordless books like this one provide so many opportunities to practice a variety of reading and writing skills as well as teach a valuable message.

This story is about an unlikely friendship between a mouse and a whale.  A mouse gets caught at sea, and a kind whale finds him and helps him back to land.  Eventually the mouse is able to return the kindness.

It has some similarities to one of Aesop's Fables - the Lion and the Mouse.   In fact, comparing and contrasting these two stories would make a great lesson!

Note: This book does discuss some more serious themes like death.  There is a section of the book where the mouse wonders what it feels like to drown.

This book by Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of a girl that had the opportunity to be kind, but wasn't.  Chloe and her friends make fun of a new girl and won't play with her.

After their teacher gives a lesson on how each small act of kindness creates a ripple effect, Chloe decides she wants to do something kind for the new girl.  But she never comes back to school, and Chloe never has an opportunity to show kindness.

The beautiful pictures and the realistic message will for sure resonate with your upper elementary students.  The author of this book, Jaqueline Woodson, is also one of my recommended authors for adding diversity to your classroom library.  

This sweet book tells the story of twins that notice their neighbor's house is quiet and feels somewhat lonely.  They invite her over for dinner and learn about some jelly donuts she used to make with her family.

The twins do small acts of kindness for her, learning that something small like making jelly donuts can make a difference in other people's lives.  This is also a good book to use to teach your students how to ask meaningful questions.  

Never Stress Over Sub Plans Again!


Make copies, find a fiction book, and you'll be ready for any emergency that comes your way!

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