If Thanksgiving is about gratitude, then Christmas is about generosity. Thanksgiving is about appreciating the good things and good people in your life. Christmas is about giving and receiving gifts, both material and emotional. But just because Christmas has come and gone doesn’t mean we get to forget the values we were taught as children. Here is a list of books that will teach your own children those same values.
Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes
This collection of sixteen poems will remind your children of all they have to be grateful for, as well as how important it is to say, “thank you.”
Andy and the Lion by James Henry Daugherty
In the original Roman folktale, a fugitive slave named Androcles is spared the punishment of being eaten alive by wild beasts when a lion he had previously helped shows affection towards him. In this version, a boy named Andy gains the friendship of a wounded lion he meets on his way to school.
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson
In this animal-filled tale, Bear wants to give a great big feast for his friends, only to discover that he has no food in his home. Thankfully, his friends soon arrive with plenty to share!
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts & Noah Jones
Jeremy wants for himself what everyone else hasthose shoes. But once he gets them, he soon realizes that some things in life are more valuable than a pair of shoes.
It Could Always Be Worse by Margot Zemach
In this Yiddish folktale, a poor man is unhappy with all of the misfortunes in his life. After talking to a rabbi about his problems, he is reminded that, no matter his circumstances, there is always someone out there less fortunate than he.
Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
This story beautifully illustrates the power of unconditional love and self-sacrifice, and was always one of my favorites as a child. It is about a tree that would give a little boy apples everyday. She let him swing from her branches and slide down her trunk for fun. But as the boy grew up he wanted more and more, so the tree had to give more and more of herself until she had almost nothing left to give.
Listen to the Wind by Greg Mortenson
Based on a true story, this picture book tells the story of a man who loses his way while roaming the mountains of Pakistan. He ends up in a village where the inhabitants help him to recover. To show his immense gratitude, he helps them build a school for their children. He then goes on to build schools for other poor villages.
14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy
In this true story, a small African village sacrifices fourteen cows to America in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. After hearing about the day’s events from one of their own people, who had been attending medical school there, they invited the U.S. ambassador to their village. During their ceremony, they gave him their generous gift to help Americans get back on their feet.
Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming
Based on the life of the author’s mother, this story takes place in Holland after World War II. One day, a girl named Katje receives a package of socks, soap, and chocolate from a girl in America named Rosie. She sends back a letter of thanks, and the two girls soon become pen pals. Through Katje’s letters, Rosie learns about the hardships that Katje is facing, and convinces the people of her own town to send more packages over.
Beatrice’s Goat by Page McGrier
The nonprofit organization Heifer Project International strives to end world hunger and poverty through animal donations. This picture book illustrates some of their efforts. It tells the story of Beatrice, an African girl whose life changes for the better when her family receives a goat from an anonymous donor through the Heifer Project. By selling the goat’s milk and its kids, they are able to not only feed themselves, but also send her to school.
The Talking Eggs by Robert San Souci
Another childhood favorite of mine, this rendition of a Creole fable tells the story of a nice girl named Blanche, who meets an old woman who gives her magic lucky eggs. However, when her wicked mother sends her greedy sister to get some eggs for themselves, the eggs turn out to be not so lucky anymore.
An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco
This heartwarming story, which takes place during the Great Depression, shows how one act of generosity can lead to another. Frankie, the youngest child in his family, gives a homeless man his favorite sweater to help keep him from freezing to death outside. When his family learns of his kindness, they come together to get him something special.
So what are you grateful for? What have you done for someone else this season? I can personally say that I am grateful for good food and a good home. I’m grateful for people who love and support me, and for kindness from strangers. In return, I’m going to give a little back through service to others.
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