13 of the Best Books on Gratitude and Giving Thanks for Kids
I am a nature lover. A lover of planet earth, of the spiritual nature of all beings and all things on this world. I love cultures and religions that champion the earth and a harmonious living within in. So, when holidays and seasons come along that have a difficult history to jive with that, such as Thanksgiving, I always try to find a way not to be a Debbie Downer and turn it into a way to still celebrate the spirit of the holiday, while not whitewashing (literally) the bloody history behind it.
Now, especially since I have a son and nieces and nephews, it is important to me to not perpetuate the popular narratives of Thanksgiving, but instead I try to focus on gratitude and being thankful in general rather than the whole “pilgrims and ‘Indians'” sat down for a happy civil meal narrative. Honor the spirit of the holiday, not necessarily the prettily wrapped up history. After all, Squanto was the only one left who survived slavery in English (and small pox) and thus knew the language and that is the reason he was able to negotiate any kind of treaty and thus a civil meal in his honor. It is even doubly important to me to not represent native peoples as caricatures of their culture, especially in the face of the tragedies going on across the country on native lands and specifically at Standing Rock.
So, I have put together a list of children’s books you can share with your little ones or classroom without any remorse, guilt, or misrepresentation. OR, just some plain cute stories about the holiday that aren’t historical at all.
1.Today I Am Grateful: Adventures in Gratitude By: Lorraine Miller
“Children can be made more grateful when the adults in their lives teach them how. Today I am Grateful is the perfect springboard for parents and educators to start helping kids see all of the goodness in their life.” —Jeffrey J. Froh, associate professor of psychology at Hofstra University
2. Grateful: A Song of Giving Thanks By: John Bucchino
“In this exquisite picture book and accompanying CD recorded by Art Garfunkel, Anna-Lisa Hakkarainen’s radiant paintings bring John Bucchino’s words to life. A joyous celebration of the beauty of the seasons, the wonders of nature, and the blessings of faith, here is a gift to be treasured by children and adults of all ages.”
3. Thankful By: Eileen Hallinan
Who doesn’t love Spinelli?! I know I sure do. “Charming rhymes and whimsical illustrations to convey the importance of being thankful for everyday blessings. Like the gardener thankful for every green sprout, and the fireman, for putting the fire out, readers are encouraged to be thankful for the many blessings they find in their lives.”
4. Let’s Be Thankful By: P K Hallinan
“With colourful illustrations and charming verse, this book acknowledges people, animals, and activities that bring joy to a child’s life. Parents can read this book with their children to reinforce the concept of gratitude.”
5. Gratitude Soup By: Olivia Rosewood
“Violet the Purple Fairy learns how to make Gratitude Soup by thinking of all the things, people, places, and experiences that she is grateful for, putting them in an imaginary soup pot. She is able to shrink her pot of soup with her imagination, and she keeps the gratitude warm and flowing in her heart all day and all night.”
6. Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving By: Joseph Bruchac
This is a close historical version of what really happened, or as close as you are going to get. It tells of Squanto’s capture, but also how the actual original Thanksgiving tradition began. “In 1620 an English ship called the Mayflower landed on the shores inhabited by the Pokanoket, and it was Squanto who welcomed the newcomers and taught them how to survive.”
7. Milly and the Macy’s Parade By: Shana Corey
“In the spirit of Miracle on 34th Street, few people know that the first parade in 1924 was organized by immigrant employees at Macy’s eager to incorporate their old-world traditions into their new American heritage.”
8. Bear Says Thanks By: Karma Wilson
The Bear Books are fantastic and I highly recommend all of them, so it goes without saying that I would include this one. “Bear has come up with the perfect way to say thanks—a nice big dinner! When Bear decides to throw a feast, his friends show up one by one with different platters of delicious food to share. There’s just one problem: Bear’s cupboards are bare! What is he to do?”
9. Thanks for Thanksgiving By: Julie Markes
A perfect “spirit of thanksgiving” book! “Everyone knows that Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks—the question is, where to begin? From the turkey on the table to warm, cozy cuddles, life is full of small things and bigger pleasures. But what is most important is being able to share them with family!”
10. The Quiltmaker’s Gift By:
A great fable story about the joy of giving and how it can change even the coldest of hearts. Really a great story.
11. Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message By: Chief Jake Swamp
This is one of my favorites. “Giving Thanks is a special children’s version of the Thanksgiving Address, a message of gratitude that originated with the Native people of upstate New York and Canada and that is still spoken at ceremonial gatherings held by the Iroquois, or Six Nations”
12. The Thankful Book By: Todd Parr
Todd Parr is one that I always recommend to parents looking for great kids picture books. “The Thankful Book celebrates all the little things children can give thanks for. From everyday activities like reading and bathtime to big family meals together and special alone time between parent and child, Todd inspires readers to remember all of life’s special moments. The perfect book to treasure and share, around the holidays and throughout the year.”
13. Giving Thanks By Jonathan London
This is another one I ALWAYS recommend and is exactly what I envision Thanksgiving to be able. Finding ways to thank mother earth for her bounty and beauty. “How can a young boy ever show his gratitude for all the beauty he sees? He will learn from his father, who thanks the earth and the sky, the frogs and the crickets, the hawk and the deer, even the trees that wave their arms in the breeze. Majestic as the most beautiful autumn day and filled with glimpses of favorite woodland animals, GIVING THANKS is truly a gift to readers from nature-lover Jonathan London and master painter Gregory Manchess.”