Teaching kids to share is one of the first things parents want to do—how to share space, share toys, share love. Instilling a sense of love and respect for neighbors and community can help with that. These picture books about community, respect, and love encourage tearing down walls and lending a hand with an open heart to those around you.
This inclusive picture book showcases how kids can be real-life superheroes—not just in checking for monsters under the bed, but visiting friends at the hospital and standing up for what's right in their community regardless of the consequences.
The number of books that choose to tell stories about family types through animals rather than through people can be frustrating, but one of the cutest is this one from Mary Ann Hoberman. All Kinds Of Families! highlights the different types of dynamics that can be found in a community and why they're all loving and worthy of love.
Respect and love for a community doesn't come only in the members of the community, but in the actual space that you share. A celebration of your neighborhood in the most essential sense of the word, City Shapes celebrates the everyday scenes of a neighborhood community, encouraging kids to find and appreciate the magic in the ordinary.
With an illustration style that kids can easily replicate, It's Okay To Be Different is a sweet story about how everybody—seriously, everybody, including you and your friends—is different, and how those differences should be celebrated and used to build your own community.
For the family with a child trying on their rebellious streak, James Patterson's next children's book, Give Thank You A Try, encourages kids to thank folks in their house and in their community when they do something kind—the beginnings of building strong community bonds.
Love comes even despite mistakes in most families, and Oh My, Oh No! highlights that in tiny, adorable, completely messy ways. One little girl tries to mimic and impress her mother with less-than-ideal results—but love never leaves. This one is especially excellent for those kids struggling with anxiety a little early on, as it encourages the idea that mistakes are never inherently bad.
When we think about respect, it's important to include respecting yourself and your heritage, and Thunder Boy Jr. does exactly that. Thunder Boy Jr. wants a name that's all his own, so he and his dad set off to find the perfect one. Not only does Thunder Boy Jr. highlight respecting yourself, but it can also encourage non-Native kids to respect the Native members of their community.
A is for Activist
by Innosanto Nagara
Are you politically involved in your community? A is for Activist gives a progressive, inclusive idea for every letter of the alphabet. Available in both board book and picture book, it’s perfect for the unapologetically activist family.
My Very Own Space
Written by Pippa Goodhart, Illustrated by Rebecca Crane
When you’re in a large community, it can be hard to find the balance of what you need and what others need—of your own space and of sharing space with others. The cute little bunny family in My Very Own Space features a little introvert bunny who just wants to read in peace, but everybody keeps pestering him—until he figures out how to make a space of his own. It’s an adorable story not only for introverted kids, but for kids struggling to stand up for themselves in a community where their needs might be drowned out.
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade
Written by Julia Roberts, Illustrated by Christian Robinson
The place children spend the most time outside of the house is in school. The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade is Sally, who, despite her small stature, sees everything. When she sees a bully, and nobody else says anything, she speaks up.
Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey
Written by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes, Illustrated by Sue Cornelison
Kids overhear everything, so some might be peppering parents with questions about refugees and immigrants. Based on the real story of the Iraqi family who loved their cat Kunkush too much to leave him behind, Lost and Found Cat boils that story down to something even kids can grasp: love of a pet and working together to keep that pet with its family.
Families, Families, Families!
by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang
If you’re going to pick a book with animal leads, Families, Families, Families! is one of the best. Different family types are presented in this adorable panda-and-piglet-filled picture book about how all the families in communities, no matter how different they look, are the same at heart.
Last Stop on Market Street
Written by Matt de la Peña, Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Last Stop on Market Street won the Newbery Medal, earned a Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King Honor, and was one of the New York Times notable children’s books for 2015—and it’s not without good reason. On their regular Sunday bus ride home from church, CJ peppers his grandmother with questions about why they’re different from the rest of the community—and his grandmother responds with an encouraging answer at every turn.
Strictly No Elephants
Written by Lisa Mantchev, Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
If tiny elephants weren’t enough to get you to snatch up this picture book, Lisa Mantchev’s picture book debut is about the power of friendship in a community that doesn’t always want you—and how working together can make a community better. But unlike the other books on this list, it features a tiny elephant, which, come on, is almost irresistible.
Counting On Community
by Innosanto Nagara
Nagara’s Counting On Community, a companion to A is for Activist, is another sweet and charming book about relying on your community to make a better world and taking joy in the people around you.
What picture books inspire a sense of respect, love, and community in your kids?
Nicole Brinkley has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. She is an independent bookseller, the founder of YA Interrobang and Queership, and a contributor to Book Riot. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @nebrinkley.