5 Picture Books to Inspire Gratitude

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“Just be grateful for what you have.” I’ve said that sentence to my kids more times than I can count. Gratitude is one of the character traits I’d most like to instill in them, and yet I know lecturing rarely does the trick. Instead, I’ve come to rely on picture books–letting a good story and beautiful illustrations make the point to my kids better than I ever could. The month of November is the perfect time to cuddle up on the couch and read some picture books to inspire gratitude.

Here are five of my family’s favorites:

  1. Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora: My kids and I checked this book out from the library on a whim, and it quickly became one of our favorites. (And with good reasons–it won a Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King award.) Omu is cooking a big pot of stew and as the delicious smell wafts through her neighborhood, more and more guests pop by for a taste. In the end, they all gather to thank Omu for her generosity. It’s a beautiful reflection on community and hospitality, and the colorful cut-paper illustrations are great, too.
  2. Thankful by Eileen Spinelli: This super sweet rhyming picture book follows two siblings as they pretend to be all different people–a waitress, an artist, a queen, and more. Along the way, they reflect on what each person might be thankful for. “The waitress is thankful for comfortable shoes,” Spinelli writes, “The local reporter, for interesting news.” We checked this one out from the library a few years ago, and I immediately bought a copy for our own shelves. The easy rhymes and short length make this a great family read-aloud. 
  3. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña: It’s not every year that a picture book wins the Newbery Award, but Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson make quite the author-illustrator pair and this book is a treasure. In our family, it has helped to bridge conversations about what everyone in our community has to offer, even if they don’t have a lot of material resources. And it encourages those of us who are well-off to appreciate everything we have.
  4. Giving Thanks by Chief Jake Swamp: We’d be remiss to talk about gratitude in the month of November and not include the perspective of indigenous people. Do you know about the Thanksgiving Address? Because I didn’t! It’s a traditional invocation that opens and closes all Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) meetings. This book is a special children’s edition of the Thanksgiving Address–perfect for opening up conversations about Native Americans in a culturally appropriate way.
  5. Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes: Nikki Grimes is a wonderful Black children’s poet and author. The first poem of this collection begins, “Thank you is a seed I plant in the garden of your heart.” So sweet. And look at that beautiful cover! A poem a night in the month of November might be a beautiful tradition to begin.

Gratitude has become an important life practice to me over the years, grounding me in my faith, supporting my mental health, and helping me stay present in the now. Gratitude is also a practice I want my kids to embody, both to avoid entitlement and grouchiness in the now and to shape who they’ll be in the future. Reading picture books to inspire gratitude is one of my favorite things to do with my kids every November, but these books are good all year long.

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