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Teaching Gratitude with Literature

December 7th, 2017

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." 

~ William Arthur Ward

December’s Character trait is:

Gratitude: Being thankful and showing appreciation for those in our lives and for what we have and receive.

Catch phrase: Say thank you as much as possible.

At this time of year, our focus is likely to be on the holidays and all that we will give and receive. Let’s encourage our kids (and ourselves) to not only feel gratitude, but to give the gift of gratitude this season. And since we know that learning through literature is one of the most delightful ways to inspire virtuous character, here’s a list of books with a Gratitude theme. Several of these titles are available for checkout in our school library, and we've noted any that are also for sale in the school store:

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon

Suggested ages: 1-5

This beautifully illustrated board book celebrates the wonder and importance of everything, great and small, in our everyday world.

Otis Gives Thanks by Loren Long

Suggested ages: 1-5

Otis is an adorable tractor who is thankful for everything in life. This board book is perfect for toddlers, and kids might enjoy the other books in the Otis series too.

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson

Suggested ages: 3-8

A rhyming tale about a bear who wants to show his gratitude to his friends, but finds he has nothing to give. His friends help him realize that he does have a special gift to share after all.

Thankful by Eileen Spinelli

Suggested ages: 3-8

This rhyming picture book takes a look at people around us and what they might be thankful for. It’s a simple, gentle message about gratitude and appreciation. *This book is available in our school store.

Penguin Problems by Jory John

Suggested ages: 3-8

Sometimes highlighting the opposite of what you want to instill can be effective – take for example, the grumpy penguin in this story. He complains about everything! A wise walrus encourages him to appreciate the good things in life, but will he truly change? Kids and adults will enjoy and relate to this funny story.

Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty 

Suggested ages: 3-8

This beloved adaptation of the classic folktale “Androcles and the Lion” is about friendship, gratitude, and helping others. *This book is available in our school store.


It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale by Margot Zemach 

Suggested ages: 3-8

Here’s a hilarious tale about a poor man with a large family living in a crowded hut, who goes to his Rabbi for advice. Things go from bad to worse in surprising and silly ways. This humorous story reminds us to be thankful no matter our circumstances.

Ten Thank -You Letters by Daniel Kirk

Suggested ages: 4-8

A cute and simple story of friendship and the importance of thanking the people in your life for the gifts they give you. Writing thank-you letters is almost a thing of the past, but this story shows how meaningful they can be.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by Willian Steig

Suggested ages: 4-8

Sylvester the donkey finds a magic pebble that grants wishes, but he accidentally makes a wish that separates him from his family. He must overcome many trials before eventually becoming reunited with them in this tender, Caldecott-winning story, which delightfully reinforces gratitude for one’s family.

Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes

Suggested ages: 4-8

Here’s a collection of 16 poems about gratitude and the power of saying “thank you.” Included are a variety of forms including a haiku, a riddle, and a rebus.

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

Suggested ages: 5-10

From an author we know and love, this autobiographical book tells of Patricia’s childhood struggle with dyslexia, and the dedicated teacher who recognized it and helped her overcome it. This book encourages children to express gratitude to their teachers.

Giving Thanks: More than 100 ways to say thank you by Ellen Surrey

Suggested ages: 6-10

In this cute and playful book, a boy thinks about the people in his life he’d like to thank, imagining all the different ways he could show his gratitude.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Suggested ages: 8-12

A warm and sometimes funny book for middle schoolers about a serious topic – a family facing homelessness and hunger. This story inspires appreciation for family and friends, and also highlights resilience, another SLOCA trait! 

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Suggested ages: 8-14

Inspired by Chinese folklore, here’s a timeless adventure story about a poor girl who sets off in search of the Old Man on the Moon to find out how she can change her family’s fortune. This fun fantasy tale for middle school students reveals the evil of greed and the joy found in gratitude.

And for any kids or adults who enjoy journaling, something like this might be fun:

Finally, here's the downloadable mini-poster that you can print for this month's character trait – click on the image to the right for the full-size PDF:



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