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4 must-read picture books that inspire kids to give back

Picture of the spine of four books stacked on a table.

By Sasha Smith

Volunteering, even at an early age, can teach your child about compassion, gratitude, and community responsibility, but it’ll also set them up for success. Research shows that in addition to developing essential school and life skills, kids who volunteer are three times happier than those lacking in altruism.

To help you teach your child about the rewards of volunteering, we’ve rounded up five picture books that’ll inspire them to flex their charity muscles:

Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen By DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

Social issues like poverty and homelessness can be difficult concepts for young children to grasp, but this heartwarming book presents these issues in kid-friendly terms. Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen also teaches children that even small acts, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen like the book’s protagonist, can have a substantive impact on the lives of those in their community.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa By Jeanette Winter

This powerful narrative with equally strong illustrations tells the life story of environmentalist, political activist, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Wangari Maathai. Readers follow Wangari on her journey to restore the once lush green landscape of her Kenyan village by inspiring women from across the country to plant seedlings. Wangari’s Trees of Peace is a wonderful book for showing young children (ages 4 – 7) how passion, determination, and a community acting as one can bring about great change.

The Can Man By Laura E. Williams and Craig Orback

It’s no secret that there’s a lot of misunderstanding about homelessness, but The Can Man helps children look past negative stereotypes. In this book, we meet Tim, a young boy who is collecting and redeeming cans to purchase a skateboard. Through Tim’s decision to instead use his earnings to help a homeless person, commonly referred to as the Can Man, buy a winter coat, children are taught about compassion, seeing beyond your own wants and needs, and the satisfaction of aiding others.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids By Carol McCloud and David Messing

Think your child’s bucket could be bit fuller? Have You Filled Your Bucket Today is a surefire way to stimulate their inner do-gooder. This humour-filled text encourages kids to be a “bucket filler” — a loving, caring person — by showing them just how easy it is to express kindness and appreciation every day. Another reason to bring this book home is that it promotes self-love and teaches children how negative behaviour, like bullying, can impact yourself and those you hurt.