As a mom, and especially a mom soon to have three boys, I am always looking for ways to encourage my boys to grow into kind, thoughtful, respectful men.
My oldest will be starting school next year, and while I’m interested in his academic success, I also want him to succeed in building strong, lasting relationships with his peers and to know how to value and cultivate those friendships as he grows up.
I want him to know what it means to be a good friend, and to appreciate those qualities in himself and others.
One of the greatest teaching tools I have at my disposal are the many wonderful books which depict true friendship. Stories that help my boys learn what it means to be a good friend: to be selfless, helpful, supportive, and loving.
I want my boys to seek out the lonely kid in the cafeteria and sit with him. I want them to offer to help a friend who is struggling in class or being bullied on the playground. I want them to know that always treating others with respect and kindness is more worthwhile than any kind of academic or athletic achievement.
So I look for books that teach those qualities and encourage those ideas. No matter how old your child is, it’s never too early to start instilling these valuable lessons.
Whether the book is above or below a child’s reading level, if it has beautiful, universal themes and characters who care about each other, it’s worth reading to my children.
The following eight books are some of my favorite to teach young children (up to about age 8) what genuine friendship looks like and to encourage them to develop such friendships and character traits themselves.
8 Great Books with Great Friends:
01. A favorite book in our home is The Treasure Tree. It tells the story of four best friends (a lion, an otter, a beaver, and a golden retriever) with very different personalities who must work together to decipher the four clues that will lead them to the Treasure Tree.
This book is whimsical and a lot of fun, with gorgeous, brightly colored illustrations and an interesting plot, but I especially love what it teaches about helping each other and working as a team.
The friends learn to recognize that each individual has something important to contribute to the task at hand and, throughout the journey, learn to support, value, and respect one another better.
02. This complete Frog and Toad Collection includes the art and text from four classics by Arnold Lobel: Frog and Toad Are Friends, Frog and Toad Together, Frog and Toad All Year, and Days with Frog and Toad.
These classic tales are entertaining and enjoyable for adults and children alike, especially because of the endearing friendship between the title characters. Frog and Toad often go to great lengths to help, support, and encourage one another — the best of friends in a myriad of situations.
03. Bear Feels Sick (and the other Bear books) by Karma Wilson are a wonderful series of books about friends taking care of friends. With simple, rhyming stories and pleasant, appealing illustrations by Jane Chapman, Bear and his woodland friends help each other through hardships when they are sick or scared, or enjoy each other’s company when celebrating or making new friends.
These books are fun and easy to read while teaching wonderful lessons about putting your friends before yourself and always taking care of each other.
04. This excellent collection of stories featuring two best friends is a favorite in our home. George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends by James Marshall includes 35 short, delightful stories ranging from silly to serious, but all of which have a lesson to teach while highlight the beautiful friendship between these entertaining and thoughtful hippos.
05. Perhaps the most beloved group of friends in all of children’s literature, no list of books on friendship would be complete without Winnie-the-Pooh and his pals in the Hundred Acre Wood.
A Hundred-Acre Wood Treasury is a new chapter storybook featuring A. A. Milne’s beloved characters attempting to find a new tail for Eeyore and rescue Christopher Robin from the terrible Backson.
In the end, Pooh has to decide whether to put his very rumbly tummy or his friends’ needs first, learning that sometimes the reward for being a kind and selfless friend is better than we could have ever imagined.
06. There are days we all wake up grumpy and don’t feel like being around people, but sometimes all it takes is a good friend who is willing to share and wants to make us feel better to do the trick. Hooray for Hat by Brian Won is a sweet, fun book about good friends cheering each other up and one rather magnificent hat.
07. In this warm story by Sally Grindley and Penny Dann, two best friends, Jefferson Bear and Figgy Twosocks, ask each other What Friends Are For?. The bear and fox learn that being friends means playing together, sharing their favorite things, helping each other, and always apologizing when they hurt each other’s feelings.
I love that this book depicts more difficult aspects of friendship, such as learning to recognize when you overreact and saying sorry when you’ve been wrong.
08. This beautiful story shows children that an important aspect of being a good friend is always including others and treating them with kindness, no matter what.
Strictly No Elephants tells the story of a boy whose elephant isn’t allowed at Pet Club Day, but he finds a way to make sure everyone who has an unusual pet gets to participate. With beautiful, unique illustrations by Taeeun Yoo and a sweet, imaginative story by Lisa Mantchev, every child will love the message that sometimes all it takes to fit in is a good friend.
With stunning illustrations, delightful and memorable characters, and some truly great stories, each of these books has something wonderful to offer and can help teach our children what it means to be a good friend. And who knows, perhaps your child’s new favorite book is among them!