6 books to teach your kids the power and joy of forgiveness

6 books to teach your kids the power and joy of forgiveness
How can we teach our kids to apologize when they’ve done something hurtful? It’s not by forcing them to say “I’m sorry”, which often isn’t genuine and doesn’t really get the point across anyway. Instead, we want our children to build empathy and understanding and be able to see that in any given situation, each person may have a different perspective. We also want them to know and recognize when they have hurt someone else, and for them to feel like they genuinely want to make amends. These books each offer a powerful story of forgiveness that will inspire kids and adults alike to own up to wrongdoing and put others’ feelings at the forefront of their interactions.

1) Turtle in a Tree by Neesha Hudson

Greyhound and Bulldog are friends. But there’s something they don’t agree on. Greyhound sees a turtle up in the branches of a tree. Bulldog insists that it’s a squirrel—because, after all—what would a turtle be doing in a tree? As they argue back and forth while watching the tree, something unexpected happens: A turtle falls out of the tree…followed closely by a squirrel. Turns out, the friends were both right, and they were also both wrong. This book will help anyone who has ever disagreed with a friend and teach kids how to see things from another person’s perspective.

2) The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty

One night in a little town called burrow down, a creature called a snatchabook flies into town and through windows to steal books that are being read aloud to kids. Each night, more and more books disappear. One night, a bunny named Eliza Brown decides to stay awake to see who is stealing all the books. She meets the tiny thief and demands that he give back the books. The little snatchabook feels bad. He says he is sorry—but he felt like he had no choice! He has no one to read to him. 

Together, they make a plan. The Snatchabook works hard to bring back all the books and stack them neatly on the shelves and make amends with the town. After apologizing, the Snatchabook is welcomed in the town, where he perches happily on bedsides and listens to books as they are being read. This sweet rhyming story will help kids understand other people’s motivations for doing things—and why being honest and vulnerable aids in forgiveness.

3) Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Archbishop Desmond Tutu

This beautiful book by South African social rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, tells the true story of an experience he had as a child, when he got called a very mean word by another child. He was so hurt that he used another mean word to “get even.” This book shows, in a gentle way, that holding on to anger doesn’t help anyone. Desmond doesn’t feel good when he uses more hurtful words, in fact, he feels awful. But in this book we learn that true forgiveness—even in the face of cruelty and hurt feelings—can stop the cycle of hate. As one person forgives, and then another, the snowball effect eventually leads to a world where more people show empathy and kindness.

4) The Sandwich Swap by by Kelly DiPucchio and Rania Al Abdullah

Lily and Salma are best friends from different backgrounds—which doesn’t matter one bit to them. But one day, the girls notice they each have very different lunch sandwiches: Lily has peanut Butter and jam, Salma has hummus and pita. They begin to argue about whose lunch looks tastier, and it ends with a food fight—literally. Other students begin to weigh in on who has the best sandwich, and the class is divided. As the argument escalates, the girls both realize they have never actually tasted the other’s sandwich, and they decide to swap. Turns out, they both LOVE each other’s lunch. After that, they plan a day for their class to bring in their favorite multicultural foods to share. This beautiful story not only shows a strong friendship between two girls who (eventually) manage to deal with their disagreement in a healthy way, but it also encourages tolerance, kindness and understanding when it comes to those who are different then us.


5) The Detective Dog by Julia Donaldson

Nel the dog volunteers at Peter’s school once a week, where the kids read to her. But one day, she arrives at the school and the books are all GONE! What follows is a journey to find the book thief. Turns out, the thief is a man named Ted, who says he knows stealing is wrong—but he just meant to borrow the books and was planning to return them tomorrow. The kids forgive Ted and Nel shows him the library to the library—a place where he can borrow all kinds of books anytime he likes. This simple rhyming story shows that forgiveness can be found when we have empathy and understanding for others.

6) Grandad Mandela by Zazi, Ziwelene, and Zindzi Mandela

“Do you know what Ubuntu means? . . . It means, ‘I am because we all are.’ This is what we believe as African people: we believe in treating people the way we want to be treated. This is what inspired Grandad to fight for his people, and what helped him to forgive his enemies too.”

A true story of forgiveness is the life story of Nelson Mandela, who forgave those who imprisoned him for 27 years for fighting against Apartheid in South Africa, and who fought for freedom despite the odds being stacked against him. This book, written by his daughter and great-grandchildren shares his life story in a way that is accessible to children. The lessons about justice, peace and fighting for what is right are apparent—but the ultimate theme of this book is “Ubuntu,” which demonstrates the power of empathy and forgiveness.

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