10 Books to Read as a Family to Inspire a Generous Spirit
Explore these books to read as a family that can bring people of all ages together to inspire a lifelong commitment to giving.
Every family has its traditions, but one that stands the test of time is reading together. This simple act not only fosters a love for literature in young minds, but also cultivates empathy, understanding, and a sense of community. Particularly for families, teachers, and advocates who are passionate about shaping their character and values, books are a valuable and powerful tool.
In this article, we will introduce you to 10 books that families can read together, each highlighting the beautiful act of giving. These books are designed to instill a spirit of generosity and kindness in our young ones, teaching them the importance of sharing, compassion, and philanthropy.
Learning Empathy Through Literature
According to a study by Michigan State University, children who read are more likely to exhibit social understanding and empathy towards others. In an article entitled ‘Children and empathy: Reading to learn empathy’, author Kylie Rymanowicz explains:
“When children read stories, they are given the opportunity to understand the story from the perspective of the characters. Think of reading as a game of role playing, where children can practice seeing the world through someone else’s eyes that allows them to develop an understanding and respect for the experiences of others.”
Furthermore, a report from the National Endowment for the Arts suggests that reading fosters a child’s emotional intelligence and civic involvement. By introducing children to books about giving, we are promoting a culture of generosity and understanding that can inform their character for life.
As parents or professionals who work with children see every day, the power of a good book extends beyond the pages. It influences the mind, shapes perspectives, and in this case, nurtures a giving heart. So, let’s explore these books that can bring families together and inspire a lifelong commitment to giving.
10 Books to Read as a Family to Inspire a Generous Spirit
The Rain Came Down by David Shannon
Themes: Patience and Joy
Recommended Reading Age: 2-5
The Rain Came Down begins with a muddy dog creating a ruckus, irritating its owner to the point where the man scolded the dog and awakened the baby, prompting the dog to bark even louder. And still, the rain persisted. Out on the street, a taxi driver honks at a halted truck, leading to a heated argument in the following scene. One by one, shopkeepers bump into pedestrians as tension mounts. The falling rain instigates a domino effect of sour moods, which are swiftly dissipated when the clouds part unexpectedly.
Readers as young as age 2 will be wowed by the engaging illustrations and curious angles.
Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora
Themes: Sharing and Community Spirit
Recommended Reading Age: 3-7
“Omu,” a term from the Igbo language meaning “queen,” is the main character in this heartwarming story set in a busy neighborhood called Thank You, Omu! She is cooking a rich, red stew so delicious that she believes it could be the best meal she’s ever prepared. The scent of her irresistible stew makes its way through her apartment, luring a variety of visitors to her doorstep.
Generously, Omu shares her plentiful stew with each visitor who knocks on her door. From a young neighbor and a local police officer to the hot dog vendor living downstairs, everyone gets a taste of Omu’s delicious stew. Even the city’s mayor makes an appearance! However, when Omu finally sits down for her own meal, she realizes her pot is empty.
But the story doesn’t end here. Omu’s generous spirit sparks a chain reaction of giving among those she fed. This book is recommended for children aged 3 to 7 years, serving as a beautiful tale of sharing and community spirit.
Generosity Exemplified: How the Jewish Family Service Helped A Mom of Three Reclaim Her Life
Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Pena
Themes: Sharing and Community Spirit
Recommended Reading Age:
Last Stop On Market Street chronicles the journey of a young African-American boy named CJ, who joins his grandmother, known as Nana, on a city bus ride to volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Their story begins as they leave church amidst a downpour. As they trudge towards the bus stop in the rain, CJ questions Nana about why they must endure the rain, to which Nana responds that just like them, trees need water too.
Upon reaching the bus stop, CJ spots his friend, Colby, comfortably riding home in a car with his dad. This prompts CJ to question Nana about why they don’t own a car. Soon after, their bus arrives and CJ and Nana make their way to the front seat. Throughout their journey, they meet a blind man and observe two boys engrossed in their iPods. When a man strikes up a song on his guitar, CJ experiences a moment of profound beauty.
The narrative concludes with CJ and Nana dedicating their time at a soup kitchen, reinforcing the themes of community service and compassion that thread through the story.
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Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn, Cornelius Van Wright, and Ying-Hwa Hu
Themes: Gratitude and Generosity
Recommended Reading Age: 5-7
In the book Sam and the Lucky Money it’s New Year’s Day, and young Sam is excited to spend his lucky money, a gift from his parents. Amidst the lively New Year celebrations taking place in Chinatown, Sam considers the many ways he could utilize his $4.
During their festive wanderings, Sam unexpectedly encounters a shoeless man sitting on the cold winter street, a sight that leaves him concerned. As Sam’s day unfolds, he realizes that everything he desires costs more than his lucky money, leading to a moment of frustration. His mother gently reminds him to value what he has been given.
When they once again encounter the barefoot man, a light bulb moment occurs for Sam. He finally figures out the perfect use for his lucky money. This book, ideal for children aged 5 to 9, beautifully portrays the values of gratitude and generosity.
Shoebox Sam by Mary Brigid Barrett
Themes: Respect and Generosity
Recommended Reading Age: 4-9
In Shoebox Sam, youngsters Jesse and Delia make their Saturday visit to Shoebox Sam, the friendly owner of a shoe repair shop located at the corner of Magnolia and Vine. Between helping paying customers, Sam, along with Jesse and Delia, extend their kindness by offering shoes, food, and warmhearted conversation to those who wander in from the streets.
When the children question why one man consumes six doughnuts, Sam responds with a cheerful reminder: “When you’re hungry, you eat!”
This story subtly instills values of generosity and profound respect for every individual who steps into the shoe repair shop. It’s a delightful read for children aged 4 to 9.
Stone Soup by Jon J Muth
Themes: Hospitality and Generosity
Recommended Reading Age: 2-7
Stone Soup is an age-old folk story that underscores the importance of extending hospitality to strangers. In this tale, a trio of monks, or at times different voyagers, reach a village where the inhabitants are hesitant to share their sustenance.
These travelers begin crafting a soup using nothing but water and stones, eventually convincing the villagers to contribute additional ingredients like vegetables, meat, and seasonings.
The outcome is a sumptuous soup relished by all, serving as a reminder of the virtues of generosity and collaboration. Children ages 2-7 will enjoy this classic tale.
One City, Two Brothers by Chris Smith
Themes: Sacrifice and Generosity
Recommended Reading Age: 4-9
One City, Two Brothers is a timeless story of generosity, cherished by Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the Holy Lands for generations. It follows two brothers—one single, the other with a family—who work on their adjacent farms. While each brother is content with his life, they both harbor concerns for the other.
During a year when the harvest is exceptionally bountiful, the elder brother decides to surprise his younger sibling by secretly adding extra grain to his barn at night. Unbeknownst to him, his younger brother, moved by the same sentiment, is simultaneously doing the same in the elder brother’s barn.
The following day, as each brother counts his sacks of grain, they are left perplexed. Their secret acts of generosity continue until one bright moonlit night, they unexpectedly bump into each other while carrying out their deeds. This heartwarming tale is recommended for children aged 4 to 9.
Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff and Kyrsten Brooker
Themes: Community and Shared Traditions
Recommended Reading Age: 4-8
Chik Chak Shabbat is a heartwarming story about Goldie Simcha. Every Saturday, her neighbors eagerly anticipate the afternoon when the irresistible aroma of her cholent, a traditional Jewish stew, permeates through the apartment building. When they gather for the Shabbat meal, each neighbor has their own theory about what makes the cholent so delicious. But according to Goldie, it’s not the ingredients that give the stew its distinctive flavor, it’s the shared experience, peace, and togetherness that Shabbat brings.
However, one Saturday, the familiar scent of cholent is missing from the apartment building. Undeterred, Goldie’s neighbors are determined to recreate the feeling and taste of Shabbat for Goldie. This heartwarming tale, suitable for children aged 4 to 8, beautifully encapsulates the spirit of community and shared traditions.
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One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway
Themes: Investments, Generosity and Global Citizenship
Recommended Reading Age: 3-11
One Hen, inspired by real-life events, narrates the journey of Kojo, a Ghanaian boy who leverages a small loan to establish a prosperous farm, creating employment for many.
After his father’s death, Kojo had to leave school to help his mother in gathering firewood for sale. When his mother gets a loan from village families, she gives a bit to Kojo. With this modest loan, he buys a hen, which turns into a flock of hens over time. His earnings enable him to resume his education. Eventually, his farm expands to become the region’s largest.
Aiming to educate children about global issues and inspire them to be better global citizens, the book is recommended for children aged 3-11 years.
What Makes a Hero?: The Surprising Science of Selflessness by Elizabeth Svoboda
Themes: Heroism and Selflessness
Recommended Reading Age: 12-18
This engaging book delves into the biology and psychology behind our willingness to make sacrifices for others and would make a great read for teens and their parents.
For the first time, researchers are scientifically exploring heroism. They’re trying to understand how biology, upbringing, and external influences combine to generate altruistic and heroic behavior, and how we can promote such behavior in various settings.
In What Makes a Hero?, the author utilizes numerous intriguing real-life examples to illustrate how our genes drive us to benefit others, how experiencing hardship can foster altruism, and how heroic acts can significantly boost mental health. She debunks the myth that heroes are born, not made, asserting that heroism is not just about biological predisposition. Instead, anyone can embrace their heroic potential with dedication and effort.
Practice the Art of Giving
The gift of reading together as a family is one that keeps on giving. It not only nurtures a love for literature but also instills critical values like empathy, understanding, and generosity.
As you explore these books that emphasize the art of giving, consider practicing what they preach. There’s no better time than now to begin nurturing a spirit of generosity within your family.
An excellent way to start could be by contributing to the Holiday Fund. Every donation, no matter the amount, will make a difference, echoing the teachings of these books and demonstrating the power of kindness and sharing in real-time.
Elevate your journey of inspiring generosity with an additional 10 thought-provoking titles. Get them now when you download the ebook and continue the ripple effect of giving!